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Why don’t we talk about money at home?

Posted 09/04/2019 by Patrick Leavy

Recently Farnell Clarke was invited to complete a series of talks at a college in Norwich about personal finance and the feedback from the students was somewhat alarming.

We were asked by Neaco’s Stephen Davies to help groups of 17-19 year olds to understand bank accounts, saving and budgeting. As someone who did not receive much guidance in these areas as a youth, I readily accepted this assignment.

Simple, but not easy

Being competent with your personal finances, like so many other things in life, requires getting into the right mindset and developing good habits. It can be distilled down into three sections:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Save for emergencies
  3. Invest wisely

Kind of obvious right? And yet so many people fail to achieve these steps. This demonstrates the deceptive difference between ‘simple’ and ‘easy’. Simple to state, and learn, but not easy to achieve.

Blundering on

Over the course of the college sessions on average only 1 in 10 students said they talk about money with their parents. This is not a statistically representative sample, so I cannot draw definitive conclusions from it, but it reinforced what I have long suspected: personal finance is chronically under-taught.

If we don’t talk about it at home, and it is not taught in schools, how do people learn about how to manage their finances? Trial and error. Learning the hard way…

…and when we finally think we’ve learned from our mistakes do we pass our knowledge on to the next generation? No! we don’t talk about it at home, so they are left to repeat the cycle again, blundering on…

A bit of tech help

Luckily this vicious cycle is easily broken by appreciating a few basic concepts such as compounding and taking a sensible approach to credit cards. But first you need to understand where your money goes and these days it is easier to with the help of apps.

Apps let you automate the parts of the process most easily broken by human nature – regular savings and expenses categorisation. They can even help you set budgets. Your bank’s app may do this (especially if you have an account with one of the challenger banks such as Monzo or Starling) or you can use 3rd party mobile apps such as Money Dashboard or Moneyhub.

Priorities

Finding out where your money goes will hold you accountable, and perhaps some people want to avoid that. But it is a crucial first step.

Step 2 is to think about what is important to you and only spend your money on that, saving on the rest. Setting specific savings goals for things that really matter to you is the key to successful budgeting.

Working out what your priorities are is another of those ‘simple but not easy’ tasks, and perhaps that is why so many of us do not attempt it. This part is not about being stingy and denying yourself the good things in life, it is about keeping what you enjoy and mercilessly cutting back on the rest.

Mindset

I find the best way to get yourself into a good mindset is to listen to podcasts on the subject. When you are part of a conversation about good finance habits you’re more likely to pick up and stick to those habits. Meaningful Money is good, as is Listen Money Matters. If no one is talking about this at home, then at least you can get advice from these shows, and websites such as Money Saving Expert and Be Clever with your Cash.

There are also great books on this subject such as Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and The Richest Man in Babylon.

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