I’m that annoying friend, the one who is happy to tell you what they earn. Not because I’m showing off, I hasten to add, but because I realised how inauthentic some of my chats with friends were since we were constantly skirting around the money bits of the conversation. So I started talking about my own, and realised how liberating it was to chat honestly about a subject that had been verbally out of bounds my whole life.
From sleeping better to stronger friendships to greater mental health, so many good things have happened from talking about money. Now that I’m not scared of money as a topic I feel far more in control of my finances than I ever did before. I look at my bank balance, I track my spending, I’m confident in pay negotiations and I believe all of this has come from facing the subject of money in conversation.
How can you advocate for yourself in a pay review, or talk about mortgage products with the bank or formulate a debt repayment plan if you can’t even chat to your best friend about what you spend? We need to up our vocabulary and understanding of money and I believe talking about it is the first step to being more in control of it.
I have better conversations with friends
In writing my book, Open Up: The power of talking about money, I’ve spoken to financial advisors, financial therapists and financial gurus. I’ve chatted to CEOs, founders of banks and bankers. I’ve had conversations about money with every kind of financial expert, but you know who I’ve learnt the most from? My friends.
The most gratifying thing to come out of this new openness is how honest our conversations about life plans have become. A friend can’t truly advise you on whether you can quit your job to go freelance without bringing money, and I mean the meat of the money, into the conversation. We now happily tell each other about an awkward pay review, share details of a redundancy or discuss how to make a break-up fair.
‘I can ask you anything about money now and you have to tell me,’ a friend laughs. It’s true. In preaching that we should talk about it, I’ve become that friend, the one who talks about money. My friends know they can ask me how much to the penny I have in my bank account – they don’t, but they know they could. They’ll ask me what my partner and I spend on childcare for our two-year-old son and then rightly wince when I tell them the answer (£1,248 per month for four days a week, and that’s at the cheaper end in London). The questions my friends have started to ask me aren’t intrusive for the sake of it, or prying. It’s about sharing information and learning from each other about a notoriously difficult subject.
I’m earning more
This wasn’t my intention. I went freelance nearly three years ago and since I started talking about money more openly with friends and colleagues my earnings have gone up considerably. I think it’s because of two reasons - I am much better at negotiating because I am not battling with the embarrassment of chatting about money AND the high stakes nature of any money conversation. Also, I know the market rate for the work I do because I’ve shared rates with other freelancers.