How to Make Money Less Weird

And start talking about it.

how to talk about money
Talking about money is about as uncomfortable as running into your ex while on a date. So how do we get less weird about the subject? By getting real about it. Pull it off like a Band-Aid, friends. Once you do, things get a whole lot easier, we promise. To help get you on the right track, we caught up with our friend and financial advisor Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick—she has 15 years of experience on Wall Street and was previously Vice President at Morgan Stanley—for her tips on how to finally be comfortable talking about money.

“The main underlying truth to all of my conversations about the feelings we have about our money is that people are just straight-up weird about it. Everyone comes to the table with their own set of baggage, and it’s a big part of my job as a financial advisor to navigate that. But why do we have such emotional baggage about finances? What is it about cash, coin, moolah, dough, loot, bacon, Benjamins (this is kind of fun) that makes us so uncomfortable? How can we circumvent money weirdness and allow ourselves to embrace it instead? Let’s unpack this.”

Everyone Has a Money Story

“The one thing that holds true for everyone is that we all have a money story or journey. My story is pretty straightforward. I understood at a young age that money bought me stuff, and I wanted stuff. However, because I was the oldest of a large family where cash wasn’t always flowing, I had to do without. Mind you, when I say ‘without,’ I mean that I didn’t have the designer clothes that my friends had. Cry me a river. In the third grade, I started to figure out ways to make money. I babysat, tried a few businesses (I ran a black-market business selling drawings of the Simpsons in fifth grade; very lucrative), and I got my first paying job when I was 14 as a clerk in a cosmetics store. I often had three jobs at once while I was in high school and college. When it came to making decisions about my future, I made the deliberate choice to go into finance because I knew it would pay me. And I wanted to get paid.

“The key to the money story is to be honest with yourself and to get a better understanding of how you have framed your story. Your journey often defines the way you think, speak, and manifest money, and is often the framework for how you spend, invest, and approach money in general. So first step: Tell your story. Second step: Look for clues in the story to see if it gives you any indications of how it has manifested into your current relationship with your finances.”

How Was I Taught about Money?

“Do you feel weird when you talk about money? Do you clam up, get embarrassed, or change the subject? If so, you need to dig deeper. If you are shy about the subject, you need to identify why. Is it cultural? Do you think it’s bad etiquette? Did someone make you feel shameful in your past about it?

“Generally speaking, I have found that women shy away from the topic because they think it’s distasteful, bad manners, or will make others uncomfortable. In addition, women are often taught (explicitly or implicitly) that they shouldn’t talk about finances and should not base career decisions based on compensation. This is a topic I could talk for hours about, but this is the tipping point to the gender wage gap. But sticking to the topic du jour, our weirdness around money starts when we are little girls and has a tendency to get worse with age. This is something to spend some time on. Do your money beliefs serve you well today? Determine which of your beliefs serve you well and which beliefs constrict or limit you.”

How Do I Talk about Money?

“I recently sat down with someone who started the conversation with ‘I hate talking about money.’ With just one sentence, I was able to learn a great deal about how this person deals with money. Just like anything, it is important to use the correct language when discussing money, but before that, you have to be OK having the conversation. If you are very negative about it, get embarrassed by it, or just generally avoid it, the money will go elsewhere. Money doesn’t need you. It can go find someone else to hang out with. If you don’t want money, then keep talking about how awful you are with it, how stressful it is, how confusing it is. If you want money, then invite it over for coffee. Embrace it. Learn about it. Talk about it. The more barriers you break down, the more financial success you will have.”

How Can I Get Past My Money Weirdness?

“Now that you have gained some awareness about your money weirdness, the next step is to get beyond it. Start reframing the way you think, speak, and act around money. If you ‘hate’ talking about it, force yourself to start. If you tell everyone that you ‘aren’t good with money,’ then flip the script and learn more about it by asking smart questions. Start speaking clearly and calmly about money, and take the emotion out of it.”

Start Treating Your Money Like a Valued Relationship

“Imagine you treated your money like you treated your best friend. Now is the time to start. Pay attention to it, go on dates with it (this means check your bank accounts, track your spending, and start making good decisions). Prioritize your money, and prioritize your financial hygiene. Also, stop comparing yourself to others. Trust me, no one is as financially secure and savvy as they would like you to believe. You stick to your plan and focus on you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Finally, start telling everyone about your new friend, money. Ask people about their money journeys or how they manage their finances. Let the whole world know that you and money are friends now.”

Photo: Brass Dollar Sign Object, Jonathan Adler; Shoes, J.W. Anderson

Kristin Merrick, Financial Advisor, O’Keeffe Financial Partners, LLC. Opinions expressed in the attached article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. member FINRA/SIPC. O’Keeffe Financial Partners is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment Advisory Services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc.

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