We recently explored how to talk to everyone in your family about money. Talking about money is hard. You and your family probably have a lot of loaded issues when it comes to money, so it’s critical to learn to talk about it together in a healthier way. However, the people in your family aren’t the only people that you should be talking to about money.
The Pros and Cons of Talking Openly About Money
Society has taught us many mixed messages about money. We have also internalized a lot of “rules” about talking about money. Some of these changes from culture to culture. Overall, though, there is a taboo against talking about money. People find the conversations to be uncomfortable at best. Therefore, people avoid talking about money with friends, co-workers, peers, acquaintances, and mentors.
It’s unfortunate that we tend to draw those financial conversation lines. The more openly we can talk about money, the better off we will all be. After all, almost everyone is dealing with their financial issues, stressors, concerns, fears, and confusion. If we can have gentle, informative, helpful, open conversations about money, then we can help each other out. We can all start to feel less bad about money. We can all start to understand better the role money plays in our lives.
However, it’s important to remember that we’re all coming to the table with different thoughts and feelings about money as well as about the concept of talking about money. While you can certainly push to engage your family in financial conversations, it may not be good to do the same with people outside of your family. Instead, you want to open the door to those conversations without forcing them on others.
How to Talk to Friends About Money
Author Chelsea Fagan addresses the taboo of talking about money in her book The Financial Diet. She also suggests that it can be really helpful to learn how to talk about money with your friends. After all, your friends can be our biggest support system in all areas of your life. Money presents a wide range of challenges for each of us, so having that support system can really make a difference. Fagan wisely writes, “If I had a friend that I could talk about literally anything with, yet never discuss numbers or goals because that was “taboo,” how close were we really?”
You can start by just letting your friends know that you would love to talk about financial things with them if they’re open to it. You might name specific things you want to discuss including:
- The challenges that you’ve had negotiating a fair salary or what role money plays in accepting a job
- Hopes, dreams, goals, fears, concerns, and doubt about money
- What money really means to you and how that’s changed with time
- How money was in your childhood home and how that’s impacted you
- The money challenges you face in your romantic life
Of course, you and your friends might have to deal with some money stuff between the two of you. If one of you makes a lot more than the other, then it could be time to have a conversation about how that feels for each of you. If one of you is always picking up the bill, are you talking about that? Before digging into those conversations, though, you can start with just learning how to talk about money more generally. Start small. Build trust.
There’s one big exception when it comes to talking about money with friends. If you have a friend that makes you feel bad about money, try discussing that they make you feel that way. If you can’t shift things, then stop talking about money with them. You might want to assess what they add to your life, and if you decide they’re a valuable friend, keep money off of the topic table.
How to Talk to Co-Workers About Money
It is so hard to talk about money at work. Sometimes, it’s completely inappropriate to do so. However, the taboo against talking about money with coworkers is one of many factors that have contributed to unequal pay in the workplace. The more openly we can talk about salary with our coworkers, the better we can make the workplace for all involved. That said, simply announcing what you earn isn’t usually a helpful way to start the conversation. Here are some tips for talking to co-workers about money:
- Start with just one or two coworkers, the ones that you are closest with. Let them know that you want to discuss money, make sure that they’re comfortable with that, then do so in a straightforward manner, not a gossiping way.
- If someone else approaches you about money, make sure you understand their motivations before you open up. Are they after your job? Are they stirring the pot? You want to have the talks and be honest, but you should also be wise about it.
- Acknowledge that the conversation is awkward. Be transparent about your own reasons for having it.
- If you’re seeking general salary information at the company, you may want to talk with previous co-workers who have already left the business as a starting point.
- Find out what your employer’s official rules are when it comes to discussing salary. Know your legal rights.
The big exception here is really not to talk about money matters with co-workers who aren’t open to the idea. This isn’t a relationship to push this topic on. Before starting any money conversation, let them know what you want to talk about and ask if it’s okay. Let them know that they don’t have to discuss this with you if they don’t want to. Remember that people have many emotions and beliefs about money and they just might not feel comfortable discussing the topic with you.
How to Talk to Acquaintances About Money
There are people in your life who aren’t co-workers, and they aren’t quite friends. They might be friends of friends or people who are just becoming your friends or folks that you only see once a month at book club. Should you talk to them about money? Many people are inclined to say no. However, these can actually be some of the best people in your life to talk with about various financial matters. They don’t have any investment in your money, so there’s less likely to be an emotional charge to the conversation. They might be able to provide a unique point of view that people closer to you can’t offer.
As with all money conversations, it’s helpful if you let people know in advance that you would like to talk about money. Share what you want to discuss, why it’s important to you, and then ask if that’s okay. You don’t want just to start throwing money talk around, because it can make people uncomfortable. However, even at the dinner table with an acquaintance, it is okay to say, “I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m getting paid what I’m worth. I’d love to discuss my thoughts with you to help me gain some clarity. Would that be okay?”
When first starting to talk to acquaintances about money, here are some good rules of thumb:
- Start with general money topics instead of specific issues.
- Don’t make any assumptions. You don’t know this person well enough to know what money means to them.
- Try to read the room. If the conversation is getting heated, pull back.
- Be the first to open up and get vulnerable about your own situation.
- Share the background of why you think or feel the things that you do.
The exceptions here are really all about boundaries and respect. If you are making the other person uncomfortable, then it may not be the right person or time to have this conversation.
Find Money Mentors to Talk With
It’s important that you have someone in your life that you can talk to openly about money. Of course, it’s great if you can learn to have financial conversations with everyone in your life from your family to your neighbor. However, money is a really tricky topic, and it often helps to also have that one person that you specifically talk to about your money stuff. That’s why you need a money mentor. This is someone that you trust and respect when it comes to financial matters, someone who can help you work through the emotions and psychology of money as well as the technical how-to of finances.
There are many different ways to approach finding a money mentor. You can look for a therapist who specializes in money matters. You can start by working with a business coach to help you get a grasp on the work side of finances. Alternatively, you might choose to hire an accountant or other finance professional to educate yourself about your money. On the other hand, you might just identify someone already in your life who could serve as a smart money mentor and ask them if that’s a role that they’re willing to take on. Find the right person and start talking.