Talking about money ranks with the rest of those controversial—or downright awkward—conversations that nobody wants to have. We are taught not to discuss politics or religion, and right alongside of those two no-go topics is personal finance.
If you do bring up your net worth in everyday conversation with your friends or share the figures from your latest promotion with your colleagues, you will probably see their faces and body language transform from sociable to uncomfortable. In our society, talking about personal finances ranks among the worst kinds of social taboo.
Still, at some point, you’re going to have to talk about money with your roommate, spouse, kids, boss, or parents. Whether you’re buying your first home or deciding if it makes more sense to rent or lease your car, talking about money can actually alleviate the pressure to make those tough financial decisions on your own.
Setting the social taboo aside, let’s dive right into our tips for discussing your pretty pennies.
Timing is everything
If you and your roommate are chatting about how she’s struggling with student loan payments, this is not the best time to bring up the fact that you’ve just finished paying off yours. This may seem obvious, but there’s a right time and place to bring up money matters. If the person you’re hoping to talk to is stressed or tired, blabbering about your finances will either spark controversy or just seem plain annoying.
Instead, schedule a set time to have a structured yet open-ended conversation. Ask your roommate to grab lunch on the weekend so the two of you can talk through some money questions you’ve been having. This way, you will both feel prepared to discuss financial matters in depth, which will soften any of those awkward feelings that arise when the conversation occurs at random.
What you want to say vs. what you actually write.
— Grammarly (@Grammarly) May 24, 2019
Why do you want—or need—to have a conversation about money? If you’re having a concern that can be solved with a little of your own research or by talking to a financial advisor, take the initiative to find the answers yourself. Doing so can empower you to oversee your finances more closely and get a better handle on them.
However, if you are facing an issue that needs additional guidance, ask yourself: Why do I want money in the first place? Answering this question will give you insight into your personal values. Your responses will probably correspond to these related questions:
- What are your biggest financial fears?
- What are your dreams for your future?
- When do you want to retire and how will you spend retirement?
- What would you do with a million dollars?
- How do you plan to eventually spend your life savings?
Once you’ve worked through the Why money? question, you will be better suited to align your expenses with your values. This will make any conversation you have about money easier, as there will be an underlying foundation to support your concerns. You can also return to your answers when making big (or small!) financial decisions to ensure you’re staying on track.
Be honest with your friends (and yourself)
With your values in place, you can set clearly defined financial goals for yourself. Setting three to five goals per year—like saving $3,000 or upping your monthly loan payment to $950—is a great way to measure your personal progress. The more goals you achieve, the more candid you will be when discussing your financial situation with other people.
Moreover, working toward certain goals can also open the door for knowledge sharing. If you are honest with your friends about the goals you’ve set, they can offer what they’ve learned from their own experiences. This will create both a transparent dialogue and the possibility for learning, resulting in a much more constructive conversation for both parties.
Breaking the money taboo will invite better financial habits into your daily life and your conversations with the people whose opinions matter most. There are very few financial issues that can be resolved by neglecting them, so let’s get talking!