Why is it so hard to talk about money?


Over the course of our lives, there are many uncomfortable questions and conversations to be had.

Those dealing with money are perhaps the most persistent and difficult.

A recent well being study in New Zealand found that 24 per cent were only getting by and 13 per cent were struggling. This means one in three New Zealanders is either struggling or only just getting by.

And even though money is a leading cause of stress in relationships, Time magazine reports that globally 40 per cent of couples don't discuss how they will manage their money before getting married.

The repercussions of not talking about our finances can be severe, with negative consequences to our health, wealth and happiness.

We all frequently encounter individuals who accumulate crippling debt, miss opportunities to save, or are unaware of basic financial strategies that would improve their well-being — often because they were uncomfortable to ask for advice about money.

The research is clear that good things can come from being more open to discussing money.

Often, our friends and family are the most available resources and can help jump-start positive money decisions. And if you feel like the issue at hand is beyond that, a trusted financial adviser might be needed.

So how should you approach this sensitive subject? Below are strategies for engaging those closest to us about money and how they might best help.

Friends and family

A more open approach to having discussions about money can lead to better financial outcomes.

Simply asking friends and family about their personal finance strategies and experiences can also lead to valuable insights gained from what they've learned.

Further, it's possible to make friends and family more active participants in your day-to-day financial life. One way to do that is to make them hold you accountable for your behaviour.

When we make a commitment to a goal and feel accountable, it's easier to follow through.

Spouse or partner

Given that money can be a source of so much strife between couples, it's obvious that partners should make an effort to be more open about financial concerns and plans.

There is another argument in favour of openness: Joint financial decisions can make us more risk-averse and less prone to errors.

This was demonstrated by a study which compared the risk profile of financial decisions made by individuals versus couples. The study found that joint decision-making resulted in fewer financial risks.

What do I do next?

While many people intuitively understand that open conversations with friends, family, spouses and employees about finances are beneficial, taking that initiative is difficult.

The simple act of scheduling a specific time for a conversation can be a good first step.

Once you have a time on the calendar, it can be useful to prepare questions in advance.

Already having a few questions ready removes some of the anxiety and can keep the conversation on track. To help, we have prepared a short list of starter questions:

• What is the best piece of financial advice you've ever received? 
• What are your long-term financial goals? 
• How do you measure your financial success? 
• What is a question you have about money that you've always wanted to ask someone? 
• How would you deal with a large unexpected expense? Do you have money saved up or someone you could ask for help? 
• Are you currently saving money for retirement? Are you happy with how much you are saving? 
• Do you and your partner set a financial budget for your home? Do you have any good tips on how to find something that works?

When we increase transparency about money, we often find that we're not the only ones with questions and concerns.

After all, personal finance can be a complex world to navigate.

Opening up about the things we are comfortable sharing can help us gain allies that keep us on track to reach our goals.

• The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961.