How To Talk About Money

How To Talk About Money

Talking about money with people you trust will enable you to live by your values and reach your financial goals.


In the last blog post we discussed why it is so hard to talk about money:

  • Our parents never talked about money so we don’t have a “money script”

  • We feel awkward because everyone else seems to be able to buy whatever they want whenever they want it

  • We feel like we must be doing something wrong in managing our money, and talking about it will bring up all of our inadequacies

But in order to live your best financial life you will need to talk about money at one time or another, so what to do about this big green elephant in the room? 

Here are three ideas:

Make the conversation about your values and goals, not the price tag attached to them

When you think about it, money is simply a tool that you use to help you create your best life.  Some of us have more of it and some of us have less, but we all have hopes and dreams that we want to accomplish. 

When broaching a conversation that relates to money, start by talking about what you want to achieve:  Do you want the enjoyment of spending time with loved ones through an occasional fun night out?  Do you want the secure feeling that if your car breaks down you will have the emergency savings to get it fixed?  Do you want the satisfaction of getting out from under oppressive credit card or student loan debt? 

I begin my financial education series with a discussion of values and goals (no numbers or dollar signs allowed in that first class!).  By making your conversations about where you want to be – and money is simply the price tag attached to it – you can begin to make a plan and take the required steps to get there.

Cultivate empathy in money management…towards others as well as towards yourself

While we are home gazing at our social media feed and wondering how members of our networks can afford the vacation/dining out/__________ (fill in the blank), remember that many of our friends are probably wondering the same thing, and none of us are talking about it.  Realize that talking about money can empower those around you. 

There is a conversation taking place here in Boston and around the country about fairness in pay between the sexes, with women making on average 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  In Massachusetts potential employers can no longer ask women what they currently make during the interview process, attempting to break the cycle of chronically underpaying women (and I know all about this one because once upon a time I was one of those underpaid women).  

But talking about salary among friends can actually help everyone.  Don’t you want your friends to make a fair salary?  Talking about your compensation package with a friend might embolden her to ask her boss for a needed and deserved raise.  And while we are at it, how about discussing what you pay for rent, or utilities, or car insurance?  Sharing this information with others can help them stretch their dollars further too.

“Lean in” to the aspects of money that really stress you out, then attack them head on

What I teach in my financial education classes is that to make your cash flow stronger you need to do one of three things: 1) bring in more income, 2) spend less, or 3) do both.  When presented with these three choices which one stresses you out the most? 

I’ll volunteer to the fact that trying to bring in more income is my stress point.  I am self-employed and I frequently go into “panic mode” when I can’t forecast my future workload (just ask my husband and friends who are tired of hearing me talk about it!).  To combat this stress I have put some real effort into building my business operations, from taking a business plan-writing class to focusing on my marketing efforts. 

I have a friend who feels confident that at any instance she could make a buck, so bringing in more income is not her stresser (lucky her!).  Instead she targets keeping her expenses in check through mindful spending.  Once you know what your pressure point is, you can work on it through a class, a webinar or maybe some one-on-one advice from a pro.

Some say that talking about money is the final taboo subject in American culture, now that we have apparently become more comfortable talking about politics and sex.  I can attest that the taboo is still there, as evidenced by the “deer in the headlights” looks I get in social situations when I ask a probing question about money (sorry, occupational hazard). 

So start talking about your dreams and goals (and the price tags attached to them), with those you love and trust.  And remember that almost everyone you know has had their own trials and tribulations with money; encourage them to share their stories.  Finally know that there are plenty of resources out there to help you on your journey to live your best financial life.

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