Growing up, I always heard the three things to not talk about in polite conversations were money, politics, and religion. My parents did their best – naming me after Emily Post, the etiquette queen, and sending me to etiquette classes in middle school. Lo and behold, I love talking about all three. Sorry, mom!
I’m going to spare you my thoughts on politics, but I love to talk about money and religion. And that’s ok! In fact, I think you should try talking about money more, too.
Everyone’s raised differently, so maybe you didn’t grow up hearing that talking about money was rude. Certainly, there are some really inappropriate ways to go about talking about money and I’m not suggesting quizzing friends on their salaries. I’m talking about not feeling weird about asking questions about car loan rates, getting ideas on where your friends save money the most, and tapping into what they’re doing wonderfully (or not so wonderfully) with money so you can try new things for yourself and your family financially.
How many times do we hedge around talking about finances in general? I used to never mention a thing related to money. Not that I had a car payment, a credit card, or even expenses. I felt so strange just mentioning money that when people complimented me on a shirt or an accessory, I almost always had to pipe up that I got it on sale – like getting something full price might have made someone uncomfortable!
No longer. When I began my masters program in economics (please don’t let it take you this long), I started broaching topics I had questions about with close friends and family members and it hasn’t been awkward. In fact, I’ve seen amazing benefits in terms of accountability, financial advice and money saving ideas and I think you can, too.
Talking about money, credit card offers, coupons, budgeting (seriously, almost anything can relate to money) can provide you with ideas on how to magnify what you’ve got. This is something I find women to be really great at – how many couponing blogs, money saving pins and deal emails have we saved or passed along? If you’re someone who feels awkward couponing (I was guilty, no shame!), hearing that your friends use coupons, too, can help normalize it.
Same with talking about credit card offers or different budgeting system. Let’s face it, we can’t know everything. There isn’t enough time in the day to study up on things we’re curious about, even if sometimes we know they’d save us, or our family money. Learning what works for people in your life, even if their situation may be vastly different from yours, expedites the process. Hear a friend is getting amazing perks using a credit card that gives airlines rewards miles? Way less overwhelming than googling “best credit cards for air travel”. When advice comes from people we trust (even if it’s imperfect) – we have somewhere to start on our journey towards improving our finances.
An added benefit of being more open about our finances? Feeling like you’re not alone. When talking about the holidays, one of my friends mentioned she just couldn’t afford flying home with her 4 kids and husband. Of course I wish she could spend time with family, but acknowledging something like that can help you remember life’s not all about the money. It’s ok to admit you just can’t afford something. In fact, it’s really freeing to not feel bound to hiding behind the reason why we’re not doing something – especially if that reason is funds. People tend to be more respectful (and less quizzical!) if you’re up front about why something isn’t going to work out for you. We’ve all been in a place where at some point, we couldn’t afford something we wanted. Fessing up not only stops the nags about why, but puts the people around you at ease.
How often do you feel pressure to keep up with other people in your life? How often does that pressure come from things that require money – a nice car, new outfits, new everything? We are repeatedly counseled to be in the world, but not of it by our leaders. I’d like to submit to you that we don’t have to keep up. We can be forthright in our dealings with friends and turn down opportunities or things that while they might be fun and bring us joy, take us off track of our bigger financial goals – like paying off debt or buying a home. The first time you say you can’t afford something, it’ll probably feel odd. But people don’t hold that against you. It’s a blessing to be honest about where we’re at in our lives, instead of hiding it and feeling ever growing pressure to keep up, especially from our friends who want to help us, but can’t if we’re not direct!
Finally, talking about money helps keep you accountable and helps you to avoid bad spending habits. Many of our ideas about money are developed from childhood, watching our families spend their money, maybe even struggle with debt or financial difficulty. While we hold onto these beliefs, they’re not always accurate and some of them may even be harming us.
For example, my grandma grew up a daughter of two immigrants in the Great Depression in Detroit. Watching countless people lose their jobs and banks fail, she took to storing money almost anywhere she could that wasn’t a bank. When she passed, we found cash sewed into coats, under the mattress, in the jewelry box, in books – everywhere. Extreme example, but I believe if she felt more comfortable talking about finances openly instead of relying on knowledge gained from the situations she grew up with, she could have made a significant amount of money in interest just from a simple savings account!
Recently, talking about paying off my car with a friend helped me to find resolve to discuss my options with my husband and stop being fearful about unknowns I can’t control. She doesn’t even have a car payment, but being able to bounce ideas off of a willing audience and see what she thought was and wasn’t a good plan of attack helped. In a culture where everyone is an expert with a platform (looking at you social media!), don’t feel discouraged if your circle doesn’t have all the answers. Just talking and making goals with people who will hold you accountable for what you commit to is more important than whether they’re a certified financial expert.
I know that when you’re brave and step outside of your comfort zone – especially as it relates to finances – you will gain confidence and knowledge about your specific financial situation. I believe strongly that the adversary loves knowing women in particular feel a lack of control of their finances. He’s fine with you racking up credit card debt on things you don’t need, missing out on opportunities to save for retirement or even a vacation. I’m willing to bet your friends and family aren’t.
Please don’t avoid talking about things you’re curious about or even worry about because you’re afraid of judgement or sounding stupid. As much as I love to Google, it can’t answer everything. I know, as Elder Richard G. Scott counseled, that “our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously”. So much of that comes from feeling the support of your community of family and friends who love you and want to help you, no matter what! I pray that you’ll find courage to ask questions or just talk about what’s on your mind when it comes to money and not feel shame or fear, which are most certainly tools of the adversary.