“What? Talk about money. Oh no. I can’t do that!” I know that we were all raised not to talk about money. It is, after all, the great taboo. Even if you weren’t explicitly told verbally not to talk about it, you were ‘told’ by the actions you saw.
So here you are, an adult, and some sort of entrepreneur*: what do you do with that ‘don’t
talk about money’ thing now?
* The odds are really strong that, if you are reading this, you are self-employed, commission based, or an entrepreneur. The explanation of why that is true is yet another blog…so back to the issue at hand.
Let’s make some distinctions here. Talking about money in our personal lives is different than talking about money in our business lives. And since it’s such a big place, it’s going to be several blogs over several weeks! So there!
Money Talk: Personal Life
Simply isn’t done, is it? You’ve been trained that it’s rude or even crass to talk about money in your personal life. Ironic, isn’t it, since we use it every day. Additionally, there is so much emotional baggage around money that we feel weird even trying to talk about it. This creates a genuine mess for most couples. Another irony about this, from my perspective, is that money doesn’t actually create the emotion; we do. Money has no opinion. Ask money “how am I doing?” and it will say “you have $ 5,432.16”. It won’t even engage in whether that is good, bad or indifferent. We do that all on our own.
It’s a challenging thing to change this money talk stuff in our personal lives. There is a great deal of cultural pressure to not talk about money. And I think there are two places where you want to throw ‘caution to the wind’ and talk about it. With your partner or spouse, and with your children. Yep, you got it, with those people closest to you.
There are both emotional and practical reasons to talk to both your partner and your kids. When couples have money issues, it’s mostly about that the other person doesn’t see things the way you do. Which, oh by the way, is actually one of the things that attracted you to them.
At the end of a talk I gave, a lady came up to me and said: “Your talk was really great. I need you to fix my husband. He does all these really detailed, weird spreadsheets and wants me to track my spending. Isn’t that just ridiculous. I mean really!” Seems pretty clear they are on different sides of a giant money chasm.
It’s tough to talk about money, not because money is so tough, but rather because what we make up about it is.
Think of it this way: most of us really do want more intimacy with our partner. If we talk about money that will happen. We will learn a lot about who they are, what they fear, where they need support. And they will learn the same about you.
Here’s how to start. Ask about how money was when your partner was young (under 10). Just be curious. Try and understand how it was to be living in that world. Have empathy. The truth is that your partner is still in that world as far as their money thinking is concerned. Then, some other time, tell your partner about how money was when you were a kid. Go easy and slow. There is a lot to learn here.
What about the children? For many people, talking to their kids about money is even scarier than talking to them about sex. You want to talk about money in ‘age appropriate’ ways. The stock market isn’t what to talk about to a 5 year old. I coached this guy once that just couldn’t save money. He couldn’t save money because of what his parents had done. One day they had broken open his beloved piggy bank and taken all the money. He decided it wasn’t safe to save. What actually had happened was that his parents had indeed broken his piggy and taken the money. They took him and the money down to the bank and deposited it. He ended up with this little blue book with numbers in it. Here’s the problem; he was too young for this. It wasn’t age appropriate. He didn’t understand the silly old book or the numbers scribbled in it. He’d had real coins and now he had a book. Yuck. Where’s his money go?
You can see that the parents were well intended, but they both went above what he could understand, and didn’t actually talk the whole thing through with him. He thought his money was gone.
Here’s a caution about money and your kids. Don’t get your money angst and emotion on them. If you feel bad because you don’t have enough money for what they want, you are tying emotion to the money, and they will feel that and take it on. The biggest thing your kids react to and internalize are the emotions you feel or express. And they tie them to the thing you are feeling about.
Talking to your kids about money is not so much for now, as for the future. They could have a relationship with money that is better and more effective than the one you have, if you can frame money differently for them now.
Please do start talking to your partner and your children about money. Let’s change this taboo for the sake of having money be able to actually do its job, which is to tell us how we are doing.
Stay tuned to this Bat Channel for next week’s topic of talking money in business!