Personal Finance vs. Zulu: Which One is Easier to Understand?

Personal Finance vs. Zulu: Which One is Easier to Understand?


by Angela Ozar

One of the many perks of being in my mid 20s and debt-free, is my ability to see the world without worrying about my budget. In the spring of 2014, my desire to travel led me to South Africa. This trip was definitely outside of my comfort zone, especially for being my first venture beyond the U.S. Dealing with personal finances can feel the same way: lost and confused, just like trying to understand a song in Zulu.

I got a flashback of my international travels when transferring from a corporate job to a start-up job required me to transfer my financial accounts: 401K, joint profit sharing, employee stock, etc. As it turns out, transferring funds is a lot like traveling to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Lucky for me, in Johannesburg they speak English- along with 11 other languages (show offs) including Zulu.

Through many phone calls to different financial institutions, a lot of patience, and a little expert advice, I was able to convert my accounts without asking for a translator. I’ve interpreted a few things I learned during the process, so you won’t look like a financial tourist the next time you say Bon Voyage to your stock portfolio.


Consider Where You Want to Go

Paris, Rome, Tokyo? The sky is the limit! Planning your personal finance destination is no different. Knowing your options, and deciding where you want your money to go is half the journey. Do you want to sell or buy stocks? Do you want to put your money in a Roth or Traditional IRA? The more educated you are on your financial choices, the better overall experience you’ll have.


Have All Your Documents

Passport? Check. Map? Check. In preparation for your travels, it’s important to make lists so you don’t forget anything critical. You wouldn’t want to forget your luggage or your plane ticket; just like you wouldn’t want to forget an account you had $5K in. Make a list of all of your financial accounts, and make sure you have the account numbers and passwords for all of them. Use your sense of navigation to locate your last financial statement for each account so that you know the current value. This will keep you organized and make the process a whole lot smoother. No one likes having to dig through old emails and computer files; it’s more painful than a trip to the dentist.


If You Get Lost, Ask a Local

I’ll admit, there were a few times during the process of transferring funds that I zoned out on the phone when a financial representative was giving me instructions. It took all I had not to ask for a translation to English or to say, “Come again?” If you don’t understand something or think you made a wrong turn, don’t get stressed! It’s always okay to ask for clarification. Speak with a financial planner to help you interpret the actions you need to take. Also, look for consistency in messages from numerous sources, and takes notes to help you feel more confident. This helped me in verifying money in my joint profit sharing was pre-taxed. I could sleep at night knowing I rolled it over to the correct IRA (Traditional) account.


Keep A Memento

Who doesn’t love a cheesy T-shirt that lets everyone know where you’ve been? For me, it’s Christmas ornaments collected of the places that I’ve traveled to. Your mementos from your account transactions should be confirmation letters, emails, checks, etc. Although they are not as fun as a T-shirt, you’ll need them for tax time, as there may be tax implications.


The thing about traveling is that the more of it you do, the easier it becomes to assimilate to a new culture and place. Now you can act like a local, when speaking to financial representatives about your accounts. Don’t forget to buy me a Christmas ornament!


Read more from Angela Ozar here!





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