Politics, religion and sex are generally considered delicate subjects but we’d still rather talk about those than our personal finances.
In fact, 42 per cent of Aussies avoid discussing money altogether, a recent study from finder.com.au found.
Shame, embarrassment, a desire to avoid conflict and even cultural factors can make money conversations uncomfortable, but that’s no reason not to.
“The ability to talk about money is an important foundational skill to support your financial wellbeing,” the Commonwealth Bank said in its newly released Women’s Financial Wellbeing Guide.
Noting that women retire with less superannuation, are less likely to invest outside of superannuation and generally earn less, CommBank said the ability to discuss money can help women negotiate for better deals, find information and raise concerns and avoid conflicts in relationships.
Fair enough – it’s still awkward, though
“While different couples may choose to manage their money differently, healthy money relationships have three things in common,” the guide said.
These are sharing decisions and responsibilities, transparency around the couple’s financial situation and both partners having a voice when it comes to goals and needs.
“Although a healthy money relationship will look different from couple to couple, the absence of these three things can lead to problems and even financial abuse.”
With that in mind, the bank gave seven tips to help couples have good money conversations.
Before the conversation
1. Know yourself
The first step is understanding your own financial values and needs, what you need to feel comfortable and what you’re unwilling to compromise on.
2. Be proactive
Don’t wait for an issue to come up before you talk about money, make time for it. If yoy only discuss money when there is a problem, it’s only natural that emotions will escalate quickly.
Couples should schedule a conversation for a time when they won’t be interrupted.
3. Pick one topic
By agreeing on a single topic, you can avoid having a conversation that jumps between too many issues.
4. Practise, plan and prepare
Preparation can help settle those pre-conversation jitters as can having a practise conversation with a friend. It also doesn’t hurt to write down a list of questions and talking points to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
During the conversation
5. Think about your past experiences with money and your current values
Both partners should discuss their memories of how money was managed around them as they were growing up and how this has affected their emotions and values when it comes to money.
“Discuss what money means to each of you and how you prefer to manage money. What are your long-term goals? Are you more of a spender or a saver?”
6. Agree on some conversation ground-rules
This means agreeing to take turn speaking and listening, avoiding interrupting and communication with respect.
7. Manage your emotions
Talking about money can bring up defensive feelings, along with shame, nervousness and anger.
“When talking with both loved ones and businesses, it can be useful to describe your emotions using “I feel” statements.”
It could be an awkward conversation, but if you discuss money frequently the conversations will become less rigid, women’s information resource, WIRE added.
“This kind of conversation will be hard at first and may not always achieve the result you hope for. That’s OK, the point is to start talking, whatever that looks like to you. Understanding each other’s point of view—so that you can work together—is what matters,” WIRE’s Women Talk Money experts said.
Who’s best at discussing money?
Younger Aussies (18-34) are the most comfortable talking money, with one in three regularly discussing finances, the finder.com.au study revealed.
Those aged 55-74 are the least comfortable generation, with 56 per cent never discussing it.
“Many in that generation were raised to believe that talking about money is rude or impolite and those are hard attitudes to shake,” finder.com.au money expert, Bessie Hassan said.
However, across all age groups, only 18 per cent regularly discuss personal finances.
“Considering there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from hearing about other people’s financial experiences, that’s a lot of missed opportunities,” Hassan said.
“We all need to be careful about what information we share – obviously keep specifics like account numbers or passwords private. But sharing ideas on how to save money or managing finances can make a big difference in people’s lives.”