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How to Have Hard Money Conversations

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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When it comes to money, 61% of women would rather talk about their own death, according to a report by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave. Meanwhile, 43% of people in a Fidelity study failed to correctly identify how much their partner makes.

If money is something we all deal with, why is it so hard to discuss? “It’s a really delicate issue because we all have different needs and priorities when it comes to finances, and what one person may value to save and protect might not be the same with someone else,” said Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette guru Emily Post and co-president of The Emily Post Institute. “Plus, even if we’re comfortable sharing, we’re aware that other people might not be.”

Of course, not talking about money isn’t really a viable option, especially when it comes to the important people in our lives, and having those hard money conversations can actually lead to a better understanding of how to manage financial issues with other people. No matter who you’re talking with, Tammy Butts, regional executive vice president and branch manager for AXA Advisors, suggested following three rules:

  1. Start early. Whether it’s a spouse or partner, your children or a roommate, the sooner you can start having money conversations, the better — “you want to ultimately have them before you’re at the crossroads.”
  2. Develop a plan. When you develop a strategy, it allows you to make solid financial decisions. A good strategy to start with is determining the important financial information you’ll need before moving forward with a conversation. Depending on whom you’re talking to and what you’re discussing, you may need to share specific details about assets, where that money is kept and what you plan to do with it.
  3. Keep communicating. One conversation is a good start, but in some cases you’ll need to talk more frequently about a particular topic. Communicating frequently about and updating your plan as necessary will allow you to make decisions and stay on track.

Besides following those three rules, understanding the etiquette and psychology behind money conversations with different types of people in your life will help you ace those particular talks the next time you need to have them.

How to talk about money with your partner

Why it can be difficult: When it comes to your partner, you could be discussing pivotal issues that greatly impact you both, like how to handle debt, how you’ll split shared financial responsibilities and whether or not you’ll be combining your finances. “When we think about equality in relationships, this is one of those places where people can feel a big divide depending on how they’re willing to contribute and see their differences,” Post said.

From an etiquette perspective: As far as etiquette goes, Post suggested coming at any conversation with your partner from a place of understanding. “Take a minute to say, ‘I know this person, but I may not know how they feel about financial matters,’” she said. “That often puts you in a place of being willing to ask questions, rather than just make statements.”

Post suggested asking your partner when a good time would be to discuss a certain financial topic, rather than demand it happen in the moment. For instance, asking if they’d be willing to sit down and have a conversation about managing joint expenses, rather than declaring that it’s time to open a joint checking account. It’s important to also ask your partner to be willing to talk about what their ideas might be and what their expectations are: “You’re trying to create a space where you’ll gather all the information about each other, rather than just come up with a solution right off the bat.” As Post noted, it should be about creating a safe space to first put forth ideas, even if you don’t come up with a solution right away.

From a financial perspective: According to Nathan Astle, student board member of the Financial Therapy Association, it’s important to remember that because money is driven by so much emotion, you should go into the conversation with a certain amount of preparation for emotional responses, for both you and your partner. Remember to speak for yourself with phrases like, “I feel,” instead of “you are,” validate their point of view (even when you disagree) and take a break if the discussion gets too heated (with the expectation that you’ll come back to the topic once you’ve cooled down). Keep the end goal that you’ll talk about what you want to get from the relationship and how you believe money can help you get there, he added.

Using a budgeting app can also help keep everything in one place so conversations are easier moving forward — here are 11 good ones that are totally free.

How to talk about money with your kids

Why it can be difficult: The types of conversations you have with your children will depend on their age, but talking about subjects like saving, credit and debt can make a big impact in your kids’ lives. In fact, while two-thirds of Americans say their family or parents influenced their saving and spending habits, only 56% of American parents said they have actually talked with their kids about money, according to a Chase survey.

From an etiquette perspective: As with your partner, Post advised to always invite your child to have a financial conversation before actually having it. Say something like, “I’d like to talk with you about your allowance, and your mom and I have some ideas and wanted to talk with you about what we’re thinking.” Depending on your plan of action, you can also let your kid know if you’re open to suggestions (as in, “Mom and I have some ideas about your allowance and wanted to get your opinion”).

From a financial perspective: Remember to always keep your kid’s maturity level in mind before bringing up emotional financial topics. “When children are involved in adult financial matters too soon, serious problems can occur,” said Sarah Swantner, a certified financial planner and financial therapist in Rapid City, South Dakota. Instead, “have age-appropriate conversations around money and involve kids in money activities that are rooted in real life, like saving for a much-wanted toy or doing chores to earn money,” said Swantner. “But keep them out of the family financial stress.”

