Paul's Insights: At last... Australians are having important conversations
COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives, and not all of them for the better. But one positive to come out of the pandemic is that Australians are talking more about money.
Research by ME Bank found half of us are engaging in more conversations around our personal finances compared to pre-COVID. Younger generations are leading the charge, with 70% of 18-35-year-olds talking more about money.
Our sudden interest in financial discussions is likely to be a direct result of the economic impact of the pandemic. The topics receiving most airtime include saving (68%), household spending (53%) and bills (51%).
It’s quite a turnaround from the not-so-distant past, when money was traditionally a taboo topic. A Suncorp study in 2018 found Australians typically feel more comfortable talking about controversial topics like politics, rather than discussing savings and spending behaviour.
There’s no doubt, our personal financial matters are private. But talking about money doesn’t have to mean publicising your salary or swapping credit card details. It’s just a great way to share ideas and life experiences, gather new information, mull it over and decide what works for you.
ME’s survey also revealed who we feel most comfortable talking to about money management. The preferred picks include partners or significant others (62%), followed by relatives such as parents or siblings (48%). That’s definitely a good sign. Suncorp found it’s not considered a social norm to discuss household finances as a family, yet families who openly discuss money are often better off.
Opening up about money matters isn’t always easy. Raising any sort of delicate topic with your spouse, partner or other family members calls for a blend of good timing, forward planning and tact – and money is no different. It can all boil down to choosing the right moment.
Bursting into a room wild-eyed, red-faced and waving the latest credit card statement just after your other half has arrived home from work is not the way to go about it. Conversations about money work best when everyone is calm and relaxed – and personal judgements are set aside.
Encouragingly, more than half the Australians surveyed by ME said they have taken steps to improve their financial situation during COVID-19 by reducing household spending. One-third have set up a budget.
Despite the setbacks the Coronavirus has thrown at us, sharing relaxed conversations about money could see more Australians come out of the pandemic with a new focus on their personal finances. And that could help more of us bounce back sooner when things make a return to normal.
Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of InvestSMART, Chair of the Ecstra Foundation and chief commentator for Money Magazine.