Talk Money Week is fast approaching (9-13 November). We’ve put together a few tips to help you feel better talking about money.
Imagine a really uncomfortable conversation at the dinner table. Perhaps your uncle has said something politically incorrect. Maybe someone is giving you intimate details of their sex life as you make a concerted effort to continue eating. We’ve all found ourselves caught up in conversations like this. Cast your mind back to the last time it happened and reflect on how you felt, how you wish you’d felt, how you or those around you might have handled it differently.
Now consider that these toe-curling topics are statistically shown to be less uncomfortable to talk about than money. That’s right: money, more than any other subject, has been crowned the topic people are likely to find the most challenging to discuss. A study by Lloyds Bank showed that half of UK adults believe talking about money is taboo, more than any other subject.
What exactly are people afraid to talk about?
The Lloyds’ study has shed light on which financial topics cause the most stress. Lloyds reported only 34% of people have ever discussed their will, while 33% struggled to discuss their debt issues. It has also been suggested that people especially struggle to have financial conversations with their loved ones. A quarter of those surveyed reported lying to their family and friends about their financial situations.
Why do we find money so hard to talk about?
Many reasons have been suggested. Financial Psychology Institute founder Brad Klontz has claimed that because people’s living standards and social lives are linked to their salaries, it is difficult to discuss money without shame or judgment entering the equation. Klontz argues that ‘money is very tightly linked to our status… either you’re not going to like me because I make too little (money), or you’re going to judge me because I make more than you’. He explains further by referencing what he calls ‘money scripts’, or deeply rooted ideas about money that affect people’s financial wellbeing:
- Money avoidance – Believing that money is the root of all evil, money avoiders resent having to discuss it
- Money worship – Obsessed with becoming wealthy, money worshippers consider money a source of power and happiness
- Status seeking – Status seekers view money primarily as a means by which they can elevate their social standing.
- Money vigilance – The money vigilant are overly cautious about their finances, choosing to penny-pinch whenever possible without ever actually enjoying the benefits of saving money
Further studies suggest we often feel uncomfortable talking about money because so few of us truly understand it. A quiz run by The Atlantic showed that only 30% of Americans have a basic knowledge of financial matters. Germans scored the highest out of all countries with 53% and Russians the lowest with 4%. This suggests that a large majority of people are not knowledgeable about their money and, as such, would not be comfortable discussing it.
What can we do to feel more comfortable discussing finance?
Lloyds’ study shows that 61% of people feel better about their finances when they open up and talk about them. With this in mind, we ask, what we can do to feel better about discussing finance? We at Cheddr are committed to helping you feel more at ease talking about your money in any setting. This includes with your boss, your family, your friends or with one of our financial coaches. We’ve put together a series of steps you can take to make sure you feel balanced and more relaxed when talking money:
Arrange in Advance
Nail a conversation about money by arranging a time in advance with whoever you want to talk to. Putting a date in the calendar gives you time to do better research. You will feel more comfortable and confident leading to a more structured and productive conversation. Send an email to arrange a future meeting with your boss being mindful of their needs when planning a time. If you’re talking to your partner or another family member, you might say something like ‘are you free Friday evening? Just wanted to have a chat about spending a bit less money’.
It’s vital you prepare in advance, no matter whether discussing debts with a loved one or a pay rise with your boss. This means doing your research to ensure you’ve gathered all the information you might need. As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Practice Makes Perfect
Whenever we do something that makes us feel awkward and uncomfortable, it’s rare that we pull it off first try. Talking about money is no different, so don’t expect to nail it without practising first. Try running through the points and arguments you want to make with a friend or family member to make sure you’re communicating clearly and effectively. It can even help to talk to yourself into a webcam, or to rehearse using cue cards. If you have time, it never hurts to practice as much as possible. Like any skill, talking about money requires you to learn through repetition.
Think About Your Audience
When talking about money, always be mindful who you’re talking to. Take note of professional relationships, levels of expertise and their motivations as well as how much you trust them. It might not be wise to engage in any kind of conversation about money with a stranger on the bus who’s trying to persuade you to invest in his start-up. In your personal life, make sure the people you’re talking to have your best interests at heart and have some experience managing money. Whomever you choose to speak to, remember money is personal and what is good for them may not be right for you.
Don’t Judge Yourself
It’s important that shame and judgment are removed from the conversation. Sometimes, this requires you to let go of any embarrassment you feel about your financial situation. The other person is more likely to judge you if you are judging yourself. Be as factual and transparent as you can with the other person without attaching judgement to whatever issue you are facing. This will enable them to advise you better and will lead to a more productive conversation.
Be Patient and Polite
Like any conversation, it’s important that you keep a cool head when talking about money. When we discuss important matters with people, we enter into a kind of unwritten contract; as long as the other person is respectful of our thoughts and ideas, we must be respectful of theirs. If the person you’re talking to suggests you take action in a way that feels intimidating, try not to react emotionally as this will only continue the cycle of judgment. Instead, try and be positive about the suggestions people make. This will increase the likelihood of your problems being resolved and will encourage the other person to engage with you more going forward.
Talking about money is a huge element of financial wellness, which is what we’re all about at Cheddr. We hope you feel better talking about money and feel more prepared to do so.
For more on the services we offer, visit our website. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn for updates on our work and access to resources to help build your financial resilience.