Q&A With Pamela Yip

By Covering Business     March 6, 2012

Pamela Yip is a personal finance writer for the Dallas Morning News and a member of the Board of Governors of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

You have written a lot about the need to start saving money as early as college. How did you manage your finances when you were a student?

My first experience with managing money was when I was 15. I really wanted a calculator for my calculus class. My parents said I had to work for it and save my money if I wanted it that badly. So I got my first job at McDonald’s. I saved and got that calculator. In college, I saved whatever money I earned from internships, and I got my first student credit card, which taught me how to manage credit.

A lot of journalists spend their entire careers covering personal finance, but you came to the beat well into yours. What drew you to it?

Readers will always be interested in their personal finance. The struggling economy and the disappearance of traditional pensions plans are forcing people to be better managers of their financial resources. To do that, they need good advice and encouragement, and that’s where I come in.

How has the beat changed since you started?

Personal finance writers have to move beyond the “how-to” stage to include much more insight and analysis into their pieces. Financial products have become much more complex, and we have to cut through the hype and opaqueness for readers so they can make informed decisions. We also have to warn people about the crooks out there who are running increasingly sophisticated scams.

Is personal finance getting enough media attention today? What areas aren’t being covered well enough in the mainstream media?

Personal finance is getting lots of attention from the media, but the big story is – and will continue to be – health care. Whether or not the Supreme Court strikes down a part or all of the health care reform law, figuring out how to pay for health care in retirement will become a growing concern in people’s minds.

A lack of financial literacy had a hand in the financial crisis. Can the government and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau keep people from making bad choices? What would they have to do?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other financial educators should educate consumers about money management basics, but they can’t prevent people from making bad choices. They can only give them guidance on how to manage their money and show them the consequences of making bad choices. Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to decide whether they will apply that knowledge to their lives or not.

Many of your stories include anecdotes to illustrate a broader point about saving, spending or debt management. How do you find people willing to be so candid about their financial situation?

Getting people to talk about their personal finances can be challenging because money represents control, power and self-esteem. If they’ve made mistakes, they’re reluctant to talk because of the embarrassment it can cause. What I always tell them is that I’m not out to judge them or hold them up to ridicule. If they’ve made financial mistakes, I want to know what lessons they learned and how our readers can apply those lessons to their own lives. Some people find it cathartic to talk about where they went wrong. If they’ve been successful, I want to know how they achieved what they did and what advice they have for our readers.


This interview was conducted over email by Nish Amarnath in December 2011. It has been condensed and edited.

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