The Money Talk Toolkit
A Guide To Having Conversations With Your Friends and Family About Money and Why It Matters
From controlling consumer spending to managing global wealth, women are in the driver’s seat of today’s economy. Yet, despite this growing influence, many women operate in silos when it comes to building their personal finance strategies.
Money is a personal subject that is often fraught with anxiety and shame — making it difficult for some to have open conversations about money with family, friends, and close colleagues. Moreover, money will mean something different to all who identify with womanhood. While some will come from wealth, others face systemic barriers to wealth accumulation.
Despite our hesitation, there can be many benefits to having conversations about money with those closest to us. In fact, it can help alleviate our worries by knowing we are not the only ones feeling unsure about our financial journey.
Just as we might share strategies for reaching career or personal goals, I encourage women to bring their sense of leadership and connection into conversations about personal finance. Hosting a “Money Talk” is an opportunity to convene the knowledge and experience of your network. It can also create a system of accountability as we individually set out to reach our own personal finance goals.
These conversations are not meant to be a measure of worth. Rather, it’s an opportunity to bring the power of connection into our financial lives and build our confidence and competence as a community. To encourage women to host a Money Talk and start the conversation in their own lives, I’ve created a roadmap for how to manage discussions about personal finance. I’ve also provided a sample Money Talk agenda below to get you started. With just a few simple guidelines, we can begin convening the powerful people in our lives to unlock greater wealth, influence and support. Think of it as the new book club -- a way to bring like-minded friends, family, partners and colleagues together to have serious (and fun!) conversations about money.
Having a Money Talk with your community doesn’t have to mean swapping your salaries or current savings. Rather, it’s a chance to explore the feelings and ambitions that money can evoke. In spite of our different backgrounds, many of us have a common need for gaining and sharing financial knowledge.
Before starting your discussion, determine how candid you and your friends want to be. I suggest that you explicitly set boundaries. For example, you might want to determine if it is okay to discuss the kind of lifestyle you hope to live and what kind of income you will need to achieve this. Or, you may want to keep the conversation on a very technical level focused on specific strategies such as the 50/30/20 rule for setting a budget (see the financial toolkit for more details).
To account for our myriad of diverse backgrounds and be most inclusive, it can also be helpful to establish a baseline for how each of us is showing up to, and in, a conversation. You can ask about:
How did you learn about money growing up?
What do you think society tells women (or doesn’t tell women) about financial planning?
When did you start to feel confident in managing your own personal finances?
What was the most valuable money lesson you learned from a parent or guardian?
When you envision having ‘enough’ money to live, what is that vision?
What is your personal reaction to the concept of wealth and growing your money?
Throughout the conversation, keep tabs on whether anyone looks pressed or uncomfortable. From there, gently remind your fellow participants that one doesn’t have to share details in order to get a point across, but that in most cases, many share similar feelings.
Explore your financial goals
One of the best ways to talk about money is in the context of your individual goals. Whether saving for an emergency fund or building up a nest egg for a graduate degree, we all operate with some type of personal finance goal (or goals) in mind.
Use a Money Talk as an opportunity to open up about what matters to you in life -- and how that connects to money and finance. In the short term, what personal finance challenges are you working through? In five to ten years, where do you see yourself? How are you planning to put these ideas into action?
Prompt these open-ended questions to your friends and share your own personal finance goals more freely. The point here is to create a time and place for these conversations -- given that they rarely exist in our daily lives. When was the last time you asked your network about:
Their approach to savings?
Their perspective on charitable giving? Their perspective on investing?
If they have a ‘rainy-day’ fund? Emergency fund?
Their approach to debt?
Their feelings towards “splurging”?
Discussing your goals with close connections is one of the best ways to ensure accountability. It creates a support system full of motivation, resources and encouragement.
Create a new avenue for advice
Beyond talking about your goals, a Money Talk can also be a chance to start connecting ideas to reality. Perhaps one of your friends owns a home and you’d like to learn more about the savings required for a down-payment and mortgage. Or another friend recently included impact investments as part of her investment strategy to align with her interests and you’re curious about the results. A Money Talk is an ideal opportunity to tap into the collective wisdom of your network.
It’s also reassuring to find out that even your most successful friends are also anxious about money -- or have some of the same questions as you. In fact, 85% of Americans experience some anxiety about money and 30% of Americans are constantly anxious about money. Don’t be afraid to be bold about what you do and don’t know. Ask questions, offer advice, and come back to each other with what you learned about an unfamiliar and often confusing topic. What you discuss likely depends on your goals and focus in life, but you might start by asking for tips on:
Building and maintaining credit
Seeking out and repaying loans
Credit scoring and why it’s important to understand
Elements of compensation (e.g. 401(k), stock options)
Swap insights on tools
Finally, at the most tactical level, a Money Talk is a chance to review the tools that you and your network use to support your collective financial lives. Share more about the tools you actually use on a regular basis. Swap thoughts on:
Budget programs (whether a homemade Excel spreadsheet, Intuit, etc.)
Tips and tricks for monthly saving
Budgeting and spending apps
How to Host a Money Talk
Below are some suggestions for how to host a Money Talk. You can always leave me a message to let me know if a particular strategy that is not listed below worked well for your group (or if something did not!). I would love to hear from you!
Organizing the Money Talk:
A Money Talk can be as small as two people.
Make sure all participants agree on the guest list so that everyone can participate comfortably.
The meeting leader does not have to be the person with the most personal finance knowledge. Instead, it should be someone who feels comfortable as a facilitator or mediator.
Running the Money Talk:
Establish the boundaries of the conversation as a group, ensuring everyone feels comfortable with the range of personal finance details being discussed.
Determine a specific topic you want to discuss as a group. For example, you could discuss how you learned about money growing up or you could share budgeting strategies.
Use the questions listed in the Money Talk toolkit to get the conversation started.
Allow the conversation to flow. As the meeting leader, it is your job to make sure everyone is participating in a way that is respectful. If anyone appears uncomfortable, it is okay to pause the conversation and allow the participants to process.
Remember, while money can be a sensitive topic, these Money Talks can also be fun! It’s a chance to become clear about our goals and the finances we need to achieve them. As the facilitator, it’s a good idea to remind your group to stay optimistic.
Close the meeting asking each participant to share what lessons, strategies, or changes they intend to incorporate into their personal finance journeys.
If you are hosting recurring Money Talks, you can use this as an opportunity to hold individuals in your group accountable to their goals.
Keep in mind, these conversations don’t have to be exhaustive. The goal of hosting a Money Talk is to break what feels like the last taboo facing women: candid, real conversations about our financial lives. Establish yourself as a resource and leader within your own network — and see the benefits compound from there.
Remember, money is power because it gives you choices and often a seat at the proverbial table. So, go ahead and reach out to your community to host your first Money Talk!