In association with Experian's United for Financial Health Programme
How to talk about money in any situation
When was the last time you had an open, honest conversation with someone about your financial situation? This week, it’s time to talk money.
by: Ellie Austin-Williams
8 Nov 2021
Managing money as a couple doesn’t need to be stressful. Photo by Starling Bank and Lensi Photography
In association with Experian's United for Financial Health Programme
When was the last time you had an open, honest conversation with someone about your financial situation? This Talk Money Week, it’s time to start bringing the topic to the table.
If you find the idea of talking about money uncomfortable, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 50 per cent of UK adults struggle to talk about their financial situation, according to the Money and Pension Service (Maps). It’s no surprise given that until recently, talking about money has regularly been portrayed as rude, even though the benefits of talking about money are increasingly well documented.
This Talk Money Week, we explore some of the most common questions on conversations about money. From tackling debt to improving your romantic life, talking about money can reap rewards for your mental and financial wellbeing.
How to talk money when… you’re dealing with debt
Debt can feel like a huge burden, and many people dealing with debt often feel shame and embarrassment about their finances, which can put up even more barriers to seeking support. Thousands of people across the UK have debt, yet the stigma surrounding financial difficulties means that many people keep it to themselves and carry the weight of the debt alone.
“Too many of us in the UK are afraid to open up about our financial issues, but for those who are struggling, that first conversation can be the most important step on their way to feeling better about their finances” says Sue Anderson, head of media at debt charity StepChange.
“That chat could be with a friend, family member, your GP, or even with a debt adviser through a free advice charity like StepChange. No matter who you choose though, you should never have to suffer through financial issues alone – one simple chat could be all it takes to start you on your path to being debt free.”
Opening up to someone about debt can help you to access the support that you need to tackle the debt head on. Whether it’s emotional support or practical help with debt management options and budgeting, the weight of debt can feel a lot more manageable when you have someone to talk to about your financial situation.
Talking about debt can be challenging, but remember that we all have power to reduce the stigma around debt by talking openly about the financial challenges we face.
How to talk money when…it comes to love
Whether you decide to share or split your finances as a couple, there’s no doubt that communicating openly and honestly about money is an essential ingredient for a long-lasting, happy relationship. With more than one in five couples citing financial issues as a major cause of relationship breakdown, having regular conversations about money with a partner really can make or break a relationship.
Callisto Adams, founder of relationship and dating advice platform HeTexted, says that finances are one of the few things in relationships that often get left undiscussed.
“Knowing where your partner is financially, and being able to support or be supported, understand or be understood, is one of the healthy signs in a romantic relationship,” said Adams.
“Being willing to get exposed to vulnerability with a partner is a sign of trust, and if that gets well taken care of, the trust and the bond will grow even stronger.”
When it comes to the timing of a conversation about money, there’s no hard and fast rule for this one. That being said, generally it’s a good idea to start talking about money with a partner before things turn serious. That might be when you’re thinking about a holiday together or when the time comes to purchase a joint present for a friend, but ideally some time before you’re moving in together or planning a wedding.
Remember that financial compatibility isn’t about having perfectly aligned views on every aspect of spending, saving and earning money. Each individual has their own approach to finances, which is determined by a whole range of factors, from our parents’ view of wealth to our school environment.
Money is a hugely emotional topic and talking about it for the first time can be tricky. Before you dive into the conversation head first, keep in mind the goal of the conversation. Rather than insisting it’s your way or the highway, approach the conversation with an open mind and look for ways to work together to tackle any issues that come up, not against each other.
Navigating money in a relationship is an ongoing journey and learning to navigate your differences, make combined financial decisions and communicate about money will impact your relationship for the better.
How to talk money when…you earn less than your friends
We share our highs and lows with our closest friends, but have you ever shared the details of your bank account or financial situation with your nearest and dearest? Handling conversations with friends where finances play a part can be hugely challenging, particularly as we often do all we can to avoid mentioning the huge elephant in the room: money.
Secrecy around money between friends can quietly lead to sticky financial situations, especially when friends have a big disparity in earnings. We instinctively tend to make plans based on what we can afford, and rarely do we know enough about the financial situation of others to suggest alternatives. Expecting our friends to read our secret signals about what we can and can’t afford is unrealistic and rarely works, so honesty really is the best policy.
If you find yourself overspending to keep up with social plans, ask yourself whether you’d knowingly let your friends do the same. Chances are, most of the time your friends will be happy to adjust their plans to accommodate your budget and include you. Be honest about the pressure on your wallet and try making alternative suggestions that suit your budget, rather than declining invitations repeatedly.
Once you bring the topic of money to the table, you’ll see that it becomes easier to talk about going forward and it can often lead to further helpful, constructive discussions about all things financial.
How to talk money…with your coworkers
Do you know whether your colleagues earn more or less than you? The spotlight on pay transparency has increased in recent years, and still there are endless views on whether or not colleagues should – or can – discuss pay and compensation with each other. Employers may well be relying on old habits (and a very British aversion to awkwardness) to keep pay discussions quiet, but there are some compelling reasons to open up to your colleagues about how much you take home.
Lots of companies are keen to avoid their employees discussing their pay and compensation, as it can bring to light any unequal treatment or questionable practices. Employers typically have more bargaining power than their staff who rely on their jobs to make ends meet. This enables employers to create a culture where pay decisions are highly secretive. Yet talking about pay can give you the knowledge you need to take control of your career.
Opening up conversations about pay with colleagues might feel awkward and there’s no knowing what you might discover, so be prepared for any outcome and subsequent emotions that come with it. Overcome the discomfort of the situation, though, and these conversations can provide you with the information you need to negotiate confidently in a pay review. Not only that, but you could improve pay transparency for the company as a whole.
If you are struggling with debt, you can contact StepChange Debt Charity online or call on 0800 138 1111. Be careful when using search engines to seek debt advice and to skip past the adverts (or better yet go directly to the website), as there are a number of imposter firms impersonating StepChange, National Debtline and other major debt advice charities.
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