Why you should talk about money
Like many of us, I grew up not discussing money. Most of my understanding of what money meant in our family came from overheard arguments between my parents… and a general sense that hung over our household that money was something to be worried about and generally avoided (not great for a kid’s financial education).
A few years into my first “real job,” I managed to sock away about $20,000 (thanks mom and dad for the rent-free living!). I did what I thought was the responsible thing—went to the bank, told them to invest half of it, and spent the other half on a year of backpacking around the world.
The backpacking money? Money well spent. What I regret is the invested $10,000.
The bank manager made me complete a risk tolerance quiz. Not understanding anything about compound interest, investment portfolios or the stock market I of course answered that I wasn’t willing to lose any of my money, duh, and my ten grand proceeded to sit in a fixed income mutual fund for the next ten years making literally zero percent after management fees.
Now that I understand my risk tolerance, I know I’m a conservative investor, but there’s no need to put a 22-year-old’s retirement savings in fixed income. I didn’t add to the account, didn’t pay attention to it, and just let it sit there, doing absolutely nothing for ten years.
The school system, the bank, and my parents had all failed to provide me with even a rudimentary understanding of basic personal finance. When I eventually took it upon myself to learn about managing my finances, I quickly changed my setup.
Here are three things I wish I’d known:
- Money does not have to be a taboo. Why is it that I’m more comfortable asking someone minute details about their skin care routine than about their basic money management? From where I’m sitting, it just makes everyone feel worse.
- The banks aren’t doing it for you. Your standard bank employee makes money by the services they sign you up for, NOT by how much money they save or make you.
- It’s not that hard. Sure, managing your own detailed stock portfolio isn’t for everyone (it’s certainly not for me). But a little research will make you infinitely more comfortable handling your own finances and deciding how to invest.
Finding Lady Investors gave me the social support system I needed to start de-stigmatizing “money talk” in my own life. Now I’m totally fine with asking people what they do with their money, how much they save, and what their goals are.
What I’ve found is that once you start the conversation, everyone seems to appreciate having it. Some people have more of a handle on their money than others—but most people share the feeling of not really knowing whether they’ve made the right choices.
My suggestion? Just start talking—about your fears, your plans and the gaps in your knowledge. It won’t hurt (I promise) and I’m willing to bet you and your friends will be glad you did.