Ah yes, Money, the 4 letter word (or is it 5?) often considered a forbidden discussion point, except in a confessional with your financial planner or CPA. Every day money flows into and out of your life, just like air, but it can be as taboo to discuss as your sex life . If you talk about money, especially your own money, the only plausible reason would be that you’re trying to gloat to others, or you’re trying to hit someone up for a loan. The fact that we’re so secretive with our own financial situations and understanding of money is a big reason that most Americans are in the financial pickle that they’re in today, but let’s attempt to change that… shall we?
It’s okay if you’re not rich to talk about the moola
The rich, however you define them, don’t hold exclusive privilege of openly discussing money, nor is the topic reserved for those “financial elites” who’ve supposedly got this thing completely figured out. Once we are able to have conversations with one another about our own financial situations, mistakes, questions and beliefs, the floodgates of learning and opportunities will open wide. I’m not saying your opening line at a party should be “Hi, I’m Ted, I make $60k a year and owe $24 thousand on my Honda”, but if we can become comfortable in keeping a conversation going or asking difficult questions about money, then little-by-little those walls that potentially keep us confined to our financial prisons will deteriorate and crumble.
The problem is we’ve been conditioned as a society that discussing money is rude and should be considered off limits from everyday conversations. It’s rude to pry into someone else’s life and discuss something as intimate as money. It’s thought to be dangerous to discuss your own financial decisions, ideology or status because it will paint a target on your back.
I say BS!
I’m sure there have been one-offs in the past that gave good reason to be guarded with money-talk, but I argue that the benefits of unzipping your lips and starting to freely discuss money far outweigh the negatives. Once you liberate yourself to partake in these conversations you’ll be quite amazed at the number of “Ah ha” moments you’ll encounter. Opportunities will start to present themselves in the most unusual ways. You’ll gradually begin to make better choices because better choices are constantly being presented to you. So if you’ve allowed yourself to have a limiting belief and feel resigned to be in the financial situation you’re currently in forever, I implore you to shut down that thought, and open your mouth and ears, it may serve you well.
Everything I know about money, I learned from someone else
Everything I know about money I learned from someone else who wasn’t afraid to disclose their own understanding and beliefs regarding money. I am thankful they weren’t afraid to discuss, whether in a face-to-face conversation, blog post, or books, how money works in their lives; weren’t too bothered to share how well they did with this particular investment, or how much money they lost during the last recession. They allow others to learn from their mistakes and set the precedent that it’s okay to discuss money with them. By openly having those discussions not only are they teaching but they are opening themselves to benefit as well. Once you’re no longer afraid to have those conversations you are able to truly listen and gain a new perspective, hear of an upcoming opportunity, or avoid a potential pitfall in the not too distant future. By not having these conversations, we’re shutting the door, locking the cage and resigning ourselves to a future where all the insights, opportunities and mistakes are our own, unable to benefit from the awesome power of a community.
Ready to start? Great, begin with these 3 things
1. Talk to your spouse about your own financial situation
You’d be surprised by the amount of married people who move along in their day-to-day lives without really discussing or trying to understand their partner’s thoughts about money; whether spending, saving, investing or otherwise. They’ve either been burned by a money fight in the past, and are none-too-eager to re-open that wound, or they just have an assumption that their partner is already 100% on-board with their own money beliefs and plans. The procrastinating sort may even know that they need to have the conversation now, but just need to wait until tomorrow, or next week/year when things slow down. Either way, you may want give that a second thought, you need to make sure you and your partner are talking, on the same page and committed to keeping your financial house in order if you’re committed to keeping your marriage in order.
Start with defining a simple goal, perhaps it savings, or making a future purchase, but start with something easily defined and perhaps something which you’ll both agree. Share what’s on your mind, and be sure to ask what’s on theirs. See where you differ, and how you’ll work through those differences. Often you’re not going to be able to have it all figured out in one conversation, so make sure to follow-up, and if changes need to be made, do it, just make sure you’re both in agreement and not afraid to keep the dialog rolling. It’s easy to default to one person in the marriage as the “money” person. We’re just as guilty in our household as any other. Recognize that is far from ideal, both partners need to understand and be part of the decision making process, and take responsibility for handling different tasks that make up the family finances.
