Money is a sticky subject, so many people avoid talking about it. However, while you might be uncomfortable discussing financial matters with your loved ones, its stigma is worth overcoming. Just like honest TED talks can change the way you think about money, talking with trusted folks about it might help you see your money in a new light.
Here are a few groups of people you should talk about money matters with.
With Your Significant Other
Whether you’re dating or married, money is obviously an important topic. Finances can cause a lot of strife, so it makes sense to talk about it now (if you’re dating or engaged) or review your current plan (if you’re married).
For Seriously Dating and Engaged Couples
- Are we savers or spenders? Does one person want to save lots of money for a rainy day while the other spends liberally? You’ll have to compromise here, but if both of you are spenders, that could be a problem. Best to find out about it early so you can deal with it.
- Who will handle the finances when we’re married? Will you have separate bank accounts? Who will keep track of paying the credit card and utility bills? You can share these responsibilities, but it’ll probably be easier if one person takes on the primary role.
- Do we have a budget plan? Making decisions as you go along might work when you’re single, but could cause problems when you’re married. If you don’t have a solid idea of how much money you have coming in and where it’s going, you’re setting yourself up for financial problems in the future. Thankfully, there are awesome budgeting apps that anyone can use to get control of their money.
When you’re talking about money in a dating situation, consider how far into the relationship you are. Don’t discuss saving for retirement on the second date! If you’re starting to get serious with someone, speak in general terms about money matters. Talk about what you would do if you had an extra $100,000 right now, or how your parents were with money growing up.
Your partner’s responses to these conversations will start to reveal how they feel about money and you can dig deeper when you get more serious.
For Married Couples
- What are we saving for? Obviously you have immediate expenses, but you should be saving for future needs as well. Will you prioritize sending your kids to a private school or going on a nice vacation each year? Are you putting away ample money for your desired retirement timeline?
- Where is our money going? It’s amazing how you can get into a routine and spend money wastefully without even knowing it. If you don’t already, set up a budget and analyze your spending (Mint is perfect for this). Are you paying for apps you don’t need, or paying an absurd amount of credit card interest fees because you bought items you couldn’t afford? Maybe you can save money at the grocery store by avoiding name brands and making efficient use of coupons. Budgeting will help you figure out where you can make improvements.
Of course, bringing these questions up at the right time is key. It’s best to start with smaller things, like suggesting that you go somewhere less expensive for dinner or discussing how you could cut down the grocery bill with a bit of work. Once you’re comfortable talking about smaller money matters, you can move onto more difficult ones.
With Your Friends
Talking with money about your friends isn’t as critical as talking with a significant other, since your decisions aren’t linked. However, there are still benefits to discussing finances with your companions. Note that you should probably stick to talking about money only with your closest friends whom you trust. A chatty acquaintance isn’t likely to keep your information private.
Consider mentioning some of these topics if you want to have a real conversation about money.
- How your activities together affect your money goals. Maybe you have a friend who always wants to do expensive activities together or insists on eating at the finest restaurants, which clashes with your saving goals. Talk with them about that! You can mention that you love spending time with them, but expensive activities are detrimental to your long-term desires. They’ll understand, and maybe you’ll even help them save more.
A short term goal of mine is going to be finding friends with the same interest in money as I have because that's what I like to talk about
— kakarot (@kaylak3396) January 25, 2017
- General money habits and goals. You don’t need to discuss your exact income and budgeting plans, but general talk can help you learn how others make ends meet and use money efficiently. If you’re not sure where to start with an HSA, for example, maybe your friend knows because she just went through the process.
- Money-saving opportunities. You could ask where your friends find deals on clothes, or about unforeseen expenses that took them by surprise so you can plan for them. Keeping it general means nobody feels awkward but you can still learn from each other.
Like the above, we recommend assessing your friendship and the situation before diving into these topics. And you don’t need to force it — if an opportunity comes up to broach the topic in other conversation, go for it.
With Your Kids
Teaching kids about money is one of the most important responsibilities a parent has. Without learning how to manage money, your children could grow up into teenagers and adults who don’t have any idea about get ahead financially. Depending on how old your children are, there are a number of things you can do.
- Give your children an allowance as soon as they’re old enough to understand money, and use it to teach them. Just like adult income, their allowance shouldn’t all be for spending. If you give them five dollars, you could require require that they save a dollar, pay a dollar to you for “rent,” and give a dollar to church or a charity. This still leaves money for them to spend as they wish, but teaches them that money they earn isn’t all automatically theirs.
- Don’t buy everything for them. Of course you should still buy gifts for your children. However, by hearing “no” from you sometimes, combined with their limited allowance money, they’ll learn that they can’t have everything they want. If they want to save $30 for a baseball bat, they have to hold off on buying candy. As your children get older, have them pay for their car insurance, snacks, and other expenses. If you pay for everything, they’ll be in shock when they’re out on their own for the first time.
- Talk with teens about mistakes that you made with money growing up. It’s been said that average people learn from their own mistakes, but wise people learn from the mistakes of others. As your kids get older, do them a favor and share your financial missteps with them. Maybe you got excited with your first credit card and ended up paying a ton of money in interest fees, or you didn’t set up a proper budget until you had money problems. If they’re smart, they’ll want to avoid tripping up like you did and can avoid learning lessons the hard way.
Finding the right time to discuss these matters depends on your child’s personality and maturity. If you identify early on that they want to spend every dollar they get immediately, some lessons on saving are a good idea. It can’t be overstated how perfect an allowance is the perfect way to provide kids with money while getting them into a healthy money mindset at the same time.
With that base established, your kids will be more open to hearing about why you set up their allowance that way when they get older. Have a look at websites that teach kids money management skills for some fun ways for them to learn.
Chatting About Cash
It’s uncomfortable to start talking about money. But when you think about it, you have a good reason for discussing finances with each of the above three groups. You’re obviously affected by how your significant other thinks about money. Talking with your friends about finances can lead to good advice and a deeper friendship. And if you don’t teach your kids how to handle money, who will?
These topics certainly aren’t the only ones you should bring up, but they’ll give you great starting points for discussion. We hope that by making money a topic of normal conversation, you can have a healthier financial life and help your loved ones along, too.
Have you talked about these topics with your loved ones, or do you keep all money matters private? How do you feel about having money talks with your friends? Add your essential money topics down in the comments and let’s continue discussing!
Image Credits: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock