Transcript Super Informed Radio episode 12

Super Informed Radio episode #12: Would you rather talk about your weight or your money
December 2017

Disclaimer: What you're about to read is of a general nature and doesn't take into account your personal financial situation, needs or objectives. We recommend you seek financial advice before making any decisions about your super and consider the relevant UniSuper product disclosure statement.

Lyndon: Well hello, and welcome back to another episode, another year in fact, of Super Informed Radio—the podcast where we help you wade through the deep waters and complexities of super and the broader world of finance. As always, I am Lyndon.

Rob: I'm Rob.

Marta: And I'm Marta. And Happy New Year, to you, our loyal listeners.

So it's a truth universally acknowledged by many experts on all things finance that talking about money can be in fact, quite liberating. But when it comes down to it, not many people are actually that keen to open up about their money.

In fact, according to some U.S. data by investing app Acorn that I came across, 68% of people said they'd rather talk about their weight rather than money. Now I don't know about you guys, but that seems rather high. How do you feel about it?

Rob: Look, Marta, I consider myself an old-fashioned gentleman in the modern era. And it's quite interesting because when you talk about that research, there was an article linked to that research which discussed a book released by Emily Post—who was the manners guru back in the early 1900s. The book being Educating Society in Business, in Politics, and at Home.

Marta: Oh, here we go.

Rob: Yeah, and the book basically advised people to keep their finances private. And it's actually a lesson that's lasted I think a century for some people including myself. So, it's I think, a culturally important book. I don't feel comfortable talking about my finances to anyone.

Marta: Not even your family?

Rob: Not even my family. So, I don't know if it's I've been brought up a certain way or that book has had such an impact on society that it's just...it's, I really subscribe to it. I don't know if it's something I feel comfortable talking about. So, it's a no from me.

Marta: It's a 50-50 for me, I have to say. I think there are certain aspects of money; like, I think of it maybe in two tiers. Like, maybe more superficial things like the prices of coffee or shopping or that kind of stuff I feel I'm very okay with talking about it to more people. But when it comes to more serious stuff like managing money for paying off debts, or saving for more significant things, or budgeting or living, there's only a smaller group of people that I feel comfortable talking to like, my best friend about that kind of thing because it acts as a bit of a bouncer and I know she won't judge me. But having said, that a few months ago I talked about my money quite openly on the pod, so...

Rob: Yeah.

Marta: So I'm a bit of an open book.

Rob: You laid it all bare to our listeners.

Marta: I did.

Rob: Yeah, what about yourself Lyndon, what's your attitude towards this?

Lyndon: Yeah, I find it quite interesting in a way because just listening to what you were saying, Rob. I'm also pretty private about my spending and my finances, there are some things which I will openly discuss but only with certain people.

For example, major purchases, like, I don't know, car or home or something maybe I'll talk about that with my family. But in terms of how much do I put away every week, how much have I got saved up, and how much have I got sitting there for a rainy day. Whether I can then use that for an overseas holiday or whether you know. I would rather keep that side of things and pretty much most things really private in regards to my finances, that's just the way I feel about things.

But in terms of how people generally might think about financing their attitudes towards it, I understand both of you have been out and taken it to the streets.

Marta: Yeah, we did. We wanted to get a broader sense of what people's attitudes are towards money and we found that the answers were rather surprising.

Rob: Yeah, so let's take a listen and see what people had to say.

Rob: Would you prefer to talk about your weight or your money?

Woman 1: I prefer to talk about money myself, personally, but I think it depends on your own personal circumstances.

Man 1: Definitely my weight.

Woman 2: Either—it doesn't really bother me. I feel like both are open topics.

Man 2: I would rather talk about my weight.

Woman 3: Probably weight.

Rob: And why is that?

Woman 3: I don't know, like money is just such a more taboo sort of subject I feel, yeah and it's I don't know it's uncouth.

Woman 4: I'll talk about either, but probably not to a stranger.

Rob: Do you have any concerns or reservations about talking about your finances to friends?

Woman 4: No, not really, it's other people don't usually talk about it so it's not something that comes up very often. But I've just built a house so I'm very happy to tell everyone how poor I am for the next 30 years.

Rob: Would you rather talk about your weight or your money?

Woman 5: My weight because I'm conscious of my weight and how my clothes fit and how I look. And I think money is more of a private issue.

Marta: So why would you avoid the topic of money?

Man 3: I think there's a society taboo around it and it's something personal. And probably there's still a little bit of a class society about us we probably have some judgments towards each other.

Woman 6: I prefer to talk about money because it's actually what I know about. So, money is what I've always worked in. So for me, that's actually a very easy conversation however my siblings they're all tradies. So they know nothing about superannuation, they're very bad at budgeting so they probably actually prefer to talk about weight than money. I think it depends on your attitude towards money itself.

Marta: Do you have any thoughts about why some people might find it difficult to talk about money?

