A man and a woman sit at a table talking to each other. They have a laptop and papers spread out on the table in front of them.
A man and a woman sit at a table talking to each other. They have a laptop and papers spread out on the table in front of them.
Financial Health
July 26, 2021

How to break the money talk taboo

In Wells Fargo’s “About Money” podcast, host Michael Liersch helps families have honest discussions that can have positive impacts on their financial health for generations to come.

Editor’s note: Season 2 of Wells Fargo’s “About Money” podcast is now available. Learn how you can make your money work for you. New episodes release weekly through Jan. 12, 2022.

Growing up, whenever my family and I would sit down at our 1980s-style, laminate-topped kitchen table for dinner, it seemed that just about everything was on the table — for discussion, that is. I remember one especially memorable moment in the fall of ‘86. We were talking baseball, my parents’ favorite sport.

A polaroid picture of a group of people sit around a table with plates and food in front of them. All are looking at the camera and smiling. Text written on the picture says Scotton family dinner, 1986.
The author, third from left, and her family in 1986.

It was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Our lovable losers, the New York Mets, were facing the Boston Red Sox. The series came down to the final innings of the final game, in which the last few runs culminated in a series-ending score of 8 to 5, Mets. Cheers all around from my family of Mets fans!

Despite our many lively conversations over the kitchen table, I don’t recall us ever talking about money or finances. The closest thing to a financial discussion I can recall is my dad taking me to the bank and opening a savings account for me. He believed in saving, but beyond that, money was not discussed.

Turns out, my story is not unique. In fact, money is a taboo topic for many families. It’s just not discussed at the kitchen table. Michael Liersch, head of Advice and Planning for Wells Fargo’s Wealth & Investment Management division, helps break the taboo in Wells Fargo’s “About Money” podcast.

Liersch, who has a doctorate degree in cognitive psychology, helps listeners have productive conversations about money with those close to them, explains what risks it poses when we don’t discuss money, and provides strategies to start having those conversations. “By understanding our money behaviors, we all have the opportunity to make better money decisions,” Liersch said.

Four people with thought bubbles reading: Overcome discomfort talking about money. Have frequent, natural financial conversations. Encourage questions and open dialogue. Make better financial decisions. Title: Steps to break the silence.

In order to get past money taboos and silence, Liersch suggests we first acknowledge what is holding us back.

Talking about money can:

  • Make us feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
  • Disrupt harmony and cause conflict.
  • Reveal different reference points – for example, someone with more money can make us feel bad about ourselves.
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Take the Poll

Which money topic do you consider most taboo?

Steps to starting the conversation

Liersch then shares what actions we should take next:  

  1. Write down your responses to the following questions. Use this activity worksheet (PDF, 1 MB) for easy reference.
    • What is the No. 1 job you want money to do for you?
    • What is holding you back from getting that job done? What could you do to make sure that job gets done?
    • Do you feel you have enough — just enough, more than enough, or not enough — to get that job done?
    • Who do you need to talk to or what resources do you need to access to get the job done?
  2. Store the worksheet in a secure location where it is readily available for quick reference.
  3. Have conversations with those that may be impacted by the conclusions reached in the worksheet, such as our spouses/partners, children, and parents, and then collaborate with them on next steps and progress.
  4. Set aside time regularly to focus on this information and to take incremental steps to getting the job done and making our money work for us.

These actions will help us normalize our conversations about money. And, the small steps we are making will start to add up, and we’ll be well on our way to achieving our financial goals and better financial outcomes.

Today, as I sit around the kitchen table with my family, all topics are on the table, including those money-related topics that used to be taboo.

Download the About Money podcast on Spotify to hear more.

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About Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management

Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company and is one of the largest wealth managers in the U.S., with nearly $2 trillion in client assets. WIM serves clients through Wells Fargo Private Bank, serving high-net-worth individuals and families, and Wells Fargo Advisors, providing advice and guidance to help clients maximize all aspects of their financial lives. Through Wells Fargo Private Bank, WIM is also a leading provider of trust, investment, and fiduciary services, including personal trust services and a number of specialized wealth services designed to meet the diverse needs of high-net-worth clients.

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About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets and proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of all middle market companies in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment, and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending; Commercial Banking; Corporate and Investment Banking; and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 30 on Fortune’s 2020 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

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