The M Word: The Talk Everyone Needs to Have

Colleen Oakley

talking about moneyAs a financial advisor and senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Lori Sackler has been counseling individuals and families on how to manage their money for the majority of her career.

But she noticed that the same issues began cropping up time and again, and they all stemmed from one major problem—people didn’t know how to talk about money. “It’s the thread that flows through everything we do every day. It’s ironic that money is such a taboo topic,” Sackler says.

So Sackler took it upon herself to tackle the taboo topic head on and created a set of tools to help guide people in having tough conversations about money. She also details her efforts in a new book, “The M Word: The Money Talk Every Family Needs to Have About Wealth and Their Financial Future.”

“I want to change the culture around talking about finances, so it doesn’t become a terrible obstacle to confront,” she says. LearnVest caught up with Sackler to find out how she’s spearheading the change.

LearnVest: Why is it so difficult for people to talk about money?

Sackler: There are many reasons, but one of the most interesting things that I found in my research is that there are evolutionary factors at play. Throughout history and in many primitive societies, money has been tied to sexual transactions, making it an object of control and a threat. In some ways, the same anger and shame and difficulty we have talking about sex is related to our difficulty in talking about money.

And, of course, everyone has their own history with money—there are individual psychological issues at play relating to gender, marriage politics, divorce, family history and control and trust issues. The objective is to determine which ones play a role for you and your family—and how to overcome them.

So what’s the first step in getting comfortable with the M word?

Sackler: Awareness. First, you need to understand why it’s important to get comfortable talking about money—there’s a lot at stake for your relationships and your financial future. And then you need to figure out why it’s so difficult for you: So which of the many reasons we just talked about apply to you? You can’t solve the problem until you pinpoint what’s holding you back.

RELATED: What Do Your Money Memories Mean for Your Finances?

How do you talk to someone who’s reluctant to discuss money?

Sackler: Prepare, prepare, prepare. You have to think through the factors that have been keeping you from having these conversations. When you ask for a raise from your boss or make a presentation to a new client at work, you put a lot of thought into it. You know the players, issues and problems, and you know what you want to accomplish. I recommend applying that same discipline to money conversations. It also helps to bring in professionals—like financial advisors or therapists—who talk about these issues every day, and who can be an objective party.

  • Adrian Kidd

    Totally agree – when you have a society that is happy to discuss sexual partners over money (in an open environment) then that tells you a lot about comfort zones!

    • B00kW0rm

      I know! It’s amazing that “The Money Talk” is still taboo in this day and age

  • Alyssa Lski

    So glad that someone is talking about talking about money…It truly is so important not only in our day to day lives, but in the security of our futures and that of our families.

  • Veronica Grossman

    Completely agree with this! It is so important to talk about money openly! In a society so open about everything else, why is the money talk still so taboo? If we don’t talk we don’t learn!

  • Rupert Murchie

    I agree people need to talk about money. However, and I apologize for being pedantic, Sacklers first sentence that money is tied to evolutionary factors is incorrect. Whilst transactions of valuables have probably occurred throughout the history of mankind and may have influenced evolution, money has not existed long enough to really be considered an evolutionary factor. Even though it occurred in the past it should still be considered a cultural factor. This makes it no less of an important factor.

    I only say this due to the common mistakes and miscommunication regarding evolution which I believe is one of the overriding reasons that evolution is often placed as being in opposition with religeon.

    I apologize again for being pedantic but I feel the amiguous use of the word evolution makes it impossible to have a rational and sensible debate between it and religeon, and understand the two are not mutually exclusive.

    Thanks for your great articles Learnvest and other readers please don’t send me lots of negative comments for being such a nit picking nit. Thanks