Five (more) reasons we don’t talk about money
and how to overcome these blocks
This (5 to 10-minute read) is the second of two Insights for anyone who struggles to talk about (and deal with) personal money matters.
And, let’s be honest, that’s most of us from time to time!
Here, we’ll explore another five (of ten) reasons we might find it hard to talk about money, whether with close friends, family or a financial professional.
Could there be more than ten reasons?
There may be many more reasons why we don’t have productive conversations about money – and if you struggle with this, for these or other reasons, we’d love to hear from you.
We’ll happily (and anonymously) add your reasons to our lists as we revise them.
Of course, better financial education enables us to make better decisions about money. And we’ve known for 50 years (from the work of Psychologist Albert Bandura) that our interest and desire to engage with tricky tasks is boosted when we become more capable at them.
We plan to bring you at least another 25 substantial insights over the coming months to help you make sound decisions about money.
And if you’d like us to send those straight to your inbox, just sign up for our newsletter.
Now, let’s continue with our list, and explore reasons 6 to 10 for why we don’t talk about money.
Reason 6: We have an unhelpful attitude to money
Unhelpful attitudes (based on flawed beliefs) are extremely common, and they undermine sensible discussions on most topics – including money.
So, it’s worth exploring ‘money attitudes’, and it helps to start by understanding what’s meant by an ‘attitude’.
Psychologists say there are three components to an attitude and offer an ABC model to remember them:
- A is for the Affective component: our feelings affect our attitude – and vice versa.
- B is for the Behavioral component: our behaviour is affected by our attitude – and vice versa.
- C is for the Cognitive component: what we believe and know (about the ‘thing’ under discussion), affects our attitude – and vice versa!
The letters ABC are certainly easy to remember, but we doubt many people (even academics) will remember the words they stand for.
Nor are we convinced that this ABC model suggests a good order for changing attitudes where necessary.
If we have an attitude we need to change, it seldom helps to start by focusing on how we feel about the topic.
That can simply lead to justifying the thought.
It’s often best to start with ‘C’ (the Cognitive component) and question our beliefs… and the knowledge we think we have.
And it’s not hard to think of examples where some challenged and changed (flawed) beliefs could make the world a better place!
So, let’s keep the language simple.
An ‘attitude’ is just a set of beliefs and thoughts and the emotions and behaviours that typically result.
And the good news is…
we can change our attitudes
We acquire our attitudes from what we learn – at home, at work and in our local and online communities.
So, we can unlearn these attitudes, too – if we need to.
Each of us has our own unique mix of (positive, neutral or negative) attitudes towards most things.
For example, how do you think, feel and act towards (and talk about) the following:
- Your role and hours at work.
- Your boss or another colleague at work?
- The behaviour of loved ones at home!
- Government policy – on health, education, transport or policing, for example.
- The behaviour of those in different political or religious groups.
The list is endless, right?
What’s more, our attitudes vary between money questions, too.
So, perhaps you believe (or do not believe) that:
- It’s important to save for a rainy day.
- It’s important to insure your life and health against an unexpected disaster.
- There’s value in taking professional advice.
If, like us, you’re fascinated by the question of how we form our attitudes – sign up to our Newsletter to hear more about this.
We plan to share a proven life-story mapping exercise to help you discover how your unique life experiences have affected your attitudes to money.
And, of course, we’ll touch on how you might change any attitudes you need to.
Just be aware that it can be extremely challenging to change some of our attitudes, particularly those we learned in our formative years.
It was way back then, for better or worse, that many of our attitudes started to take shape – on the big questions: about work, money, health and relationships.
So, please be patient and kind to yourself if you’re striving to change some of your attitudes.
And remember, with regard to our life experiences:
- We seldom learn much from getting lucky with money.
- We don’t always learn good lessons when we’re unlucky!
So, it’s worth learning the essentials about money in a safe environment like this – rather than taking big risks on things you don’t understand.
Reason 7: We’re embarrassed to talk about money
Sharing our financial details with others can be like having guests come to our home for dinner.
We really don’t want them to see the mess that our children (or we!) normally make around the house.
So, we rush around to tidy things up before our guests arrive.
The problem, of course, is that we cannot quickly clear up a mess in our finances – before we meet with an adviser.
Indeed, trying to do so is potentially very risky and costly.
We just need to put our financial cards on the table. And try not to worry about what the adviser will think of them.
