New Zealanders would rather talk about drugs and politics before they dare broach the big taboo of money. That's why Money Week 2019 is all about better korero.
Talking about money is such a loaded conversation for couples, whānau and even friends. Yet it's one we need to get over.
Preliminary research, which will be updated for the launch of Money Week tomorrow, shows that only 50 per cent of Kiwis who have a partner had ever talked about credit cards with them. Even fewer discussed budgeting, debt, mortgages and planning for retirement.
The two figures from this research that really shocked me were only 41 per cent discussed with their partner how much they earned and 27 per cent about personal loans.
When it comes to children, 43 per cent say they did not talk with their parents about any financial topics at all. Yet children have a lot to learn. Parents are way more likely to talk with their children about drugs than mortgages.
Likewise, of New Zealanders who speak with their friends, subjects like politics, alcohol and drugs are more acceptable topics of conversation than money. Talking about money is even more frowned upon in Māori and Pasifika communities than among Pākehā, says Peter Cordtz of the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC). So we have our work cut out for us.
The point of Money Week this year is to try to change this, says Tom Hartmann, content and communications manager at CFFC.
The trouble is that our brains quite literally aren't evolved to cope with talking about money and our culture has created a taboo around the subject. Finances regular top our list of worries and money is one of the leading causes of relationship breakdown.
My initial response is: Get a grip, New Zealand. This isn't helpful. No one is going to overcome reticence overnight. But a conscious decision to change your ways and some baby steps to start with certainly help.
• Jump the first hurdle. Sometimes avoidance is far more painful than actually dealing with the problem.
• Start small. Don't try to discuss everything in one go. Maybe it's just around how to diarise bill paying, or setting up direct debits/credits.
• Prep for the discussion. Talking about money is like any difficult conversation and needs good preparation. Google the topic and see how others wrestle with it.
• Make a list of items to discuss. Include everything from petty cash to retirement planning. One very useful tip I once read from a psychologist was to order your items from most difficult to easiest. Then tackle them from the easiest first and work your way up.
• Don't be adversarial. If you go in looking to set the other person straight about X, Y or Z they are going to fight back. Look for ways to have collaborative dialogues.
• Set a regular time for money catch-ups. Maybe it's over a regular coffee or even a beer (but not several). It's a bit like date night. Choose a day/time, block it out in your diary.
• Create a budget or an investment plan together. It's the classic phrase, a problem shared is a problem halved. What challenges you may be a cinch to your partner. Or he/she may have a solution that you'd never considered.
• Have a family conference. If money is tight or you have goals that affect your children, have a korero. You don't need to tell them what you earn, but you can discuss the bills, how to create goals and to save for them.
• Talk with the children about their money. Young people don't learn much about personal finances in school. The more they can think about issues around money the better they learn. Sometimes you can learn together if you didn't have the best financial start in life yourself.
Check out moneyweek.org.nz for some more useful tips to get talking.