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Hey, humans, I’m Michael Liersch, PhD Behavioral Science, Head of Advice and Planning for Wealth and Investment Management. And this is the About Money Podcast presented by Wells Fargo. I’m a behavioral scientist who loves openly discussing money to help humans better understand their money behaviors. By understanding our money behaviors, we all have the opportunity to make better money decisions.
We’re gonna have a lot of fun together, and start our first season with money taboos. For many of us, money was and still is a taboo topic to openly discuss. The question is why? We’re gonna address those taboos head on. And break through money silence. So we can all get closer to our money goals.
In this episode we’re going to ask ourselves what behaviors do I exhibit that I suggest that I’m uncomfortable talking about money? When we think about what the behaviors are that make people understand we don’t like talking about money it’s important to be very introspective so I’d like you to just take a moment, think about that. What is it that you could be doing?
And perhaps you avoid the conversation. You change the subject. You shut it down. Your face turns red. Your shoulders go up. You make people intentionally uncomfortable through your actions or your words. Perhaps you just walk out of the room. And I want you to ask yourself why you do that?
Because the bottom line is we all have motivations, experiences, a history that has brought us to this point, a context that’s brought us to, to a point of making us uncomfortable talking about money making it feel as we’ve discussed taboo. So why? So I want you to take a moment and think about that and maybe even write it down.
I can tell you from my perspective why I’m uncomfortable talking about money and why I had to research it. I have a PhD essentially in behavioral finance because it was so uncomfortable for me to talk about money, understand it, understand people’s motivations, the meanings of it based on my history, my life that I had to study it and understand why. They call it me-search in my field, not research.
So my why, and I’m just being really authentic in sharing this with you, is that money equaled uncomfortable experiences. So when my family—and I hope my mom doesn’t get too upset about this—but when my family entered into experiences with other people we never had the right amount of money to make that experience pleasant. And oftentimes we’d enter into the situation and since we didn’t have enough money in the moment we’d have to borrow money, ask for money from someone else. But it was usually when we were put on the spot when it was time to pay. And so that’s created a whole set of issues in my life around talking about money. And it’s taken me years and years and years when money is brought up, even in very innocuous situations, not to have a literal visceral reaction to it and to move to the other side where now I love talking about it; it’s all I want to talk about. Maybe there is another side to that too.
So think about your why. Why is it that you feel this way? Why is it that it’s so uncomfortable for you? Now I want you to think about what would be better? What would be a better reaction than avoidance, making others uncomfortable, letting them know you’re uncomfortable, walking out of the room? What would be a better outcome here in terms of your behaviors?
And when you think about those better outcomes–I mean, I went and got a PhD, that’s pretty extreme but it’s what I felt I needed to do–I think most human beings can do something a bit more incremental. So what’s a small change you can make to maybe make other people not notice how uncomfortable you are and also make yourself more comfortable in those dialogues?
So perhaps it’s literally just expressing out loud with your words rather than through your behaviors that, for whatever reason, your history has made you not feel so comfortable talking about this and that. That perhaps that’s not the right way to feel in this moment, especially if it’s a money conversation that you know needs to be had or is normal but you wanted to share that with people. So being authentic could be your incremental action to get to a better place and being vulnerable with others.
Perhaps it’s really just being more aware of your body language and also being willing to sit in the room even if you are uncomfortable and hear out that money conversation, hear what someone else has to say. So those simple steps, although very difficult I know for many people, can be an enormous path forward to getting to a better outcome. Which is ultimately that money silence, money taboos, can have risks, because the lack of that information sharing, the lack of that collaboration, the lack of that discussion can create misalignment, disconnect.
And so how do we get to a place where we actually make other people less aware of our discomfort so they in turn become more comfortable sharing information with us? Which can lead to better alignment. Which can lead to better decision-making. Which can lead to, frankly, more vulnerability on a collective basis so that we can all understand that we’re in it together when it comes to moving to a better and productive place around money?
So I’ve highlighted a couple of thoughts in terms of actions you can take, but I am going to ask you to take a particular action right now. I want you to first evaluate and then write down one tangible step, like we just covered, that you’re going to take starting immediately after you listen to this podcast that’s going to increase your comfort talking about money. And, again, it can be anything.
It could be changing your environment, revealing to people how uncomfortable you are talking about money. Whatever that is try to take one step. It could be reading a book, a book on how to talk about money. Whatever that is take one step after you listen to this podcast. And maybe listening to another one of these podcasts could be that step.
But try to increase your comfort level incrementally with talking about money because when you make these small incremental changes, I’m telling you and research shows, that those small incremental changes not only change your behaviors over time but ultimately inspire you to compound those changes.
Because, what you’ll see is, they lead to better and better outcomes, more integrative, positive results that make your behaviors more aligned with what you want to accomplish. Which, my guess, is open, collaborative conversations with those that you care about around the meaning of money and how best to use it so that everyone is clear about your values and the impact you want your money and your wealth to have on yourself and others.
That was it for this episode of the About Money Podcast. Please email us with ideas or topics that you’d like us to address at AboutMoney@wellsfargo.com. If you really liked the episode, share it with your family, friends, or anyone who listens to podcasts. Wells Fargo About Money is produced by Wells Fargo. I’m Michael Liersch asking you to talk about money today.
This information is provided for educational and illustrative purposes only.
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