Growing up my family did not talk about money. I don’t really recall any actual conversations about money. In fact, the only conversation I remember was talking about tithing to the church. There were no actual conversations about the mechanics of money, and for sure there were no conversations about income or budgets.
There were comments like, “we don’t have money for that”, or “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Talk about money was avoided at all costs. It was considered a topic that was taboo. It was uncouth to talk about money. Even at home. It was a private topic and should only be spoken about behind closed doors, with adults only.
Then I grew up and went to college. First, with my two-year administrative degree, I did billing and collections for an OB/GYN. In a lot of ways, it was a complete culture shock for me. Not only was I talking about money all day long, but seeing the amounts of money that we billed and consequently collected was staggering.
I was amazed at how much money flowed through the office and ultimately into the doctor’s bank account. I remember one customer who was private pay and paid for her entire pregnancy with cash up front. I was completely flabbergasted that she had that much cash.
On top of that, part of my job was to call and ask for money. It was easy for me to talk to the insurance companies, but for sure it wasn’t easy to talk to individuals. I had to break away from life-long beliefs that it was a big, bad no-no to ask people about money. Even asking them to pay their bill (or maybe especially asking them this), felt like encroaching on that personal territory.
On the days I had to make these collection calls, I had a knot in my stomach and my armpits would sweat. Most of the time, I ended up feeling sorry for the people I reached out to.
After a couple of years, I began to feel a strong desire to have more money for myself. I had found that I really enjoyed working with numbers and counting other people’s money (having the pleasure of counting any money was fun1), so I decided to go back to school to become an accountant.
Again, I found that in accounting, I was talking about money all day long. But it wasn’t personal. It boiled down to business. Profits, losses, expenses, revenue, sales, overhead, etc. But there was still taboo. Only certain people could know how much the company was making. Only certain people had access to salaries. And for sure you didn’t talk about them openly. There were many behind closed doors conversations. In fact, coming into my first professional job the first rule was don’t talk about anyone’s salary and keep all financial data limited to specific staff.
In our society, I think many of us grew up and had similar experiences about the importance of keeping our mouths shut about money. And in my opinion, that very lack of conversation is keeping us stuck.
We stay stuck in our familiar patterns with money. We stay stuck believing things can’t change. Stuck thinking that we are poor because that’s the kind of “people” we are.
I think that not talking to our kids about money and having open dialogue with them can lead to misinformation about their ability to break-away from generational patterns, skewed beliefs about what is real and isn’t when it comes to money and how much they can have, as well as perpetuating the pattern of keeping things quiet, which leads more shame and stigma about talking about money.
I think it also hurts us as adults. If we aren’t talking about money in an open way, it keeps money in the dark. It keeps our dreams for money hidden. Both of those things can create the perfect place to stick with the status quo. We don’t change our circumstances because we are keeping that part of ourselves hidden.
What stays in the dark, doesn’t usually grow. What stays hidden, continues to carry a taboo and shame can grow.
On the other hand, if we start to have real conversations about money, we start to see that more dreams about money are realized. More progress is made toward achieving what we really want. And we start to normalize talking about money, so that feelings of shame can recede.
Now I’m not saying you have to shout your income from the rooftop, post it on social media or talk to everyone you meet about it. What I’m suggesting is that it is time to have open, meaningful conversations about money, with the right people. That could look like:
- Sharing your money dreams with your family, including your kids and extended relatives.
- Creating vision boards that embody exactly what you want and display them for all to see.
- Have conversations with your kids about what things cost, how much money comes in, your personal beliefs about how money should be managed.
- Admitting that you struggle with money to a close friend.
- Acknowledging to yourself that you aren’t where you want to be, but want to do better. Don’t be afraid to share this with others too.
There are so many ways we can open the conversation about money. And each one of them will take us one step closer to getting rid of that taboo about talking about money.
Trust me, I’ve seen this in my own life. Every time I have an open conversation about money, something big happens. Here are a few examples from my own life.
When I was 15 years old, I decided I was going to buy my own braces. I told my mom and my four siblings. Then, I created a “container” for the money out of a giant Slurpee cup from 7-11. I created a label for it and put it in a prominent place in the house. Anyone who came into my house, saw my goal and my progress. There was no shame, there was no taboo. I wanted braces and I was going to get them.
Many times, I’d come home from school and company had come by, they had seen my goal and quietly contributed to the fund. If I had kept that to myself, or hidden it from the world….I would still have gotten those braces (‘cause you know I was determined), but it 100% for sure would have taken me longer to get there. On top of that, it would have been so much easier to give up on my dream. Because as we all know, if no one knows about it, then we don’t fail if we don’t achieve the goal.
I’ll share another example from more recent times. When I decided to move to Florida, I had a conversation with my business coach. I shared with her my excitement, but also my struggle to find a suitable rental. I felt myself drawn to houses with pools and simply felt they were outside my price range.
She stopped me and said, “Are they really? Why not live where you really want to live? If you are changing the location from landlocked West Virginia to the Gulf Coast of Florida so you can be close to the ocean, why not live in a house you really want to live in?” I was like, no….they just cost too much. She said, “Explore it. Allow yourself to dream”.
So, I did. And after having that conversation, I found the perfect house, within my price range, with my very own pool in the backyard. If I hadn’t had that conversation and allowed myself to talk about money, I’d have stayed in my own head. I’d have had nothing to challenge my thinking. Nothing to suggest that I could afford it. No one encouraging me to look at what was possible for me. I would still have moved to Florida, but I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have gotten as much joy out of the experience.
That one conversation led me to being able to have a life that most days feels like vacation. I can work for a few hours and hop in the pool. I’m able to work with my coaching clients helping them transform their money story poolside. I often create content for my followers and readers right in the pool. In fact, some of my best inspiration comes while swimming laps!
Conversation about money is critical to changing our circumstance. In my opinion it is one of the most key elements to changing how we think, feel and act with our money. Our words are powerful. Verbalizing what we want, puts our dreams and desires out for the Universe, God, a Higher Power, and other human beings to help us get there.
Who can you have a conversation with about your money dreams today? I encourage you to find that person and start the conversation today. Take just one small step toward creating the life with money that you want. I promise you; big things can happen with just one open conversation.
I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and tell how conversation and talking about money has changed your life. Or share one thing you’d love to see change.
Sherry Parks, CPA, is a Money Mindset Coach who helps women escape feeling trapped by their finances. She is passionate about helping women change mindset, emotions and actions regarding money, so that they learn to keep what they have and generate more.
Check out her 5 Steps to a Better Money Story workbook or join her women-only Facebook group More Than Enough Money Sisterhood for Entrepreneurs.