Talking About Money Matters With Friends And Family
Often, our relationship with money is complicated, and remains tethered to the taboo. “Money is not just money,” says Financial Coach Catherine Morgan. “It is emotional and often wrapped up with feelings of fear, guilt, shame and greed.” But how can we expect to have a healthy relationship with money if we’re not talking about it with others? Here, the money experts give us useful tools to help us discuss our finances with our friends, partners and co-workers – and most importantly, ourselves.
The most important relationship when it comes to money is the one you have with yourself, so before you talk to anyone else about your finances, you need to be honest with yourself. How you think about money affects how you treat it. Apologising or feeling guilty for the amount you earn – whether good or bad – doesn’t breed a healthy relationship with money. There are many aspects to consider when it comes to your finances, particularly if you want to have a healthier relationship. The Money Advice Service suggest asking yourself what your long-term goals and aspirations are and how much you’ll need to achieve those goals. Next, identify any immediate problems standing in your way – and tackle them first. If you have debt, prioritise paying this off before you start saving. If your financial situation is affecting your mental health, there are people to talk to – The Money Advice Service has plenty of resources to help with this, or you can call one of their advisors to talk through your issues.
Next, work out how you can make your goals happen – will you put extra into your pension pot or make yourself a rainy-day fund? Try and break your bad money habits – like buying coffees instead of making your own – or the monthly payday shopping trip? Recognising these spending patterns will give you a much healthier and more positive relationship with money. And once you’ve got your attitude to finances sorted, you’ll be able to move on and talk about it with friends and family.
With Your Friends
Finance and friendships are never an easy mix, but it never fails to rear its ugly head when you plan social occasions. There’s nothing worse than splitting the bill evenly with friends who have more money and have gone all-out on their meal – when you stuck to the water and a margarita pizza. But there’s often a sense of shame which prevents us from suggesting we just pay for our share. So how can you speak up about money to your mates? The answer here is, just be honest – they’re your friends, after all. You might find they’re in the same boat.
“Don’t suffer financially because you don’t have the courage to speak up,” says Financial Coach Catherine Morgan. “Instead, be honest with your friends and say you are being savvy and proactive with your money rather than reactive. You have decided to take control of your money. It may even spark some interest with them and they may be feeling the same, but have been afraid to say so. Being honest with your friends doesn’t mean sharing every detail of your financial affairs, but honesty is always best.”
But discussing your finances with friends doesn’t mean apologising for your lack of funds – this will simply adds to your negative relationship with money. Instead, try to have positive conversations. “Ask them open questions like, ‘How do you go about asking for a pay rise in your jobs?’ Or, ‘What has been the best decision you have made with money?’ Equally, talking about your own money mistakes as a friendship group can help to acknowledge the elephant in the room.” And instead of going out of your way to attempt to pay for meals out you can’t afford, suggest you take it in turns to cook at each other’s homes to save money – this can make you feel closer and less resentful of your friends. Make your situation work for you.
With Your Work
Your job is likely to be your main source of income, and so the topic of money will be intrinsically linked. It’s usual to be interested in the incomes of those around you to ensure you’re being paid fairly, particularly as a woman. But it’s a subject no one wants to discuss.
Only certain people will know the salaries of the whole office, such as the CEO and the HR team. Most won’t be aware of what others are making. But with the gender pay gap raging, it’s useful to know your office equals are on something similar. “Think about who you ask,” advises Catherine. “If you have a trusted relationship with a colleague, they may be more willing to talk about it, but respect some will want to keep their salary private. Asking a colleague who is leaving the organisation could be a good angle as they may be more willing to share the information with you.”
Catherine also says it’s important to make these conversations open, as keeping them a secret is counter-intuitive to transparency and therefore does nothing to help break the taboo. Instead, try and arrange a chat off-site and explain to your colleagues why you’re asking the question, so they don’t assume you’re just nosy. “A question like, ‘You are someone I really trust and respect. I am working on getting a promotion as I want to move house – would you be willing to share with me your salary range?’ Giving them a ‘range’ may land softer than asking straight out what they earn.”
But Catherine believes employers have a responsibility to have a certain amount of transparency with their staff, and need to encourage and support their employees when it comes to their financial wellbeing. “They could organise a financial wellbeing workshop, creating a safe place for employees to talk about money. Employers also have the opportunity to make the gender pay discussion equal by being more open and transparent with salary ranges.”
With Your Partner
Not every couple will be financially equal, and that might cause friction in some relationships, so it’s important to have those conversations, particularly if you share bank accounts or are thinking about buying a place together. Once your money becomes intertwined, your finances can impact one another’s.
Nia Williams, Founder of relationship coaching platform Miss Date Doctor, says it’s all about communication and transparency – the sooner you lay your cards on the table, the sooner you can come up with a solution and move on from it. “Develop a way to manage finances that works for both parties, and try to stay even – don’t put your partner down if they don’t earn as much as they might retreat. Try to be patient and understanding with one another, and separate your relationship from your money issues.” So stick to the topic at hand, without bringing in external problems, and once the conversation is over you can leave it there without lamenting on it going forward.
Also ensure that you have positive conversations about money. “Discuss the future – what are your plans and goals? Do you want a family? To buy a house? Establish those priority areas and focus on putting money towards them,” advises Nia. “Set milestones and targets for savings and investments. Financial targets are more achievable with planning.”
The Money Advice Service also stress you shouldn’t interrupt your partner. “If you start talking over each other, it might turn into an argument. You might find this difficult since you probably have so much to say, but the best way to work through this will be as a team.” Don’t blame anyone for interrupting; instead, simply acknowledge this is an emotional topic and therefore it might be a good idea to devise some rules for the conversation.
After such conversations, we generally feel relieved they’re over, but The Money Advice Service say it’s really important to follow up after a money chat. First, acknowledge the conversation happened: “Recognise it was a tough conversation and highlight the positive things that have come out of it. There is a huge amount of value in appreciating you were able to come together, discuss a difficult topic and have the conversation in the first place.”
Next, find ways to move the conversation forward: “Be proactive in showing you’ve taken solutions on board. Clear communication around next steps helps move the conversation forward.”
And lastly, write down what you spoke about, maybe in an email, so you can both refer to it later: “It’s common for two people to take on information in totally different ways, and this can result in one of you thinking the outcome was one thing, while the other thinks something completely different. Writing it down can help you clarify points discussed.” These small steps will change your relationship with money for the better.
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