Make Money Talk Normal
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We sat at the kitchen table pouring over the numbers. The income. The debt. The little bit of savings. It was uncomfortable. Frustrating. There needed to be a plan, but we only saw the downward spiral of shame we were both spinning into. Clenched jaws replaced eye contact. The wall between us was growing higher.
Then, we breathed.
We both had to decide if we would push through or give up. And believe me when I say, the temptation to give up was strong.
But, we fought, not with each other, but for each other, for our future.
That’s the moment we began to have victory in our finances. The debt was still there. The income was still the same. The fear and frustration still threatened to bubble up again, but we had a pivotal moment in that kitchen. We decided to believe that there was a better way. We ended the cycle of shame and chose to believe our finances could and would improve.
Does this scene sound familiar? Or, have you not even allowed yourself to sit at the kitchen table and face the numbers?
You’re not alone.
Finances in America have always been a very private, pride-filled matter. It’s not surprising that 68% of people would rather talk about their weight than talk about what’s in their savings account (Money Matters Report).
But, talking about money, debt, savings, retirement, etc. are necessary, especially in a relationship. Make no mistake, this means talking about dreams too. More travel? A home of your own? A new car? Paying down debt allows you to free up cash flow for what you really want.
Want a healthy marriage? Talk just as much about your dreams as you do about the reality of your finances. 94% of healthy marriages discuss their money dreams together, according to a Dave Ramsey study.
Even if you don’t have the cash for that 2 week vacation to the mountains, it’s still fun to dream about it together. It also gives you a little inspiration for what you’re working so hard towards.
But, even if you’re talking about money, do you know enough to keep moving forward? In our own survey we found 27% of respondents wished someone had explained money management to them when they were younger; 39% said they understand enough to get by, but wished some money topics weren’t so complicated.
The combination of being afraid to talk about money and not having a good financial management foundation leaves many of us in a tough spot.
What do you do then?
Break the cycle.
Make money talk normal.
It’s hard. There will be arguments. Values will clash. Your differing beliefs about money will become more glaringly obvious. But, there will also be progress. You will see growth and change and a closeness that wasn’t present before.
How? Because you’re communicating about the one topic you’ve always avoided before.
It’s hard to know where to start. Of course, we recommend you sit down and work together on a budget (Here’s a Quick Guide on Taking Back Control Of Your Money). We also encourage you to just talk about what money means to your family.
Tonight, set aside some time while you eat dinner or wash the dishes to talk through some of these questions. It’s not about having the “right” answer or the same answer, it’s about opening up the conversation about money, slowly transforming it into a regular, comfortable topic to discuss. Here are some questions to get you started:
What have I spent money on in the last month that you considered a splurge?
What do you want to save our extra income for? Travel? New house? Growing our family? New car? Education? Technology?
On a scale of 1-10, how well do you think we manage money as a family?
What’s one small thing we can do this next month to help us save a little extra?
If we had an extra $1,000 what’s something you would like to do?
What keeps you from not spending money when you see something you really want?
What’s harder for you: To not spend money on a want? Or to spend money on something you want, knowing it’s coming out of our savings?
So, will you take the challenge? If you do, we encourage you to push through the awkward. Push through your differences and make the choice to embrace them.
Remember, as a member of a credit union, you’re banking where you’re in charge. We work to empower our members to live financially healthy lives and as simple as it may seem, talking about money is the first step.