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Why We Should Talk About Money More Often

Author Greg Davis
couple discussion about money

For many people, the subject of money carries a certain stigma in social settings, especially when discussing income, retirement savings, or other personal financial details. Although there are good intentions behind avoiding the topic, not talking about money may put people at a disadvantage when it comes to financial wellness.

Would you restrict yourself from talking about other important topics, such as education, insurance, or the home-buying process?

By being open to conversations about money, you can position yourself to be even better informed about financial matters and share those skills with your friends, family, and even your children.

Let’s discuss the key reasons why it’s important to talk about money.

1. Learn From Your Community

A financial advisor can offer a lot of tips to help you set a budget and manage your finances. But it is also worth talking with friends and family about how they manage their finances and establish budgets. 

What mobile apps and other tools do they use or any other methods of balancing income and expenses?

To make budgeting easier for my wife and me, we have used You Need a Budget (YNAB) for over ten years. YNAB’s phone app allows you to quickly enter a transaction and see how much money is remaining in any expense category.

YNAB breaks our monthly budget into four main categories of spending as follows:

  • Immediate obligations (mortgage, utilities, groceries).
  • True expenses (auto maintenance and gas, medical expenses, clothing).
  • Quality of life goals (vacation, fitness).
  • Just for fun (dining out, sporting events).

2.  End the Stigma

While it might be uncomfortable for many of us to discuss money, it is a subject that everyone must deal with, regardless of their financial standing.

Candid conversations ensure a free flow of information and conversation that almost always benefits the people involved.

The more you talk about money, the more you can open doors for others to do the same.

Like many people, my wife dislikes talking about financial stuff. We decided to make our monthly money dates more fun, and we usually have a nice dinner with a bottle of wine. This can be at a restaurant or simply at home.

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You could also do this as a single individual to ensure a periodic financial review. My advice is to make it a fun habit that you will enjoy.

While not overly romantic or sexy, my wife and I have monthly “budget or money dates” where we review our financial statements together and how we are progressing with our overall retirement goals.

This budget date allows us to focus on how we are doing concerning our short-term annual goals. It also creates an atmosphere to make decisions on how we can cut back on some areas where we are exceeding our budgeted expense targets.

You can find the concept of this monthly couple discussion in this book I enjoyed, What the Happiest Retirees Know, where the results of a study of over 2,000 older folks revealed: “happy retirees talked about personal finances with their partners one to two hours per month.” 

In my opinion, that is time well spent to achieve combined happiness with our finances.

3.  Hold Your Community and Yourself Accountable

Sticking to budgets and other financial plans is not easy. But hiding purchases and spending habits is an even greater risk. That’s why it is particularly important to have frank conversations about money with close friends and family members, especially your spouse.

I listened to a TEDx Talk by Wendy De La Rosa, a Wharton assistant professor and co-creator and host of the TED series “Your Money and Your Mind.”

In her TEDx Talk, I learned it may make sense to take a “Financial Health Day to get your financial life in order.” Wendy emphasized in her TEDx Talk that it is important to talk to your significant other about money and ensure both of you are on the same page.

Let us learn how my wife and I have accomplished this goal, as many couples argue and struggle in dealing with financial issues. According to Fidelity, almost half (48 percent) of US couples argue over finances, and 60 percent do not like their partner’s spending habits.

Personal finances and, more importantly, spending habits are often a source of contention in many relationships.

Consider setting up mobile apps and online profiles so you and your spouse have equal access to financial statements, account balances, budgeting tools (like YNAB), and other financial resources.

If you need help sticking to a tough financial plan try this; Enlist the help of friends and family who can check in, keep you accountable, and celebrate your wins as you progress toward your financial goals.

4.  Figure Out the Value of Your Work

Talking about income remains somewhat of a social taboo, but movements are underway to change that. There is nothing wrong with talking about what you earn or comparing with coworkers. In fact, it can provide valuable information you can leverage to put yourself in a better position.

Having respectful, candid discussions about income benefits everyone: It lets you know where you stand relative to other working professionals and can encourage you to ask for a raise.

By talking about income (even if you aren’t comfortable referencing exact numbers), you could gather the evidence you need to make a compelling case for higher pay or to seek out a different job.

5.  Help Your Kids Develop Financial Skills

The best way for parents to educate children about financial literacy is by modeling healthy, smart behaviors and being open.

Since very few of us, if any, have had formal training, it is clear we all need a primer on the facets of personal finance.

Michigan became the fourteenth state to mandate a personal finance course in high school. Personal finance should be as core to high school education as Shakespeare and algebra. I could not agree more as I am sure I use budgets and savings terms more on a daily basis than equations, variables, or performing sonnets.

Try to involve your kids in money conversations so that they develop confidence and literacy. Welcome them to the table when talking about budgets, and introduce them to money basics, such as saving up for a wish list item.

If you show that you are comfortable talking about money, they are more likely to absorb that wisdom and confidence and enter adulthood prepared to manage their finances independently.

6.  Finances Are A Shared Responsibility

Here’s what I’ve witnessed happening; One partner takes on the bulk of the financial management, and another partner relinquishes or abdicates the fiscal management responsibilities.

In a study by Adrian Ward and John Lynch, this distribution was found to be problematic.

As couples go through their life, the partner that takes on all their financial management skills becomes increasingly adept over time. But the partner that has relinquished their control, becomes less adept at managing their finances over time. Why is this problematic?

Well, God forbid, you break up, or you get divorced. Sometimes, one partner dies before the other. Now the remaining partner that has relinquished all that responsibility is in a worse financial situation. They have less financial management skills than they had when they started the relationship.

A lot of the time, sadly, in heteronormative couples, that ends up being the women.

I spoke with Curt Stauffer, who is president at Seven Summits Capital, LLC in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, about this topic. When asked if he could offer any financial advice to others who have recently lost their spouse or significant other, he said, “For the widows, the first two years, on average, are emotionally fragile times for the surviving spouse.”

He offered great advice: “It is during this time that a financial advisor needs to display understanding and compassion while reassuring them that their financial lives are being watched by someone whom they can trust.”

Final Thoughts

As part of my research for my book, I interviewed fellow author Cassandra Smalley, who is an award-winning senior wealth manager in St. Petersburg, Florida, and was named “Forbes America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors 2020–2021.”

I learned several key concepts about her interactions with couples over the past fifteen years: “I think where it works most beneficial for the couple is when both are engaged in the conversation and can understand the direction that they are both trying to get to.” 

I strongly recommend reading her insightful discussion on this important topic in her book, The Why of Wealth. Concerning my concept of budget or money dates with your spouse, Cassandra stated, “I think it is a playful way to try to get couples to sit down together.”

Not everyone will be comfortable talking about money, of course. But if you are open about finances and money matters, you can help relax people’s hesitations over time and allow them to benefit from this two-sided exchange of information.

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