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Why Talking About Money Helps You Hold On to It

Not talking openly about money can have a huge negative impact on your financial health.
Image: Young couple with clothes and pushchair made out of US dollar banknotes
Young couple with clothes and pushchair made out of US dollar banknotesVeronica Grech / Getty Images/Ikon Images
/ Source: NBC News

There are a few topics that we’ve been conditioned to think are off-limits at the dinner table: religion, sex and money are at the top of the list.

But when it comes to money, a whole lot of us shy away from talking about it — with not just acquaintances at a party but the most important people in our lives.

According to LearnVest’s 2017 Money Habits and Confessions Survey, one in five Americans never have a serious discussion about finances with their partner. What’s more, a recent survey from TIAA found that just 11 percent of parents are likely to start a convo about money with their adult kids.

“Most of us learn our money habits from our parents, and more often than not, there can be negativity around money,” says Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, an investment platform geared towards women.

"The best way to talk about money with friends is to ask questions."

The thing is, not talking openly about money can have a huge negative impact on your financial health. That’s definitely the case for women. According to American Association of University Women, women are typically paid 80 percent of their male counterparts.

“If women suffer from a gender pay gap, how do we close it without knowing that we have one, how much it is, how much we should be asking our boss for and what approaches worked for others in the past?” says Krawcheck.

In general, having a frank discussion about your finances can be a seriously good idea for just about, well, everyone. “The major benefit of speaking about money is getting the subject out in the open,” says Greg Heller, founder and CEO of HCR Wealth Advisors in Los Angeles. “Knowledge is power and people tend to feel a huge sense of relief from discussing their situation and possibly fears with regard to money. This in turn allows them to make better decisions, avoid critical mistakes, set attainable goals and demystify the subject of money.”

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Below, experts share their best tips for having a big financial talk with your S.O., boss and more.

Set Yourself Up for Success

We shy away from talking about money — not just with acquaintances, but the most important people in our lives.

First things first: Before you bring up the topic with anyone else, it’s important to get in the habit of using positive language around money, says Leanne Jacobs, holistic wealth expert and author of “Beautiful Money.” Have a hefty credit card balance? Tell yourself something like, “I’m in the process of getting debt-free,” instead of “Ugh, I’ll never pay off my debt,” says Jacobs. “Practice — even if just for one day — using healthy money language,” she says.

Be Upfront with Your Better Half

Ready to sit down with your partner? Set a time and let him or her know in advance what you want to talk about, says Jessie Doll, wealth management advisor with TIAA. “Pick a calm moment to talk about this,” says Doll. “You don’t want to bring this up after a big credit card bill has come.”

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That being said, don’t be afraid to chat about debt or a bad credit score. “We can’t get out of those bad habits until we name them,” says Doll. “But because this a taboo subject and we’re not used to talking about it, it’s helpful to have time to think about what you want to say.”

“Practice — even if just for one day — using healthy money language.”

If you’ve decided you need to change your spending habits, make it something that both of you do together — and don’t dwell on what you’re giving up. “If you skip coffee every morning, think about what you’re aiming for,” says Doll. “Maybe that means you can buy your dream house or go on vacation.”

Show Your Boss You Deserve a Raise

“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is that they treat ‘getting a raise’ as a once a year exercise,” says Krawcheck. “As a result, they don’t properly set the groundwork for their raise in advance.” So, have a convo with your boss early in the year to talk about what success in your position would look like — and ask for specific numbers (i.e. you’d bring in X number of new clients in a quarter) you should be targeting. Then, schedule meetings each quarter to assess your progress.

If you are planning on asking your superior for more money, come prepared for your meeting by doing your research. Krawcheck suggests looking at a site like or to get a general idea of what you should be making.

And think about framing your conversation this way: It’s not about what you can get from your employer — it’s about what you can give, says Jacobs.

Image: Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall on Location for "Sex and the City: The Movie" - September 21, 2007
Actresses Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall on the set of "Sex In The City: The Movie" on September 21, 2007 in New York City.James Devaney / WireImage

Ask Your Friends a Few Key Qs

Don’t be afraid to be as open with your pals about financials as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda were about their sex lives. “The best way to talk about money with friends is to ask questions,” says Heller. Think: How did you buy your house? Do you have a retirement plan — and if so, what kind? If you’re living with roommates, Doll suggests chatting with them about things they might be paying for without even knowing it.

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Get Your Kids Started Early

How you approach the subject of money will filter down to your children. Teaching them key money concepts early can have a positive affect on their relationship with moolah when they get older, says Jacobs. “Be mindful of how you talk about money because little minds are like sponges,” says Jacobs. For example, don’t say you can’t afford something — say, “how can we make this happen” or “how can we earn this.”