The truth is that very few people have even vaguely well-organised finances – until they find a good financial adviser and act on that advice.
If you had everything in order,
why would you need advice?
It can also help to know that even the rich and famous can make enormous mistakes with their money.
Like these (and they are just a few of the many) who, sadly, lost fortunes in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
- Steven Spielberg: Academy Award-winning director.
- Jeffrey Katzenberg: Co-founder of DreamWorks Pictures alongside Spielberg.
- Eric Roth: American screenwriter for “Forrest Gump” and “A Star Is Born”.
- Larry King: Emmy-winning American television and radio host.
- Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick: Golden Globe-winning actors and married couple
- Zsa Zsa Gabor: Former Miss Hungary (1936), starred in Moulin Rouge (1952).
- John Malkovich: American actor, director and producer.
Be aware also that, in the UK a few years back, there were hundreds of famous sportspeople, comedians and other stars who lost money in tax avoidance schemes.
Our point here is that you should not worry about the state of your finances.
What you need is someone competent in money matters to look over your situation and give you a financial health check.
And, like any health check, this is best done before it’s too late.
Reason 8: We don’t have control of the money in our family
If you have a partner, adult children or elderly parents (and you’re not yet doing so), you and they could benefit enormously from discussing some aspects of your financial plans.
We’ll offer you some ideas for day-to-day money management with your partner, if you need that, in another insight.
For now, just be clear that with longer-term financial planning, you’ll need to decide whether to:
- Undertake all your money planning together.
- Consider your personal situation and goals first, then come together to discuss your shared financial goals.
- Keep all the details of your financial situation and plans – to yourself.
There are no right or wrong answers here, although, for those in committed long-term relationships, it makes sense to tell each other how you’re thinking of planning your finances.
Also, be aware that intergenerational wealth planning can yield some remarkable tax savings.
Wealthy parents or grandparents often wish to pass wealth to children or grandchildren. And making those gifts during our lifetime (currently) offers much more than just tax savings.
If you’re the person making a gift, you get to enjoy seeing your loved ones benefit from your gifts, too.
To arrange these gifts without falling over income or capital tax tripwires, talk to an adviser with specialist knowledge in these areas.
And be aware this is not just about the money.
So, be ready to invest some time to explore what you (and any partner and wider family, if you want them involved) really want for the future.
Reason 9: We don’t think this is a problem for today
We only accept change when we’re faced with necessity.
And we only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon us.
This insight from Jean Monnet* surely resonates for most of us in our personal lives.
* French Economist and diplomat who led much of the re-planning of Europe after World War II.
Of course, some shocks to our finances are unavoidable and unpredictable. And when a breadwinner (or child carer) in a family is struck down by illness, accident or death, the financial consequences for the rest of the family can be dire.
Thankfully, because these are rare events, it costs very little to insure our life and health against the financial impact. Or, rather, the cost is low if we arrange these insurances while we have reasonably good health.
And given we can’t know when such a disaster might strike, it makes sense to set up these vital (life and health) insurances as soon as possible.
What’s more, in the UK, at least, you’ll probably save money on these insurances if you arrange them through a professional adviser.
That said, our more common money crises arise slowly over time. And, like the ‘boiling frog’, we seldom notice the change creeping up on us until it’s too late.
The boiling frog is a metaphor used by Charles Handy in his book, ‘The Age of Unreason’, to describe our inability to react to large but slow-moving changes in our environment.
The idea is that a frog placed in a pan of cold water, which is slowly heated, will not sense any danger. And the frog will allow itself to be cooked to death.
Apparently, the story is a myth, and a frog in such a situation would simply jump out. So, perhaps it’s only humans who have this problem!
It’s this status quo bias that gets us.
Making big changes to our finances requires analysis and decision-making, and that can be hard work.
The status quo feels like an easier option, and it is in the very short term.
We avoid the pain of the effort and any regret we might feel when our financial challenges are revealed!
For many years, research has shown that, when it comes to thinking about our finances, many of us would rather not!
But avoiding the subject clearly doesn’t help because more recent reports show that up to 90% of people lose sleep over money worries.
Our gradually occurring money crises (like those which affect our health and well-being) arise from how we choose to spend our time and money.
Yes, we can choose to eat, drink and be merry if we like.
