Young Money Blog may have taken a lil’ break in July and some of August – but I certainly wasn’t idle!
As summer draws to a close 😭 I’ll be looking back at various appearances I did over the past few months, sharing what I talked about AND what I learned.
I’ve already recapped my recent Newsnight appearance. Today, I’m looking at a recent interview I did with Andrew Castle on LBC. I was asked by Lloyds to contribute to its new campaign, which you’ll doubtless know about already, by going on the radio to talk about…well, how to talk about money!
The M word campaign from Lloyds has made a big splash this year and with good reason. There has been a major shift away in the financial industry and media in recent years, away from a traditional focus on products and services towards the holistic, personal and psychological. The world of finance has become much more inclusive and self-examining. Major banks, investment firms and other financial giants realise that most of us have a difficult relationship with money, which probably started early in childhood. If we don’t turn that relationship around, we’re never going to feel confident enough to make the most of our money (and it’s easy to see how that poses a problem for the financial sector!)
The internet is also making us question longstanding cultural taboos that surround money. We’re seeing far more honest and down-to-earth perspectives on money (as seen on this blog!) It’s no longer fashionable for people – especially women – to boast about how bad they are with money. The success of Refinery 29’s online money diaries, plus an array of new books, podcasts and online articles about the more emotional side of money management, show there is a real appetite to talk more openly about this subject. The burning question is: how?
In my interview with Andrew, I highlight the four main stumbling blocks when it comes to discussing money:
- Time. We lead busy lives and it’s hard to find that ideal window when we can do justice to a complex issue like money.
- Knowledge. We all have knowledge gaps – including me! – but it’s frustrating when you don’t have all the practical solutions at your fingertips. And lacking financial confidence is a key reason why people stay silent (or quietly grumble about how bad they are with money).
- Social norms. Talking about money in social situations can be seen as intrusive, rude, even tacky – and it can indeed be inappropriate to bring up money at the school gates or on a first date, but we end up extending that to all areas of lives, so money is off-limits most of the time.
- Emotion. Money can be a very difficult, emotive subject. Discussing it means asking uncomfortable questions – of ourselves and other people – and we may end up confronting painful aspects of our lives that we’d rather keep under wraps.
How to have THAT conversation…
So what can we do to blast these barriers out of the way? I have some suggestions…
- Make time to talk about money. Set aside a window in the week to discuss money with your partner when you know you won’t be interrupted. Make a mental note to bring up the subject when you next meet up with your friend, once you’ve caught up on all your news. Establish a time that suits both you and your family to talk about money issues when you know you’ll all be relaxed and in no hurry.
- Think about the setting. Having the conversation at home might seem the natural, normal thing to do – it’s where you feel most comfortable, after all – but it’s actually not a great idea. Home is supposed to be a safe, relaxing place but it can also be the scene of blazing family rows and flatmate tensions, and you may all-too-easily adopt that same confrontational mode when talking about money. It’s also the backdrop for a lot of those money problems you’re stressed about – think of those bills piling up on the kitchen table! It’s hard to create the necessary head-space for a conversation about money in the home, so take it outside. Go for a walk to get the blood pumping round your system. Or take a car trip, ideally to somewhere nice!
- Avoid sitting opposite someone – otherwise, it feels like an interrogation. Sitting next to them feels much more collegiate, and there’s no pressure to look someone in the eye. All the better if you can sit somewhere with an amazing view you can both admire. This will lift your spirits and hopefully make your conversation more creative, calm and productive.
- Ask open-ended, broad questions and listen. A great opener is “where are you at right now with money?” It’s so open to interpretation, and it invites the other person to talk about anything, from their debt to how they feel about inheritance. Avoid the temptation to jump in with suggestions too quickly and wait until the person has said everything they want to say.
- Ask “why”. The best question you can ask is “why do you feel like that?” If you keep asking this, you’ll hopefully get to the root of the problem. Then, you can clear up any misunderstandings or say something helpful that will make the other person feel better.
- Stay calm. Avoid assigning blame or making loaded accusations. Stick to discussing how you feel, as no-one can dispute that. If the conversation starts getting heated, take time out and come back when you’ve both calmed down.
- Offer hope and help where appropriate. If someone is struggling with their money, simply offering to listen can be the soothing balm they need. Saying you understand how they feel, and offering to help however you can, is the kindest thing you can do. If you’re not immediately sure how to proceed, you can go away and research some solutions and offer to come back at a later scheduled date to talk things through.