For the Modern Man: How (And When) to Talk About Money
They say there are two things you don't talk about in polite company: politics and religion. I think money makes a lot of people uncomfortable, too. It is one of those unspoken taboos of conversation. While we see money as something we wish to obtain, talking openly about net worth or the cost of our various assets—homes, rents, or purchases—whether asking others or bringing it into the conversation, is seen as rude.
At the same time, a lack of financial literacy is also frowned upon. We are simultaneously discouraged from learning about money from our peers (no comparing and contrasting!) and put down for our own lack of knowledge and understanding.
For so long, professionals did not know what others in comparable fields and positions made because salaries were never discussed nor revealed.
Are we finally in a place where we can start talking about money? How do we talk about it? Are there still places where money talk is best left at home? Here is how to navigate the big topic of finance in all the places that matter most.
How to Talk About Money
In a Job Interview
When interviewing for a position, one of the most awkward and uncomfortable parts seems to be that salary discussion. You obviously want to know how much money you can expect to be making! Why is it so difficult to ask?
There are a few things you'll want to know before you just ask outright, however, if you want to be up on proper etiquette. This can be a tough moment, especially if it gets flipped back on you and turned into a negotiations dance. You have to be prepared!
So a few pointers if you're in the hiring process:
Wait until you have an offer or it seems like an offer is close. If they aren't interested in you, it's not worth bringing up.
Know your worth. Research your position and comparable positions, compared to your experience. It will help you gauge about what you should be paid.
Don't obsess. Bringing up money too often or too soon is poor form and a turn off for your prospective employer. Don't let it be everything to you.
Prepare to negotiate. Even if you aren't able to negotiate, come in as if you will need to. That means knowing the lowest amount you will accept, having numbers in mind of what you were paid last, and how to position yourself with strength.
When it comes to these salary discussions, follow your gut and know your worth. Don't let an awkwardness stop you from discussing what needs to be discussed.
With Your Colleagues
In the past several years, more and more articles have popped up about the importance of talking openly and honestly about salaries and finances. We see that many employers still try to discourage this, despite it being illegal for private companies to silence salary discussions in the private sector in most states.
Money talk is tied up in many complex feelings that come down, oftentimes, to our self-worth. Talking about what we make, then, can be tricky. The idea, however, is that when we talk to our colleagues about money, it gives us a baseline and an understanding of what to expect and where we are in it all. When finances are confusing, having these benchmarks can be helpful. While this used to be seen as bragging or showing off, modern wisdom sees it as transparency.
With Your Spouse or Significant Other
One of the leading causes of divorce in America is conflict over finances. One of the ways we, as gentleman, can foster healthy conversations about finances with our spouses is by making finances a regular topic of conversation. Schedule time each week and make a list of topics to cover. Maybe the grocery budget keeps getting out of hand and you want to work on couponing, sticking to the list, and switching to generic brands. Maybe you don't have that many problems, but it's valuable to keep your spouse in the loop so that you're on the same page.
Being comfortable with talking about money and finance will help prevent arguments and avoidance around money down the line. Not only that, but it prevents the problem of one spouse handling all of the money, bills, and accounts, leaving the one spouse stressed and the other spouse clueless.
When Not to Talk About Money
In a Social Setting
Arguably, there are some social settings where money may come up and it's okay to chat about it. Maybe you're with other investors and it happens to come up organically. You're discussing portfolios and that's fine. However, by and large, your family Christmas party is not the place to discuss your big holiday bonus or how much you're making now.
Social settings are tricky, because even if you know these people well—and you likely do—there is still a certain level at which you have to ask yourself what the benefit of talking about money is here. When talking to your spouse about finances, you are becoming a stronger team. Colleagues, transparency helps everyone. In a job interview, it's critical.
But when socializing, it almost always reads as braggadocio. You don't need to flaunt and brag or one-up your friends. Money doesn't have to enter into it. Ask yourself why you need to talk about money. Look at your motivate. Think about how what you're saying may be interpreted. In most cases, the social setting is not appropriate.
On a Date
Nothing kills the mood of a romantic evening like talking about how much money you make. You might have an impressive job or impressive purchasing power. But the gentleman does not flaunt his wealth, and he certainly doesn't put a number on it. Don't kill the mood by comparing numbers with your date. It's not the time nor the place.
Navigating the new and expanding world of discussing finances more openly and honestly can be challenging and a bit scary. However, this openness about money can be freeing as we see transparency and greater financial savvy among an increasing number of people.
Allow your openness and honesty about money to help those around you—pass on what you know to your children, your spouse, and your friends as they need it. If you're good with money, help others who want that for themselves, too.
We can talk about money in ways that are healthy and helpful to one another.
How does talking about finances make you feel? Share an experience that stands out to you in the comments.