Woman 7: Being so young it can be quite a touchy subject especially being on a budget. When you have certain responsibilities and trying to learn to live out of home it can be quite difficult. I know a lot of my friends find that quite hard.

Man 4: And my immediate family and my some of my close friends we talk about it openly and others no.

Man 5: I think we're a bit private about our finances, I think we like to keep things to ourselves. I'm not frightened of asking for financial advice but I think disclosing my finances, is sometimes a little bit difficult.

Rob: Do you think that view that you hold of keeping your money matters private is something you've held all your life?

Woman 8: Yes, I'd say so, but more so as I've gotten older maybe and have more money. The more you have it the more I prefer to keep it private.

Lyndon: So quite a mix of responses there, Rob and Marta, with your travels with that microphone.

Marta: Yeah, I think it was very interesting to hear some of the influences that age and maybe life stage has on people's attitudes towards discussing money. I think that was a bit of a surprise for me.

Rob: Yeah, but some mixed responses when we weren't really sure what to expect. We ended up with a mixed bag of views there on what people would rather talk about.

Marta: So I think while people are a bit more comfortable talking about money when there's a bit more bountiful or plentiful of it, it’s when things get dire is when that mindset starts to shift. So I think with that in mind should we introduce our special guest?

Rob: Absolutely, we have with us today Claire Tacon, who's a financial counsellor for the Consumer Action Law Centre and provides free confidential and independent financial advice to Victorians? Experiencing financial difficulty through the National Debt Helpline for Victoria. Claire, thanks for joining us today

Claire: Thanks for having me.

Marta: So Claire, can you tell us a little bit about what you do as a financial counsellor with the National Debt Helpline?

Claire: Yeah, sure so the National Debt Helpline is a phone-based financial counselling service. So we speak to people over the phone who are in financial hardship, people who can't afford to pay their bills and debts and we give information about rights and options. So we're a free confidential service, we're government-funded, I guess we try to give people the tools to self-advocate. But if they're particularly vulnerable or if you're feeling totally overwhelmed we can also organize a warm referral for them to meet with a face to face financial counsellor. But yeah, probably only about 20% of our calls are referred out.

Marta: And it's available nationwide.

Claire: Nationwide so yeah, if you call 1800 007 007 from anywhere in Australia, you'll get your state's version of the service because some of the laws differ state to state.

Rob: So Claire, considering the broader theme of our discussion and the responses that we've just heard, what are your thoughts and for I guess the main question why do you think it is that people struggle to talk about money?

Claire: Well, I think it is very much a cultural thing and that idea of older people having more trouble. I think is right from the people that I speak to on the phone, often there is a real sense of shame in admitting that things aren't going so well. And yeah it's sort of it’s considered maybe not polite that idea of it being a taboo, it's interesting.

Rob: So when people come to you they're already at that stage though aren't they before intervention could have been taken earlier, is that fair to say?

Claire: Well, not necessarily but they're struggling, yeah, they're in financial hardships so their feeling that they're not able to pay their bills and debts.

Marta: Do you think that we as a society are becoming worse at sort of, managing our finances or better or no change?

Claire: Oh, I don't think...I think what has changed is the amount of credit marketing that is out there. So I don't think people have changed. People have always wanted nice things but now we don't have to save for them.

Yeah, it seems like every shop you going into there's some kind of credit that's being offered; now whether it's AfterPay or is it ZipPay if you're buying a pair of shoes. You buy a couch or TV you don't have to buy the one you can maybe afford but you're offered a 24-month interest-free loan or...which is fine. You know things might be fine now, you might be able to pay it off now but what happens if the situation changes?

Rob: I've noticed that a lot actually just recently like you say like I mean we've all seen 24-month interest free on your flat screen TV or whatever. But even just regular shops in regular shopping centers like those things where it's like you can basically walk out of the shop with whatever you want.

Marta: That's right.

Claire: Yeah, you're sort of discouraged from paying for it in full.

Rob: Yes, sign up on the app, you know, don't think twice about it and then.

Claire: Yeah.

Rob: Just taking you back to the interviews that we did, you had a listen, did any of those responses surprise you at all?

Claire: No, I don't think so. I think, yeah, like I said with the people that ring us up. I find definitely older people may be a bit more reticent to talk about these things and maybe people who have had more but then fallen into trouble. Whereas people who probably have never had much money might be easier perhaps but it just depends I mean. Yeah, I think it is a cultural issue that we've got as well. I've noticed people that I know are quite happy to talk about how much they bought their house for or sold their house for, how much money they are making and they've asked the question of me or yeah, I think it isn't a taboo at all.

Rob: And perhaps we have a different generation now with social media people are broadcasting their news and are not more or less private as perhaps they used to be.

Claire: Yeah.

Rob: And we found that when we were talking to younger people that they were quite happy to talk about their finances. While the older people felt it was a bit more of a private issue.

Claire: Yeah.

