How to have a conversation about money

You might feel stressed about the idea of having a difficult conversation about money. Often, these conversations are packed full of emotion, and you may forget the important things you wanted to bring up. You know what, though? You don’t need to wait for a serious situation which needs urgent action to open up.

Throughout your life you’ll have lots of money conversations with different people – and some will be difficult. So figuring out what you want to say effectively now will make your life a lot easier.

Tips for how to prepare for the conversation

Preparing yourself with a few talking points might help you. That said, this isn’t an exam at school, so there’s no need to go overboard with preparation – but thinking about these things beforehand will help a lot:

  • When to talk - there’s never going to be a perfect time. Bring up that you would like to chat about something later, which allows them to make space in their day.
  • Where to talk - it’s best to find an area where you won’t be disturbed. It might be helpful to stay at home where you may have useful paperwork, but then again, going for a walk, away from the home may be easier for others. Choose what works best for you.
  • Who should be there - it very much depends on the situation, but everyone who has a stake in the discussion.
  • Practise the conversation - this isn’t a theatre performance, so you don’t need to know your lines by heart but do think about the things you want to say and have a go saying them out loud. Take it a step further and think about what the other person may say, then come up with answers to that. Try to think of different types of scenarios, not just what you want them to say! If you have a family member or friend who isn’t involved, you may want to try out a bit of role play with the conversation.

Once you’ve managed to get the preparation all done and dusted, you’re in a great position to work out how to start the conversation.

Tips on how to start a conversation

Sometimes it helps to start the conversation in a less direct way rather than asking them to sit down and bringing up the subject.

Here are some conversation starters:

  • If a friend of yours is experiencing something similar, maybe discuss what’s happening to them to get the ball rolling.
  • Maybe your situation or something similar has come up in a programme you’re watching, book you’re reading or is in the news. Mention how this is similar to what you’re experiencing.
  • Use whatever is around you to spark the conversation – bills, a new item of furniture you are still paying off, or something you’re watching on TV.

There are times, however, that you will need to discuss the topic more directly, especially if it is urgent and you can’t wait for the perfect opportunity to bring up the conversation.

Sometimes, knowing what your first sentence is going to be can make you feel more confident. Potential openers could be:

  • ‘I have something I’d like to talk to you about that I think would help us reach our goals more effectively.’
  • ‘I’d like to talk to you about [blank], but first I’d like to get your point of view.’
  • ‘I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?’
  • ‘I think we have different ideas about [blank], I’d like to hear your thinking on this.’

Remember, a conversation is two-way, so make sure the other person is involved and not simply a listener.

Tips for when you’re having the conversation

Be mindful of your emotions, as well as the emotions of the person you are talking to

Getting emotional is completely valid but getting really angry or upset might interfere with the outcome you’re seeking.

Tell yourself that you can express these emotions at another time, but this conversation requires your mind to be clear and logical. If you are feeling particularly emotional, you might even want to give yourself a time and place to directly address these emotions. That way, you can remain focused on this important conversation, knowing that your feelings will be addressed later.

Try not to interrupt your partner

If you start talking over each other, it might turn into an argument. You might find this difficult since you probably have so much to say, but the best way to work through this will be as a team.

If you find one of you is interrupting the other, you might want to gently raise this as an issue and suggest some allocated time for both of you to speak completely uninterrupted.

Don’t blame anyone for interrupting; simply acknowledge this is an emotional topic and therefore it might be a good idea to devise some rules of conversation to ensure everyone gets to speak.

Being judgemental is only going to make the other person shut down

Avoid starting sentences with accusations, such as ‘you’ and keep it all about you, such as ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’. The faces you pull and the words you use (no insults!) also matter too.

Keep to the topic at hand

Bringing up other issues and complaints isn’t going to help this situation move forward. If you feel this might be a problem, write yourself a list of things you can and can’t talk about during this conversation.

For example, this conversation isn’t the time to tell your partner they need to spend more time with you and less time on the computer. This conversation is focused on your finances.

By sticking to this topic and only this topic, the conversation will be easier for you.

Try and stay about the same eye level

In other words, it’s best if everyone involved is seated or standing. You don’t want one person to be physically above or below the other.

Think about who may also be able to help

Charities or organisations might come in useful so have the numbers or websites ready to hand over.

How to deal with negative reactions

Not everything is going to go to plan, so if you find you’re getting a negative reaction back, try these responses:

If… Try…
The person doesn’t agree with the facts you’re suggesting Ask what their reasons are and listen with an open mind. If you feel they have a point, say so. If you disagree with them, suggest how you can move forward.
The person blames you Listen with an open mind, figure out what is making them frustrated without getting defensive and blaming them back. Are their comments justifiable? If so, how will you address these comments? Are their comments simply shifting blame? If so, ask them what they feel you can BOTH do to resolve the problems.
The person is impatient or tries to change the topic Clarify the aim of the conversation and let them know what choices they have. Listen and note what they are saying to address later. Express your understanding that it is a difficult conversation, while also highlighting that it will be easier to have it now than further down the line.
The person talks a lot Make sure you leave plenty of time for the chat, yet keep them on topic by referring to what they have said and asking relevant questions.
The person passively agrees to everything you say or decide. Allow some time to develop a relaxed atmosphere. Try hard to ask their opinion and when you get it, say it back to them. Don’t be afraid of silence and give them plenty of time to think.

Are there any other possible scenarios you think might happen? If so, write them down, along with a solution.

How to end the conversation well

After a difficult conversation, we generally feel like, ‘Phew! Glad that’s over. Hope I never have to have that conversation again!’ but actually, it’s really important to follow up after a tough chat.

So here are some tips on how you can do that:

  • Acknowledge that the conversation happened. Recognise that it was a tough conversation and highlight the positive things that have come out of it. There is a huge amount of value in appreciating that you were able to come together, discuss a difficult topic and even have the conversation in the first place.
  • Find ways to move the conversation forward. Be proactive in showing that you’ve taken the solutions on board. Clear communication around next steps helps move the conversation forward.
  • It can be useful to write it down. Maybe in an email or on paper that you can both refer to later. It’s common for two people to take on information in totally different ways, and this can result in one of you thinking the outcome was one thing, while the other thinks something completely different. Writing it down can help you clarify points discussed.

How to talk about money

If you need to talk to someone about money but aren’t sure how it will go, this guide will help you get started, including tips on how to get a good outcome, share money goals and what to do if you think the conversation may be tricky or it doesn’t go as planned.

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