What do you talk about with your friends? Weekend plans, college memories, and work stories are probably at the top of the list. But when was the last time you talked with your friends about money? Money conversations benefit everyone, yet personal finance is still a taboo subject.
Many of us grew up avoiding the topic of money. It can feel uncomfortable, embarrassing, and emotionally charged. In fact, nearly one-third of couples disagree about their finances monthly, according to research by TD Bank.
Many couples don't disclose how much they spend outside of their regular household expenditures because 59 percent believe the purchase is not expensive enough to matter.
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Why Money Conversations Are Important
People not being transparent about their spending can harm the trust in their relationships.
Communication, especially about money, is key in any relationship.
If money is an issue for you (for example, if you struggle with personal debt, don’t understand how to grow personal wealth, or don’t have access to capital), then talking about it is key to breaking down those barriers.
When it comes to work, silence about freelance rates means people often don’t know how to negotiate their worth. They adopt an “I’ll take whatever comes my way” mentality and stay stuck with lower pay. Sites like Salary.com can help to give you an idea of what salary you should expect for your work experience and location.
Similarly, being able to ask friends how much they pay in rent can help you determine if you’re overpaying and learn where affordable neighborhoods are.
How to Have Money Conversations With Your Friends
Money pervades every part of our lives. Talking about it helps us earn more, save more, and share experiences.
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If you’re wondering how to talk to your friends about money, here are five conversation starters:
1. Start With Goals
Discuss money in terms of goals and dreams. Melanie Lockert, the author behind the personal finance blog Dear Debt, gives advice on turning money conversations into something light and enjoyable. How about starting a conversation with, “I want to go to Prague this year, but it's going to require me to save for a while”?
Staying away from pointed questions and easing into the conversation around what you're working toward can help lessen the taboo.
2. Share Money Victories
An easy way to start money conversations with your friends is to share the financial wins in your life. When you get a raise, save money, or find $20 on the street, tell your friends. Everyone loves a reason to celebrate, so make money one of those reasons.
By switching the tone about money from something scary and crass to something enjoyable, you’ll feel more inclined to share what you’ve learned with your friends. Hopefully they’ll start sharing their money victories with you, too.
3. Acknowledge Money Struggles
When I was on a mission to pay off my student loan debt as fast as possible, I did everything I could to earn more. As a result, I had to turn down a lot of invitations from friends — no eating out, no weekend getaways, no drinks after work.
Rather than keep my personal debt payoff a secret, I told everyone.
Giving your friends a reason for missing happy hour helps them understand that you’re not just blowing them off.
Plus, you get a chance to explain a financial goal and hopefully inspire them, too.
I was honest that my low income made it necessary for me to cut back in order to get out of debt, and my friends were super supportive. Many of them had personal debt themselves and felt the same pressure. Being open about money brought me support and helped to preserve friendships through my hermit phase.
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4. Be Proactive
Find free online resources to teach you how to better manage money. Even better, find like-minded peers through LinkedIn or Facebook groups such as Saving and Investing with Knowledge.
There are also online platforms such as Ladies Get Paid, Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, and Reddit Personal Finance, where members share and teach one another debt payoff strategies and smart saving habits. This way, you will practice talking about money, can read others’ advice and tips, and learn what has — and hasn't — worked.
5. Hire Professionals
After joining groups, you may feel that you need a professional’s help to guide you. Financial coaching is one resource you can use to build your wealth. Some coaches provide insight, education, and encouragement for you to work toward your financial goals. They can teach clients about risk management, leveraging assets, and developing a competitive edge while integrating the clients’ habits, lifestyle, and goals.
There are financial mentoring sites out there, as well. Thes include National Financial Educators Council (NFEC), the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE), and the XY Planning Network.
Just be aware that there is a difference between a financial coach, a financial planner, and a financial adviser. There are also a number of wealth management and advisory tools that can help you work toward financial goals. Do some research to find out which one is best for you.
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The Bottom Line
Money conversations with your family or friends don’t need to be painful. It’s up to us to remove the stigma of talking about money. So let’s change the narrative and start making the discussion a helpful one.
Additional reporting by Peiyi Mei.