I never realized how important community was until I moved away from my hometown. Up until then, I had a very strong network of family and friends who I'd known my entire life. Giving all that up to start a new life on the other side of the country was a big change, and it forced me to do something that scared the shit out of me: build a new community from scratch.
Do you know how hard it is to make new friends in your late 20s? If you've never had to go through it, it's just as painful as dating. You see someone you want to be friends with, you try not to come on too strong and when the timing is right, you ask them to hang out one-on-one for drinks or coffee. It's as awkward as it sounds, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit it was one of the most cringe-worthy periods of my life.
Community stopped me from being a whiny, broke-ass person.
But it got better. After three years, I finally have a community again. This whole experience got me thinking about how having a strong community also helped my finances over the years.
I've been blogging about personal finance for over four years now, and being part of a community of people who also want to talk about their money — their struggles and their successes — has been incredibly motivating to me. I know that if I didn't have people to talk to about money so openly with, I'd be in the exact same spot I was in my early 20s: broke, unhappy and still scared to talk about money.
As a recent example, my friend Jaclyn Phillips and I launched the "Rich & Fit 21-Day Challenge" this past January to create an online community of like-minded people. We'd never done anything like it before, but we wanted to see if we could build a community that was just as passionate about fitness and finance as we were.
With almost 500 participants, we were absolutely floored at the response we got. And not only did we help our program participants reach their fitness and finance goals, but we were also motivated to kick ass at our own goals (I helped Jaclyn with her finances, and she told me to stop eating so much bread).
And even though the program is over (though we will be launching another one in the near future!), the community we created is still going strong. That's right, total strangers who met online via our private Facebook group continue to share their journeys and uplift each other.
It's easier to keep things to yourself, but you shouldn't.
As much as I can share how awesome it is to be part of a community that's open about personal finance, I totally get how terrifying the idea of talking about your money to a group of people can be. I still remember the first time I brought up the topic with some of my close friends. Some of them were receptive, some of them had no idea what I was talking about and some of them immediately changed the subject.
That being said, since I am pretty vocal about money, I've actually been able to introduce the world of personal finance to a number of acquaintances and friends over the years who were just waiting for someone to tell them, "It's OK to talk about money with me. I won't judge you."
Every single one of us deals with money on a day-to-day basis, and it still boggles my mind that so many of us have never felt safe to talk about it without receiving criticism or judgment in return. This whole idea that talking about money is taboo needs to change now.
Need help taking that first step? I got you.
Although I've been part of an online community for years with other bloggers, people on Twitter and with my blog readers and podcast subscribers, I thought it was about time to create something a bit more structured by way of my own Facebook group. I saw how successful creating a Facebook group could be with my Rich & Fit program, so I knew this would be a great step in bringing people together so we can all educate each other and grow together.
The group is already a few hundred strong, and I can't tell you how inspiring it is to hear other people's stories or to see members jump in to help solve someone's money dilemma.
The power of community, it's crazy right?
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.