I have a friend—let’s call her Alice—and we go way back. I’m talking about school uniforms, crayons, and decades of friendship.
When you’re friends with someone that long, you share a lot with each other. We’ve traveled together, gushed about our love lives, and talked about our goals and dreams late at night. We have that kind of friendship where every topic is on the table of conversation: totally supportive and judgment-free.
If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that there wasn’t anything we couldn’t talk about.
But then one day, Alice called me and I could immediately hear in her voice that something was wrong.
“Tori, I need help…money help. And it’s bad.”
Turns out that, thanks to a couple of emergency expenses and losing her job unexpectedly during the pandemic, Alice had racked up a pretty hefty amount of credit card debt and the bills were quickly getting away from her and impacting her credit score.
“I wanted to talk to you sooner, but I was so embarrassed and scared of what you would say.”
Here’s the thing: people talk to me about money—their money—all the time. And it makes sense! After all, I’m a personal finance expert and this is what I do! So it was sad to learn that one of my closest friends had long avoided coming to me for financial advice.
But the reality is that for generations, talking about money has been considered taboo, inappropriate, and rude. Parents discuss finances behind closed doors and teach their children at a young age not to talk about money. We keep our salaries to ourselves and don't fully celebrate our financial milestones.
With these societal norms, it’s no wonder that our conversations about money have become so limited, even between friends and family.
And while I can understand being hesitant to disclose personal financial information to just anybody that comes your way, feeling like we don’t have the space to talk about money can be quite damaging when someone needs financial help but doesn’t feel that they are able to ask for it.
I have helped hundreds of thousands of women transform their relationships with money through my courses, podcast, and online resources. But my conversation with Alice helped remind me that one of the most valuable financial tools any of us has is the ability to talk to each other about money.
These conversations may feel a bit awkward at first, but I’m sharing my top three tips for talking to loved ones about money so that you can navigate these delicate conversations with ease, protect your relationships, and help your loved ones develop healthier relationships with money.
Always ask if your loved one wants your help.
We all know how it feels to receive unsolicited advice: it can be pretty awkward, embarrassing, and even insulting. The last thing we want is to make a friend or family member feel that way.
If you have a loved one who you suspect needs financial guidance, always start by asking if they want your help. This will not only ensure that they are both comfortable with the conversation and also ready to make the most of the insight and advice that you share.
Keep in mind that they may decline your offer. If they do, it is important that you respect their boundaries. Even if they don’t take you up on your help this time, now they will know that they can come to you for help when they are ready and that you will treat them with kindness and respect.
Assure them that you are coming from a place of love rather than judgment.
Look, money is a sensitive topic of conversation for many people. It is easy to feel embarrassed or ashamed if your finances aren’t exactly where you want them to be.
As you begin to navigate the financial conversation, make sure that your loved one knows that you are there because you want to support them, not judge them or shame them. Remind them that you want them to live a life in which they are able to set and reach their money goals and discover freedom from financial stress.
I have found that a good way to build trust and put everyone at ease is to share a personal story about a time that you needed to get your finances in order. Not only does this show that your financial advice actually works, but it communicates that you have no desire to judge because you too have experienced money challenges on your personal finance journey. It normalizes it.
Ease them in with simple, actionable advice.
I’ve built a career on making financial advice accessible and easy to understand, so I know firsthand how easy it is to overwhelm financial wellness newbies with an excess of information, technical jargon, and a seemingly endless financial to-do list.
And what happens when people become financially overwhelmed? They feel stuck, shut down, and stop making progress.
When you are sharing financial advice with a loved one, avoid jumping into topics that can be a little more complicated, such as crypto and NFT’s. You don’t want them to check out from the conversation or think that managing their personal finances is too hard to even try.
Instead, try to ease them into the conversation with actionable steps and information that is relevant to their situation. Start by making sure that they understand the full scope of their financial situation: help them understand their income-to-expenses ratio, show them how to view their credit score, write down the total of their debts, their interest rates, and minimum payments. This will give you both the information you need to create a financial plan that is relevant to their needs and sustainable for their goals.
Then you can move on to making sure that your loved one understands financial basics such as sticking to a budget, automating their savings, using credit responsibly, and sticking to a financial plan for their future. Give them the information and steps that they need to put these practices into action, and share your favorite financial tools that will help them along their financial wellness journey.
Whether you send them your personal budgeting spreadsheet template, encourage them to download your favorite money management app, or help them navigate Ladder’s Insurance Calculator so they can get set up with a personalized life insurance policy, these financial tools will make reaching their financial goals so much easier, faster, and more sustainable for the long-term.
I used all of these strategies as I worked with Alice, and not only were we able to create a financial plan that helped her pay off her debt, improve her credit score, and plan for her financial future, we also grew even closer together as friends.
When we foster close, trustworthy relationships with our loved ones and healthy relationships with money, we create a community in which we all have the opportunity to support one another and grow and thrive financially. And I think that’s pretty dang cool.