There are few things that my friends and I find awkward to discuss: relationship breakdowns, medical conditions, career crises, we have analysed them all. But how much we earn? How much debt we have on our credit cards? What we want to happen to our money if we were to pass away? Generally, these are topics that we do not talk about.
If I had interrogated those I love about their financial positions over the years I’m sure they would have told me. But, a strange mix of British reserve and politeness with a dash of fear about being asked to reveal my own unremarkable situation, has meant that up until more recently, when I’ve challenged myself to confront the topic, money has felt out of bounds.
Don’t like talking about money? You’re not alone
I’m not alone. Our finances are still something we as a nation find extremely difficult to discuss often for fear of judgement or shame, even with those we know care about us dearly. In a survey for Starling Bank by YouGov, 78% of respondents felt uncomfortable talking about money. I reckon we generally feel embarrassed or it’s a bit taboo.
Look at the popularity of anonymous money diaries where people break down day by day how much they earn and how much they spend. We pore over them through the privacy of our laptop to get clues as to how other people do it, and where we might be going wrong. Because that’s the thing; learning about what other people do with their cash helps us make better decisions about our own, even if it’s as basic as whether they have a rainy day savings pot, or whether they invest in stocks and shares.
When we talk about money, everybody wins
If we don’t talk about money with people we trust, we don’t benefit from their experience and advice.
It also means we can’t properly support the financial wishes of our closest friends and family. Consequently, it becomes even more difficult to bring up the really tricky conversations involving money - wills, life insurance, funeral costs - until it’s too late.
Romantic relationships and marriages are not exempt. A financial adviser I recently met said she has lost count of the older couples she sees where the husband deals with all the family finances, leaving the wife clueless and potentially in trouble if she were to be widowed or divorced.
A marriage counsellor told me that if a couple do not tackle money issues head on, and early on in their relationships, it can become a ticking time bomb waiting to cause maximum destruction at a later date.
There is another reason that talking about finance is embarrassing, and that’s feeling clueless and overwhelmed by a choice of complicated financial products and services sold to us in off-putting jargon. We didn’t learn about money as part of the school curriculum, and our lack of money conversations mean we can reach a mature age without really understanding how a pension or investment works.
While it can be very hard to admit this, we must. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt as I’ve finally started to bring up the M word with my friends and family, we’re all as worried about it as each other. Sharing our knowledge - or lack thereof - is therapeutic as it is a great way of getting tips on how to save cash.
So go on, give it a try. You will probably find your loved ones are relieved you have made the first move.