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This month, we’re switching it up a bit with our article for April. While we don’t shy away from the heavier stuff (see older posts about divorce, late term abortion and losing community as a trans person), we also aren’t opposed to some lighter, fun posts as well. For you Taylor Swift fans, this one is for you. And even if you aren’t, there’s some great straightforward money advice here as well.
30 Things Red (Taylor’s Version) Taught Us About Money
Fan theories abound in Taylor Nation, and I’d like to offer up one of my own. We all know Taylor sings about relationships and her experiences in them. We know the most prolific lyricist of our time loves including Easter eggs in her music, videos, and social media, and there is always plenty to speculate about. So maybe it’s not a stretch to say that on her latest album re-recording, every single song ACTUALLY has a hidden meaning about money. (Okay, maybe not really, but art is about finding your own meaning.)
Let’s dive in and see what Red (Taylor’s Version) really has to say about the green. (And yeah, I’m going to explicitly include the words “Taylor’s Version” everywhere that I can because it’s the only version I will acknowledge whenever possible because we Stan a queen who takes back what’s HERS.)
1. State of Grace (Taylor’s Version)
“And I never saw you coming, and I’ll never be the same.” This song is absolutely about student loan debt. There’s a clear nod to that blissful six month grace period between the time you graduate and the time when you have to start paying your student loans back (it’s right there in the name of the song!). Other nods to student loans include the lyrics “a ruthless game unless you play it good and right,” and “these are the hands of fate, you’re my Achilles heel.” It’s obvious that Taylor knows how brutal student debt can be.
The Lesson: First and foremost, we need student loan and college tuition reform. But in the meantime, review your student loan repayment options if you’ve got student debt, and figure out what option best fits your life and future plans. If you’re pre-college, checking out all your scholarship options and doing your research on tuition, housing, and any cost-saving measures is a “worthwhile fight.” If you’re like me and in the thick of paying off student debt, “we learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts.” This is a ruthless game, it can feel hopeless unless you’ve played it good and right, but YOU are brave and wild.
2. Red (Taylor’s Version)
Sticking with the theme of debt in her first couple songs on this album, this one is about consumer debt and spending more money than you have. Going into the “red” might feel good in the moment, but you also have to deal with the aftermath, perhaps a feeling reminiscent of “driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street?”
The Lesson: Spending money on new things and experiences can give you a rush, it feels exciting, it’s RED (this excitement is why the term “retail therapy” is a thing), but if you’re spending outside of what you can afford, in the end that “red” feeling can quickly turn to shades of blue and dark gray.
3. Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)
Based on this song, I think our girl might have some experience with investing in Bitcoin. “This path is reckless; this slope treacherous, and I, I, I like it. I can’t decide if it’s a choice, getting swept away.” Good for her for being so forthright about both the thrill and the risk that is involved with this type of investment!
The Lesson: Know your risk tolerance when it comes to investing. If the true meaning of this song has to do with Taylor investing in Bitcoin, she seems to at least have a sense of self-awareness about where her risk tolerance lies: “nothing safe is worth the drive and I would follow you, follow you home.” And let’s be real, she’s got the cash to play around with some riskier investments. If your risk tolerance isn’t on Taylor’s level, that’s perfectly okay. Be honest with yourself and do what feels right to you. If you’ve never thought about investing or you’re a beginner who wants to learn more, Women’s Personal Finance Mission Supporters Bonus Level Content includes access to an hour video recording on investing basics.
4. I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)
All I can think about when I hear this song are those screaming goats; the internet has ruined this one for me. Other than the goats, this song is about the value of having a strong emergency fund. Taylor knew trouble was coming, but she wasn’t prepared. She learned the hard way.
The Lesson: If possible, save up a 3-12 month emergency fund that you can easily access when needed. Taylor is a little harsh on herself, singing “I realize the blame is on me,” and “so shame on me now,” because let’s face it, it’s HARD to save up a strong emergency fund and it can take a long time – so give yourself a little more compassion than she does during this process. The sense of safety that can come along with not feeling like “you’re drowning, you’re drowning, you’re drowning” when an emergency comes up can cushion that fall to “the cold hard ground.”
5. All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)
This is the TLDR version of everyone’s favorite song on this album, so I’m going to keep this one short.
The Lesson: Keep track of things that are important to you. Much like your mom getting mad at you for losing your hat or jacket in elementary school, you will be disappointed with yourself for forgetting your nice scarf somewhere and you may never get it back. More on this later.
6. 22 (Taylor’s Version)
This is a fun little ditty about finding balance.
