Our generation has a complicated relationship with money: we’re defined by a penchant for experiences over assets and more lifestyle optionality than ever. We’re also facing a climate of record student debt, an ever-widening income gap¹ and housing prices that are rapidly outpacing salary.
Yet, through all of this, we still don’t want to talk about money. Maybe it’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe it’s taboo, maybe we’re embarrassed, or maybe it’s just that we don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, not talking about money comes with a significant opportunity cost.
Talking about money can boost income.
Earlier this year, actress Robin Wright fought for equal pay on House of Cards and won.³ She knew there was no business case for why she was making less money—her character was actually more popular than Kevin Spacey’s ‘Frank Underwood’ —so she threatened to go public with her demands, and it worked.
The gender wage gap will cost women $23,000 per year on a $60,000 salary.
Women in the Canadian workforce make, on average, 72% of what men do for the same work. What’s more troublesome, is that this gap has actually widened over the last few years⁴. If you’re a Canadian female making a salary of $60,000, your male counterpart makes $83,000, a difference of $23,000 per year (or approx $500 per week). Make that investment in yourself by doing some research, and having the uncomfortable conversation with your employer.
In a more general sense, just under half of Canadians feel as though they are underpaid⁵. Odds are some of them are right.
While not everyone has the visibility of a Hollywood actor to make their voices heard on income disparity, we do have a lot of peers performing the same jobs. So you can’t help but wonder what might happen if we started talking about money with our friends.
Context will help you start the conversation.
Being in debt can feel isolating. It’s actually the norm.
Here are some numbers to consider;
Three out of four Canadians carry debt.⁶ That’s three quarters of your family members, three quarters of your Facebook friends and three quarters of the people you will pass on the street today.
Per person, we carry the highest household debt of any of the G7 countries, more than Italy, more than France, more than the United States.⁷
Talking about money is the education.
In high-school we learned how to sew a pincushion, the rules of flag football and how to conjugate verbs in a second language. At no point were we taught best practices for saving, how to negotiate, what fair pay means, how to set a budget or the basic concepts of investments. We’ve got some lost time to make up for.
Money is a utility.
In April of 2015, Dan Price, the CEO of a credit card-processing company decided that $70,000 was the price tag for happiness and people couldn’t stop talking about it.¹⁰ Despite resulting in a massive pay-cut for Dan, this drove incredible business growth. Giving up money helped Dan achieve what he wanted. James Altucher is also running a parallel experiment.
The point is that once we start to recognize money as a utility, and very often with diminishing returns, we start to think about what we’re actually trying to achieve. Some people want a mortgage, some want a motorbike. Optimize for what makes you happy and have the conversations required to go understand what’s required. It’ll often be less than you think.