Q&A: How can I start a difficult conversation about money?
Talking about money with a loved one can be hard at the best of times. Money is the foundation of our financial security, and quite often, conversations can trigger strong emotions, such as fear, guilt, shame or envy. Perhaps you have a partner who is overspending, or perhaps you have a child that is over reliant on you.
Whatever difficult conversation you might be facing, here are five tips to help stop emotions running high.
1. Give some advance notice
Most of us don’t like to be taken by surprise. Springing a conversation about money on a loved one is unlikely to result in a calm exchange. While you have had time to gather your thoughts, they may be taken off guard and go straight into defensive mode.
Let them know, in advance, that you want to talk to them about a money matter. Doing this should give them plenty of time to mentally prepare and perhaps come up with some ideas or solutions before you talk.
2. Choose a relaxed setting
Where do you both feel the most comfortable when you spend time together? Is it taking a walk on the beach? Having coffee at the kitchen table? Or perhaps it’s walking the dog together. Recreating a relaxed and familiar environment could help to keep things calm. Avoid busy and bustling places, or anywhere formal or new. Get the setting wrong and it could feel more like a confrontation than a conversation.
Just as important is to make enough time for a meaningful conversation. Avoid having a 15-minute exchange on a Monday morning at the breakfast table, when everyone is rushing and thinking about the week ahead. Opting for a weekend, for example, or a time when you both have the time to sit, listen and respond in a considered way can help the conversation evolve in a more natural way.
3. Start off on the right foot
How you start the conversation can often be a big indicator of how it ends. Starting in attack mode, or diving straight into the issues may not lead to a pleasant outcome. Instead, think about all the things you appreciate about this person and start with that. What do they do well? What are you proud of? How have they improved their finances or money behaviours? Make them feel valued and appreciated before you bring up the issues you want to raise.
4. Focus on solutions, not problems
Once you’re into the heart of the conversation, try not to dwell too long on problems—move swiftly on to practical and positive solutions. Doing this can help to move the conversation away from a negative interaction, to a more forward thinking one. If the solutions aren’t free flowing, perhaps both of you can go away and take some time to brainstorm privately, before coming back together at a time you both agree on.
5. Make the conversation a two-way street
No-one is perfect, and so it’s useful to remember that some of your own actions may not be helping the situation. For example, are you a micromanager when it comes to household finances? Have you created a financial crutch for your son or daughter to lean on and helped to fuel bad habits? Taking some time to reflect on your role in the issue at hand can help make the conversation, and the solutions you come up with, a two-way street.
If you’re facing a difficult money conversation, hopefully these tips will help set the tone for a positive outcome. If you’d like to talk to us about anything in this article, please get in touch.