The Lesson: You’re only young once, it’s OKAY to spend money (within your means) on things that you value and that bring you joy. At the same time, it’s important to recognize the value of those things we can’t put a price on, like all the nights we spend “dreaming instead of sleeping.” Live a little. Have breakfast at midnight. You’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way.
7. I Almost Do (Taylor’s Version)
Oof. You know that feeling when you’re trying to pay down your debt, or save for a big goal, so you’re cutting back on spending, but your card and online shopping are calling your name? That’s this song. “I wish I could run to you, and I hope you know that every time I don’t, I almost do.” An ode to the money I’m trying not to spend.
The Lesson: Obviously there is a reason she isn’t turning back to her old ways, and that reason is what makes this all worth it. Hold on to your reason when you’re tempted to go back, let your reason ground you, it’s worth it.
8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version)
I’m sure I don’t even need to explain to you how much relationships can impact your finances, especially toxic relationships. Even if there is minimal to no financial cost, the mental exhaustion is more than enough.
The Lesson: “We are NEVER EVER getting back together.” This is an act of self-care after a lot of emotional strife. Self-care isn’t spas, face masks, and manicures. It’s saying “no” to your toxic ex who keeps talking to their friends, talking to your friends, talking to you – it gets exhausting, you know? Protect your mental well-being.
9. Stay Stay Stay (Taylor’s Version)
In stark contrast to our last song, Stay Stay Stay is a (slightly misguided – but who among us didn’t have at least a slightly misguided idea of what love was at age 22?) picture of a healthy relationship. While someone thinking it’s funny when you’re mad, mad, mad might be a little gaslight-y, the sentiment that the subject of this song is good-natured and accepts Taylor as she is is what I choose to take away here.
The Lesson: Invest in healthy relationships; your monetary investments aren’t the only ones that matter. And much like your monetary investments, relationships can grow when cultivated consistently over time, time, time.
10. The Last Time (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol) (Taylor’s Version)
I just have to say. We went from “We are never ever getting back together” to “this is the last time, I won’t hurt you anymore” REAL QUICK. Like, two songs quick. So you’ll recall what I said above about self-care, because this is like the opposite of self-care and this song is the opposite of We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version). This song is I Recognize That You Haven’t Treated Me Well But Let’s Get Together One Last Time And Give It Another Shot, I’m Begging You (Taylor’s Version).
The Lesson: I want to say there’s something about the time value of money here. Like, time is money or money is time and if you’re going around and around One Last Time (and we all know this won’t actually be the last time), maybe it’s a waste of both.
11. Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)
A whirlwind but impactful romance in New York? Sounds like a lesson on values-based spending to me.
The Lesson: Know what you value and spend your money accordingly. Do you value fashion and does the experience of “spinning like a girl in a brand new dress” bring you joy? Buy that dress (if you can reasonably afford it). Knowing what adds to your happiness in life can also be helpful in determining what not to spend your money on – for instance, Taylor lays it out perfectly on this track: let’s say you like going out dancing, but you don’t want to dance if you’re not dancing with that special someone. Maybe instead of going out, you just dance in your room. Thanks for this valuable lesson, TSwift.
12. Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version)
I’ll be honest, this one has been hands down the hardest song on the album for me to find a hidden money meaning. Because of this, even though I don’t think anyone in this song dies, I am going to use this opportunity to talk about the importance of emergency and estate planning, because something ended in this song, and it was sad and tragic even within the beauty.
The Lesson: Be prepared. Plan ahead now for emergencies so your loved ones aren’t scrambling to find an obscure piece of information they may need while in the midst of also grieving or making difficult medical decisions. Make a will, especially if you have dependents. For everything else, a great comprehensive guide to family emergency preparedness is this fillable, step-by-step Family Emergency Binder from Smart Money Mamas.
13. The Lucky One (Taylor’s Version)
This song is pretty clearly about the downsides to fame, how it can seem glamorous and great from the outside, but “your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you, and your secrets end up splashed on the news front page.”
The Lesson: Enjoy the simple things in life. You’ll miss them when you’re a superstar who’s swimming in money. Or alternatively, the grass isn’t always greener in Madison Square.
14. Everything Has Changed (featuring Ed Sheeran) (Taylor’s Version)
This song is the normal reaction to finding out about the Financial Independence/Retire Early movement. “All I feel in my stomach is butterflies, the beautiful kind, makin’ up for lost time”… [in the market]. It’s that feeling of excitement and hope. That spark that makes you want to learn everything you can and take action ASAP.
The Lesson: Learn about money and start taking action with that new knowledge. Start now, even if you’re starting small. Do your research (“I just want to know you better, know you better now”) on saving, investing, retirement. Spend some time getting to know your options! With this new information, everything has changed.
