We all know “it’s good to talk”. We’re always being told “a problem shared is a problem halved”. We all know that bottling things up, holding things in and not sharing rarely helps and, more often than not, hinders.
And we have been really good at putting these lessons to good use; regularly opening up about our mental health, gender identity and a host of other subjects that were once, rightly or wrongly, regarded as taboo topics. It is frankly, liberating. So, the question now is, what’s the big hang-up we all still seem to have when it comes to talking about money?
Over 3,000 people were interviewed about their attitudes towards finances, including inheritance planning, talking to family about money and seeking financial advice. An astonishing 56% of people admitted they are embarrassed to ask their family for financial help and worryingly 60% of those in the 35-45 age group think that it’s embarrassing to ask for financial help.
The research, released ahead of Let’s Talk Money Week, shows there is clearly work to be done here. Let’s Talk Money Week is an annual campaign that has been set up by the Money and Pensions service in a bid to get the nation talking about money.
Research carried out by Fidelity corroborates this too. We found that talking about money with a partner is still the third biggest taboo subject for women in particular. Most admitted they would rather talk about pretty much anything, other than money. Over a quarter went as far as to say they would rather talk about their satisfaction - or rather dissatisfaction - with their partner than talk about anything to do with money. The other moot topics being politics, religion and their dating history.
Why? The overriding reason was that it’s just too difficult, too fraught with emotion and best left unsaid. Little surprise then that Relate, the UK's largest provider of relationship support, says financial issues are one of the main causes of arguments between couples.
But it’s not just in romantic relationships that we seem reluctant to talk either. The problem seems to be endemic. More than a third of professionals who flat-share say disagreements over finances are the biggest cause of conflict, according to a survey by payments group Paym. Some 13% of flatmates eventually go their separate ways because they are sick of bickering over bills.
Money impacts every area of our lives. Not being able to open up and talk freely about something that we deal with, in some way or another, more or less every day of our adult lives, is something we need to change. Money needs to be as openly discussed as we now feel free to talk about mental health, gender identity, sexuality and sex itself.
Here are five ways to get the conversation going:
1. Start the conversation
By talking you will encourage others to do the same. Once you start the ball rolling people will be more inclined to open up.
2. Set boundaries
Too many times conversations about money end up getting competitive. Let’s stop boasting about how much our house is worth or how much we spend on Jr’s school fees and start talking about our relationship with day-to-day spending and saving.
3. Be positive about money
Another bad habit we fall into is being immediately negative about money. Stop saying: “Oh I’m/he’s/she’s useless with money, always have been” or “I can’t get my head around ISAs/pensions/savings, it’s all too complicated”. Instead look at the positives and work from there. Start with “I’m very good at saving for the short-term, but I need to start planning further ahead” or “I’ve made a great start on my savings, now how can I top them up a little more?”
4. Make it a date
When you need to talk money, don’t do it when you’re both frazzled and clearly not in the mood. Be disciplined and agree to set an hour or so aside when you can go through the issues you need to discuss. If you’re in a romantic relationship together, maybe focus on a longer-term financial goal you both want to achieve - whether it’s a new car, a holiday, your wedding, a baby or your retirement. If you work together on your next ‘project’ you’ll be more likely to achieve your goal. If you’re flatmates, look at ways to divvy up the shared financial responsibilities and then spend time every once in a while checking-in and making sure it’s working and that you’re both on top of your share of the tasks. If you want to broach something with Mum & Dad, set time aside rather than dropping a bombshell as dinner’s being prepared or they’re rushing to drop you off somewhere.
5. Simplify your finances
Once you’ve set your sights on a mutual money goal or agreed to split your shared financial responsibilities, make it all even simpler by setting up some automatic savings and payments. By creating standing orders or direct debits you can save some of the leg work and save yourselves from accidentally sliding into an argument when one of you needs a ‘gentle reminder’ - yet again.
Disagreements and problems are likely to happen from time to time, especially where finances are concerned because money can be such an emotive and complex topic. And some things are trickier to broach than others. But by being open about the issues you are having and having already established the ground rules, you should find it easier to talk about money.
For more tips listen to our Talk Money podcast.
Important information: The value of investments and the income from them, can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.