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?