Do you and your family regularly discuss money matters or do you shy away from the subject? Experts note that money talk taboos are common among American families and that this needs to change.
“For many families, money is a topic we don’t openly discuss. But by avoiding these discussions, we’re inhibiting information flow around the best use of money,” says Michael Liersch, head of Advice and Planning for Wells Fargo’s Wealth & Investment Management division.
Liersch, who is a behavioral scientist and currently leads a team at Wells Fargo & Company responsible for developing research-based methods to help advisors and clients collaborate around money decisions, is hosting a new podcast. “About Money” focuses on breaking the money talk taboo and offers practical advice for having productive conversations about financial decision-making.
According to Liersch, here are a few ways some families view conversations around money:
• It’s just gauche. It can make people feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or bad, so don’t do it.
• It can disrupt harmony and spur arguments because ultimately, it’s airing dirty laundry, revisiting bad decisions or revealing serious personality conflicts around spending, saving and investing.
• It can reveal different reference points. For example, someone with more money can make those with less feel bad about themselves.
• It can make those without a lot of knowledge feel exposed by what they don’t know and those with a lot of knowledge feel like a know-it-all.
Whatever your family’s reasons for dodging dollars and cents around the dinner table, Liersch offers these tips for starting the conversation:
- Write down your responses to the following questions. What’s the number one thing you want money to do for you? Do you feel you have enough — just enough, more than enough, or not enough — to get that job done? What’s holding you back from getting the job done? What could you do to make sure that it does? Who do you need to talk to or what resources do you need?
- Store these answers in a secure, handy location.
- Have conversations with those that may be impacted by the conclusions reached, such as your partner, children and parents, and then collaborate with them on next steps.
- Set aside time regularly to focus on this information and to take incremental steps toward making your money work for you.
“No one is born with the knowledge of how to use money. It’s an abstract concept — like language. And like language, if you wait too long to learn it, you’ll never master becoming a native speaker,” says Liersch. “Today, as I sit around the kitchen table with my family, all topics are fair game, including those money-related topics that used to be taboo.”