Expert Interview with The Planting Our Pennies Team on Personal Finance for Mint

The anonymous couple at Planting Our Pennies takes an interesting approach to personal finance: They're very honest both about their finances as a couple and how they can approach personal finance. Read on to learn more!

How common is financial literacy?

If financial literacy were just about learning what numbers to punch into a calculator, we feel like financial literacy would be a lot more common.

But the way we see it, there are three separate legs that support a platform of literacy when it comes to personal finance:

(1) Math - at some level, you need to know how to apply formulas to calculate basic values, like interest and taxes, but you don't need to be a mathematician.

(2) Economics - concepts like opportunity costs and sunk costs and how to make decisions that optimize resources are essential. But the third leg is probably the most important:

(3) Your Values - only when you've identified your own personal values can you evaluate decisions for your own life. Do you value future security more than living in the now? Do you value time with others more than a larger paycheck?

Unfortunately, too many of us have knowledge weaknesses in at least one, if not all three, of these legs. And like any three-legged stool, when one leg falters under a hefty load, the load will come crashing down.

What are some common misconceptions about personal finance you often run into?

We think one of the biggest misconceptions about personal finance is that it takes too much time and effort to stay on top of your personal finances, especially if you share your finances with a partner or spouse. Most of our day-to-day budgeting efforts happen through the Mint apps on our smartphones that are both connected to our shared Mint account. One of us can check the "restaurant" budget before heading out with colleagues for an impromptu networking lunch, while the other makes sure transactions are correctly classified from the smartphone while waiting in line at the grocery store. Then it takes just a few minutes at the end of the month to check out our "Trends" section to check in on the final tallies of our spending in each category and update our monthly income statement and balance sheet.

New readers see how much detail we have in our income statement and are convinced that it must take hours to keep track of our finances to that level of detail, but it's almost embarrassing how little time it takes once you get into the routine.

You offer both personal income statements and balance sheets on the site. What inspired you to do that?

We had seen other bloggers use their blogs as accountability tools with monthly or quarterly check-ins on their balance sheets, so we started with that. Our first post was our balance sheet on the day we started our blog. But it felt like an incomplete picture. A net worth of $1 million doesn't mean much if you're spending $500K every year, right? So we took the information that we were already using and started posting our monthly income and spending as well, and those have turned into some of the best conversation starters with readers and one of the best accountability tools for us. There's nothing like knowing that a few thousand people are going to read your monthly spending report to make sure your spending is aligned with your values.

What should every couple know about personal finance?

They should know if they are on the same page and if they have the same goals! Beyond that, just understanding their cash-flow and balance sheet is necessary. If you have the same goals and know how far you are from reaching them, everything else seems to fall into place.

How should couples talk about money and reconcile different finance strategies?

Frequently. Patiently. Lovingly. We've seen studies that say couples fight over money more than any single thing, but it seems that money just serves as a proxy for what you value in life. If a couple disagrees on money, they owe it to themselves to have a deeper conversation around what they value and what is really important to them in the world.

What are some trends in personal finance we should keep an eye on?

Frugality and intentionality. We've really noticed that the generation that graduated into the most recent recession has taken to frugality and other types of lifestyle hacking in ways that our older siblings never seemed to. These kids seems to understand that money shouldn't be wasted and are very inclined to use it like a tool.

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