Butts also reminded parents that talking to their kids about money shouldn’t end as they age. “Talk to them about saving when they’re in grade school and college and as young adults, as well,” she said. “I see my clients with their kids, and I have the same discussions with my own adult children about credit. It’s so important we keep educating these young people.”

How to talk about money with your parents

Why it can be difficult: At a certain point, the parent-kid conversation flips and it becomes the adult child’s responsibility to potentially talk about some uncomfortable money topics with their parents — these could include anything from legacy planning, taking over finances or overspending in retirement. It can be especially difficult if there is a history with your parents of not talking about money, Swantner said.

From an etiquette perspective: Much like the conversations before, Post suggested that any financial conversation with your parents should start with a request. “Ask permission to have the conversation, and when you get it, ask to what degree they are comfortable talking about it with you — let them know you don’t want to overstep your bounds,” she said. Always thank your parents for sharing whatever they’re willing to, and ask if you can revisit the topic again in the future to touch base and make sure things are staying the same, or to address them if they’ve changed.

From a financial perspective: The sooner you can start talking about some of these important topics and getting the infrastructure in place, the better. Still, Butts admitted that this is the topic where she tends to see the most difficulty and friction. “You don’t want any surprises, and the more you can make some of these decisions in advance so you don’t have any, you can hopefully have more harmonious outcomes,” she said. “This is where getting an advisor as a neutral third party can help facilitate those conversations.”

Without the help of a third party, however, Swantner suggested sticking to the facts. “Avoid judgments and evaluations,” she said. “Focus your conversation on yourself and not the other person, making your concerns and requests for information clear. If your parents realize they will be helping you by sharing the information, they may be more likely to open up.”

How to talk about money with your friends

Why it can be difficult: Talking to people our own age about money can bring up feelings of inadequacy if the scales seem tilted in one direction. In fact, 44% of people in a Bank of American survey said that money was a major cause of stress in a friendship.

From an etiquette perspective: You can make your life a whole lot easier by being direct with your friends about certain financial situations. “I find there are less assumptions made about me if I open up just a little bit about whether budget is or isn’t a concern,” said Post. She suggested trying something like: “Johnny, I would so love to celebrate your birthday. Financially, I’m trying to stick to my budget, but I would love to have you over for a cup of coffee for some one-on-one time.”

From a financial perspective: Keep in mind that taking some initiative can prevent most difficult money conversations with friends from happening in the first place. “Before everyone starts ordering, make sure that you are okay just splitting the bill so everyone pays for what they bought,” Astle said. There are plenty of apps available to help make splitting the bill less painful. If lending money is the issue at hand, Astle noted it’s always best to treat those situations as you would any other legal transaction. “That takes some of the hard emotional stuff out of the conversation since it keeps you, your money and the relationship safe.”

How to talk about money with your roommates

Why it can be difficult: Chatting with roommates about financial topics can be tricky, since the areas you’ll likely be covering — rent and other shared financial responsibilities — impact all parties on a daily basis. Plus, living with someone you’ve had an uncomfortable money conversation with can be downright unbearable.

From an etiquette perspective: Talking early and often is key to keeping problems at bay, but if a problem does arise — like someone missing rent, for example — it’s best to address the issue from a standpoint of “how are we going to solve this,” rather than from a place of anger, said Post. Again, you’ll want to ask for permission before having any conversation, and setting up a roommate talk on a monthly basis can help assure everyone stays on the same page.

From a financial perspective: If you have several roommates, Astle suggested treating any conversation like a family situation where everyone has equal say and everyone spends time trying to understand each individual. “It works wonders when people feel understood,” he said. Butts also recommended communicating up front that any money conversations between roommates should be about business versus personal. “If you can start by saying, ‘Let’s make this a business transaction,’ now it’s nobody pointing fingers — instead it’s about here’s what’s needed, here’s what everybody shares and here’s when it’s due.” Butts also suggested setting consequences ahead of time so there are no surprises, and potentially even putting it in writing and having everybody sign. “That way, if someone violates it, they knew, and now you aren’t just picking on them,” she said.

The bottom line

Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, at the end of the day, certain financial conversations become inevitable. Taking some time to understand the best approach in each scenario will help everyone come out of a money talk unscathed, and with the relationship still in tact.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock |

Cheryl Lock is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Cheryl at [email protected]

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Study: The Best U.S. Cities for Working from Home

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Working from home has never been easier. Thanks to advances in technology, many professionals can plow through their to-do lists from the comfort of their couch. However, some cities are better for remote work than others.

Cities that are more appealing to telecommuters have higher earning power for the remote workers who live there and more remote work opportunities. Additionally, cities with longer commute times also make it more appealing for residents to choose to work from home.

