Wanna Get Rich? Talk About Money

by Rebecca A. Watson on July 7, 2015

in friends, goals, habits, life, money, Values

If you hate articles about finance, bear with me. This one might change your mind and your life. Please give me five minutes.

Today I read that about one-third of Americans are above the poverty line but can’t handle a $400 emergency. And as much as I’d like to say, “Wow, how can that be?” … I can’t. Because I have been there.

one percenters

I wasn’t always made of money 😉

Many years ago, when I changed my name, I needed to pay a few hundred dollars. I applied to get the fee waved, because I didn’t have the cash.

The judge proceeded to lecture me about poor spending and the real meaning of struggle, because my income (about $28k for a single woman) was more than enough to handle such a cost.

That stung. But the truth hurts. And since then I have been slowly learning about financial literacy, saving, investing and budgeting. And one thing that really helped was talking to friends about money.

There is some unwritten rule in U.S. society that it is rude to talk about money. That’s untrue, in my opinion. Sure, if you just want to brag about how much you spent on your latest gadget or unnecessary item, then it’s rude. But that isn’t because you’re talking about cash. That’s because you’re kind of a DB.

Don't be *that guy.*

Don’t be *that guy.*

Secrecy is a big part of why people remain in the financial situations they’re in. They feel shame, when really, the only purpose shame serves is to keep you from making change and feeling bad about it.

Or maybe this topic just bores you to tears. I get that — it’s pretty dry. But you know what isn’t boring?

  • Traveling
  • No debt
  • Being empowered
  • Freedom to do what you want

Here are some questions that can help you and your friends start the money conversation.

1. How much do you pay for [phone/rent/cable/other services]?

This will get you talking about money, how you can save, whether you really need something or if you’re getting ripped off. This weekend I learned our friends pay 9€ for their phone service while we pay 90!

Our contract is up next month. That kind of savings is really huge, and I’m stoked to put it toward something else. I wouldn’t have realized it if we hadn’t brought up the subject.

2. What kind of budgeting tools do you use?

Learning how people handle their money really can help. Like in the U.S. we used plastic for everything, so it was really easy to know where our money went. Germany has a much more cash-oriented economy, so talking to others about how they handled the shift gave me new ideas and relieved some stress.

Mint.com was a favorite for many in the states. Our bank here in Germany has one built in, but we also use Quicken.

And if you haven’t set up a budget, this is a good way to get talking to people who have. And if you think you don’t have enough money to budget, think again.


3. Do you have a savings account?

This simple question has brought something to the front of my mind: If you don’t have a savings account, you won’t save.

It’s true. When that judge lectured me, I didn’t have a savings account. Just my checking account with a pitiful balance, because despite all my best intentions, the money I had set aside for certain things would disappear, even if it was earmarked for vacation.

Part of talking about money is holding yourself accountable. Maybe you don’t have a savings account and asking this question will teach you about opening one and contributing to it regularly.

4. Are you investing? How?

This is another place I find a lot of interesting perspectives, especially from the expat point of view. Trust me, it isn’t easy to maintain contributions to a 401k when you’re working outside the U.S.

But talking with a friend about how he has done it for the past year really opened my eyes and changed how I went about investing. And if you’re on a tight budget, there is still room to put something away.

Again, this is a good question to help hold you accountable. If you aren’t investing in your future, your kids are going to lose out, even if you aren’t one of those people who expect their children to take care of you as you age. Talking about it helps gives it a voice and makes it more tangible.

5. How much debt do you have?

This is a scary question to ask and answer, particularly if you’re in over your head. I know. I used to have mountains of credit card debt. So did one of my good friends.

And when another friend of ours started asking about it, guess what? We both figured out a plan to pay it off; now we’re both debt-free, which feels amazing.

Learning how other people handled their debt and having someone routinely ask how you’re handling yours can help shrink it to nothing. It’s about learning from, and helping, each other.

Feelings of shame and embarrassment are so totally normal around money. It’s a form of energy, after all, and that energy surrounds us and affects us.

money flies


But that doesn’t mean we can’t change the conversation, learn new habits and create new feelings around money. And in doing so, we can all become more wealthy, both in financial ways and within our relationships.

This is an ongoing series about values. You can read the archives here or check out my entire list of  those that are important to me.

Photo Credits: ayeshamus, Pictures of Money,  Bunches and Bits

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