Life

Should We Ever Talk About Money?

November 29, 2017
talk about money

When it comes to me and my mum, we discuss absolutely everything. Relationships, career problems, friendship worries… no subject is off the table.

No subject, save two of the most important.

POLITICS AND MONEY.

For as long as I can remember my mum has been a believer in the fact these are things that just shouldn’t be discussed. And to be fair, the last time we tried to talk politics (General Election 2017) it ended in a screaming row and grovelling apologies 24 hours later (sorry again, mum). We haven’t entered into a political discussion since.

As for money, that one’s still pretty off-limits as I know it is for many people. Though we’re in progressive 2017, in civil society money is just one of those things you politely don’t mention.

But this isn’t working for me: I hate the trend to tiptoe around what’s in our wallets. As driven young women we discuss everything else from our hopes and fears to messy love and family lives, so why not chat about our cash?

To this end, in my life l I’m trying to encourage fiscal openness. And slowly but surely, at the same time as I’ve wanted to be more open about this subject, I’ve noticed an upsurge in my friends beginning to discuss it too. What we’re paid, what we spend, what we’d like: it’s incredibly refreshing and I believe so necessary.

As a single working business owner I am totally in charge of my own financial destiny. My earning power depends on how driven I am and how hard I work, and all household spending is completely up to me too. This is something I simultaneously love and loathe: I get a real buzz from knowing I’m the sole breadwinner in our family but on the odd occasion I wish there was someone to question my ridiculous skincare habit or to flag up the fact I’ve developed a too-frequent love for expensive cheese and lovely shoes (not at the same time, natch).

Which is where my open-minded money-chatting work pals come in.

The job that I do is incredibly hard to price. We’re working in a new industry, and though I’ve worked within advertising and media agencies for years the world of influencer marketing is largely untested and almost completely unregulated. As such, when I’m approached to do a piece of work – a blog post, an Instagram post, a video, an external piece of writing, the hosting of an event – it can be a ‘how long is a piece of string’ approach to quoting. Which is probably not the most scientific way to go about earning the money to keep my kids in posh cheese.

At these times it’s essential that I have a group of women who I can wail at, how much would you charge for this? And we will go merrily backwards and forwards pondering what we think is a fair price based on contributing factors (day rates, audience sizes, licensing requirements… are you snoozing yet?). It’s an essential part of freelance life, at least until I’m Zoella-sized which I’m guessing is when you get an agent and a PO Box.

Then there’s the fact that, as someone whose income is directly related to how tenacious and driven I am, talking about money is an incredibly motivating factor. A freelance friend of mine was recently lambasted for discussing her fees and income on Twitter, with the criticism coming from someone who believed it was bad taste in a zero-hours unfair-benefits climate. I understand that point of view, I really do, but if we didn’t discuss these sensitive life topics, how would we move society forward?

For me – and I know others, too – I love to observe friends who are discussing their incomes, building new online businesses out of skills that would have been nowhere near as lucrative when I entered the job market 12 years ago. I find it such a driver to see my pals and colleagues creating income streams, buying homes (and shoes) in a way that my parents would never have dreamed. It’s so amazing to see people like me who eschewed the 9-5 to improve their quality of live embracing the Digital Nomad way, travelling, working the hours they deem appropriate for themselves (mine are most certainly unusual) and crafting successful careers out of their own creativity.

And I wouldn’t have this drive and motivation from others if we weren’t talking about what’s going on in our bank accounts.

In addition I find conversations about expenditure mega handy. I decided long ago at about the age of 21 that because Excel budget spreadsheets are my least favourite thing in the world I had to be as good as my job as possible, therefore earning enough money to not have to use formulas outside of client reports. Seriously: the pain of personal admin is one of the reasons that drives me at work.

This is why I love seeing how others spend their money and picking up hints and tips to seamlessly make my life slightly less spendy (“It’s possible to go an entire week without browsing ASOS? Insane” ;). The Money Diaries at Refinery 29 are brilliant for this – I’m so in awe of those who are able to live frugally – and though it’s stateside I think The Financial Diet is great. 

The thing is, money isn’t what it used to be. I mean, it’s exactly what it used to be, but the way we must treat it is totally different. I bought my first house at the age of 21 (imagine doing that without a huge hand-up these days?) and it blows my mind when I remember the 110% mortgages that were being touted around only 12 years ago. Insanity. A colleague of mine at work took out one of these; they bought a house and a holiday to the Caribbean.

The point I’m making is that it’s essential for us to talk about money because it’s dangerous not to. With the gender pay gap very much a real thing and unregulated freelance work on the rise, it’s sensible for us to have these honest conversations so none of us are falling behind.

