Why We Don’t Talk About Money

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Even with an increase in the cost of living, for some, it can be hard to talk about money.

As a society, we generally feel its rude to ask somebody how much they earn or what their house is worth and, as individuals, we can feel embarrassed to admit when we are struggling.

The 6-10 November 2023 is Talk Money Week, an opportunity to encourage people to open up about their finances – from pocket money to pensions – and continue these conversations year-round.

Here we look at why the ability to have these conversations with loved ones is so important and how seeking out the right sources of advice is crucial.

THE BARRIERS

Research shows that the British are particularly poor at having open conversations about money, followed closely by the Japanese; this has been attributed to the fact that our societies are both very hierarchal and class driven, we are small islands with heavy/dense populations and, historically, you could tell people’s wealth by how much land they had.

Furthermore, our class system has created an alienation between different societies –some fear by talking about their money they will be perceived to be ‘bragging’, whereas others think that by not talking about it people will think they are a failure even if they do have money. People often spend money to look the part and be accepted, seeking instant societal gratification rather than focusing on what really matters to them.

According to Paul Young, Head of Business Consultancy at Quilter, it is thought that there are generally 3 core reasons why we don’t want to talk about money.

  • We are pre-wired to be possessive of the things we own
  • Family culture: the way we are brought up by our families to approach money
  • Our own experiences of wealth (or lack of) that have formed the way we behave, during both childhood to adulthood

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

In a more modern context, our aversion to talking about money can affect the financial education of our children, our future decisions and passing on wealth.

Money has become such a big component of what makes life possible, or the things that we tie importance to in life. If we look at the younger demographic these days, most are struggling to get on the property ladder. But how can we expect them to logically approach something they are struggling with and be able to make the right decisions in their efforts to acquire it if they can’t talk to someone about it?

The impact of not having these conversations can be inwardly, affecting close family relationships and how we feel about ourselves and our perceptions of what constitutes success. As a society, we have a habit, mostly unconsciously, of judging others wealth based on what we see they have spent money on, for example cars, house, clothing. What we don’t see is where people have saved their money, for example savings or what their pension pot value is. Our perception of success is mostly based on material things that people show they have rather than what their actual financial situation is.

Another issue is that most people confuse goals with purpose – many feel that without a goal they are failing in life, but it should be more about purpose, for example, providing for your family, making sure your family feel loved and wanted. When you have purpose, quite often money is a byproduct and is secondary to the purpose.

Nathan Mead-Wellings, Director at Finura, comments: “For us, this is what financial planning is about; delivering a Client’s purpose and offering reassurance during market volatility. Unless we are having these conversations, it becomes harder for people to comprehend the impact of their actions and ultimately make the right decisions.”

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE?

When it comes to social media, research by Forbes Advisor shows that 79% of members of the millennial and Gen Z generations have gotten financial advice from social media and, on the plus side, it has helped to open up conversations. However, many parents feel that their own inter-family influence has been diminished and is being outweighed by their children’s peers and those online. The key for parents in this situation is to try and guide their children to listen to the right channels and influencers if they won’t always listen to them.

Alongside parents, schools also have a responsibility to educate children. Do they understand about credit card rates, compound affects? Do they know what debt is and how it can take a mental health toll? What are the consequences of not being financially responsible? We need to teach children to budget from a young age and make money last – thinking long term and not living in the moment.

People think money is scary, but it doesn’t need to be; we just need to have courage to approach the uncomfortable.

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Sources: https://www.quilter.com/news-and-views/all-articles/episode-7-why-dont-we-talk-about-money/ (April 2023 )
https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/financial-advisor/adults-financial-advice-social-media/
(March 2023)
https://www.evolutionmoney.co.uk/news/why-do-brits-avoid-talking-about-money
(May 2022)
Written 3rd October 2023

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