I bought an investment property in late 2017 and I felt proud. I wanted to share my happiness with my friends, so I brought it up over drinks along with a link to the property ad on realestate.com.au.
The first thing written at the top of the page was the sold price.
I didn’t have a problem with my friends seeing it, but I did pause to wonder how they might react.
They might say, ‘Wow, that place cost Bec shitloads’, or ‘Is that all Bec could afford to spend?’, or ‘It wasn’t as expensive as I imagined for two bedrooms, I could actually do that too’.
But what struck me was that nobody in fact said a word about the price. It was a talking point for the taking, and no one took it.
I started to think about the general lack of conversation in society about what we do with our money. We all need it, we all spend it, but we’re so private about our approach to it.
But considering it’s such a massive part of our lives, why the hell is it taboo?
What aren’t we saying?
In my role as a financial coach, I talk money all day, every day. But off duty, I notice that it doesn't weave into conversations in the same natural way that we talk about jobs, families, relationships, holidays, food and fitness — unless we make a really conscious effort to bring it in.
We’re not saying, ‘Holy shit I just had a massive spending month’ in the way that we’ll confess to a big bender, overeating, or skipping the gym for weeks.
And on the flip side, we’re not sharing the good news about our ‘financial six packs’ when we earn them. We’ll proudly post a pic on Facebook after smashing a half-marathon, but won’t post, ‘Hey I just saved $1000 this month, and I’m feeling awesome!”
We’re also not discussing our financial knowledge, or lack of it. We aren’t saying, ‘This new saving App is really interesting’, or ‘Everyone’s been talking about cryptocurrency, but can someone please tell what the f**k that is and how it works?'
Just like I shared the news of my investment property, we’re all reasonably good at celebrating home buying. But when you save like hell and pay a deposit on your kid’s education — likely, you won’t tell a soul.
Why so shy?
I think our reluctance to open up about how we choose to use our money is three fold.
Firstly, it’s insecurity, and thinking ‘I’m not doing as well as other people so I won’t bring money up’.
Then, if we have good news, we worry we’ll be seen as a ‘tall poppy’, talking about things like investment properties while they might still be sorting out finances for day-to-day living.
There’s also a fear of asking others about their approach to money. We think, ‘It’s probably none of my business’, right?
Even though I’m quite liberal on the topic compared to most, I still experience all three things. I can still feel nervous as hell when I’m talking about income with my friends and my family. In fact, I’ll dive into that topic in more detail in another blog post soon!
Benefits for everyone
These fears and justifications are perfectly relatable. But, I’m confident that if we could push through them, we could all benefit from our abundance of shared knowledge!
Think about when the conversation about sex opened up. For women in particular, sex lives are improving as a result. Sex, like money, is not a zero sum game, and for one person to have a good sex life doesn't mean that others can’t! It’s just the same with our financial life.
It’s hard to fully imagine the benefits of a society where everyone is more open about how they use their money. If we said, ‘Have you heard of this new bank account? It’s changed the way I save’, in the same way we say, ‘Have you tried kefir? It’s changed the way I feel about yoghurt!’, we could all gain.
And when we open up the conversation, we can be more realistic about what we can and can’t do at certain times. People are constantly taking on debt to ‘keep up’, and we could cut this risk back. With some of my girlfriends, we ‘dollar rate’ our dinner plans to make it fair. One might say, ‘I’m rich this week, I’m up for $$$$ dinner, and someone else says, ‘I can do a $ or maybe $$ night’, and we respect that.
Talking with tact
Like all topics, we need the right people around us, like a good friend or trusty relative, to get an open conversation going.
Of course, having an open conversation doesn’t give us the right to be a dickhead. If we ask with genuine interest, not out of competitiveness, we’ll all get a lot more out of it.
A good way to gauge is to ask ourselves, ‘If someone asked me that question (e.g. How did you negotiate that mortgage? How did you afford to pay for your wedding?), how would I feel? If I learn from them, am I better placed to make decisions?’ It could lead to an abundant conversation, as opposed to someone shutting down before it begins.
The consequences of not having these conversations could be continued gaps in our financial know-how, getting into more debt and missing the opportunity to have a financially kick-arse life!
Imagine the difference if we could hold the space for our family and friends to throw ideas out there, listening not judging, and could respond with our experiences. If we better understand how each other feels about money, how we like to use it, and where our priorities lie, there is so much possibility!