JUST THINKING: Not a numbers person

Just Thinking | Julie Stafford

I have never been a numbers person. Oh sure, when I was younger I liked counting the money I earned from babysitting and when I was in elementary school I enjoyed math, mostly because it made me feel important to have homework.

Course then, I got into Mrs. Elder’s fourth grade class and had to learn times tables and actually go stand at her desk — just me and her — and recite my ones and two and threes and fours and so on. It gave me indigestion.

And then I landed in Mr. Diehl’s high school math class — I don’t even remember which one — where I might as well have been learning to speak Russian or some other tricky language for as impossible as it was for me to decipher the concepts. I honestly believe it’s just the way I’m wired or not wired, as the case may be.

Move forward a little to college where I had to manage my own bank account and got my first ATM card. My account register started out all nice and neat and organized but pretty soon my math was so far off in balancing each month that I adopted the “why bother” attitude. Didn’t take long for that to get me into trouble.

Segue to getting married and having kids. As many couples do, we divided the household responsibilities and I was more than glad to turn over banking and bill paying. My focus was 150 percent on raising responsible and respectful kids and I tuned out as much of the numbers side as possible.

Now transition to being a single mom, once again in charge of all banking and bill paying chores. Add to that having to translate monthly financial and production reports and to set and analyze annual budgets for work. A year ago, as I was anticipating our move to Michigan and stepping into my job as publisher of The Daily News, the thought of being so numbers oriented once again gave me indigestion.

How could I, the girl who couldn’t even get a decent grade in high school math or learn how to balance a checkbook, successfully manage these major numbers-oriented tasks. To be perfectly honest, I’ve stumbled a bit coming up with an organizational system for my personal finances. Accounts are balanced this time around but my organizational system for keeping what needs to be paid when is a little messy.

The thing that has surprised me most is how much I love analyzing and pulling apart my work budgets. Turns out, sometimes it actually pays to not have all the answers and to have to ask a ton of questions. It gets people thinking and sometimes the responses they give don’t make sense and lead to a more efficient bottom line.

I may not be dealing in high finance and I don’t pretend to understand how an accountant puts all the pieces of a business or budget together. But when push comes to shove, I can do the math and make sense of the numbers. I’ll bet even Mrs. Elder and Mr. Diehl would be proud.

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