This is part of our Rockstar Book Review series.
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“Money Talks” Makes It Easier to Engage in Money Conversations We’d Otherwise Avoid
This book is the ultimate how-to book for just about any money conversation. Using an astounding seventy-five different scenarios organized in this eight-part book, Gail covers everything from emotional manipulation, to managing change, to addressing power and control issues.
“Money Talks” sounds like a nice hand-holding volume, unless you know a bit about the author. If you do, you’ve already figured out that the title is short for “Money Talks and Bullsh*t Walks”. To get a taste of what I’m talking about, you may want to YouTube this Jamaican-born Canadian author’s name (Gail Vaz-Oxlade) to see her in action. And yes, she writes as she speaks, which makes reading her work highly entertaining as well as informative.
What this book is not: Aside from a few appendices for reference, this book is not a nitty gritty how-to book about money management. You can consult some of her other books for that advice. This book is about addressing the need to take care of the tough stuff (the need to have difficult conversations and/or giving ourselves a much-needed reality check) that can prevent us from doing the easy stuff when it comes to money (saving more and spending less). The tough stuff is about understanding and managing emotions, self-deception and relationships. The easy stuff is nothing more than arithmetic once we’ve taken care of addressing the human element in the equation.
Given the very wide range of money conversations covered in this book, I won’t summarize its contents, but instead I want to talk about how the book helps us take action when it comes to our own money issues, or when it comes to helping those around us who struggle with their own.
This useful book:
- Helps us identify the root cause of the issues we’re dealing with
- Enables us to determine what the best course(s) of action is/are for us
- Gives us the tools to act on the decisions and, most importantly, follow through
#1. Identifying the Root Cause(s)
We use money (and other people’s money) as a tool, a salve, and a weapon for all sorts of reasons. Whether it’s figuring out why a friend or loved one can’t get on top of their finances, whether or not to lend someone money and under what circumstances, or in understanding our own illogical behavior(s). Gail invites us to ask the questions that help us get to the bottom of it.
And she often helps us achieve clarity by inviting us to look at our own situation from a third-party perspective (akin to looking at our situation in a dispassionate way, from the outside in). She helps us strip away the baggage to see how the resulting behavior is doing nothing other than helping us dig a bigger hole for ourselves. And, when we figure out the “why,” we can start addressing the “how” of getting back on track. Sometimes the evaluation is tough, but we can’t get anywhere without a good look in the mirror.
Money is a medium of exchange, that’s all. It’s what we use to complete our transactions. So money isn’t the problem. We are the problem. How we behave—what we do with our money and how we communicate about that behavior—is at the root of most of the challenges we face with, and blame on, money. (pg. 2)
#2. Determining the Best Course(s) of Action
Once we’ve taken an honest look at our situation and what got us there (sense of obligation, resentment, entitlement, secrecy, manipulation, wanting to keep a small business afloat), it’s time to take action. Gail doesn’t mince words. She tells us what to do from start-to-finish and what to expect along the way. Knowing this action plan is half the battle.
The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to do everything from setting up a money intervention, to evaluating the viability of a small business, to dealing with delusion (our own or someone else’s), even down to the actual wording we would want to use!
If you put wants before needs, if you have no goals, if you can’t see the big picture and don’t have the gumption to do the hard work to achieve what you want from your life, then you’ll likely make your self-fulfilling prophecy come true. (pg. 274)
#3. Following Through
Some of the advice we can find within the pages of this book go as far as the “then what” beyond a suggested course of action, usually with a set deadline(s) for re-evaluation (payment schedule, check ins, if/then pre-determined decisions).
That helpful assistance aside, when it comes to follow through, the message is clear: it’s rarely, if ever, about the money. And, as long as the one(s) suffering are not willing to acknowledge that it’s not about the money, there’s little anyone can do other than refusing to enable the delusion, the self-pity and the blaming of outside sources of the money troubles. Hard as it is, Gail emphasizes that refusing to help can be the greater act of compassion because we all have to hit our own level of discomfort before waking up to reality. And it’s usually better for people to “hit bottom” sooner than later.
Often, hanging on to a delusion is easier than coming to terms with reality. Living in denial is easier than facing up to the facts… Eventually, the dream will evaporate and you’ll be left holding a bag of warm, soft, smelly stuff. (pg. 210)
The Bottom Line
When it comes to money and relationship issues, Gail tells us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. She then arms us with the playbook we need to plan and have the tough conversations—with ourselves and others—we so often avoid. It’s tough love at its best.
Other books on money conversations: “One Bed, One Bank Account” by Derek and Carrie Olsen and “The Recovering Spender” by Lauren Greutman, “Findependence Day” by Jonathan Chevreau, and “Spent” by Avis Cardella.
Book suggestions regarding money and behavior: “The Behavior Gap” by Carl Richards, “Happy Money” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, “Your Money of Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, and “Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton
Other suggested books by Gail Vaz-Oxlade: “Debt-Free Forever” for those of us needing to address our debt step by step, and “CEO of Everything” (her latest book) for those among us who find themselves single and in need of some non-judgmental hand holding.
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