While we have money in the bank (or credit on the card), we are free to shop, gamble, smoke, watch TV and order food in, if that takes our fancy.
And that might make us merry for a while, but we know that happiness won’t last if we do these things to excess.
A tipping point always arrives when we start losing the things we value most in life: Our health, our relationships and the savings we need for our life goals, like buying a house or building future funds for ourselves or our loved ones.
Suddenly, we realise that what we thought made us happy has little or no value at all.
It’s true that saving to build wealth over the long term is a challenge – precisely because it’s such a long-term game.
The emotional part of our brains (our ‘Chimp’*) is impatient and grabs the offers of short-term pleasure.
* The Chimp is from the model of the brain offered by Professor Steve Peters, Psychiatrist, acclaimed mind coach to Olympic champions, and author of Chimp Paradox.
It does demand a lot of patience to save and invest in our pension fund for 30 years or more. Or to build a fund to help a child through University (or take six months off to travel the world) in 15 years’ time.
But what choice do we have?
Leaving our longer-term savings to the last minute only guarantees one thing.
Our goals become impossible to achieve, as we see here.
Reason 10: We think financial planning is simple, common sense
The last reason (for now) that we’ll offer for why we don’t talk (to advisers) about money is that we assume we don’t need to.
And we don’t think we need to because we think financial planning is simple, common sense.
Of course, there’s just one problem with this belief: it’s wrong!
Financial planning is not common sense at all!
Unfortunately, that’s not what you’ll hear from the thousands of unqualified but self-proclaimed gurus out there.
This new breed of Finfluencer wants to convince you that they have the answers to your money worries.
You just have to like, follow and subscribe to their Social Media channel to find their regular ‘one-liner’ top tips.
What could be easier than that?
Of course, one-liner tips can’t compete with a proper, personal advice service.
But our #finfluenza friends are not offering you that – are they?
They just need tens of thousands of hits on their YouTube or TikTok channels to earn a nice income from advertising.
And yes, YOU (or, rather, your attention) is the product which they are selling to the advertisers.
Anyway, the truth is that managing all aspects of your money is seldom simple, and researchers in financial literacy are quite clear about that.
They point out how hard it is to manage our money – we need to:
- Keep our income above our expenditure.
- Juggle the repayments on a mortgage with those to pay down other debts charging higher interest.
- Cope with general increases in interest rates.
- Build funds in accessible savings accounts to cover emergencies.
- Save and invest for our medium and longer-term life goals.
Look at this map of the money challenges most of us face throughout life.
Thankfully, we don’t have to deal with them all at once!
So, here’s the truth.
Financial Planning is not common sense.
There’s no common-sense way to work out your key savings numbers. You need to know how to run the calculations using sensible assumptions.
And there’s s no common-senese way to design an efficient strategy for achieving your financial life goals. You need to know how to make good choices about the savings and investment boxes you hold and the funds you put inside those boxes.
So, there are a great many traps for the unwary – you might:
- Fail to set up those insurances.
- Fail to make a will, or set up your powers of attorney.
- Pay too much on your mortgage or other loans.
- Allow your wealth to be dragged down – by inflation or poor performing or excessively expensive funds.
As Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman regularly points out:
Common sense answers to complex questions (about money, work life and love!) are very often wrong.
Bottom lines and next steps
We believe that the common-sense trap is essential to understand. So, we’ve written a whole Insight on this for you to read here.
For now, let’s just think about this…
- How could there possibly be one common-sense solution to your unique set of personal financial challenges?
- How could one solution (summarised in a 20-second video on TikTok) take account of your unique financial circumstances, attitude to money (and risk) and your ambitions in life?
No, that’s just nonsense!
The only financial financial plan you need is one that’s tailored to your personal needs.
No video, book, podcast or article can give you that.
Because the author of those works knows nothing about you!
On the other hand, a good Financial Planner will get to know you.
They’ll listen to what you want for your future.
They’ll explain your financial challenges and the solution ideas – hopefully, in plain English.
And they will not pretend anything is simple – if it’s not.
They’ll simply work with you to design your personal financial plan.
And that’s what will help you achieve more of your unique (financial) life goals.
So, if that sounds interesting, talk to a good adviser.
Thanks for dropping in.
Notes for financial advisers, planners and coaches
This Insight is just one of a new 40-piece library of content I’m writing to make available to you (under lifetime licences) to use in your business.
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