Journalist and author, Alex Holder, explains why she believes we need to get better at talking about money, if we want to feel in control of our finances.

I’m that annoying friend, the one who asks how much rent you’re paying. Not because I’m a gauche conversationalist, but because I want to know that what I’m paying in rent is fair. Once upon a time asking that kind of question about money was a no-go area, but I’ve learned just how informative – and liberating - it can be to bring money into the conversation.

From sleeping better to more honest friendships to stronger 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, negotiate on rent or formulate a debt repayment plan if you can’t even chat to your best friend about what you spend? We need to improve our vocabulary and understanding of money and I believe talking about it is the first step to being more in control of it.

Here’s what has happened since I started tackling the taboo and chatting finances:

I’m earning more

I went freelance nearly four years ago and since I started talking about money more openly with friends and colleagues my earnings have gone up considerably. I am much better at negotiating because I am not battling with the embarrassment of chatting about money. Also, I know the market rate for the work I do because I’ve shared rates with other freelancers.

I started paying into a pension

During my life at least ten finance-y people (and my dad) have told me to pay into a pension, and I’d ignored all of them. But when a friend who doesn’t own a vacuum cleaner and lives in a flatshare where plants go to die, told me that he had recently started paying into a pension and it wasn’t that hard to set up and he didn’t miss the money, well I knew it was something I could probably do too (so I did).

I’m getting less scared of investing

Too often women think money isn’t a topic for them. We all know about the gender pay gap, but there are other gaps that need to close too. In the past I’ve found myself left out of conversations about investments, but by leaning into chats I might have side stepped before, I’m learning how to make the savings I have perform better. Now when a friend mentions crypto I ask questions rather than feel embarrassed about what I don’t know.

I sleep better

For all the work we’re doing for our health, there is one fact that the wellness industry currently overlooks: money is the greatest source of anxiety. Study after study turns up data that shows that money is the most common cause of stress for every generation and both sexes.

By talking about money I started to feel a greater control over it. I no longer feel that 3am anxiety about it that I used to. I might talk about it more, but ironically I no longer really think about it. I don’t spend money mindlessly; I don’t sweat when stating my dayrate. And that’s all because I started talking about money.

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