A Money Group is like a book club, but with no books. It's a bunch of friends who get together on a regular basis to talk about financial matters. At one meeting, you might talk about getting the right life insurance; at another, paying for your children's college education or figuring out how to quit quibbling with your partner over his spending habits (or yours). The point of a Money Group is to learn about—and discuss—your financial life.
Here's how to start a Money Group:
Pick your members. Try to include people who do different things and have different life experiences. Mix working women with stay-at-home moms, singles with marrieds, moms with grandmoms, women who don't have kids with those who do, entrepreneurs with corporate types, younger with older. Why? They'll bring different life—and money—experiences from which everyone else will be able to learn. You're best aiming for 10 to 12 members. You want to have about eight at each meeting, so you need some leeway for people's schedules.
Gather everyone together for your first meeting. Serve some food and drinks, and then get to the fun part—choosing a name for your group!
Decide if you want a leader. If one person is clearly an expert, then it makes sense for that person to lead. If everyone is on a level playing field, it works well to rotate leadership duties.
Pick some topics. Start brainstorming about what everyone wants to get out of this experience. You'll find some people are most concerned about retirement, others college, others real estate, and still others the more emotional sides of money. Come up with a list of the subjects the group wants to focus on and in which order.
Appoint one member to be in charge of each of the upcoming topics. Jean will be posting Money Group Guides for you to follow on Oprah.com, but feel free to come up with your own. If you do, remember: You want this to be easy, not cumbersome; so the member in charge should circulate articles (not books) on the topic and come prepared with a book-club-like list of questions to get the conversation started.
Invite experts. There are probably plenty of brokerage firms and financial planners in town that would love, love, love your business. If you're about to discuss something that none of you feels qualified to talk about, invite in someone who knows her stuff so she can lead the discussion. Tell her you're looking for someone to educate the group on a particular issue and to answer members' questions. Who knows? You may end up finding a financial pro you'd like to work with in the future.
Start tracking your finances. If you're planning on following Jean's Money Group topics, you'll need to know the truth about your finances. If you haven't already, print Oprah's Debt Diet chart and track your debt. You can also track and save a record of your spending habits in a money journal.
Check Oprah.com for more resources. Come back at the beginning of every month to find your new curriculum.
The First Meeting Check out Jean's suggestions on how to structure your Money Group meeting and get the most out of it!
As you get to know the members of your Money Group, you may decide that you want to incorporate your own welcome, your own oath. But for now, I encourage all of you to use mine:
I am here because I choose to be here. I know that by spending a little time every week/month focused on my finances, I will feel safer, more secure, more independent, more useful, more confident and yes, more wealthy. I do this not only to only gain more control over my money, but more control over my life. Because that will free me to focus on the other, important things in my life. And that will make me rich in an entirely different, but completely significant and earth-shattering way.
Each meeting of the Money Group will start with a four-part warm-up.
First, a mood assessment. Go around the room and share: How are you feeling in general this week/month? How are you feeling about your finances?
Second, a goals assessment. Go around the circle and share: What goals did you set at the last meeting? Where did you struggle? Where did you have victories?
Third, a spending/saving/debt/salary assessment. Since the last meeting, how much have you spent (did you have any noticeable lapses that you'd like the group to weigh in on), how much debt have you repaid, how much have you added to your savings and have you added to your earnings in any way? How did it feel to make this progress or fall backward?
Fourth, a secret swap. Does anyone have great resources/sales/doctors/plumbers/etc. to bring to the group's attention?
Each curriculum will follow the following format:
Lesson Outline: What we'll be learning this month
Discussion Questions: Get new questions and always remember to ask yourself the following:
What will achieving it help you accomplish in life?
How do you feel about how you're handling this aspect of your finances today?
Where do you think you'll have trouble?
Who do you think might be able to help you rally through the rough spots?
Task List: What you can accomplish this month
Resources to help you achieve your goals
Tools to help you achieve your goals
Quiz: How well have you learned the materials?
At the next meeting, share with the group what you've accomplished and learned. What things have presented a challenge for you? Then go on to the next topic!
Set measurable goals. Before the meeting ends, go around the circle one last time. Everyone needs to state a goal—out loud—to be recorded by themselves and the group leader. If you're not sure how to get there, now is the time to ask for help from the group. At the next meeting, your groupies will hold you accountable!