Written By: Candace Scarlett
With three copies of Broke Millennial Talks Money by Erin Lowry circulating at the local library and my hold being number ten on the waitlist, I finally purchased it. I thought, “this has to be a good book.”
The purpose of this book is to help people, not specifically financial professionals, have difficult conversations relating to money. It conveniently splits our personal lives into four areas: 1) Talking About Money at Work, 2) Talking About Money with Friends, 3) Talking About Money with Family, and 4) Talking About Money with Your Romantic Partner. Each part of the book provides a series of scripts and advice to help readers communicate effectively through tough conversations. These conversations include asking co-workers about their pay and talking to your partner about a prenuptial agreement.
Talking About Money at Work
To be honest, it is uncomfortable even thinking about questioning co-workers or other professionals about their pay. However, the author makes a compelling argument why we should, especially for freelancers or minority groups that may face wage gaps. Practitioners should read the “Talking About Money at Work” section carefully when planning to put her advice into practice. The author elaborates a great deal on this topic and reminds us to be tactful with words and time, know who to ask, do thorough research, and be honest with our performance before discussing a pay increase. Her advice also helps gauge and negotiate hiring salaries. This was the only section of the book that had little to do with personal relationships.
Talking About Money with Friends
The goal in this section is for readers to learn how to have open, honest conversations with friends about money. This section is useful for awkward money situations. Some examples include:
- when personal values change,
- life events, and
- significantly different incomes exist among friends.
The author offers scripts to handle various conversations, including how to set boundaries with poise. Erin Lowry is a true Millennial! She includes a whole chapter dedicated to weddings and handling those money conversations primarily from a bridesmaid/groomsman perspective.
Talking About Money with Family
Financial professionals understand the chaos that comes with a lack of preparation for aging parents or disabled siblings. It is a sensitive topic and the author does a wonderful job coaching and guiding these conversations. This guidance ensures that we make our loved ones feel supported and we understand their expectations. Even with more resistant family members, Lowry provides clever tactics to obtain information. These include:
- bringing up personal experiences,
- celebrity stories,
- keeping a journal to record small context clues, and
- enlisting third-party help.
She reminds us that having no plan compounds the pain of making difficult decisions with little direction, resources, or control.
Lowry covers other family-related topics in this section. These topics include:
- borrowing/loaning money and
- how to have a conversation with your spouse when you want to financially support your family.
However, there is a gap in the “Talking About Money with Family” section, and it relates to another important family topic: financial abuse. Financial fraud and abuse happen often within families, and a firm conversation is imperative. While she does instruct victims to confront the family member if it is safe, there are no written scripts. She lists and explains preventive steps. However, this was a missed opportunity to provide additional scripts. Those scripts should communicate this is illegal and will not happen again. The author wrote articulate scripts for other tough conversations, so she is capable.
Talking About Money with Your Romantic Partner
In this section, the author provides advice for each stage of a romantic relationship: casual dating, serious, and committed. The overlying theme; however, is that communication is key to any situation or topic. The author is realistic that it might be awkward to talk about money. She also emphasizes that these conversations should happen before getting serious. In the meantime, there are context clues and behaviors that can speak to a person’s money attitude from the beginning.
The author also feels strongly about prenuptial agreements. She refers to marriage as the biggest financial decision. Her point is clear. She says we put “too much emphasis on the love aspect of marriage”. She also says that we place “not enough on the financial and legal implications“. It is difficult to disagree that signing a marriage license is the same as entering into a legally binding agreement. Having a prenup will make a separation smoother, timely, and cost-effective. She makes a strong case for prenups. They are particularly important when extreme family wealth, accumulated personal assets, or children from a previous relationship exist.
The author also provides several strategies on how finances may operate in committed relationships. Even when money is kept separate within a couple, the author still suggests that goal setting and working towards goals together is important. In Chapter 12, she wrote, “goal setting is the north star of all things personal finance. ” That is, goals serve as a guiding light for our choices.
This book is not a technical book on personal finances. I would argue that this book is for people that are somewhat money aware and intentional to reach money goals. The author states: “you can build flawless spreadsheets, live below your means, determine what you value, and invest to build wealth. But money will still be a pain point if you can’t effectively communicate about it with those around you.”
Generally, financial professionals do not have difficulty talking about money since we work in the money space daily. I recommend this book for someone who has trouble setting money boundaries or needs to have difficult conversations about money. Not only is the book resourceful, but it is also entertaining.