15. Starlight (Taylor’s Version)
You know how when you’re applying for jobs, you’ll find something that seems like a good fit and you know you could do it, or you could at least learn and pick up on it quickly? But you hesitate to apply because one of the requirements isn’t exactly within your skillset? Consider this song to be encouragement from your good friend Taylor to just GO FOR IT.
The Lesson: Ask yourself “What would a Mediocre White Man do confidently?” Do that. Sometimes you have to fake it ‘till you make it. Taylor says it best when she says “[W]e snuck into a yacht club party pretending to be a duchess and a prince.” And then what happened? Oh yeah, they had THE BEST NIGHT and danced like they were made of starlight. Did not being completely 100% qualified according to the rules of the party hold them back from having the time of their lives? No. Dream impossible dreams. Then go after them.
16. Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)
Maybe you feel way behind on your finances, you’re just starting to learn more about money, you have large consumer or student debt, or haven’t started saving for retirement yet. This one’s for you.
The Lesson: It’s never too late. Taylor thought all love ever does is break, and burn, and end. But hey, on a Wednesday, in a cafe, she watched it begin again. And you can too. No matter how long you’ve been spending thinking you’ll never be debt free or financially stable, let alone thriving, it’s never too late to start, and now is as good a time as any.
17. The Moment I Knew (Taylor’s Version)
This song is all about expecting a positive return on investment, and being disappointed. The problem here is that Taylor put all of her expectations on one thing, and she was let down, on her birthday of all days!
The Lesson: DIVERSIFY! Your investment portfolio, your skillset, your income streams. When you have multiple ways of making money, you’re better protected from risk than if you’re depending solely on one source.
18. Come Back… Be Here (Taylor’s Version)
On the surface, this is a song about missing your significant other when they’re traveling. The secret meaning behind the song is actually about missing your money after you’ve spent it.
The Lesson: Be aware of buyer’s remorse so you can beware of buyer’s remorse. Much like Holy Ground taught us a lesson about values-based spending, think about whether the joy of a purchase will be proportional to the monetary cost for you. You may have that “delicate beginning rush” at first, but later you might be wishing your money would “come back, be here.” Meanwhile it’s already worlds away, in New York or London.
19. Girl at Home (Taylor’s Version)
We’ve allllll heard this phrase at one point or another, and quite likely rolled our eyes at it: “We have food at home!”
The Lesson: Use what you have! Whether you need to hear that you’ve got food, clothes, shoes, unread books (okay this one is getting a little too personal for me now), coffee, or whatever else at home, Taylor’s got your back.
20. State of Grace (Acoustic Version) (Taylor’s Version)
See #1, but imagine it a little softer and more delicate.
The Lesson: ~ First and foremost, we need student loan and college tuition reform. But in the meantime, review your student loan repayment options if you’ve got student debt, and figure out what option best fits your life and future plans. If you’re pre-college, checking out all your scholarship options and doing your research on tuition, housing, and any cost-saving measures is a “worthwhile fight.” If you’re like me and in the thick of paying off student debt, “we learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts.” This is a ruthless game, it can feel hopeless unless you’ve played it good and right, but YOU are brave and wild. ~
21. Ronan (Taylor’s Version)
I’m sorry but I just can’t with this song. If you don’t SOB when you hear Ronan, we are not the same. This is the one song on this album that I almost always skip due to emotional self-preservation. If I’m driving I cannot show up to my destination looking like I just cried my eyes out, which is what happens every time I hear it.
The Lesson: To avoid putting myself through the pain of listening to this song any more than necessary, we’re just going to say there’s probably a message somewhere in here about the American healthcare system and/or the need for better family medical leave and time off for grieving.
22. Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
We’ve kept it light for most of this article, but I’m going to get real for a second here. The “secret” meaning behind this song is pretty much the actual meaning. Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) is about leaving an (at least emotionally) abusive relationship. In these situations, financial abuse is extremely common. According to WomensLaw.org, an organization providing state-specific legal information and resources for survivors of domestic violence, financial abuse includes withholding money, stealing money, and restricting the use of finances; these are just a few examples out of many.
The Lesson: Financial abuse is real and there are resources out there to help. Some resources include:
WomensLaw.org, as mentioned above, and specifically their financial abuse resource page
The Allstate Foundation Moving Ahead Curriculum – a resource to “help domestic violence survivors achieve financial independence and rebuild their lives”
HelpGuide’s step by step guide to getting out of an abusive relationship, including emergency resources, safety and escape planning, protecting your privacy, and first steps toward healing
23. Nothing New (Featuring Phoebe Bridgers) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
In Toy Story, Andy gets a new Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday. Woody, Andy’s old cowboy doll, wrote this song in a fit of angst when that happened.
