Americans Find Conversations About Finances Difficult

A significant number of Americans find conversations about financial issues difficult, a survey finds.

Northwestern Mutual’s 2014 Planning and Progress Study found 42% of American adults have not spoken to anyone about their retirement. Only 39% have had conversations with their spouse or partner about the subject. 

Harris Poll, on behalf of Northwestern Mutual, surveyed 2,092 American adults ages 18 and older about the difficulty they might have in talking with others about a range of sensitive subjects. Researchers found respondents have difficulty with the following:

  • asking to borrow money from their parents (48% ranked as somewhat or very difficult);
  • asking for money back that they loaned a friend/family member (42% somewhat or very difficult);
  • asking for a raise/promotion (37%);
  • long-term care needs of their parents (35%);
  • asking their parents about their wills/estates (31%);
  • their death/preparations and preferences with their family (30%);
  • asking their boomerang kids to move out (25%);
  • budgets and the need to stick to them with their spouse/partner (23%);
  • the birds and the bees (21%); and
  • asking their adult-age children to get a job (15%).

“Starting the dialogue can be the most difficult part, but people need to realize the significant benefits of openly communicating their financial and retirement goals,” says Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual president. “A financial professional can be a valuable resource who can facilitate discussions about long-term goals and planning; listen to your needs and goals; and work with you to remove anxiety about affording retirement.”

Conversations are needed to manage finances, and the survey found the more discipline a person brings to financial planning, the more financially secure they feel in the present, which leads to a greater likelihood they will be happy in the future (see “Retirement Savings Stuck in Neutral”).