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How speaking up changed my financial future

You talk. You talk to friends about the drab. To partners about the day-to-day. You call your mama with the big UH OH and your sages about the dream of dreams. It doesn’t matter if it’s vulnerable and it rarely matters if it’s mundane – talking is your way through the process and onto the plan.

The ones that love you … they always offer honest feedback.

The ones who trust you … they’re going to open up about their experiences too.

The ones who support you … they’ll give you the space to talk about any and all of it.

But are you talking about the things that matter? Are you opening up about the topic that’s the most significant source of stress for the majority of Americans?

Are you talking to anyone about money?

I wasn’t.

My journey around the money conversation was one that literally never occurred to me until coming across an incredibly human, honesty-driven initiative by Umpqua Bank called Made to Grow – which is a call to talk more about money and the consequences if we don’t (read: crazy stress).

That had so been me. As a young woman building my career in one of the most expensive cities in the US, I thought I was so alone – alone in spending most of what I made. alone in my frustration with student loans. alone in the judgement I held for myself in having no retirement plan (yet). alone in having meager emergency savings. alone in feeling like I should most definitely be making more but was scared pantless to ask.

So I bottled up every financial concern I had. I kept it in and kept the lid tight. For someone who would share most things if they came up – bathroom floor moments, passport agency meltdowns, heartbreak and screw ups – I felt wildly uncomfortable and even embarrassed to talk about money. Partially because at this time in my life I prided myself on ‘having it all together’ and partially because I didn’t know how to talk about it or who to talk about it with. As much as I love my parents and they’re both killer at talking these things through with, I was too scared to even do that.

I had created a self-imposed gag order that was keeping my pride in check. That’s about it.

That order lifted, almost instantly, when I heard a small factoid that one of the biggest factors contributing to my ability to negotiate for a higher salary was whether or not I was speaking about it with my friends. Lightbulb.

With even my best of friends, I wasn’t talking about how much I made, how much their raises were, how their reviews went, or what they negotiated for. That day, though, I began talking about it with my best friends and roommates. Then, I started talking about it with other friends – sharing my salary and asking if they were comfortable to share theirs. I remember those “firsts” vividly, it was like a massive gate moving aside opening the way to so much shared knowledge and support amongst my tribe.

Here’s what happened after those conversations about salary; they turned into broader conversations about money. We talked about student debt, we talked about our biggest financial mistakes, we supported each other in making our girl’s night dinner at home instead of the hottest new SF restaurant. We gut checked business plans and saving plans. And most of all we learned through our own stories and through our belief in each other about how to shift our relationship with money.

I haven’t been the same since. Speaking up about money with those closest to me pointed a spotlight on my fears. It made them manageable, and it gave me the confidence to shift from a place of fear into a place of prosperity. I started investing in resources that could help my financial future. I made goals for my money. I pushed, sometimes uncomfortably, to be making what I deserved.

A little over three years after lifting my own gag order around the topic of finances I found myself in a better place – one where I was financially supported enough to take a giant leap of faith to begin my own business and passionately pursue my own dreams. While it’s an amazing (and scary) step, it presents its own set of financial challenges and fears. But this time around I have the confidence to talk about it and the support system to learn from.

People cannot be there for you unless you’re first willing to open the conversation and share your worries, your struggles, and your dreams.

Speaking up about money changed my future. It’s time you let it change yours.

This article originally appeared on MaxieMcCoy.com.

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