Let’s Disrupt Money ... by Talking About It

By Ellevest Team

We will change the money game by disrupting societal expectations that talking about money is “unladylike” and “unattractive.” We will talk about money with friends, partners, colleagues, family. We will talk to our daughters and nieces about it. We will talk about it at the dinner table. We will normalize these discussions and thus, collectively, give ourselves the information we need to close our gender money gaps. - Let’s Disrupt Money

You know a subject’s really taboo when people would rather talk about their weight, discuss politics and religion, sit down for “the birds and the bees” or ask an adult child to move out. A new study has 61% of women saying they would rather talk about their own death than have a conversation about money. That’s messed up.

But knowledge is power. If we don’t compare experiences with other women, we don’t learn what’s worked for other women … and which mistakes they’ve made that we can avoid. If we don’t talk about money with partners and parents, we’re whistling in the dark with our futures — and if we don’t talk about it with our daughters and sons, we aren’t giving them the tools to do better with theirs. It’s time to push past this taboo — which, seriously, is kind of messed up — and normalize talking about money.

Talking about money with friends

Picturing a conversation that ends up with everyone comparing and resenting like that Friends episode about dividing the bill at a restaurant? Don’t let that put you off. Money talks with friends are only awkward because they’re not the norm, and they’re only not the norm because — well, because our parents set that as the norm. What you’re after here is to build up your group knowledge and find common concerns … just like any other talk you’d have with them. (And hey, if the Friends friends can stay friends after an awkward discussion or seventy, so can you.)

A few ways to get started

  • Ask for advice on a group chat (“Who’s tried budgeting apps? What do you like? Come at me!”) or in person (“Hey, I’ve been thinking about asking for a raise, but I’m not sure if it’s the right time … what do you think?”) Your friends love you, and chances are high they’ll want to help.

  • Recommend money topics on social media: Podcasts, books, tools, and resources. You’re normalizing the conversation just by sharing.

  • Start a financial book club — or decide to dedicate every third or fourth book in an existing club to money topics. Sometimes it’s easier to begin talking about your own experiences using the good old “how I related to this book” approach.

  • One of the big elephants in the room is that we don’t talk about our salaries and how we ask for raises. This is key to knowing more about when and how to negotiate, but it’s also fraught with taboo. (Ashamed of how little or how much you make? Afraid you’ll seem braggy?) Many experts advise waiting until it comes up in conversation (like when you’re all kvetching about job issues). Then, volunteer your own salary. Frame the actual number in context of how you negotiated, so it’s part of a story about how you reached for a target.

Talking about money with parents

More frustrating stats: 54% of adults in one study said they’d rather talk to their kids about sex than their parents about money. But since nearly a third of adult children provide some sort of financial support for parents, you need that info. And if the worst happens and a parent falls ill or dies, not having access to documentation can hurt your family, too.

Breaking this taboo with parents can be especially fraught: Your mom and dad may be defensive or protective of you; you’re probably going to feel like you’re prying; and aging is a sad and scary drumbeat under it all. But “really uncomfortable conversation” is still a better option than “really can’t afford retirement” or “really don’t know how to start helping.”

A few ways to get started

  • Instead of barging ahead full throttle with personal questions, ease into the conversation with a story you read about money management or your own money question they can answer.

  • Don’t wait until “something happens.” Whether it’s financial or medical or bereavement, crisis time is never a good time to talk money unless you have to. Waaaay too much emotion.

  • Keep conversations short and specific (here’s a list of good questions to ask), and make them ongoing, rather than one-and-done.

  • The What If … Workbook is a $24 checklist of all the things you might want to think and talk about.

Talking about money with your partner

Money can’t buy you love, but talking about money seems to be able to make couples happier: 78% percent of couples who talk weekly about money say they are happy, compared to 60% of couples who do it every few months and 50% of couples who talk money less often. (Finally, some stats on talking money we can get behind!)

And those talks need to go past just budgets and purchases and getting into goals; planning for saving, investing, insurance; and documentation (i.e., what money’s where, how much of it, who gets it). Just like with your parents, if a crisis should happen with your partner, the last thing you want to think about is tracking down and figuring out the money stuff.

Also: Financial infidelity is a thing. And while no amount of conversation can stop a human from doing stupid human stuff ... sometimes the reason people lie about money is that they just don’t know what the other person will think. Honest conversation will help with that.

A few ways to get started

  • Married … With Money: 5 steps you should take with your partner (whether married or not, really) to make sure you’re on the same page about retirement, documentation, and goals.

  • Suggest to your partner that you talk to a financial advisor together. Here are 5 questions to ask.

  • How to deal with financial infidelity.

  • And if you’re separated or think you might be at some point, What to Know About Divorce has key financial questions you can ask a soon-to-be or recent ex to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

Talking about money with kids

Kids have mostly formed their basic money concepts and habits by age 7. (Yep, seven.) But 41% of kids don’t get any financial education at all at school. Meanwhile, you can bet that our daughters and sons are getting some pretty ridiculous ideas about money elsewhere — like from the media, whose messages about women and money are … not good. (In 65% of articles reviewed in one study, women were defined as “excessive spenders.” Articles about women included words like “‘splurges,” "vouchers", "discounts", and "bargains and coupons" — while those about about men more often contained “invest,” “dare,” “spend,” and “power.” Um.)

And that means that (frustrating stat alert) even though 66% of parents say it’s awkward to talk to their young kids about money, it’s on us to teach our kids financial literacy.

So … what to teach? The value of a dollar, of course. How to make financial tradeoffs. Also: the ability to focus on the future — research shows it’s even more important than financial literacy when it comes to making smart money moves like saving and investing.

(And, by the way, we’ll need to check ourselves to make sure we’re not giving our boys more allowance than our girls, as so many do; that we’re not talking about money goals more with the boys than the girls; and that we’re not passing our own anxieties forward. These biases … they creep in without us knowing or wanting them to be there. And they’re not just in the conversations — it’s also true that we’re still (still!) saving more money for our sons to go to college.)

A few ways to get started

  • Money As You Grow has some great info about money concepts that younger, middle, and older kids can grasp.

  • Talk With Your Kids About Money is a bonanza of resources, events, and ideas for kids at every age and for every topics.

  • Goalsetter * helps kids learn about delaying gratification and financial tradeoffs … while helping parents and family members contribute real money toward kids’ stated goals.

Got any ideas or techniques for starting your own conversations about money? We’d love for you to consider us part of the larger “talk about money with friends” conversation … so we can all compare info and learn. Follow us on social at #DisruptMoney and share your own experiences.

© 2020 Ellevest, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Ellevest Team

The Ellevest team is working to help women reach their financial goals.