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math

Words I will never utter again: “I’m not good at math.”

Like many writers, I grew up feeling confident I could write well, but the flip side of that was believing I was not good at math. I put all my energy into writing and when numbers came into the picture, I considered myself handicapped.

This all changed dramatically when I left my job as a travel editor at Conde Nast and had to manage my own finances as an independent travel writer. I was able to get by with minimal math skills, but when I became a travel designer and started selling travel, I was catapulted into using math on a daily level in all sorts of complex ways.

Math is a huge part of our jobs. Sure, we have bookkeepers, we have accountants. But unless you’re just working exclusively with U.S. companies using the U.S. dollar, if you’re selling international travel, your day-to-day is packed with decimal points.

On any given day, I am dealing with all sorts of currencies and the ever-fluctuating exchange rates for Euros, Pounds, Rands, Yen, Rials, you name it. A good number of the itineraries I design have multiple currencies within them. Most of the trips I plan require deposits and balances that may be due six months down the road. On top of that, many of my clients are in the financial world and a couple are currency traitors. With sophisticated clients like that, there clearly is no room for error. I have to get the calculations right.

Of course, we all know that currency converters are handy and can provide quick information. But I’ve learned that if you take the time to really understand how currencies work, you can save money for your clients and maximize your own earnings.

For me, it started with analyzing the many tools available on barchart.com. If you’re not in the habit of utilizing this site, I encourage you to do so. Click on the Forex tab and you will find everything you need to know about the currencies you are dealing with—the highs and lows. And, the interactive charts are great for seeing currency trends.

Spend a bit of time each day on this site and you will suddenly find yourself able to sound like a currency genius when talking to clients. In my case, understanding the numbers became a bit of an obsession. Why? Well…if you do the math, it adds up.

Susan Farewell is the owner of Farewell Travels LLC (FarewellTravels.com), a travel design firm based in Westport, CT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @FarewellTravels.