Apparently, It’s Weird To Talk About Money
It is, I’ve learned.
It’s one of those taboo subjects that people get all weird and “offended” and bajiggity about.
“Never talk about religion, politics, or money.” What??
I don’t get it.
And we wonder why so many Americans do not feel confident about their finances…
I’m The Weird One For Not Thinking It’s Weird
I know a lot about both of my parents’ financial situations. Not down to the penny, but I’ve got a pretty good idea.
They both were very open books about money growing up and were very intentional about teaching financial responsibility to my brother and me. I talk a little bit about it, here.
I know what they own and what they don’t. I know how much money they make and what their retirement plans look like. I’m close with both of my parents and it’s all apart of our normal everyday conversations.
My stepdad has only been my stepdad for a few years but he’s pretty open with us about money, too. He works in the financial industry. I’ve talked to him a lot about his job and what he does and how it works, but also about personal finance, real estate, etc, both his and ours.
Chris and I both have a lot of respect for them and value their opinions about big life decisions. Yes, even as adults.
The same is true for Chris’ parents. We talk to them about stuff and ask their opinions all the time.
We’ve grown up to be responsible, productive members of society and as a result, our parents value our opinions about their big life stuff, as well.
I also get asked things like “how do I make my phone do this”, in the most stereotypical way possible.
So, we tend to talk about stuff, and I didn’t know it was weird.
How Much Money Do You Make?
My parents are a huge reason why I don’t think it’s weird to talk about money, but another, I think, is the nature of my career.
As a Naval Officer, you could google my paycheck and get a pretty close estimate. If you knew how many years of service I had and whether or not I got any “special” pay, you could find out exactly how much I made with a few minutes and an internet connection.
I knew how much money my boss, my Sailors, and my roommate made.
I married a Marine Pilot, and when we started dating I knew pretty much exactly what he made, too.
There was never any mystery or weirdness about it. It was very cut and dry.
In the little bit of time I spent in the corporate world between leaving active duty and having Little Lyon Cub, I learned that it is in fact VERY weird to talk about money with your colleagues, and often against the HR rules.
Why Should We Talk About Money?
So, I said I’ve got a nice picture of both of my parents’ financial lives. Why is it any of my business? Why should I care?
Well, for one, I definitely learned most of what I know about money from them. I’ve fine-tuned things and learned “more advanced concepts”, if you want to call it that, myself as a curious money-nerd adult.
But they built the foundation I stand on today.
They did that by example and sharing the smart stuff and the not so smart stuff they’ve done. Then and now.
If they didn’t talk about money so openly and teach me about it both intentionally and unintentionally, I’d probably be a much bigger trainwreck than I currently am.
That’s the big kahuna here. We can’t hope to improve financial literacy in this country if no one is willing to talk about it.
If you weren’t so great at something and needed/wanted to get better at it, would you keep doing the same thing over and over and slowly go insane?
Or would you do some research and talk to some people to learn a better way?
No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. If you can learn from the wins and mistakes of others, you can make progress better and faster yourself.
That doesn’t have to be close family or friends.
I hope that’s why you’re reading this right now. To learn from the smart stuff and the really freaking stupid stuff we’ve done, and will continue to do, to capitalize on the good and avoid the bad.
Back to parents and close family… The other awkward piece of this is: It’s also nice to have an idea of what to do and where to start should one of them pass or become incapacitated unexpectedly.
That’s a whole different ball of wax. Coincidentally, you can read about said ball here.
On that same note, it’s nice to have a good idea of whether or not they could financially survive a major, medical or otherwise, unforeseen expense.
If something crazy happened, would the people we love and would absolutely help if necessary, be financially ok, or would we have to step in? If the latter becomes true it now has a very direct impact on our immediate family and finances that we need to plan for.
I know it’s not super fun to talk about, but it is SUPER important.
Your Blind Spot
The last few reasons apply specifically to people you’re very close to. Probably not your colleagues and acquaintances. Probably not going to be an applicable point on a regular basis.
Important, yes, but not an every other day situation.
The first reason is the main point here. You don’t have to get down into nitty-gritty personal money numbers with everyone you meet.
However, it is quite important that money is a topic that gets talked about openly.
You know what you know. For example, you know how to drive a car or ride a bike.
You know what you don’t know. Like how to fly a plane (unless you know how to fly a plane, then insert another example here).
You don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t know something even exists, then you don’t know that you don’t know about it.
It’s your blind spot.
You can’t identify your blind spot yourself, because if you could, it wouldn’t be your blind spot. Instead of it being something you don’t know you don’t know, it would be something you do know that you don’t know.
Are you following me here?
We need to talk about money so things in your blind spot are brought to your attention.
This is true of so much more than just money, but I’m trying to stay on topic.
Let’s Talk About It And Not Make It Weird
You can definitely have important, meaningful conversations about money and finances and financial health without getting into specific numbers.
Chris’ parents are an excellent example of that.
Chris and I have very similar money beliefs, philosophies, and tendencies. After getting to know his parents well, it became apparent how that happened.
He has specific memories of his dad teaching him, his brother, and his sister about how different brands of the same food in the grocery store have different prices. My father in law showed his kids how to do price comparisons with the labels, and so many other things.
His dad retired a few years ago, and his mom is retiring this summer. We know they’re very comfortable and set themselves up well over the past 40 years. We know it’s very unlikely that we’d have to help support them financially later in their lives.
We know what property they own, and because I’m a stickler for awkward, but important, conversations I forced them to have the “who do we call if you die” talk, so now we know that answer too.
(The “we” here is more Chris, his parents, and siblings, less me personally, but we’re all family now, and you hopefully get what I’m saying…)
Anyway… my point is while we know the important to us stuff, we have no idea what their actual income or net worth is.
Quite frankly, it’s none of our business.
That’s totally up to Chris’ parents if they want to share that kind of detail with their kids, or anyone else.
They successfully taught their kids basic financial principles and fiscal responsibility, just like my parents. They did it differently in that they didn’t talk about the exact numbers in their household.
It Can Be Done
I say all of this to say, it can be done.
I’ve learned that my family is in fact in the minority when it comes to how we talk about money.
The good news is, if you’re one of the many who think I’m super weird, you can still have meaningful productive conversations about money and finance and holy sh*t the market and how do I save for retirement and should I buy a new or used car and all. the. other. things. without it being super weird and awkward, since we live in a world where it is super weird and awkward.
I know people who are happily married to each other and only one of them really knows their financial situation. Or each one knows their own money stuff, but the other one really doesn’t.
This stresses me out for them, but it’s one hundred percent NONE of my business.
My challenge for you today is if you aren’t sure what’s going on behind the curtain of your own money life, or of someone you’re very close to, that could potentially have an impact on you, ask the question.
If you want to learn more about a topic or figure out what your blind spot is, ask the question.
If you want to retire someday, ask the question.