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The Wisdom of Michelle Singletary ✨

May 18, 2021

One of the great joys of living in the Washington, DC area in the mid 1990s and again in the early 2000s was subscribing to the print edition of The Washington Post. Having read in college Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men — which detailed the newspaper’s coverage of the Watergate break in — I have long revered the paper. One of my favorite memories of taking the subway to my job at C-SPAN television in the 1990s was passing a newspaper vendor outside of Union Station who would belt out “Post! Post! Washington Post! Washington Times!” to the commuters strolling by. I always wondered, who would choose The Washington Times over the Post?

A favorite Post read of mine when I returned to the area in the early 2000s was Michelle Singletary’s Color Money column. With 403bwise freshly launched I was consumed with learning as much as I could about investing. I always learned something from her columns. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that my podcast partner Scott Dauenhauer, CFP, had secured an interview with the Post columnist. What an interview it was. Here are a few nuggets…

On Being Raised by her Grandmother Who She Affectionately Calls “Big Mama”

“We (Michelle and her siblings) literally were a car ride away from foster care… They were trying to figure out who could take us because they were going to split us up. Who takes in five kids all under the age of eight?” 

“The most important message she (Big Mama) sent to me is that when you have five grandchildren, parents absent, grandfather an alcoholic, you want to keep up with you friends. You want to have what they have. We couldn’t. She couldn’t. She couldn’t afford to buy us the same things our friends had. I never saw the inside of a movie theater until I was in college... Never went to a restaurant. We never even went to McDonalds.”

On Her Children

"We could afford a closet full of clothes. I mean several closets worth. But we purposely didn't because we wanted them to have the foundation that we had growing up. My daughter had a couple pair of jeans, maybe two or three and you know she would interchange them with tops. Some girl walked up to her in high school and said, didn’t I see you wear those jeans like two days ago? My daughter, I was just so proud of her, said “Now why would that matter to you?" 

On Teachers

“I am where I am today at The Washington Post because of an educator who encouraged me and helped me apply for a scholarship that got me into college for journalism… she had more faith than I had in myself… it changed the trajectory of my life and career.”

“So much of their (an educator’s) time is taken teaching and trying to make sure they keep up with that, that oftentimes the financial part gets lost because they are so overwhelmed with so much else going on. That just concerns me a great deal.”

On Her New Book What to Do with Your Money When Crisis Hits

We know just historically there will be another crisis (post Covid)… How soon we don’t know but we do know that’s just how life happens… This (book) is about setting yourself up for the next one (crisis) not out of fear but just as caution. It’s the same reason you have mirrors on your car on the side and the front so you are looking all around. You are looking for those blind spots... This book is for you whether you are good with your money. Whether you were just never good.” 

The book comes out May 18th.

Stay wise and well (and check out Michelle's book).

Related Podcast:

Michelle Singletary Wide ranging interview with the nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post. Listen Now »