Money Talks: How and why to talk about money with colleagues and students

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Maggie Craig is the current chair of Children's 1st and has been active on diversity and inclusion issues for several years with a particular focus on mental health. Maggie has spent her executive career in the financial services industry. Here, she discusses how and why to talk about money with colleagues and students.

As Neil Diamond says in 'Forever in Blue Jeans', “money talks.” Aside from being a great song, it's certainly true. But what is also true and, in fact, more important is that we need to talk about money. 

No, we do not, I hear you cry. It’s dull, it makes us nervous and most of us feel we don’t have enough of it. Add that to the fact that many business are still recovering from the pandemic, and individuals are trying to cope with an ever-increasing cost of living, and it can cause many people sleepless nights and a great deal of worry. Talk about money? No thank you - I would rather talk about just about anything else. 

However, all that makes it even more important that we do talk about money – all of us. Did you know, for instance, that research shows that people who talk about money make better and less risky financial decisions? People who talk about money feel less stressed, less anxious, and more in control. And, perhaps most surprisingly, people who talk about money have stronger personal relationships.

Building money talk into our everyday lives also helps us build financial confidence and resilience. It makes us better equipped to deal with money problems if and when they arise. 

And all of that applies to the people you employ and support.

How do we start talking about money?

Ok, so much for the benefits of talking about money – how do we get started? That takes me neatly to Talk Money Week. Talk Money Week happens every year and its whole purpose is to get people across the UK talking about money. It doesn’t mean you have to become an investment expert or try to talk about the latest pronouncement from the Bank of England. It simply offers us all the opportunity to host or take part in activities, events and initiatives that make talking about money more approachable, no matter what age we are, where we live or what we do. 

Do One Thing

This year it is as simple as can be. Talk Money Week is asking everyone – parents and teachers, community groups and businesses – all over the UK, to encourage everyone the people in their networks to Do One Thing that could help improve their financial wellbeing.

For example, you might decide to talk about where to turn with money worries with your colleagues or employees. You probably spend as much time talking to your them as you do your partner, and you hopefully consider some of them your friends, but many of us find it difficult to broach the conversation of money. Sometimes it’s hard to get a conversation started.

You could: 

Understanding different backgrounds

One reason it’s difficult is that we all have different attitudes to money. Having different attitudes to money isn’t itself a problem - we all come from different backgrounds.

What matters is that we talk about these differences and manage them. And if we are not talking about them, we don’t have much chance of managing them.

Check out MoneyHelper’s 'How to talk about moneyOpens in a new window' resources for ways to start talking. 

If it’s not safe to talk

One crucial point: sadly, sometimes it’s not safe for everyone to talk so openly.

If a partner or a family controls access to a person’s money, or runs up debts in their name, it is financial abuse. There’s no other name for it, and it’s wrong. It’s a difficult, horrible situation for anyone to be in but there’s no need for them to struggle on alone.

Please, if this is happening to you or you suspect it is happening to someone else, MoneyHelper’s 'Financial abuse: spotting the signs and leaving safelyOpens in a new window' information can offer some guidance. 

Talking money with children

Alternatively, starting the conversation could mean getting children to talk about money.

I remember finding out a few years ago that the skills we need to manage our money begin to develop between the ages of three and seven. It is never too early to start. And we need to start: fewer than half of children and young people aged 7 to 17 get a meaningful financial education at home or at school. More than one in five young people aged 14 to 17 feels anxious when thinking about money.

On the upside, young people who recall learning about money at school are more likely to have good money habits and feel confident managing their money.

As a Scot, I was pleased to learn that children in Scotland are significantly better than the UK average in being involved in managing their own finances.

How to help children learn about money

Children and young people can talk about money in lots of ways and lots of places - at home with parents, or at school with teachers and classmates for example. That said, we all know how much teachers have to do, so the Talk Money Week Toolkit for SchoolsOpens in a new window offers ideas to help deliver financial education in school all year round and has some great resources. 

Taking money with children and young people doesn’t have to be huge and it doesn’t have to be scary. It could be as simple as talking about pocket money, getting them involved in the cost of their new mobile phone - or even the Netflix subscription!

So go on, give it a try – Talk Money – talk it any way you like to anyone you want. But Do One Thing and Talk Money. 

Published by:

Maggie Craig, Chair of Children 1st