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How To Jump Start A Great Money Talk

October 9, 2013

Just  the thought of talking about money with the people you love is enough to make your head spin.

storytelling-picThe mere idea of addressing your mounting debt or shrinking bank account can bring on a cold sweat.  Remember that most people feel this way.  The key to any great conversation is to avoid judgement, contain your emotions and really listen to what the other person is saying.  Respect their point of view even if it’s different from your own.

Your ability to talk about and manage money is one of the best predictors of a solid marriage.  And, whether you realize it or not, your kids learn a lot about money from you.  Even if it’s a subject that is never discussed in your household!

Here are a few tips to get you started on the path to productive “money talks”.  And, like your favourite sport, the more you practice, the easier it will get.

1)  Tell Stories

Many of our attitudes and behaviours around money were learned as a child.  Often, people aren’t aware of how different their experiences were growing up.  Tell stories- they are enlightening and entertaining.  Sharing your own story first is a great way to get your spouse to open up too.  You might  have a good laugh when you discover the impact today!

When I was growing up, my own parents were incredibly thrifty.  Today, I still struggle with spending money on “fun stuff”.  I remember being totally embarassed at Christmas each year when my mother would  unwrap her gifts carefully and diligently fold/save the paper for next year!  This was many years before environmental awareness became popular and my friends thought she was crazy!  To this day, I catch myself being reluctant to throw things away (i.e. high school textbooks) that someday might be handy!

Have some fun replaying your background, family behaviour and what you learned about money as a kid.  It’s a lot easier to appreciate your differences when you understand where they came from.

2)  Introduce the need/desire

It may feel uncomfortable or awkward the first few times you initiate a money talk but DO IT ANYWAYS!   Be calm, positive, non-judgemental and choose your language carefully.  Below are two examples of tough subjects that married couples might procrastinate on and possible conversation starters.

Scenario #1-  How much should we save for retirement if we’re not sure when to retire or how we’ll keep busy?

Conversation Starter-  “After reading an article about retirement planning, it got me thinking about our own dreams for the future.  We’ve never really talked about them before.  What are your thoughts?”

Result-  Working through options with your spouse will clarify what is doable and where you need to adjust today to make your dreams happen.

Scenario #2-  Our debts are making me anxious and keeping me awake at night

Conversation Starter-  “I really need to stop worrying about our debt.  What can we do to accelerate the payments and still have some fun today?”

Result- Confiding in your spouse might feel good and help you both create a more aggressive repayment plan.

3)  Create the right environment for success

If you’ve had a bad night sleep and your kids are screaming in the background, its not the right time to talk about money.  But, don’t give up on it being a priority.  Put it in your schedule for another time (soon).  Better yet, make it a regular event (like date night) to help you stay on track.

4)  Seize opportunties when they arise

You’ve just finished watching a funny episode of Modern Family where Gloria and Jay have been disagreeing about money.  Use this opportunity to lighten the mood and jump start a talk about your own money challenges.

When my daughter was a pre-teen, we watched many episodes of “The Shopping Bags” together.  I remember having great debates on whether higher priced products outperform their lower priced equivalents.  Now, as a young adult, I see this positive influence on her own shopping behaviour.

Do you like Dragon’s Den?  It’s another chance for a family chat about money and investing.  My husband, kids and I love challenging each other’s ideas about what makes a great investment.

5)  Ask a great question and keep it positive 

Examples…

i)  “I’ve been thinking about some new ways to save money so that we can afford our trip to Florida next year.  What are your thoughts?”

ii)  “Before we decide to put Jamie in private school, let’s talk about how we can adjust our other priorities.”

iii)  “I know you’ve got your heart set on the new flat screen TV.  What can we do differently to be able to afford it sooner?”

6)  Understand Each Other’s Expectations

Are your life/money goals similar or different to your spouse’s?  How can you create a plan to satisfy both of you?  What compromises must you make?

These are just a few ideas to kick off  your own money conversations.  I’m sure you have many more.  Would love to hear about them!

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