7 Steps to Change How We Talk About Money

Financial Coach Chelsea Galicia How To Talk About Money Los Angeles

The Backstory

Coming off a romantic Valentine’s Day that included chocolate, roses, and a surprise paella cooking class, my boyfriend and I decided to watch the Amazon docuseries, Lorena. 

If the wild contrast of that story doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks, it’s possible you don’t know or remember the story of Lorena Bobbitt: In 1993, she cut off her husband’s penis in the middle of the night, drove off with it, and chucked it out the window into a grassy field. Her husband, John Wayne, had his penis reattached after an all out effort to find it. Both of them then faced criminal charges – her for malicious mutilation and him for rape. 

Context Is Everything

The series was captivating! And even though we love our sleep, there was no stopping the binge. My boyfriend and I were up until 3AM watching every minute of it. 

The series is a fascinating look at how the story was perceived back then and how we understand it today – with the benefit of hindsight, and particularly in the age of #metoo. The docuseries covered “the incident” (as Lorena refers to it) in the context of the culture at the time. 

Back then, the culture included a reflexive avoidance of the use of the word ‘penis.’ Headlines and articles did their darndest to avoid using it. The media used terms like “organ,” “appendage,” and “member” to refer to the unmentionable. Basically, it was awkward AF to say ‘penis.’ We just didn’t talk like that back then. 

Things Change

Jump ahead a quarter of a century and I’m pretty sure that there’s a solid number of kids these days whose very first word is ‘penis.’ Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. The way we talk today is a far cry from 1993. The overall topic of sex has been pushed to the forefront for years now and we’re practically accustomed to being inundated by sexually explicit or suggestive material and language.

To the extent that it has reduced shame and made it more comfortable for people to share their experiences about sex and penises, both good and bad, it’s progress; an advancement of our culture.  To be sure, there are degrees of this overt sexualization that are harmful, especially for young people, but this isn’t what I’m saying is good.

We Talk Politics

The same evolution has occurred in politics. It, too, was once a hush-hush subject matter that now has people tripping over themselves to talk about. 

I’m solidly in that camp. I believe that our democracy is strengthened when more of us are engaged in the political conversation and process. I even do a weekly podcast on politics (that connects with a live audience) because I want to encourage the respectful and informed sharing of thoughts, opinions, and ideas, particularly among millenials. 

And, even though the current climate of our discourse isn’t always civil, and some people who share their ignorant opinions get on my nerves, I see progress in the fact that more of us openly discuss political issues.

Talking About Money

But what about money? How far have we come in openly talking about it

It’s the only one of the three formerly culturally banned subject matters (sex, money, and politics) that remains mostly muted. 

When it comes to money, I don’t see that we’ve advanced much, if at all, with the ease in which people talk about it. I think more people would prefer to discusses penises with their parents than talk about money with a trusted friend. We’re just not there yet. 

It’s possible that soon we’ll start to get real about money. I hope so, and I hope to be part of the movement that makes it natural and comfortable to talk about money.

What Talking About Money Could Look Like

  • We could start by sharing honestly about where we are now: in debt, struggling to save, living paycheck to paycheck, trying to hold it all together while looking like we’re quite successful but wondering where the hell all of our money has gone. I know that this is true, even for high earning entrepreneurs, small business owners, and solopreneurs. 80% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and those aren’t the lowest 80% of income earners. In other words, living paycheck to paycheck is not a function of your income. You can be paycheck to paycheck with a healthy or impressive income. I’ve read that 10% of millionaires live paycheck to paycheck, and I don’t doubt that the figure is close to the truth. 
  • After acknowledging the truth, out loud, about where we currently stand, it would do us well to talk about our earliest memories and experiences involving money. Recalling specific incidents and reminiscing generally about what we remember about money growing up – what parents and others said and did with money – will give us insight into the way that we think and feel about money today. Resolving unhealed wounds related to money and forging a healthy relationship with it would make us be smarter with our handling of it.
  • Next, we could talk about what we’re doing to stay on top of our finances. Sharing strategies and approaches for doing the mundane, things like dealing with mail and bills effectively, would move us forward in leaps and bounds. Clearly, the “out of site, out of mind” thing that most of us are doing these days with our bills, paperwork and money is not working for us. Nor is automating our payments. Because now we’re paying even less attention to our money and we’re getting more disconnected from it. 
  • The spreading of ideas on how to track expenses, reduce waste, and get our spending aligned with our values would be transformative for our society. Becoming aware of where our money is going is one of the most effective ways of recalibrating our spending habits. Awareness is a powerfully motivating force to change unhealthy ways. And spending in alignment with our values will help us live more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
  • Once our spending is controlled and more aligned with our values, we can talk joyously about how full our emergency savings funds are. We’d all breathe easier knowing that we were prepared for rainy days and rainy seasons. We would collectively celebrate that we no longer have to go into debt when we’re faced with moderate (or even minor) emergencies, medical or otherwise. Soon, it wouldn’t even be a celebration; it would just be normal, and it would be weird that we weren’t prepared for the unexpected. 
  • In this new culture, credit card debt would be a thing of the past. Surely the credit card companies wouldn’t be so thrilled, nor would companies who would see reduced profits from all of us spending less and saving more, but if we’re focusing on individual well-being right now, it would be a huge step in the right direction. 
  • When we’re all flush with savings, we would have money to invest, in our businesses and elsewhere. We could talk about smart investing strategies with our friends, family, and trusted acquaintances. Amazing!

We’re on the Brink of Change

I’m confident that this is the direction we’re headed. The time for silence about money is nearing an end. I can feel it. I invite you to be part of the conversation. I encourage you to become a leader in the movement to make money a safe and healthy issue to speak freely about. It will be easier to talk about it when you feel good about the state of your finances, both personally and professionally. 

Over To You

Challenge yourself to bring up the subject with friends, even if it’s just to say how weird it is that you don’t talk about money when you talk so openly about other very “private” issues. 

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