To determine the best cities for working from home, MagnifyMoney combed through the Census Bureau’s 2018 1-Year American Community Survey. We examined the 100 largest U.S. cities by the number of workers, classifying them by metrics related to how many people work from home, their earning power and their cost of living.

Key findings

  • Gilbert, Ariz. is rated the best place to work from home, due to a sharp rise in the number of people working from home, which indicates more remote work opportunities, as well as the fact that remote workers there make $1.32 for every dollar earned by the average worker.
  • The second best place to work from home is Atlanta, thanks to factors like a rise in people working from home from 2017 to 2018 and good pay for remote workers. Additionally, local housing costs in Atlanta were equal to just 27% of earnings for the average person who works from home.
  • Aurora, Colo. comes in third, with residents who work remotely skipping out on the 30-minute average daily commute there.
  • The worst city to work from home was Toledo, Ohio, which had a low and stagnant number of people working from home, indicating few remote work opportunities. Those who do work from home in Toledo generally earned less in comparison to average earnings.
  • The second worst city to work from home was El Paso, Texas, followed by Greensboro, N.C.
  • On average, across the 100 cities analyzed, working from home tended to pay better than not working from home.
  • Overall, the number of people working from home is fairly flat, suggesting that the so-called “telecommuting revolution” has yet to come to fruition.
  • Long commutes did not necessarily translate to more people working from home. While New York and New Jersey had the longest average commutes, they did not see much of an increase in the number of people working from home.

Best cities for working from home

Topping our study’s ranking of the best cities to work from home is Gilbert, Ariz. Gilbert, a suburb located southeast of Phoenix, measures just over 72 square miles and has a population of more than 230,000.

Our study found that the average person working from home in Gilbert makes $1.32 for every dollar the average person makes, earning it a tie for the 20th spot regarding that metric. Gilbert also ranked high for two metrics measuring the city’s overall work-from-home climate. It ranked fourth for its share of remote workers, with 4.90% of residents working from home, and sixth for the percent change in the number of people working from home from 2017 to 2018, a 1.20% year-over-year increase. Additionally, the average commute time of a typical worker in Gilbert is 28 minutes, earning Gilbert the 27th spot for that metric as telecommuters are saving nearly half an hour each way.

All of these metrics contributed to Gilbert’s overall top ranking, making it a great option for telecommuters looking for a balanced lifestyle of good pay, a remote work-friendly culture and a decent chunk of time saved from commuting.

Atlanta snags the spot for the second best city to work from home, thanks to the high earning power of remote workers and a culture friendly to telecommuting. Atlanta has a high work-from-home rate, with 4.50% of people working from home, earning it a sixth-place ranking for that metric. Remote workers in Atlanta make $1.13 for every dollar the average worker pulls in, and housing costs accounted for just 27% of a remote worker’s earnings, landing it the 22nd spot for that metric.

Rounding out the top three for our study on the best cities to work from home is Aurora, Colo. Aurora’s rankings were boosted by the fact that remote workers in Aurora make $1.41 for every dollar that the average person makes — earning the city the 11th spot for that metric. The city also boasts 3.50% of people working from home, which landed it in 19th spot for that metric. Additionally, workers in Aurora had an average commute time of 30 minutes, which means, conversely, remote workers get to skip out on a half hour long-commute, earning the city the 18th spot for the commute time metric.

Overall, the best state to work remotely seems to be Arizona — three cities, all Phoenix suburbs, cracked our study’s top 10 best cities to work from home ranking: Gilbert (first), Chandler (seventh) and Scottsdale (tenth). Another state with a strong presence in our study’s top 10 best cities to work from home is Colorado, with Aurora ranking second and Denver ranking sixth.

Worst cities for working from home

The U.S. city falling to the bottom of our study’s ranking — making it the worst city to work from home — is Toledo, Ohio. Located in the northwest region of Ohio, Toledo has a population of around 276,000.

Remote workers in Toledo pulled in far less than the average worker, earning just $0.58 for every $1 earned by an average worker and resulting in the city ranking 99th for that metric. Additionally, remote workers in Toledo spent an average of 51% of their earnings on housing, underscoring remote workers’ overall low earning power. Toledo also had a staggeringly low percentage of residents working remotely — 0.90% — which indicates the poor overall culture of remote work and opportunity in the city.

The second worst city to work from home, according to our study, is El Paso, Texas. Remote workers in El Paso also had dismal earning power, with people who work from home making just $0.81 for every dollar earned by the average worker, and housing costs accounting for 45% of remote workers’ earnings. Like Toledo, El Paso also had a relatively low percentage of remote workers overall, with 1.60% of people working from home, placing the city 87th for that metric.

