We’re at that point in the dinner party when we’ve moved from the dining room into the living room. Everyone’s on their third glass of wine. Shoes are off. I’ve given up trying to make my hair look decent. It’s the messy top knot part of the evening, ya know?
I’m admiring my friends’ new house and expressing envy over the woodwork. “It’s crazy to think we own a house now!” the husband laughs.
“Well, actually, your parents own 20% of this house,” the wife says good-naturedly. “And the bank owns the other 80%.”
We all laugh a little awkwardly and the conversation moves on because OH GOD WE ALMOST TALKED ABOUT MONEY. But I want to stand up and cheer.
I want to hug my friends and high five them and thank them. In the space of two sentences that wife did more for her dinner party guests than she could ever realize.
In two sentences, my friend essentially said: “It’s okay if you haven’t saved up the $50,000 necessary to put a down payment on a house in Minneapolis. You’re not doing anything wrong if – between school loans, 401ks, and health insurance premiums – you haven’t been able to sock away that much money. You’re not failures. You’re not doing it wrong.”
Honestly, talking about money is a gift to everyone around you. Click To Tweet
Why you should talk about money (even if it makes you uncomfortable)
1. You’re helping to normalize an incredibly important topic people are afraid of
People have better sex lives when they talk about what they want and need. Children are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when they’ve talked about these topics with their parents. And – you can see where I’m going with this – we all benefit from removing the money talk taboo.
Everything is socially contagious! If you mention, oh so casually, that you finally paid off your school debt, you’re making it easier for your friend to ask how you did it.
If you share that the bank turned down your loan application, your sister can tell you which bank approved her loan.
If you admit to your BFF that you can’t stop buying shit you don’t need, she can either a) tell you you’re not alone b) help you create a plan to rein it in.
The more you talk about it, the easier it gets for you and for everyone around you.
2. You’re making it easier for people to get paid what they’re worth
There’s a reason companies don’t want employees talking about their salaries: THEY DON’T PAY EQUALLY QUALIFIED EMPLOYEES THE SAME AMOUNT. I’m sure you’re aware of the gender pay gap. There are also race-related pay gaps and introvert/extrovert pay gaps.
And we won’t know about these pay gaps unless we know how much people earn. Here’s a great article on how to have that conversation.
If you’re self-employed it’s just as important to talk about money with professional peers. How much should you charge solopreneur clients? What about corporate clients? Are your friends charging by hour or by project? Do they do spec work? Private Facebook groups are a great place to have these conversations or set up a slack channel with some of your online BFFs.
3. You might be showing people a new way to do things/think about things/pay for things
I travel. A lot. And you know how I do it? Credit card points, Airbnb affiliate credits, house swaps, house sitting, and rental relocations. (And obviously paying for it the good old fashioned way because travel makes me happy so I prioritize it.)
But if I didn’t tell you this, you probably wouldn’t even know rental relocations were a thing! Did you know about per diem tax deductions for business travel? Did you know you can use your HSA to pay for 30+ SPF? Did you know you can use the IFTTT app to scoop the best things on Craigslist before anyone else? Have you ever thought about how much you’d pay for something before you looked at the price tag?
See? I bet you didn’t know all of those! And if I hadn’t worked up the gumption to talk about money, you’d still be in the dark!
4. You’re helping people feel less isolated and/or failure-y
When I told my Money & Happy Facebook group “I’m an under-buyer. Like, I considered it a personal victory when I bought sandals that cost $90,” a surprising number of people raised their hands and said “Me, too!” (P.S. Here’s how to get better at spending money on yourself.)
And the same thing will happen to you if you mention that you shop when you’re sad. Or that you feel guilty for not having school debt when all your friends do. Or that you’re paying off a huge medical bill.
No matter where you are in your financial journey, you’re not alone. Click To Tweet But you won’t know that unless you tell us where you are.
Now, I know the thought of having all these money conversations probably makes you cringe. I know you’d probably rather tell the internet how much you weigh than how much you earn or how much your car cost. I also know you’re curious how your friend can afford to drive a BMW on a social worker salary.
As with most vulnerable conversations, it’s best to start by sharing your stories. Obviously, you don’t want to walk up to a new friend’s car and scream “Do you have a sugar daddy? How in God’s green earth can you afford this?!!!”
You can, however, tell people how you saved up for 11 months of international travel while earning $16 an hour. You can tell people that your car is a salvage you bought with a personal check. Tell people everything in your living room – no matter how cute – is from Craigslist or Goodwill. Tell people you were sweating when you sent the email asking for more money. <- all real things from my life.
It’s also important to know that people might get a little weird when you tell them your super cute sofa cost $90. They might feel ridiculous for having spent $700 on a sofa. They might feel envious of your Craigslist prowess.
They might just be struggling to overcome hardwired cultural beliefs that talking about money is tacky and crass. It’s not. Keep doing it. It’s a gift to everyone around you.
I want to hear from you! Tell us your financial secrets! Whatever they are, you’re not the only one who has them. Anonymous comments welcome!
P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!
P.P.S. Yes, I’m aware that you can buy a house without a 20% down payment. I’m also aware that there are lots of cities where one should be so lucky to find a 3-bedroom bungalow for “only” $250,000. I don’t live in those cities and this is not the real estate Olympics 😉