Written exclusively for It's Over Easy by Carrie Hausner Casden
Most of us are taught from an early age that there are three subjects you don’t discuss in public: politics, religion and money. Of course, behind closed doors, families talk about politics and their religious beliefs, but many families will simply not discuss money, even with their children. In this article, I'll provide some background on why different people feel shame when they speak about finances, and I will also offer some solutions that can help make "money talk" conversations about easier for everyone to have.
Families Model Fear or Freedom Over Money
Studies show that our money patterns are often established by the time we are 10 years old. These patterns are often based on the models we see in our family of origin at home where we grow up. For families who aren't having monthly conversations about money, or worse having zero dialog about finances, the children get off on the wrong foot, financially speaking.
Are Your Children Prepared?
Many of us would like to believe that if parents don’t teach kids about money, then surely the schools will impart the skills our children need, right? Wrong! I am sad to report that most schools still devote an entire year to subjects like calculous and trigonometry, subjects few adults ultimately use. Schools spend very little time teaching about touchy money topics like compounding interest, budgeting, how to balance a checkbook, what it means to have credit, and other basic money management tools – you know, the stuff we deal with for the rest of our lives.
When our kids go to college, they are expected to be independent, and managing their finances is a big part of that. They need to be better prepared! To make matters worse, for kids who grow up in a house where the subject of money is taboo, they often become adults who are afraid to have these conversations with anyone, even their best friends. The combination of ignorance, denial, poor modeling, and lack of practice leads to bad choices, embarrassment and shame.
It's Time To Talk About Money
As young adults try to figure out how to navigate financial waters, and maybe make some mistakes (as all young people do), the embarrassment and shame increases and they are often compounded by secrecy and denial. We need to change the dialogue, especially with our close friends so that we can help each other grow and learn from these mistakes. We need to be more forgiving and kinder to ourselves and realize we were expected to do something we never learned how to do.
If we are able to talk about sex, dating, body image, religion, and politics with our close friends, why are we still so uncomfortable talking about money and issues around money? We all think about it, worry about it, interact with it and make choices based on it. We know that money is fluid: we have times in our lives when it is abundant and perhaps times when it is sparse but, for better or for worse, money circumstances frequently change.
Help From a Friend
Most of us have that one friend who somehow has the information, even at a young age, so why not pick their brain? If you are the one with the knowledge, why not share it with your friends? As we try to live a more authentic life, we need to have authentic friendships, exempt from judgement, and blame. We need to surround ourselves with people who lift us up when we are down, share their wisdom, are honest about their mistakes, and give us tips that could help our future.
If you are from a family that had trouble with money management and you have a friend who comes from a family that actually taught these life skills, go ahead and tap into that resource! What are friends for? Perhaps a group of friends could share their individual financial literacy, benefitting the entire group.
We need friends to fill in where we lack information and skills. I am the first to admit I am extremely limited when it comes to interior design. I just don’t have a good sense of what goes together, scale of items, and how to finish the look. I always ask a good friend to offer an opinion if they have more knowledge in this area. I am very open about my limits, lack of training in this area, and insecurities about my decisions. I wouldn’t feel ashamed saying, “This is not what I know or am comfortable with.”
Finance, Marriage & Divorce
For those who feel that way about money issues, it’s time to admit you need guidance! If I worried that the friend in question might judge me or make me feel bad… well then, they weren’t really the kind of friend I need at this point in my life.
Now let’s explore what happens to this financial conversation when we get married. For those who never learned these skills when they were single, and even for those who may have had these skills but then decided to abdicate their knowledge once they were married, they need to understand they are placing themselves in a vulnerable position. I never wish for anyone to get a divorce, but 50% of marriages end in divorce. If someone said there was a 50% chance of crashing your car, I bet you would want to fully understand how the seatbelt and safety features work.
If You Need Help, Ask
We need to change the conversations so we can talk more openly to our friends when we have concerns or questions. We don’t need to pry into someone’s bank balance, but by asking general questions, we can gain a better understanding of what is going right and what is going wrong. A true friend will not only know when they have useful information, but they will know when the needs are beyond their reach, meaning it’s time to seek professional financial advice.
No one is perfect, no relationship is perfect, and that usually refers to the emotional and financial relationships we have. We all know this to be true, yet we feel horrible when we hit what I like to call a “bad chapter” in our life story. Never is there a more important time to rely on those we hold close. I am not saying that we need to lend money to our friends when they overspend or co-sign on their leases because their credit is bad. Instead we need to “teach them how to fish” rather than just “give them a fish.” It is the education and support that is critical and helpful.
Perhaps if I expressed that I knew nothing about the stock market and investing, my friend might say, “Neither do I. Why don’t we take a class and learn together?” That is how we need to start helping each other become more financially literate. We have to stop beating ourselves up for past choices. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from clients, “I am so embarrassed and ashamed to tell you that I have no idea how much we spend, who we pay for the mortgage or car payments, how much money we have in savings, or how much debt we have. I blindly trusted my partner to take care of everything.” I always say, “Trust but verify and stay informed, even if you do this only once or twice a year.”
Everyone knows the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” but it also takes a village to help us reach our full human potential and we need to rely on our close friends to help us increase our financial competency.
About the Author
Carrie Hausner Casden is a business manager and certified money & financial coach at Summit Financial Management in Beverly Hills. She coaches clients across the United States toward financial wellness and to make smart fiscal decisions. You can reach her at email@example.com