Meanwhile, our study found that Greenboro, N.C., is the third worst city to work from home. Greensboro ranked last for the metric measuring the growth in the number of people working from home, with 1.90% fewer people working remotely in 2018 compared to 2017, indicating a possible decline in remote work opportunity there. Remote workers also weren’t saving a particularly significant amount of time by telecommuting, with the average commute time for residents in Greensboro being just 21 minutes.

Overall, our study found that there are bad cities for working from home nationwide, from the Northeast all the way to the West Coast.

What happened to the “telecommuting revolution”?

Roughly a decade ago, as technology became more advanced and workforces became increasingly mobile, there were predictions of a “telecommuting revolution” in which more and more employees would begin working remotely.

Indeed, a recent study from FlexJobs found that between 2005 and 2017, remote work has grown 159%. However, this massive explosion in growth in the last decade and a half slowed to just 7.9% between 2016 to 2017 — evidence that the movement is losing steam.

Our study also found a fairly stagnant remote workforce in the 100 most populated U.S. cities from 2017 to 2018. Even the city that ranked first for the metric measuring the growth of the number of people working from home from 2017 to 2018 — Irvine, California — had just a 2.40% increase in the number of telecommuters. Additionally, our study revealed a slew of cities in which there were a smaller share of remote workers in 2018 than there were in 2017, including Washington D.C., Orlando and St. Louis.

While the number of remote workers might not be completely stagnant, these are certainly signs that the telecommuting movement might be slowing down. So, what’s to blame for the seemingly slowing growth of the “telecommuting revolution”? One explanation might be linked to perceived worker productivity. In 2013, for example, Yahoo yanked its employees’ remote privileges and shortly after cited increased levels of productivity and employee engagement.

Additionally, a 2018 survey from Randstad USA found that employees might not be buying into the idea either. While 82% of workers said being able to work from home helps them maintain their work-life balance, 62% said they still prefer working in the office, a number that was even higher among younger generations.

Advantages and disadvantages of working from home

As is the case with clocking your 9-to-5 hours in a cubicle, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working from the comfort of your couch.

Advantages of working from home

  • Potentially higher pay: Our survey found that in many cities, remote workers raked in more money than non-remote workers. For example, in Norfolk, Va., the average remote worker made $1.68 for every dollar earned by the average worker. One reason for this could be that, according to the BLS, the more popular occupations for remote work include jobs in management, business and finance, all of which tend to be higher-paying.
  • Money saved on transportation: The cost of commuting is not something to overlook. Depending on the state in which you live, you could spend between $2,000 to $5,000 a year on commuting costs. Working from home enables you to save thousands of dollars a year.
  • Money saved on childcare: One of the biggest incentives for working from home is the flexibility it allows — especially for parents with kids to care for. For working parents, the cost of childcare can add up to hundreds of dollars a week. If a parent works from home, they might be able to avoid paying for a daycare service or nanny.

Learn how you can maximize your savings with the best online savings account offers. 

Disadvantages of working from home

  • Strain on relationships with colleagues: Working from home could have a negative effect on your relationships with your colleagues. At least one study has found that remote workers were more likely to report that their co-workers treat them poorly and exclude them.
  • Lack of work-life balance: When your home doubles as your workspace, it can be difficult to unplug. Indeed, one survey from Remote.co found that unplugging after work hours is the biggest challenge among telecommuters. Achieving a healthy work-life balance when you work from home can certainly be a challenging obstacle to overcome.

Methodology

For our study, we looked at data from the 2018 Census Bureau’s 1-Year American Community Survey. Metrics analyzed included:

  • The percentage of people who work from home.
  • Earnings for people working from home relative to average earnings of local workers.
  • The percentage point change in the share of workers working from home from 2017 to 2018.
  • The percentage point change in earnings for people who work from home from 2017 to 2018.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of income for people working from home.
  • Average commute time.

To create the final rankings, we ranked each city in each metric. Using these rankings, we created a final index based on each city’s average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received the highest score, while the city with the lowest average ranking received the lowest score. The cities were then indexed based on the best possible score.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Sarah Berger
Sarah Berger |

Sarah Berger is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah here

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Survey: 3 in 4 Americans Believe Physical Banks Are Becoming Obsolete

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Thanks to the fintech revolution and ever more sophisticated bank apps, some aspects of banking — like paper checks and statements that come in the mail — seem pretty outdated. For many Amercians, bank branches are also increasingly seen as redundant.

