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The Money Conversation

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The conversation about money has a few important thoughts that should be considered before we judge others, or ourselves, for how money is managed; or, feel guilty/shameful for not doing things you think we should be doing. They are:

  • Personal*

  • Behaviour

  • Wants

  • Circumstances

  • The Rat Race

The “personal*” in personal finance is just that. There is no ‘one right way’ to do things. For example, Science and Economics can help us figure out the optimal way to get out of debt - but if that way doesn’t work for the person it’ll never happen. I cannot stress this enough - that is okay. Why the asterisk on this point? Because it encompasses the others. This is the single greatest aspect of personal finance to understand - no one has the right answer for you, but you. Experts can evaluate and advise but you have to execute. No one cares more about your financial future than you.


Given the inherent nature of how personal your finances are, it’s helpful to think that your behaviour then drives the outcome. Do you save, spend, invest, give away, work more or less, are career driven or are nomadic? Knowing this about yourself will make it easier for you to talk about money with others. It’ll help inform how you approach the conversation when others are asking you, and allows you to accept your defaults. From there, we can grow.


Wants. The lifestyle you choose comes with a base monthly cost assigned to it. Think about what you want and how that affects your behaviours. Consider what you’re doing that allows you to achieve your future, and what you need to change to get there. Are you happy now? How much money do you need to live the life you want? Further, consider that you’re fully in the driver's seat on this one. If your friends want to live in a penthouse or mansion, and you want to live in a cozy cottage or townhouse, know that is okay. Whatever camp you’re in - simply knowing what you want for a base lifestyle will make you more comfortable talking about where you are and where you want to be. It’s okay to dream and it’s okay to be happy with a little or a lot.


One of the single most challenging parts of personal finance is the ability to put ourselves in other shoes. Cliche? Absolutely. Necessary? 100%. Having an understanding that your situation is different from others is critical to talk about money. This is a rigged game. Know that now, at the start, and it’ll make your empathy for yourself and others easier. Others are going to start where you end, or vice versa. We don’t know what others really want out of life - assuming we do is a slippery slope to judgment and stigmatization. What comes along with this understanding - it’s okay to find peers in similar situations as you to learn from them. Avoid the echo chamber as much as possible, but know that having others go through the same thing as you will allow you to navigate a pre-blazed trail (as much as you’d like to).


The “rat race” is a commonly used term to describe the treadmill we get on after high school. We get a job, get a car, find a partner, get a house, have kids, work, work, work, make ends meet, and retire. A lot of people want this life (again, very much okay!), others don’t (yes, also okay!), but knowing what you want will help you talk about this in group settings. It will make it easier for you to be comfortable knowing what you want, why you want it, and that what your peers want doesn’t have to impact your life. The Rat Race is a common thing to feel, but this is also an important place to put real thought into to figure out if you want to be part of it. Someone wise told me: “if you buy your dream house, make sure it’s the nicest house in the cul de sac”. It took me a while to understand this, but the point was this: if my dream home was the worst of the ones around it, I would likely fall into the trap of comparison, ironically, buying it when it’s the nicest is still just comparing to those around it. Removing yourself entirely from this feeling is a good way to make sure you’re on your way to being happy living your life, not someone else's. As they say: “Comparison is the thief of joy” - Theodore Roosevelt.

These thoughts have been filled with reminders that whatever your experience has been - it’s okay. Consciously validating your experiences is an important part of being comfortable in your starting point. Knowing that from there you can grow and continue to where you want to be. The asterisk on “personal” - this is very much your journey.


Do

Removing the stigmatization and judgment of how other people (and you) manage and talk about money is intimately tied to our collective ability to share wisdom about how to navigate different circumstances. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, not every time at least. When money comes up in conversation, work on being open-minded - listen to what others have to say, listen to what you say and think about what fits you.



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