Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rule #29 Talk about money. Ask about money.

"Money, like emotions, is something you must control to keep your life on the right track."
- Natasha Munson

Its funny how people refuse to talk about money.  I never really understood why money got grouped in with religion and politics as things NOT to talk about when at a dinner party.  And by talking about money I don't mean comparing paycheques, bank account balances, or hourly consulting rates.  When I say "talk about money", I mean discussing strategy, risk tolerance, debt management, negotiating tactics and so on.  I believe not talking about money is one of the reasons a lot of people are clueless about money management.  I suspect people are reluctant to talk about money because they don't want to talk about all the stupid things they have done or are doing with their money.   Or, it could be that they feel they're being compared to someone who makes way more or less than them and that makes them uncomfortable.  Maybe its because they don't want to find out they could be doing something better or that they are behind all their peers, as if there is some sort of competition going on.  The fact that few people talk about money is probably one of the reasons many families, singles, seniors, kids and governments all have such poor money management practices.

I for one have always been curious about money strategies, and I've never been afraid of asking questions however basic they may be.  I'm also a big fan of the sharing of ideas and problem-solving techniques, usually over a couple of beer.  When I was in University, I remember learning the most important and practical things about life through discussions at the student pub over cheap beer and poutine dinners.  The interactive discussion is where the magic happens, not the book learnin... and I think that still holds true today in the digital age.  I've managed to connect with a lot of like-minded money-talkers over the years and we have become a sort of financial network that I tap into quite regularly.  If you want to become well versed in a particular topic, it is beneficial to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or have varying opinions on a subject, and the topic of money is no exception, and don't forget to ask lots and lots of questions.  I always like to talk about the mistakes I have made because I am a big believer in the sharing of ideas, both good and bad, and working through problems with different perspectives.  Making mistakes, or being unhappy with your decisions, is part of the process.  For me, it is not something to hide.

The Last Defence Lounge at the University of Calgary for Poutine and Beer nights.

With regards to finances, I am fairly opinionated on those strategies that work for us and those that do not.   However, I have had some great discussions with other people who have completely different strategies, and who are very happy to learn about what we do, and are keen to share their strategies with me.    Knowing and understanding the various routes to financial independence is the first step to actually getting there.  I try and learn from anyone who will talk with me about money.  One priority of mine is to talk money with our two boys when the time is right.  A lot of kids dont get "the (money) talk" with anybody until they find themselves up to their eyeballs in debt.  And while its never too late to learn about money management, it does sting less if you learn good money management earlier in life.

Some topics that might be worth discussing with other people when the topic of money comes up: Investment styles, debt reduction strategies, how to get the right mortgage and whether to pay it down or not, how to define and limit risk, alternative and multiple income streams.  It may also make sense to contact persons you know who have good money practices or have done well for themselves financially, and ask them for some advice.  My experience has been that if you are serious and genuine in your questions, most people are pretty open about talking about their money strategies.

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