The idea of starting a conversation about money can make many people feel stressed, or even embarrassed. But by grasping the nettle and having that vital chat, you could improve your own financial wellbeing – and perhaps even end up feeling relieved.
“Talking openly about money is vitally important for our health, wealth and relationships,” says money expert Sarah Porretta. “It means we can be prepared to tackle potentially tricky situations – whether it’s splitting a bill with friends, broaching the topic in the workplace, or helping a child form good financial habits from an early age.
“People who talk about money make better and less risky financial decisions, have stronger personal relationships, and feel less stressed or anxious and more in control. Whatever your situation, it’s always a good time to start talking about money.”
In general, Ms Porretta suggests talking about money when you’re in a comfortable setting, listening as well as talking, and making sure you end the conversation with some positives.
Here are some ideas for approaching money conversations in specific situations.
Talking money with children
“We know from our research that the way we behave and talk about money is linked to our early experiences, which is why it is also important to start speaking about money with children as early as possible,” says Ms Porretta. “The simple act of striking up a conversation with a child can help form their financial habits.”
She suggests leading by example, so when out shopping you could compare prices of items out loud or ask children to tell you the different prices of products.
Talking money with friends
With some skilful negotiation, you can avoid friendship fallouts over money. Finance specialist Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy says: “Be honest about what you can and can’t afford. Whilst this might seem daunting, it’s very unlikely that your friends will choose money over your friendship.
“You never know, they might also be worried about their own finances, so breaking the ice could be a big relief for them. Money shouldn’t be a taboo subject, with honesty and transparency strengthening a friendship.”
She adds: “Don’t be afraid to say no. There is absolutely no shame in pushing back on someone else’s expensive choice, or speaking up against an unfairly split bill if it takes you out of your budget. Being in control of your finances is something people should respect, rather than judge.”
By being proactive and sharing ideas, you could also put forward free or cheaper options for fun activities, Ms Kwaw-Swanzy suggests. Keeping a separate budget for socialising can also help you to work out how much money you have available – and take a firmer stance – if friends’ suggestions would bust your budget.
Talking money with a partner
One of you may be better at managing money than the other, but be open and honest, particularly at crucial life stages when you’re combining your finances – such as when you’re buying a house or starting a family together.
There may be some situations when you should be wary though, as romance scams are rife. If a potential partner you’ve been chatting to online starts asking detailed questions about your finances, or claims they need money urgently, this should ring alarm bells, so discuss it with friends and family you trust.
Talking money with your employer
Many Australians aren’t the type of people who will openly admit that they’re struggling with money, especially if they’re of the belief that doing so could jeopardise their job.
Some employers will be able to offer external financial education either through a specialist provider or an employee assistance program (EAP). There are also a number of helplines and online resources at hand that can offer information about financial issues.
The latest Suncorp Financial Wellbeing Study found that the more people talk about money, the more motivated they are to learn about it and improve their financial situation. Those who discussed money frequently were the most willing to change their financial mindset and improve their financial wellbeing.
Despite the proven benefits of talking through and sharing a problem, the study found that only 3 per cent of us talk to our work colleagues about our finances. In fact, over a quarter of us find talking about money in any situation difficult for fear of judgement and embarrassment.
But the majority of us spend around eight hours a day in the workplace. By the time we get home, we’re usually too exhausted to talk about our financial issues, instead choosing to use our nights to wind down and relax.
So, discussing money with your employer and your colleagues may vastly improve workplace culture and your wellbeing.
Talking money with your bank
Banks and lenders are often ready to help if a customer is struggling with their finances. There’s a range of tailored options for people who need support and it’s always best to speak to your lender sooner rather than later.
Leaving it too long could worsen any money problems – don’t put off the conversation with your bank, get in touch and find out how they can help.
Do you feel comfortable talking about money? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
– With PA
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