5 Tips for Discussing Money


MONEY. So many people don’t like to talk about it. They dance around the subject. They don’t want to suggest a price first, they don’t know how to respond to money questions, and they don’t want to bring it up until the very end of a discussion when there is no choice left.

Depending on where you grew up (I grew up in a very conservative culture but in a house that was not as conservative), there may be words and topics you don’t bring up: money, sex, cancer, prison, death.

MoneyBefore I turn into a strange version of George Carlin with my own “Five Words You Can’t Say in the South,” let me get back to MONEY.

My personal belief is that many people are inflexible in discussion of project costs, fees, pricing and offers because they are emotionally uncomfortable with money discussions. So they just want to get a number and move on to other topics and let it be someone else’s problem.

I also believe most people do not really understand money. This contributes to their uncomfortable feelings about the topic. Oh, they know they need money, they know what they earn, they know how to count it, and they know prices. But if everyone really understood money, we would not have so many people in serious debt. People would pay for what they buy or at least save more for a down payment. Living paycheck-to-paycheck would be less common. This applies to businesses as well as individuals.

However, money is an important topic that needs honest and open communication. There are times it is critical to be able to openly and candidly discuss money for the best success of your business, projects, customers, vendors, and even relationships.

It is commonly known that money and the problems discussing money both create major challenges to many marriages. And this problem is not limited to couples, as it extends to businesses too.

So, how can you help your staff, management, clients and even family talk about money? Consider my 5 Tips for Discussing Money:

1)  Practice talking about money. This will help you, and those around you, become more comfortable talking about money. After all, if you are not comfortable with the subject, those around you probably will not be either.

2)  Before you talk about money, get permission and agreement. For example, softly and calmly say, “I want to talk about money now. Is that okay?”… and wait for them to say “yes”. This lets them agree to the topic and, for some reason, makes it easier. If they don’t agree, don’t talk about it. They are not ready and your discussion will not be fruitful.

3)  Talk about money using other terms or a comparison to give a different perspective others may understand better. For instance, “If the project is postponed six months, we will be required to hire two more employees just to process the paperwork manually. With the overhead of these employees considered, this will make the final solution cost 45% more than proceeding now.”

4)  Consider and discuss money on a different scale to gain perspective and new understanding. Let’s say a smoker spends $5 for each pack of cigarettes and buys a pack a day. Without a discussion on the pros and cons of smoking, how important is this activity personally? Would they rather spend the $1,825 a year on something else?

Over five years, this expenditure totals $9,125, enough to buy decent used car without payments. Or you could buy a complete “man-cave” complete with large flat-panel HD television, surround sound, recliner, sofa, refrigerator, and money left over. By considering different scales, small daily expenses can be seen as what they are, large long-term expenses.

5)  Be real in your discussions of money. Talk about money as factual, not wishes. After all, you can count it, budget it, save it, spend it, give it, and receive it. So, write down your money uses and plans. This will show you where your are with your money and what you can do with that money, not just idealistic hopes for money in the future.

This can be a real challenge when individuals have a “want” they cannot afford and spend money they don’t have available. They were not real in their own internal discussion about money.

Of course, this is not limited to individuals. Businesses, particularly start-up businesses, often have this problem too. Overly optimistic planning of income, without the correct research or history for support, often leads to an emotional projection and not a real picture of their market.

In our modern society, money is a challenging but necessary metric and mechanism for tracking financial means and success (or failure), whether in our business or our personal life. And that, my friends, is okay as long as it is appropriately understood, considered, and discussed. Really. So please feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves.


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.