Why are financial conversations so difficult? What is it about money that is so personal, intimate, and full of emotion that it rates right next to sex as a difficult topic for discussion? Yet, these two subjects provide the substance for what captures our attention in the media and headlines. Is it easier to watch, listen to or read about other’s drama, rather than address our own opportunities and issues?
Communication – up and down the generational ladder. No matter how much you have, there will always be unlimited ways to use limited resources. More money does not solve all our problems, but creating a healthy relationship with, and utilizing it wisely will help change the world.
It is challenging enough to address our own needs and wants let alone add a spouse, kids, parents, roommates, friends and ultimately governments and nations. Money is a powerful modality, and we need to do it differently. It is mind-boggling to think about money in motion worldwide. Even bringing it closer to home – a family can easily have 2- 3,000 financial decisions made in a year.
You can acquiesce with the default mode. A push of a button, swipe of a phone, pulling a credit card out of your wallet, or making a purchase with cryptocurrency, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from the meaning of money in our lives and the unintentional consequences of our financial decisions .
It takes courage to enter this territory and conviction to your why, what and how of financial conversations.
Your Why. Shakespeare quipped “To thine self be true”. The better you know yourself and why financial communication is important the more fluid and natural it will become, and the ensuing decisions aligned with your values. Simon Sinek started a movement a decade ago by encouraging leaders to “start with the why”. Why do you want to communicate about money? Do you want to do it differently than your predecessors? Do you want to create healthy financial lives? Do you want to live in financial integrity?
What. The canvas of financial interaction and communication is as broad as it is deep. Have you ever considered what you are communicating? Envision the mom navigating through the store with young children in tow. The auto pilot response I gave when cereal or other items were pulled from the shelf with pleading, puppy dog eyes – was “no – we can’t afford that”. I was unwittingly embedding a message of scarcity and confusion as I turned and put something else in the cart. I changed my response to “We are choosing to spend our money on other things today, let’s put that back. Intentional spending creates an abundance mindset. Think about what message you are communicating when interacting with people who are impacted by your financial decisions.
How. Laced with emotion, financial conversations many times get sucked into a detrimental whirlpool. Blame, shame, guilt, resentment, angst and worry are just a few of the feelings lurking in the murky waters of monetary discussions. If you want to keep a positive tone, how you communicate is just as important as what gets communicated.
Take responsibility for your own stuff. Don’t play the blame game. Your goal is to find common ground and build on it. We want to build allies – not adversaries. Ask for and extend financial forgiveness. Find a way to laugh a little about our financial mistakes. We all make them and can learn from them.
Another facet of the how is to find a time and a place conducive for positive interaction. It may feel a bit sterile but schedule a time that works for all involved and set the stage. For example, “Mom, Dad – I would like to find time for us to discuss your hopes and concerns as you age. I want to understand your financial situation and how best to walk alongside you physically, emotionally, and financially. What would work for you and what aspects would you be comfortable discussing?
Money is simply a tool, a medium of exchange as a reflection of our values. It is something we need to talk about every day. It may be with your children about an allowance or preparing them for an inheritance. It could be with your spouse over goals or daily spending decisions. It might be with your aging parents over lifestyle, health care issues, or minimizing estate taxes. It may be with your friends regarding shopping excursions or golf outings. Let’s take the financial focus off the media discourse and put it in its rightful place, where it can have positive and productive impact on what we care the most about. There are professionals to walk alongside you with the why, what and how of financial conversations – the courage is up to you!
Related: Four Tips to Weather a Recession