Once you’ve mastered the “easy stuff”, start working on the more difficult topics:
- Does your spouse want to stay at home but you think you can’t afford it?
- How, and to what extent are you paying for the kids college fund?
- When and what does retirement look like?
- Ready for a career change?
…Now you’re getting it, and here’s where you’re going to most likely encounter the real conflicts. Seldom are you both to agree on how things need to be handled, and seldom are either of you going to be 100% correct about the path to get there. By not being afraid to start and continue the conversation you’re making the small, manageable changes or decisions now, rather than later on when your options are limited, or non-existent.
2. Little Johnny and Suzy need YOU to talk about Money with them
One of my biggest gripes with today’s society is the outright disservice we’re doing our children by keeping them out of the discussions about money. Of course nobody feels like it’s a disservice, they think quite the opposite, that they’re protecting their kids from the discomfort, and complexities of money so that they are free to enjoy their childhoods and put off the hard stuff until “they’re ready”.
<Insert game show buzzer sound here> Incorrect.
If this is you… Stop! Now! Your kids, whether age 3, 10, or 22, need to understand money, how it works, what things cost, how saving, giving, tithing work. What is debt and interest? What’s a salary? How do taxes play into this craziness? By doing this, they’ll start to form a basic understanding of what mommy and daddy’s financial situation is like and more importantly pique their curiosity. Your goal here is to have them asking lots of questions, and be transparent with your responses. I’m not saying they should have passed Accounting 101 by 3rd grade, or have access to your brokerage accounts, but they need to be in touch with reality so they can learn from your situation. Perhaps your situation is not where you’d like it, maybe you’ve got a bit more credit card debt than you’d prefer or less retirement savings. Don’t hide that from them. Share that with them. If you don’t, you’re putting them in the same situation your parents most likely put you, unaware and disengaged. Not being able to learn from both the things you’re doing right or wrong in the financial picture. Simplify these lessons, but make sure your children are given that education that they so desperately need, and deserve… your children and future America will thank you.
3. Talk to the those you want to learn from or can teach
Now we’re going to really get outside the comfort zone. Talking to strangers, acquaintances, or friends about money isn’t going to feel natural at all. Either you’re going to feel embarrassed about your own situation, or feel like you’re ignorant and don’t want to come off as someone who doesn’t know much about money. On the flip side, you may worry that you’ll come across as a blowhard who wants to make everyone envious of your net worth. Either way, it’s not true. Be humble. Be transparent and honest, and talk to the people who may have some really good insight or experiences from which you can learn. You may feel like you’d be a burden to them, or have nothing to offer in return for their ideas and advice, but the thing is, most people in a solid financial situation enjoy having those conversations. More often than not, they would genuinely love to help. Or, if you’re someone who knows a few things, has learned a few lessons by making mistakes, be ready to share with those who may benefit from it. Sure, tossing out unsolicited advice is annoying, and you’ll want to avoid the temptation to proselytize to an audience that doesn’t want to listen, but people should know that you’re ready and willing whenever they are to talk shop about money.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) do this alone
There are very few people in this world who’ve made it to become financially free without some advice or help along the way. Be open to that help, invite it in with open arms, and be ready to give it back when you can. Don’t stop the discussion because it’s awkward. This may be the very moment that something clicks that didn’t before, or you hear someone else explain how they were in a situation exactly like the one you’re in today, and what their way out was like. You have the power to change your situation. You will be the one responsible for putting forth the plans and committing the effort needed to get here, but don’t reinvent the wheel. Ask lots of questions. Listen. Start those conversations now and be ready to reap the rewards!
Resources to accompany this article
- Smart Couples Finish Rich – David Bach
Good book with practical exercises to get you and your significant other talking and preparing for a prosperous and rewarding life.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
Amazing book that will change your mindset about what money is and how it works.
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens – Robert Kiyosaki
Building the understanding of money, assets and liabilities that kid’s should be learning in school, but aren’t