Sam Dunn: Stop being so British: speak about your cash

It's not about being brash, more about being brazen
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The Independent Online

Today, it seems, we're more uninhibited, more in touch with our emotions and more likely to cry at a weepie movie than sneer and shout "wimp!"

Yet shyness is still part of our personality when it comes to one aspect of our lives: talking about our money.

More than half of us find it "socially offensive" to chat about how much we've got, says a report from Jonathan Wren, the recruitment agency.

Eight in 10 feel embarrassed to discuss the size of their pay packet, it goes on, while others squirm over announcing the cost of foreign holidays or how much they have in savings.

This may clash with a common concept of dinner party chatter where guests drone on about their property's value - formerly with glee at price rises, now glumly about their fall - but the survey supports a long-held belief of mine.

Many may find it vulgar to talk about their bank account but we need more open discussion about what we earn, what we've got and why we haven't got more.

It's no more a measure of crassness or shallow materialism than sticking a new car on your drive or installing a giant TV and hi-fi; just because you don't wear your payslip around your neck doesn't mean people can't see it.

More importantly, being shy about money does you no favours. Frankness about what we earn - particularly in the workplace - would expose more of the pay inequality between men and women and young and old staff doing the same job, and force companies to address the issue properly.

Any sceptics need only wait until next pay day and then, as the payslips are handed out, ask to swap dockets with a colleague; the reactions should be a treat.

Candour with our cash would breed confidence, and that is possibly the one commodity that is worth more than having loads of money in the first place.

Platoons of mortgage advisers, financial advisers, loan-touting car salesmen, store card sellers, bank and call centre staff are all just dying to sell you a product.

Knowing what questions to ask and how to counter some of their more ludicrous sales bombast is the key to protecting your money from going to waste.

I hear too many sad stories from readers, friends and colleagues who go into one of the above situations full of expectation and come away feeling bamboozled, patronised or, worse, less confident than they did before the meeting.

It's not about being brash, rather more about being brazen with your finances - and you can only do that if you know exactly where you stand with your money and can talk comfortably and freely about it.

For example, the more relaxed you are when talking to financial advisers about your money, the more you'll benefit from their services. A golden rule in any such financial situation is to ask the adviser - at every turn - to explain anything that you don't understand.

When something sounds like jargon, interject; if part of a financial product is based on a process you don't understand, don't buy it until you do; and never be shy about asking for the precise costs.

If you don't have a clear understanding of where your money is going, why on earth should anybody else? We desperately need to shake off our shyness about talking freely about our money.

The sooner the financial services industry realises that more of us are talking with confidence about our cash, the sooner a proper conversation between adviser and client can be held.

Truly, vulgarity can be a virtue.

s.dunn@independent.co.uk

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