A new survey from MagnifyMoney, a LendingTree company, found that 3 in 4 Americans think that physical bank branches are becoming a thing of the past, and nearly 8 in 10 do all of their banking online or via a mobile app.

Key findings

  • Approximately 3 in 4 of survey respondents say physical bank branches are becoming “a thing of the past.” Unsurprisingly, millennials and Gen Z are most likely to hold that opinion, but the sentiment is also shared by more than two-thirds of baby boomers.
  • More than 1 in 10 Americans with bank accounts didn’t set foot in a bank branch in the last year, and an additional 15% haven’t visited a branch in at least the last six months. Gen Xers are the least likely to have visited a branch in the last year.
  • There’s an app for that… and people are using it. Nearly 8 in 10 conduct all of their banking business online or via a mobile app whenever possible. Still, people still see in-person interactions with their bank as valuable, with almost 50% of respondents saying this is their preferred method of communication with their bank.
  • Credit union account holders visit their bank’s physical location less frequently than those who use a traditional bank, and they’re more likely to prefer online banking.
  • Making a deposit is the most common reason cited by respondents for visiting a bank branch, followed by making a withdrawal.

Americans are visiting bank branches less often

Our survey reveals that trips to the bank are becoming increasingly rare. The survey found that 29% of Americans say they typically only visit bank branches a few times a year, while 14% say they go less than once a year. The survey shows that the most common reason for a respondent’s most recent trip to a physical bank was to make a deposit (39%), followed by making a withdrawal (32%).

Surprisingly, the frequency of trips to physical bank branches doesn’t differ too much among generations. However, younger people were more likely to agree with the statement that physical banks are becoming a thing of the past, including 89% of Gen Zers, but only 68% of baby boomers.

In an era in which finding a date or having pad thai delivered to your doorstep is as easy as a few taps on your phone, it’s not surprising that more people are turning to apps for their banking needs. Our survey found that 78% of Americans say they conduct all of their banking online or through a mobile app, including an eye-popping 87% of millennials. Paradoxically, respondents also indicated that facetime remains important, with nearly half saying that speaking with a bank representative in person is their preferred mode of communication.

How different generations bank

Different generations have different preferences on everything from fashion to food. Their preferred mode of banking varies, too. Unsurprisingly, younger generations — who’ve grown up with technology at the center of their lives — are more likely to use a digital bank for their banking needs.

The survey found 21% of Gen Zers and 18% of millennials have their primary account at an online bank, compared to just 8% of baby boomers. Still, about 51% of Gen Zers and 59% of millennials have their primary accounts at a traditional bank — compared to more than 73% of baby boomers.

Younger generations were also much more likely than older ones to say that they do all of their banking online or via an app — 87% of millennials, compared to 67% of baby boomers.

Digital banking on the rise

As both fintechs and conventional banks invest more in their digital offerings, consumers have fewer reasons to visit a physical bank branch. JP Morgan Chase, for example, offers digital banking services like the ability to directly deposit checks straight from your phone to your accounts, and the option to check your balance and transaction history via text message.

The advantages of online-only banks further erode the draw of brick-and-mortar branches. Digital-only operations like Ally Bank and Chime offer very attractive APYs with no monthly fees, as they are saving money on overhead costs.

Cash management accounts from fintech companies can provide compelling alternatives to traditional bank accounts. For example, SoFi Money holds each customer’s cash in accounts at multiple partner banks. This arrangement means the partner banks provide a combined $1.5 million in FDIC insurance for each SoFi Money customer’s balance.

Other innovative features include Chime’s SpotMe feature, which grants its customers up to $100 if they overdraft their account, and Simple’s built-in budgeting tools, which seamlessly tell you how much money is safe to spend while taking into account your future goals and expenses.

Why use a physical bank branch?

Despite all the bells and whistles made possible by technology, physical bank branches do offer something an app can’t replace: in-person assistance. The value of physical, human contact shouldn’t be underestimated.

Case in point: In October 2019, Chime experienced a service outage, leaving millions of its customers without access to their accounts. With no physical branches, Chime’s customers were cut off from their money.

Our findings underscore the importance of having the option to waltz into a bank and ask for assistance, if need be: Among survey respondents, the number one preferred way to communicate with their bank was in person, beating phone contact and online chat.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 936 Americans with a bank account. The survey was fielded September 11-13, 2019. In the survey, generations are defined as:

  • Millennials are ages 22-38
  • Generation Xers are ages 39-53
  • Baby boomers are ages 54-73

Members of the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the total percentages among all respondents. However, their responses are excluded from the charts and age breakdowns due to the smaller population size among our survey sample.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Sarah Berger
Sarah Berger |

Sarah Berger is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah here