Why would people rather talk about anything but their finances?

The F-Word.

Bread, bucks, cash, coin, dollar moolah. It doesn't matter what you call it, it’s a fact that people would rather talk about sex, politics or their mental health than their finances.

Could this be the reason why 24 million UK adults don't feel confident managing their money, or why 85% of Australians don't have a financial plan?

Research shows that if we talked more about our finances, we'd all make better informed decisions, feel less stressed and more in control. Our kids would also be more likely to form good lifetime money habits.

So it begs the question, how can we get more people talking about finance? We put that question to the financial wellness coach and author of ‘How to Save It’, Bola Sol, in episode four of the Upfront podcast.

She joined host comedian Olga Koch to talk about our weird relationship with money and why understanding that, could help the financial services industry out.

Here’s the gist of what she had to say. Listen to the podcast in full for the rest.

Let’s cut to the chase. Why would people rather talk about anything but their finances?

Bola I think there's a lot of shame around money and people feel like they should have had an education in it but they didn't. A lot of the time people feel like anything they do with money is completely wrong. If they go into their overdraft that month, they feel ‘oh my gosh, I’m not doing well with money.’ But we have to give ourselves grace when it comes to money, the way we give ourselves grace when we fall off exercise, the gym or our diet.

When it comes to our finances, we are ridiculously hard on ourselves.

The financial services industry works hard to get people engaged in their finances. What do you think is getting in the way of these efforts?

Bola We’re getting in the way of ourselves. We can have the tiniest slip-up and that's it. End of story. But that's not the end of the story. If you have a bad day at work, you go again tomorrow. When it comes to our finances, we are ridiculously hard on ourselves.

Do you think the financial services industry is doing enough to help people with that?

Bola They are trying, but I don't think they're getting the advertising right. People want to know what can you do to help them if they're in a crisis. What information are you giving them? What perks are you giving them? People want real-life scenarios, such as, if somebody goes to the pub with their friends or they go to the supermarket, they tap their contactless and it declines. Does the finance company or does the bank still have your back? These are the real scenarios that they are not showing.

If you were the CEO of a major wealth management company or investment firm, what would you be doing?

Bola One of the things I'm really big on is financial institutions starting within. At least twice a year they should have finance sessions internally. Financial services companies should help their own employees understand their pensions better. If people have worked in previous places, they should help them amalgamate their pensions into one. They could help them learn about investments and why they’re important as well. It would be incredibly helpful if there was a support team or support counsellor onsite that people could go to and talk to, especially in this day and age.

One of the things I'm really big on is financial institutions starting within.

We need to start asking more financial institutions what they're doing for us as we are trusting them with our money.

How can people become savvier with their finances?

Bola One of the things I do in my coaching is to make my clients list all their accounts and I ask them what the purpose of that account is and what are the perks in that account. If they tell me they don't know what the perks are, I say, then why are you there? I think everybody needs to ask that question. What perks are you giving me? Because I'm putting money into that account every month. Can I get some insurance? Do you have discounts? If I go and eat at certain places, do you have 50% off? We need to start asking more financial institutions what they're doing for us as we are trusting them with our money.

If people were more financially confident, do you think they would feel more comfortable seeking professional financial advice and speaking to an adviser?

Bola Yes. I think they would. I notice when people start to get what they feel is a bit of good money, some of them say to me, I want to have a conversation with you. I can tell it's that feeling of I want to take my money further and that's such a powerful place to be.

What apps do you use to manage your own finances?

Bola I love the savings app Plum. It links to my main bank account and it rounds up pennies which I use as an additional emergency fund. I also use an app called Emma which tells me my balance every morning at 8 a.m., which is the shock horror of my life but I love it because it keeps me on my toes.

How to build a financial services business that makes people happy

Can technology help improve our financial wellness?

Bola Oh, yeah, for sure. But do not talk to me about financial wellness and then make me talk to a bot. I'll be very angry. I'm going to talk to a human being. It's more practical if you have an app that does it as opposed to a service, but I don't think that's the way we should start. Financial wellness and counselling through an app can feel quite impersonal.

You teamed up with Stormzy’s publishing imprint, #MerkyBooks, to lead a series of events in schools to teach kids about money. That’s very cool. Tell us more.

Bola It was amazing. A lot of older kids want to know about crypto and are talking about what they want to do with their money and how can they invest. So it was about being honest with them and relating to them - making sure that they’re doing the right thing, not blowing their money fast and listening to songs that encourage such behaviour. After we did our last session, the school turned the third lesson of the day into one about finance and that just makes me so happy. How great is it to go home to your parent or guardian and say, ‘hey, guess what? We spoke about money today.’ We introduced the conversation into their home. Maybe a conversation that isn't happening already.

What’s your advice to help financial services businesses better relate to people?

Bola You need to put people over profit. Put them first and understand where they are. If you can invest in their problems and try to solve them, you will find people will stay with you. There are a lot of Africans, for example, who will tell you to open up a bank with Barclays Bank. Why? Because when they came to this country, it was the only bank that would allow them to. That is putting people over profit. And this is what institutions need to come back and do. Because once they do that, then you have customers for life.

“Financial institutions need to put people over profit because once they do that, they will have customers for life.”