There’s something seriously screwed up about the way we talk about money.
On one hand it’s really hard to get people to have a conversation about it… an actual conversation… not just one about how there’s not enough of it.
And yet, away from the regular ‘every day’… the financial conversation is raging on. There are hundreds of blogs, dozens of shows, and tons of books filling the shelves on how we should be handling our money.
But most people honestly don’t care. They’re not interested in the conversation that’s going on… why is that?
Why, when money is a big part of everyone’s life, and… as the banks, bloggers, and other members of the financial world are so quick to tell us…. there is a ‘huge financial literacy problem’ in North America… why aren’t people looking for help?
“They should get involved!”
“Pick up a book. Read a blog. Log in to the latest twitter chat hosted by some big bank or another.”
“They should GET EDUCATED.”
It sounds like a great idea… except the problem isn’t them… it’s that the financial conversation we’re having is full of shit.
The New Guy on the Block
I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s driving me absolutely crazy.
I’m new to this conversation. I was one of those people that the financial sector was seeking to educate. One of those people who didn’t track their spending, didn’t save, didn’t invest, didn’t do any of the things I was supposed to be doing.
Then I hit my own financial rock bottom, dipped my toe into the personal finance world and two years later passed my financial planning certification exam.
I’m not a numbers guy.
I’m an opera singer.
But I have huge passion for the conversation we have around money. And it’s a conversation that isn’t serving a lot of people.
Serving money… not people…
I was recently messaging with a friend who was attending a conference this summer somewhere in Canada (I’m not being vague… I really don’t remember where). There, one of the big bank guys, a major curator of the conversation, stood up and said… clients only care about three things: investing, estate planning, and taxes.
This blew me away, because the people that I work with care about a ton more things than that. They care about affording education, and managing cashflow (whether they use the word ‘cashflow’ or not… and they probably don’t… because no one says ‘cashflow’), they care about matching financial resources to their values. They care about the life money can help them build… not really the making of more money.
But then I realized.
The ‘client’ the big bank guy was talking about isn’t a person.
The ‘client’ is the money.
When you take “the person” out of it he’s completely right. Money only cares about the things that will affect it. Investments make it grow. Estate planning keeps it from disappearing in a sea of taxes and probate. And taxes… well… tax is clearly the “client’s” biggest threat.
A major portion of the industry wants to serve your money…. and if you end up benefiting… that’s great. But ‘you’ are a side product… not a major part of the conversation.
What if people aren’t dumb… what if they just don’t care about what we’re talking about… or maybe… they just don’t trust us.
I’ve talked to so many people in and around the financial industry who honestly don’t understand why people keep making ‘dumb’ money choices.
- Why don’t they just invest in index funds?
- Why don’t they have the will power to stay out of debt?
- Why don’t they understand why they need insurance?
They must need more education. They must need more articles about budgets and TFSAs vs RRSPs.
Or maybe they don’t need to change.
Maybe we do.
Maybe the whole freaking conversation needs to change.
Because the tools are great. Okay… they’re not great… but they’re pretty good. They can totally help people manage money, invest, protect assets, etc…
But the way that we’re connecting people to them… is messed up.
And they know it.
They see through the salesperson bullshit. They see insurance companies and banks worth billions that are charging more and more fees for simple services.
They see bloggers that only seem to recommend products that have affiliate programs.
Whether they can put their finger on it or not…they know that the general conversation isn’t about them.
It’s about money.
The people who don’t really care about money… they’re not going to participate in that conversation … and I really wish they would.
A different kind of conversation
I know I might sound like an angry hippy artist yelling about things I don’t completely understand.
You may think that the ‘conversation’ doesn’t really matter… people who don’t like it can look up other stuff on their own.
But it matters.
One of the major things I’ve learned from years in the arts is that it really matters how we talk about things.
It matters when the companies that create and sell financial products are also the ones that provide advice.
It matters when the only stats that we measure are based in asset accumulation and net worth building.
It matters when sources that people assume to be independent are heavily influenced by those same sellers of products.
It matters because people flat out don’t trust us.
And why should they?
We have not proven to them that they come first. We have not taken the extra effort to demonstrate that their goals and wants are much more important than finding the most ‘efficient’ solutions.
People aren’t supposed to fit into the tools available… the tools available should be changed and moulded to fit a person’s needs, values, and wants.
That isn’t the conversation we’ve been having.
There are so many individuals in the financial industry who passionately care about people. Who passionately believe in finance’s ability to make lives better, to protect their clients, and to empower those who work so hard.
I think we can all learn something from them, and change the way that we talk about money.
Maybe then we’ll start to see some change in those financial literacy stats that we all like to complain about.
Maybe then people will start coming back to the conversation.
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.