Friday, 13 September 2013

Conversations about money should NOT be taboo

This post is something that I was thinking about recently when I had my first real conversation about finances etc. with my girlfriend after approximately 6 months of dating.  It was a totally comfortable conversation about how much we spend when we go out and whether we are both happy with that level of spending.  It did make me think of the fact that talking about money has some real social taboos attached to it.

Talking about money and finances is not seen as polite dinner conversation

There are many taboo subjects when it comes to dinner conversations and I'm sure you could name a lot of them.  Some of the more contentious ones are religion, politics and money.  I understand why you would not want to talk about all of these subjects with a complete stranger however I do think that when it comes to friends this is a rather strange convention.

People do not talk about money and financial matters for a variety of reasons including
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Not wanting to show off
  • Social and societal norms
If you can talk about money without being specific then I think it can be very valuable

However I think that if you stay away from specifics that talking about money and your personal situation that we can all gain a lot from frank and open conversations about money and finance.  I am quite lucky in that I work in the finance industry and so do many of my friends - talking about our day and our work naturally involves money.  Work conversations meld easily into conversations about personal finances, strategies and tactics.

The more you talk about money the more you learn from others.  I have received some of the best savings and investing tips from others and unlike a book or reading something on the internet, you can
ask questions and engage with the issue more deeply as you often have someone that has done something that you are looking to do right in front of you.

Obviously like any exercise where you are gaining knowledge you look at the experience that the person has as well as whether it makes sense and most importantly if they have done or are doing what they are advocating however sometimes the best sources of knowledge are closest to us.

Talking about money doesn't have to be contentious

I understand how conversations about religion and politics can go off the rails rather quickly.  People have different opinions and beliefs and core values.  Money doesn't have the same level of subjectivity.  Learning from other people's successes as well as their failures can be a very valuable thing...if only we could talk about it.

They key to the whole conversation is keeping personal details out of the conversation.  People often feel uncomfortable talking about the specifics of their situation however you can learn a lot from a general conversation.  For example knowing what interest rate someone locked in for their mortgage, from what bank and how they negotiated it and what their package fees etc are like is pretty non contentious but can be very valuable for you if you are house hunting...and you never need to know private information like how much they borrowed, how much they paid etc.

So get out there...and get talking

As long as you don't ask personal information, feel free to ask someone how they did something, or what they thought about before they started their own business or where they got a particular deal from and who they got it from.

This sort of information is fundamentally valuable and you will miss out if you continue to treat money as a taboo subject which cannot be discussed with friends, relatives and other associates.

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