Rob: So there's that as well.

Claire: I mean, yeah I think that is right. I think I mean, it's interesting because it's obviously something that we all think about and the... Was the bestselling book last year in Australia was a book about finances so people are interested in it so it's strange that we're not all talking about it more isn't it?

Rob: I think one of the things that interested me in the Vox Pops that we listened to, just reflecting on my own attitudes to talking about money. So for example, with my family, and like my inner circle I would have those very upfront conversations like yep, did this, it cost this much and blah, blah, blah and this is my plan around it. But within my circle of friends, I might think twice about how I might talk about big purchases, for example, a home or something because not everyone's in the same circumstance. And maybe you're a little bit more considerate of how that news might come across or. Do you find that as well?

Claire: Yeah, I mean, people don't like to boast, do they?

Rob: Yeah.

Claire: So maybe these people that have more money I mean, one of the people that you spoke to, I think, said that, didn't she? That now that she's got more money she doesn't like to talk about it so that idea of yeah, showing off. But yeah, I mean, I've spoken to quite a few women in particular who haven't told their partners about the amount of credit card debt they've got. And the amount of stress that these people must be under having a secret like that from their partner you know is, yeah, scary.

Rob: So that sort of touches on one of the reasons why people might get into financial stress. Is that the most common reason that you see or are there other sorts of key common reasons that people get into those situations?

Claire: I think, yeah, everyone has a story but pretty much I mean, the most common reason is that something's gone wrong in their life. There's been some trauma whether it might be they lost their job or their relationship is broken down. Something has not gone to plan and they haven't had a financial safety net to fall back on. We also speak to a lot of people who just don't... they are just on such a low income they don't have enough money to pay for their basic things that they need including their electricity usage. So yeah, but for many people, it is just some emergency that's happened and they've had to fall back on credit because they didn't have money in their bank account to cover.

Marta: And then it's sort of rabbit holes and spirals out of control from there.

Claire: Yeah.

Marta: Personally speaking would you be comfortable talking to your friends about money or would you rather avoid the subject?

Claire: I think, well, I'm kind of an open person so I do talk about it. I don't think...but I'm conscious that other people don't. So yeah, I mean, I sold a house last year and I didn't tell people unless they asked me how much I sold it for. Whereas in normal I don't mind talking about how much I paid for a pair of shoes although that shocks people too sometimes, yeah.

Marta: I think like, that sort of reflects a little bit of my own attitude. Just, like, I would talk to certain people about certain things to do with money like how expensive movie tickets are these days. Verse but when it comes to sort of bigger stuff I might avoiding because it can...I might want to avoid a bit of judgment or whatever that kind of social peer-to-peer kind of view.

Rob: So if you had one tip or a few number of tips, Claire, what would be some of your top tips to people if they were feeling that they were under financial stress or even if they weren't just some general tips as well?

Claire: Yeah, well I mean, I think there are so many variables that would change my answer to that question. So it would depend if they had... if it was a short-term financial stress that they found themselves in.

And if that was the case then the best thing to do is to speak to your bank or mentor because there are protections in the legislation to assist in those circumstances. A lot of people are just scared to talk to their bank in those situations but it's always much better to do that.

I think in general avoiding financial stress the best thing to do is actually really, think about your finances and do a budget.

Look at how much money you've got coming in and how much money you need for all the essential things. Like your rent or your mortgage and all your bills but importantly putting money aside to, say, for a safety net. So that if anything does go wrong, and it will, that's a given, there will always be an emergency in life. It might be your car breaks down or it might be something more serious. But if you've got money put aside you're much less likely to get into financial stress when things go wrong.

Rob: All right, steer clear of their 60-month interest-free.

Claire: Yes.

Rob: Terms on a new couch or whatever.

Claire: Yeah, definitely.

Rob: Absolutely.

Claire: Yeah.

Rob: All right, well, Claire, thank you, so much for coming in today and telling us a little bit about what you do.

Claire: You're welcome.

Rob: And some of the issues you hear about from members of the community and we hope that that's been insightful for our members.

Claire: Thanks, thanks for having me.

Rob: Fantastic.

Lyndon: And that brings us to the end of another episode of Super Inform Radio, our first for 2018, Marta and Rob. Now, remember if you would like to check out some of the information that Claire was talking about in the interview we did with her, check out the short notes for the podcast, numbers and websites and all that sort of stuff. That's where that is.

Marta: And as usual, if you'd like to catch up on past episodes of our pod, head on over to unisuper.com.au/podcasts or subscribe to us through any good podcast app. If you've liked what you just listened to please give us a review or rating as it helps new listeners find us and as you know, we're all about sharing here. And finally, if you've got any questions or topics that you'd like us to explore in future episodes, remember you can email us at any time at superinformed@unisuper.com.au.

Lyndon: Thanks, for listening.

Rob: Yeah and we'll see you next time.

Marta: Bye!