Yes It's Awkward But Here's How To Talk About Money
It's time to stop being uncomfortable about cash.
Why don’t we talk about money?
There are rules about life. Never work with children or animals and never talk about sex, death or money. Or is that taxes?
Whichever, the point is, we often find it very uncomfortable indeed talking about money -- in many areas of our lives. But as well as causing conflict in our closest personal relationships ("Relationships Australia say it's in the top five reasons why people break up," Effie Zahos from Money Magazine told 10 daily), it can also have other impacts -- if no one is talking about money in the workplace, for example, then it can make things like talking about the gender pay gap nigh on impossible.
"We don’t talk about what we earn," finance expert Helen Baker told 10 daily. "We can share the innermost secrets but we wouldn’t tell you about our financial position."
"It’s also un-Australian to talk yourself up. If you are doing well, you run the risk of being the tall poppy and someone wants to tear you down. If you are not doing well you assume everyone else is and you are too embarrassed to open up."
Of course, being aware is one thing, but how -- if you want to broach the taboo subject -- can you start the convo with family or friends when everyone is avoiding eye contact?
"You can probably start with this article," said Helen. "You might say to your partner or your friend 'I was reading this article and it made me think about my money situation' or 'Why do you think we don’t talk talk about money?' You will probably find this will trigger a whole range of discussion. It can be the prompt to open a whole can of worms… good worms!"
And she has a point -- after all, with friends particularly, you may find that by opening up a conversation, you can help each other. A friend may tell you how she paid off a loan early, for example. Or suggest cheap alternatives for presents or date nights. Talking about financial goals -- like how best to save $10K or pay off a debt -- can help you achieve yours. Either way, you invite better financial habits and solutions when you break the money taboo.
With partners, the whole money thing can be multi-layered, and often far more awkward.
"If you are in a relationship usually one is the spender and one is the saver. That is always a difficult one," said Helen. "Another issue is that we value things differently. So for me I measure everything in overseas trips because I like travelling. So the other day when my mirror got knocked off my car and was $550 to replace, for me that was less than I spent staying at my Aunty’s house for a week in the UK and so it was disappointing.
My other passion is shoes. But where I can see value in that, if I had a partner they might see that as a waste of money. Conversely what they spend money on, I might not think is a good use of money. And these little issues can become big."
"It’s about getting some common goals to work towards," she said.
If you're both putting money into an account to save for that overseas trip or home deposit, you're both more likely to be open to discussing that money. And making sure it's always visible to both of you will mean there are no secrets either.
Of course, money doesn't always go with your plan, nor do other people. And it can be very easy to get defensive talking about it, especially if your finances cause you stress and anxiety -- it's only natural to want to keep this to yourself because you might feel embarrassed or ashamed about the decisions you made. So how do you diffuse a difficult money convo once you've managed to pluck up the courage to have it?
"Maybe have those difficult conversations in front of a financial adviser or a money coach so that there is a neutral," suggested Helen. "They will have the ability to take the edge out of the argument and get you to focus on how you resolve the issues and bring you together. Finance can be fun! Who knew?"
Feature image: Getty.