How to have Conversations About Money

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Aside from occasional discussions of who owes what at a restaurant table, casual talks of pay raises, or discussions of home purchases, money is not something discussed in my social circle. We have a general idea of what each of us make, and we are relatively open about not being able to participate in something because of cost, but there are no heavy-duty talks about how we handle our personal finances.

I would guess most people would say the same thing about their social circle. After all, money conversations are often complicated and uncomfortable.

The first time I became aware of the taboo nature of money, I was around seven years old and I asked my dad how much our house cost. He looked at me, slightly shocked, and said, “I’m not going to tell you that.” Thinking of the inappropriate playground chatter that might be sparked with such knowledge, most dads would have the same reaction.

Unfortunately, most of the time we aren’t getting the personal finance knowledge necessary to properly handle our money. Throw into the mix a societal belief that these things shouldn’t be discussed at the dinner table, and we have a country filled with people who aren’t empowered when it comes to money management.

The benefits of opening up these lines of communication are many. Here are just a few.

We learn from others mistakes.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about credit cards in which she shared how quickly she learned the perils of making minimum payments with high interest rates when, after a year, she owed only slightly less than when she had started. She’s never made the same mistake again.

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Most people would say past money mistakes shaped the way they handle money today. If we were able to collectively compile our mistakes and learn from them that way, we might just have a less costly way of learning money management best practices.

We each are knowledgeable in different areas of personal finance.

After working for an employer whose sole focus is retirement, I have more knowledge than most people my age about saving and planning for life after work. I have another friend who has spent years working in the insurance industry. Another works closely with financial planners and knows a thing or two about investing.

Getting comfortable talking about money and where we currently are in our lives allows others to know our struggles and give help where they can. Just like we can learn from each other’s mistakes, we can also take advantage of the knowledge we each have acquired either through work or by managing our own money.

It can help us determine what we should be asking for in the workplace.

This might be the least comfortable talk when it comes to money, but salary discussions are paramount if we want to ensure we are commanding what we are worth and what others around us are already receiving.

Salary and benefits run the gamut from company to company, and it can be incredibly hard to determine what we should be asking for when we don’t really have a point of reference. Being open and honest in these conversations – whether it’s with coworkers, or friends who can give negotiating tips – can pay off for years to come.

We can reach a healthier place when it comes to our money emotions.

For better or worse, we often tie money directly to how we feel about ourselves. This can bring up a whole host of issues when we aren’t rolling in the dough, or we are facing challenges that really rock our financial foundation. These negative feelings are only exacerbated when we label them as shameful, or we don’t feel like we can share them with those closest to us.

I have always found that discussing my challenges – financial or otherwise – with friends and family makes me feel like I’m not alone, and what I label as “life-shattering” might not be that bad.

No matter what you are dealing with, there is always someone that has gone through something similar. They might even be in your direct social circle, but you’ll never know if you don’t open up the lines of communication.

Closing thoughts

Money might be an uncomfortable subject to broach, but I would guess the lack of conversation is to blame. Once we begin to openly discuss our money struggles and areas where we could use some help, we not only improve our financial outlook, but our relationships might just be strengthened in the process.

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