I help smart people make good financial decisions.

Hi, I’m Julie Rains. I’m a writer and spreadsheet designer. This is more fun than it sounds.

I started saving as a kid and investing as a young adult. I’ve had some successes and made some mistakes. My stories and the lessons learned may help you figure out what you want to do and why.

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Concentration in Finance from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When you were in college, did you learn more outside of the classroom than inside?



One of my big lessons came when I taught a couple of friends who pulled me aside to ask an important question.

“How did Ms. K become independently wealthy?” or what we call today “financially independent” they wanted to know.

I had heard the talk about her fortune. People referred to Ms. K as “one of the original investors in Food Lion.” It’s a home-spun story of regular people helping a neighbor – by investing a modest amount (just $1,000) to grow a chain of grocery stores in a small North Carolina town. The company flourished and so did the value of the investment.

As far as I know, the $1,000 buy-in was a simple transaction. A bunch of people invested in the company in exchange for partial ownership of the business. There were no investment bankers involved or market makers, brokerage firms that promote the stock to make sure enough money is raised.

I had not given Ms. K’s story much thought before my friends asked. I did notice she never seemed to worry about ruffling feathers while doing her job as a university administrator. That may have impressed me more than whatever dollar amount she was “worth” when we crossed paths.

That evening, as I spoke to my friends, I realized a couple of things. First, investing means buying a company, period. It means showing confidence (or hope) that a company will prosper, hopefully alongside its shareholders and the community. Second, even smart people like my friends don’t know about investing and finance unless someone explains it to them.

Did I learn anything inside the classroom?

Absolutely, yes.

What sticks out to me is the time value of money. In real life, I think of this concept as cash flow. Every financial product and every financial decision can be distilled into a series of cash flows.

Generally, there are hard facts involved, like the monthly premium for medical insurance or the amount you can set aside for retirement. There may also be guesses, such as how many times you’ll need to see a doctor in a year or the rate of return of your investments during the same time period.

I like to bring these together, often in spreadsheets, to help me make decisions about my money. The numbers don’t dictate what I do. They tell me the financial impact of my decisions so I can figure out what I want to do.

Guides to Make Major Decisions

At Investing to Thrive, I’ve published many articles on money management and investing.

Spreadsheet Courses

To help you make decisions on major life moves, I’ve developed courses covering specific opportunities. Course materials downloadable Excel spreadsheets so you can do your calculations in privacy and videos with instructions.

If you want to figure out when to start taking Social Security Retirement Benefits, how much to Save for College, estimate the Value of a Stock, I have spreadsheet courses for you! Check them out here.

Personal Guide

I show you how to grow, protect, and manage wealth in Growing Wealth: Essential Money Lessons from My Garden to Yours  (to be published in late 2021/early 2022).

I want you to know the unchanging foundations of managing money. I also want to show you how the economic circumstances and the design of financial products can affect your well-being.

I help you trust yourself, not the financial salesperson who encourages you to doubt yourself. For those who work with trusted financial advisors, I help you ask the right questions and share the right information so you can get sound, personalized advice.

I encourage you to learn from setbacks and grow through them.

More About Me

I took a gardening class a few years ago, learned the basics, and have been adding to my knowledge ever since. My stumbles and successes in growing green things gave me greater empathy for friends trying to learn new things outside of their expertise, including investing and money management. Also, there are intriguing comparisons between gardening and growing wealth.

I am a co-author of 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget. My work has been published at Wise Bread, American Express OPEN Forum, and Loans101.

If I’m not designing spreadsheets or writing, I’m probably outside riding my bike, kayaking, or hiking.

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what types of financial decisions you’re making and what topics concern you.