Real Money Talk: It’s Time To Let Go Of These Taboos

normalize discussing finances

Let’s get right down to it – there’s so much to discuss as it relates to finances. Even though we may not want to admit it, we don’t have all the answers. Before the internet and social media, there was a reliance on phone conversations and face-to-face interactions. However, the likelihood of discussing what could be viewed as personal information (especially money conversations) was a big-time no-no.

Fast forward to present day, how can we continue to break the stigma of taboo money talks? Take a look at the ways we can normalize discussing finances.

Recognize the correlation between money and mental health

Ever heard the expression, “when you look good – you feel good?” The same sentiment rings true as it relates to finances. When there’s money available to comfortably cover expenses, a nest egg on reserve, and some leftover cash to spare, your mind is at peace. On the other hand, when there are more bills than income with no wiggle room, this creates pressure not only in your mind but in your life. How will I handle my expenses? What if there’s a financial emergency I can’t cover?

The inability to answer these questions with surety impacts your mental health plus decision-making. When emotions are high the tendency to make irrational and hasty choices is also increased. To minimize this as much as possible, establish regular check-ins among your family, friends and peers. Ask simple questions like: “If you could rate your mental health and money relationship, what would it be?” or “how have you been tracking against your money goals and how are you feeling about everything?” The answers to these questions could easily generate some great conversation around money. You’ll also notice the more you discuss, the easier the conversations.

Openly talk about salary and wages

People often equate their self-worth to what they earn, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Depending on your upbringing, money could have been a normal family topic or reserved as an adult-only conversation. Salary earnings has been a hushed topic for quite some time and that doesn’t contribute to our personal and career advancement.

Remember your first job offer post-graduation and how eager you were? Up until that point, that probably was the most money you earned. Consider this – what if you had a community of people to run your job offer by? Not only would this provide valuable insight, but it would also increase your personal confidence to make the best sound decision for your career. Having these discussions candidly and openly addresses the many issues regarding compensation such as being compensated below market value, along with gender and racial pay gaps. The earlier these things are addressed in your career sets a standard and a progressive track related to money.

No matter if you’re fresh out of school or a seasoned professional, we all deserve the ability to earn an income suitable to our desires – and this all begins with a conversation. Still not convinced? If you still need to ease into the topic of salary, discuss the steps taken to increase your earning potential. Be of assistance to someone that’s working toward their career goals. This could be achieved via higher education, certifications, or networking. No matter the method, be as transparent as your comfort allows to serve as a resource to others. While we can easily look up this information, it’s nothing more valuable than being able to confide in those around you. 

Discuss cost of living expenses

Some of us truly don’t like to pry but asking questions can save you thousands of dollars. While many of us aren’t new to the phenomenon of paying bills, one thing is true – you can always learn and apply new information.

Here are a few open-ended question examples:

  • What percentage does your rent or mortgage take up of your earned pay?
  • On average, how much do your utilities cost by season?
  • What are some methods you’ve used or currently use to reduce your living expenses?

These answers vary based on a lot of factors, such as family size (if applicable) and other financial responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t be effective.  Simple conversations can help us all make more sound financial decisions in the future. Incorporate some information related to your expenses for context as well. No one wants to feel like they’re giving information but not getting any in return. Reciprocity is key. 

Share saving goals and strategy

Even though we all have different circumstances, no one wants to venture through life without support, and creating the atmosphere to discuss savings is important to our financial wellness. During regular conversations, meetups with friends and family gatherings, make saving a topic of discussion. It can be as general or in-depth as the conversation naturally flows – but what’s most important is it recenters us to focus on short and long-term goals.

Life happenings can make day-to-day tasks daunting, let alone discussing strategy. Opening the floor for clear communication helps remind us of all of what we’re working towards and what needs to happen to ensure our goals are being met. Adopting new practices from these financial discussions can accelerate our growth individually and collectively. Don’t want this to be a one-and-done practice? Create a small accountability group with those you trust or have similar interests to keep you plus your goals on track. Establishing a regular bi-weekly or monthly cadence creates a dedicated time where all of you can share your progress, mistakes and lessons learned. Not only does this create a sense of community, but it also promotes healthy conversations that otherwise may not be discussed.

When your initial instinct tells you to withhold details, please consider the positive outcomes that can happen when information is shared freely without judgement. We all can benefit from having these open money talks. As you teach someone else, you also receive new information – a continuous cycle of growth!