Money Manners: How to Talk About Money Without Being Awkward

By Jackie Lam
November 27, 2017

Truth: Talking about money can be awkward. In fact, we’d much rather shoot the hay over politics and sex than discuss how much money we make. But, here’s the thing: we should talk about money – just as freely as anything else.

Indeed, it’s important to talk about money with your family and friends. Why? How else can you get to the root of your money woes and collectively solve them? To take out the A-W-K-W-A-R-D out of money talks, we exploring here are some money manners on general dos and don’ts to go by for talking about money:

Don’t: Pry

Nobody likes a nosy person. And, there are many instances where it’s better to mind your own money matters. For instance, asking a first date questions about his personal taxes or outright asking an acquaintance for a loan may not be the best idea. A good money manner to live by is remembering that you just never know someone’s situation and it’s better to stay away from prickly, sensitive topics with folks you don’t know well.

Do: Be the First to Share

Among my social circle, I’m typically the first person to talk about anything money-related, from deals I’ve snagged to how much money I’m making. By being transparent, it usually puts others at ease to do the same. Now, there’s definitely a fine line between over-sharing and being open. You don’t want to come off like someone who is recruiting unwilling participants to your pity party. If I don’t know someone well, one of the best money manners to employ I’ll steer away from heavier topics and stick to light-hearted conversation that can potentially lead to deeper dives and meaningful talks about moola.

Don’t: Be Judgy

Leave judgments at the door. As someone who is obsessed with frugality and saving money, I have a tendency to shake my head when I’m around spendthrifts. As you can imagine, this doesn’t win me many friends.

No matter what your money situation is, Instead of being judgy, come from a place of understanding and empathy. You just never know someone’s entire life story, or what they’re struggling with.

Do: Have a “Team Approach”

As a good friend of mine says, “A shared joy grows twice in size. A shared pain gets cut in half.” If you get to a place where someone is confiding in you with their money issues, help her drum up ideas on how to tackle the problem. Anytime you can help a family member or friend sort out money issues is a shared win.

Don’t: Bring Up Certain Topics in Front of Strangers

I’m quite embarrassed to admit this, but in my younger years, I had a good friend who owed me a couple hundred bucks. I remember reminding him every so often about this loan, even when other people were in earshot. Needless to say, it created tension between us. I learned the hard way how to be tactful when discussing money. Nowadays, when I meet someone new, I usually stick to discussing my own frugal wins.

Do: Find the Right Time and Place

Building upon what I discussed above, timing is everything. And so is the location — at least when it comes to talking about money. For example, you don’t want to ask your Uncle Henry to borrow money, or ask your friend about the money he owes you during a shindig. Instead, figure out the appropriate time and place to have these sorts of candid talks. For instance, a handful of people I know go on “money dates” with their partners. This is when they meet up on the regular to discuss the household budget, their retirement goals, and how to go about saving for that dream vacation.

Don’t: Turn It Into a Competition

Money is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. It’s certainly not a status symbol, and it’s not necessarily a sign of success. I know, I know, society taught us differently. But, try thinking about  money as a resource — where ideally you have enough flow (i.e., income or streams of revenue), systems and habits in place. This can help reduce financial stress.

When you discuss money with others, instead of getting competitive with how much money you all have, try to share in each other’s wins and failures.

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based financial writer whose clients include Fortune 500 companies and FinTech startups. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD.

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