The Lesson: Another lesson following the themes of values-based spending and being content with what you already have: ask yourself whether you will still love this _______ (car, electronic, pet, gadget, bag, etc.) just as much when the novelty wears off, and let that honesty with yourself play a part in guiding your purchasing decisions.
24. Babe (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Infidelity, broken promises, breaking down and breaking up.
The Lesson: A man* ain’t a financial plan (insert *significant other* here, but “man” makes it into a fun little rhyme – and is the quote inside the WPF Insiders welcome card we send out from Statement Cards). Taylor knows the importance of self-sufficiency and/or always having a backup plan even if you don’t think you’ll need one. Do yourself a favor and look out for future-you.
25. Message in a Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
How could our favorite country-to-pop crossover artist have predicted the US Postal Service funding crisis of 2020 back in 2010? It’s one of many of her mysterious talents. “Message in a bottle is all I can do, standing here hoping it gets to you.” Is this the future we want? Is it the future we’re destined for??
The Lesson: Support the postal service (and other public services, while we’re dreaming)! Otherwise you might just be putting all your hopes in a message in a bottle. Is that thing getting to London in a timely manner? I don’t think so.
26. I Bet You Think About Me (Featuring Chris Stapleton) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Basically this song is about someone from a relatively modest background (which, if you know anything about Taylor’s background, you know she’s not exactly the main character in a rags-to-riches story, so interpret it as you will) falling in love and being in a relationship with someone much richer who only cares about appearances and status.
The Lesson: Be true to yourself. You’ll be happier dancing in the living room, dreaming, and joking than you would be “chasin’ make-believe status,” going to “cool indie music concerts every week” (unless that’s your thing, no judgment here), and wearing your fancy organic shoes on your fancy million-dollar couch.
27. Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
As a therapist I have a vested interest in this song that touches on themes of mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. I didn’t even catch this the first few listens, as I paid more attention to the catchy beat and mentions of “summer sun” and “forever winter,” but listen more closely to the lyrics and Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version) goes so much deeper.
The Lesson: Mental health care is important and often presents major financial barriers, as finding a good provider that you can afford either out of pocket or within your insurance network can be extremely challenging. This is a systemic issue and mental health care needs to be more accessible, period. Open Path Collective is one resource making mental health care more accessible by connecting clients seeking therapy, who also have demonstrated financial need, with therapists who agree to offer services at a reduced rate of $30-60 per session.
If you or someone you know is struggling with immediate mental health needs, including suicidal thoughts or urges, free resources include:
The 24/7 crisis text line: text the word HOME to the number 714-741
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Outside the US, the International Association for Suicide Prevention
28. Run (Featuring Ed Sheeran) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Sometimes you just feel like you need to get away. Pick up and leave. “Run,” perhaps? The Lesson: Our girl Taylor has our backs yet again as she teaches us about the benefits of “F-you money.” That is, having enough money saved up that it allows you to say “F-you” to whatever it is you need to get away from (a toxic job or boss? a bad relationship? anything else you may have the urge to run from?). And then, run. Like you’d run from the law. Run from it all. Go like they’re trying to chase you, go where no one else is, run.
29. The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
This song is undeniably a BOP. It’s very traditionally Taylor: reminiscing on a long lost love that happened at least kind of in secret and involved a night in a hotel, a car ride, a Polaroid picture, dancing in the kitchen, a chase down through the hallway, whispered words, and ultimately broken hearts. They don’t know how much I miss her – sorry, her – sorry, YOU.
The Lesson: Money can’t buy happiness (but it can buy hotel rooms and nights in LA).
30. All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Everyone’s favorite track. EVERYONE’S. FAVORITE. TRACK. The one-liners from this song. I just. The level of lyrical genius involved in bringing us all these feels. Okay enough gushing, back to the money meaning behind this song.
The Lesson: The same lesson as the TLDR version above, consider this song a cautionary tale on the importance of remembering where you put your things and taking them home with you. I mean, come on Jake, you can mail back her other things but you couldn’t have just mailed a girl her scarf back? This version of the song also includes a bonus lesson: f*ck the patriarchy. Amen, sister.
Emilie is a mental health therapist, business owner, and owner and (former) blogger at WiseMindMoney.com, with hopes of sporadically getting back to writing/posting sometime in the vague future.
She's been paying off $108k+ of student loan debt since 2016, which is when she first got interested in learning more about money and personal finance. She loves Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and advocating for accessible, inclusive, and affirming mental health care.
She can most often be found on Twitter talking about life with ADHD, her toddler, and sometimes money stuff.
4 thoughts on “30 Things ‘Red’ (Taylor’s Version) Taught Us About Money”
Love this! Such a creative post and full of great info! Excellent work, Emilie!
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