Tuesday, October 11th, 2016
Getting people to talk about money isn't easy.
I recall a phone chat 8 years ago with my friend, Janet. After a few minutes of our usual dishy girl talk, we got on the topic of financial planning. I was reviewing my own plan at the time and mentioned how I put money aside into various savings and investments accounts on a monthly basis.
It's never too late to start saving
She was 56 and said she had no savings, investments or financial plan. Nor did she have much financial knowledge. “It's probably too late for me to start now, anyway," she said.
As a former financial illiterate who conquered my own financial ignorance and apathy, I knew there was hope for her. I explained how saving a small amount on a regular basis adds up over time through compounding, even if you start later in life. She liked the sound of that.
“Can you afford to set aside $200 a month?" I asked.
“Sure," she replied.
“Great," I said. “Let's meet for coffee and I'll walk you through the basics of financial planning."
A missed opportunity
Janet never followed through and I never pushed it. What happened? Did I make a mistake by not following up?
The situation got me thinking: Why are some people reluctant to talk to friends about money?
Money is closely tied to emotions and talking about it can evoke some pretty uncomfortable ones. It could be fear that they'll be judged for not having enough, or shame that they haven't saved, or maybe embarrassment that they don't know as much about money and investing as they think they should.
I suspect one key reason is they think they'll have to disclose every single detail of their personal financial situation. But that's not the case. You don't have to share anything you don't want to. The point of talking about money with friends is to learn things and become empowered in your own financial management.
Friends can be a source of inspiration, motivation and even a warning when they tell you stories of past experiences. They can steer you towards helpful resources: books to read, newsletters to subscribe to, blogs and websites to check out. A friend can also serve as a sounding board, or someone who simply listens without judgment.
When it comes to money, they can reassure you that it's never too late to start saving and investing — no matter what your age is.
As for me, the next time one of my friends expresses an interest in learning more about money, I won't jump in with an offer of a free financial basics course. I'll just mention that my money conversations with friends helped me develop the skills I felt I needed to control my own financial destiny and earn some peace of mind, and leave it at that. I want them to feel comfortable approaching me.
So next time a friend suggests talking about money, I'll consider it a financially empowering opportunity.