Money — it makes the world go ’round. But talking about it? Not so much. As a matter of fact, financial conversations sometimes make the world feel like it’s come to a complete stop. Have you ever felt totally tongue-tied when it came time to ask your boss for a well-deserved raise or when you and your significant other started talking about the financial implications of moving in together? You’re not the only one.
Money conversations can be challenging, but they’re also necessary — and our resistance to them is to blame, at least in some part, for the persistent gender pay gap. “If we aren’t having these conversations, how do you even know you have a gender pay gap?” says Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest. “How do you know you’re not making as much money as you should? How do you know how much money to save? If everything is darkness, there’s no way of knowing.”
Krawcheck attributes our discomfort with the subject to our culture. “The problem is that society gives us the message that money is the last place where we feel uncertain, where we feel insecure, where we feel unladylike,” she says.
Society doesn’t have to be right, though, and we can help turn the tides by getting more comfortable leading financial conversations with people (especially men) in our professional and personal lives. Krawcheck offers these six tips for upping your confidence when it comes to money matters.
1. Schedule the time in advance. Whether you’re gearing up to talk about finances with a boss or a significant other, you’ll find that setting a date for the conversation ahead of time will make you more comfortable and the discussion more productive. This practice may seem more natural in a work environment, but you should consider carrying it into your personal life as well. “It never seems like a great idea to be riding down the street in a car to grab groceries and say, ‘And how much money do you make? How much student loan debt do you have?'” Krawcheck says. “Instead, say, ‘You know what, it feels like things are getting a little serious with us. How about on Thursday evening we spend some time talking about money?'” Oh, and when that Thursday evening does roll around? Bring wine (Krawcheck’s suggestion, not ours).
2. Do your research. It should come as no surprise that advance preparation should be your BFF any time you’re heading into a serious financial discussion, especially at the office. If it’s time to ask your boss for a raise, spend some time on PayScale, GetRaised, or Comparably in advance of your (scheduled) meeting. You’ll be a lot more confident if you studied up beforehand, and you’ll make a much greater impact if your ask is aligned with the rest of your industry. “It’s crucial,” Krawcheck says of this kind of research. “Otherwise, you don’t even know what to ask for. Having some knowledge goes so far.”
3. Practice, practice, practice. All those hours you spent rehearsing for middle school science fairs were good for more than just a few A’s on your report card. They also should have laid the foundation for practice in the biggest moments of your life. If you’re planning to talk to your boss about your salary, run through your talking points with your partner or bestie, and if you’re going to approach your significant other about their financial situation, ask your BFF to pretend to be bae while you prep. Understanding what you plan to say — and knowing how it feels to say it — will boost your confidence tenfold.
4. Know your nervous tell, and figure out how to hide it. Krawcheck learned the importance of this one the hard way — from personal experience. “I used to go in and talk about raises with my boss and he would say, ‘Are you okay?'” she says. “I’d practiced and my voice was steady, but I personally blotch on my neck when I get emotional, and that was my tell.” For Krawcheck, the solution was to round out her wardrobe with turtlenecks and scarves. Be aware of your own emotional tics and make a plan to downplay them.
5. Know your audience. We want you to feel comfortable anytime you’re discussing finances, but we also want you to understand that financial conversations aren’t always appropriate. Realize who you should and shouldn’t be talking money with, because learning to distinguish between these groups will give you a lot of street cred and, in turn, a lot of confidence. Case in point? Office chatter. Krawcheck urges women everywhere to avoid salary-related discussions with their coworkers. “You’re legally allowed to do it, but I can tell you that if your boss finds out, he or she is not going to be particularly happy about it,” she says. If your boss respects you and the way you communicate in the workplace, you can feel a lot more comfortable having tough conversations with him or her.
6. Get comfortable talking with your friends. Chatting about money with your gal pals is a great way to ease into similar conversations with your partner or employer — and you may be surprised by how much you learn from your friends! Krawcheck suggests initiating discussions like this by showing you’re looking for help (“Hey guys! When we get together on Saturday night, I have some questions around money that I would love to talk to you all about. I could really use some help here. Is it okay if we chat about it over a drink?”). Be vulnerable, and assure your friends that your money talks will remain confidential. As with most things, we have a feeling your BFFs can give you a major boost of confidence in this area… if you let them :)
What else do you do to up your confidence for financial conversations? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)