Money conversations

“They Must Be Rich Because They Have a Pool”

Late last year, J took a trip with his dad to visit his cousins. When he got home, he recounted all his adventures and added, “they must be rich because they have a pool.”

A few years ago, I would have agreed with him. His cousins have a very large house, drive fancy cars and take elaborate vacations.

But then I read The Millionaire Next Door. (Here’s the first chapter if you want a preview!)

In it, the author makes the important point that you can’t tell how much people have based on what they buy.

Hearing it now, it makes total sense. But for 30+ years, I can say that that thought never occurred to me.

So we talked about it. I told him that you can’t tell how much people have saved. The pool doesn’t prove that they DO have a lot of money and it also doesn’t prove that they DON’T.

I brought it up again last night. I said, “Do you remember when you said that your cousins must be rich because they have a pool? Does having a pool or a fancy car or big house mean you are rich?” To which he replied no. I asked, “Does it mean that you aren’t rich?” And he also said no. (Woo! He remembered!)

Then I asked, “What does it mean?” Unfortunately, he was hard pressed to explain further.

So I explained again that there was NO WAY to tell how much money someone had saved based on their car or house or vacations. Maybe you can tell how much they spent, but really not even that completely because maybe they got the item at a discount or given to them.

Money conversations

Let’s Talk

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist.

A few weeks ago, I had what I thought was going to be tough conversation with J. Before that, I had stressed about it for weeks — what if he was upset at what I said? What if I didn’t express myself clearly or completely and he was confused? What if I looked like a bumbling idiot? What if it didn’t go perfectly?

The same set of fears manifests before each post I write. What if I can’t get across what I want to say properly? What if it’s confusing, boring, incomplete or worse? What if I sound completely ridiculous or like an amateur? What qualifies me to be able to write about these topics?

I have this idea of how things should be — how our conversations should go, what our relationship should look like, how this blog should read and on and on and on. I measure myself against an impossibly high standard, and I’m always scared of falling short.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to talk to him. I put aside my fears of not being perfect and took action. (I even managed to be calm during our discussion!)

And it couldn’t have gone better.

Because I was calm and talked about things in a friendly, yet matter-of-fact tone, he responded in kind. I set the tone.

Each time I do these things, I’m setting a precedent that our relationship is important to me. It’s one where we can talk about things — things that are difficult, things that are important, things that are on our minds, or even trivial things.

Those things also include talking about money.