Money’s too tight to mention.
Oh money, money, money, money.
Money’s too tight to mention.
I can’t even qualify for my pension.

Lyrics from a song by Simply Red.

We all come from different backgrounds, we were not raised with the same principles and beliefs but most of us grew up knowing there are certain things we should not talk about in public: politics, religion and money. Things have changed, we now live in a society where people openly discuss politics and their disapproval of the president, or what church they go to, what they believe in and why. One survey after another will tell you that when it comes to the most difficult conversation you can possibly have, the clear winner is money.

I was raised to believe that as an adult, there are certain things you do not discuss in public and money is one of them. I was reminded of this a few days ago as I was in the presence of a couple at a retail shop, who were modestly talking about their personal finances. I thought to myself, ‘we don’t care if you have it or you don’t, just don’t talk about it in public’. Those who actually have money but do not talk about it, those are the people we admire.

What is the cause of all this? Why has money remained a private topic and furthermore, why is it such a difficult conversation to have? Of all the practices we have ignored to keep that we were taught by our parents, why have we kept the practice of talking about money private? Arguments over money is the most common problem in many families, regardless of income, age and education. In most societies money is viewed as a measure of happiness, power, and personal achievement, so it’s undoubtedly a topic many shy away from. Sometimes a lack of income to meet basic needs is the cause of the problem, but many times not enough communication about money is time and again the reason for the arguments.

We often keep our finances a secret because we feel alone and scared. Declining an invite to an out-of-town trip with friends because of the costs feels shameful. Not having an income makes you the black sheep of the family. Asking for separate bills at a group dinner is embarrassing, maybe even youthful. Negotiating a salary increase feels uncomfortable. Mentioning money during job interviews makes you look greedy. Asking family members how much they make is completely off limits. Why is it that the thing we all rely on for most of our basic needs seems be one of the causes of our unhappiness? Most importantly, where can you get help? Where can you go to be listened to and advised on what to do next and how to get to where you want to be financially?

As independent wealth managers, talking about money is what we are trained and qualified to do. In many cases, we encourage our clients to bring their spouse/family members with them for our consulting sessions. Creating a financial plan requires a lot of knowledge about our clients’ finances but mostly, we need to have open conversations about our clients’ financial habits and understand their relationship with money. The most difficult conversations happen when clients are not honest, or have unrealistic opinions on their current financial situation and what it will take to get to their financial goals.

Whatever you do in life, money will affect many of your decisions. Will you afford a better education for your kids? Can you retire early to pursue your passion? Can you afford to travel the world? Can you resign from your job without another job offer? You will be reminded all of your adult life how you never did certain things because you never had enough money or none at all. I agree that “for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”, but most of life’s necessities need money. No matter how smart you are, it will take you some time to understand that your relationship with money will dominate most of your adult life.

You cannot rush this process. It takes some time to get a handle on your new found money. What I have also learned about money has been learned through trial and error, the hard way. I hope we can make your life journey a little bit easier with lessons about many new challenges we have learned about money. So go out there and thrive. However, understand the potential downsides to avoiding your relationship with money. If you start having intimate conversations about money like all of life’s relationships, you will start to look at it in strange ways, ways that will make you wiser and have a sense of control.

Sphelele Mncube

Head of Investments

Sphelele joined Inkunzi Wealth Group in 2013 and has 9 years’ experience in the investment management industry, having had previously worked for Allan Gray and Regarding Capital Management. Apart from being an active member of our investment team, Sphelele is also responsible for the management of our business. He holds a BCom degree in Economics from the University of Pretoria.