And I count my kids in these people too; they’re often asking how much things cost and I always tell them honestly, with a subtle postscript of AND WE HAVE THESE LOVELY THINGS BECAUSE YOUR MUMMY WORKS HARD SO MAKE SURE YOU FINISH YOUR SPELLINGS AND GO TO A GOOD UNIVERSITY. It’s never too young to learn, eh?

I’m not about to shout about my salary on Twitter but I’ll continue to chat about my freelance fiscal life with friends. It educates me, it drives me, it comforts me.

I’d love to know what you think: should we be talking about money more?

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  • Reply paula November 30, 2017 at 10:51 am

    I think its hard for children. Hard cash just isn’t what it used to be. Go shopping & tap your card. shop online & within a click amazon is knocking on the door with a package. school doesn’t help, all payments online & not even possible to take a few quid in change in the buy a cookie from the School canteen – finger printed payment linked to online account!

    • Reply alice December 14, 2017 at 10:21 am

      That’s it – I remember so clearly growing up that you’d have to exchange actual money for things. It’s so different these days, I don’t think money feels as ‘real’. Finger print money at school? WOW!

  • Reply Lauranne November 30, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I definitely think we should be more open about money. I know I have a tendency to overshare, but I don’t think talking about money can ever be a bad thing. Shouldn’t we know that we are on a similar wage as people who do the same job as us? I feel it would be a lot harder to have that glass ceiling and huge discrepancy in a woman’s wage vs a man’s if we talked about this.

    I have also discovered since giving up work to return to college, I am broke. I am bringing in £1500 a month (which seems like a lot of money) but I am struggling to make ends meet at the end of the month, when you take out bills, mortgage payment, car payments etc I have had to cut back on my shopping and I am currently feeding myself on less than £10 a week. Paying everything I “have to” means I have no money left for none essentials. I have had to be open and honest with my friends and say I can’t afford to do stuff, if I go out (which is a rarity – I’m going out this weekend but thats a late birthday celebration) but I have already spoken to friends about how I am struggling financially and so we have agreed bus or walking rather than taxis, we will cook and drink at home before heading out. Being honest has removed a lot of the stress, I think everyone should do it!

    • Reply alice December 14, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Wow, managing to buy food on £10/week is such an incredible feat, Lauranne. Bravo to you for being able to have these frank conversations with your friends – so needed, I think! x

  • Reply Kate November 30, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    In the industry I was working in as a freelancer, rates were always discussed with groups of close friends/colleagues. I think it’s really important so you can know if you’re at the right place. People would generally be pleased for you if you’d secured a good rate, if anything it proved this may be possible for them. I really don’t like when employers insist you can’t discuss your salary with colleagues – seems controlling.

  • Reply Jon November 30, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Interesting piece. Not talking about money is almost a pillar of Britishness. My father, the main breadwinner growing up, never told my mother what he earned; but since neither he nor my mother is a reckless spender it worked for them. But to me, it never felt a particularly healthy part of their relationship, particularly nowadays.
    I personally think we need a sea change in views on this, and a major way to make this happen would be for all tax returns to be made public. We would all nose around and take a look at people’s earnings for a while, but at a certain point attitudes would quickly change and modern life would continue, slightly changed. I appreciate mine is a minority view. But after all, the price of all housing transactions is online and the world didn’t end!

  • Reply Nyomi November 30, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I’m with you on this. We should share, especially in our industry, and as women!

  • Reply Suzanne Cox November 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Very true, its important to break the taboo. I find being a member of a money saving website invaluable when it comes to setting myself and achieving monthly targets. Its great cause you can ask people’s opinions and band around new ideas for earning money and for making your money work harder. Recognise that this is so much easier to do online though.

  • Reply Anna November 30, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    As someone about to leave the 9-5 (8-???) and go independent, I am CONSTANTLY thinking and talking about money with close friends and scouring the internet for info. But I’m also American so maybe it’s in our DNA…

  • Reply Anne Macnamara December 3, 2017 at 12:13 am

    Agree so much that talking about money is important. Knowledge is power and if we don’t talk about how much we earn, particularly as women, we risk perpetuating the ridiculous pay gap and failing to ask for what we are worth. One of the things I am most proud for f is not accepting the first pay offer for my current post and negotiating an increased offer!

  • Reply Lara December 4, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Really interesting and very divisive! I’m very pro talking about money. With 95% of my friends, I know how much they earn and what their house cost them, but a small minority are extremely opposed to talking about these things.

    Here’s a question for you – are you prepared to tell us all how much your earned altogether last year? (Me – in house lawyer for a car company, 55k). And if not, why not?! Last week I was chatting with 3 friends about salaries, one of whom didn’t want to reveal hers. However, when asked to reflect on why not, she couldn’t really answer it. She said it was probably simply an internalised sense of feeling like “she’s just not supposed to” – super interesting!

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