Conversation power and why we can’t do everything online (even the money stuff)

I do everything online. But I don’t want to.

I run my entire business from my laptop. I send my work to my clients online. I write freelance articles that get posted online. I draw comics and put them up online.

I could manage my entire life online. Especially my money.

I used to think I could do it all online, until last week

I’ve always believed dealing with my money should be automatic, seamless and instantly accessible. I want to view, manage and move my money with a click or a swipe. I want to deposit checks from my phone. The last thing I want to do is call, talk to or deal with another person.

Managing this all online gives me two advantages: it’s easy and I don’t get exposed. No one sees my budget, no one asks me questions and I can just take care of what I need to take care of without diving into the rest. My personal finance is personal, and I want to keep it that way.

But this past week, two incredible experiences changed the way I thought about my interactions with people and money:

1. Walking into a bank branch for the first time in years:

I stepped into a bank branch for the first time since…well, I can’t even remember the last time I walked into a bank. I was resistant to even stepping foot inside a bank. I wanted to be able to do everything online, but apparently opening a business account just wasn’t a possibility. I didn’t really want to talk about my business because I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I just wanted an account and I wanted to leave ASAP. But then I had one of the best customer service experiences I’ve ever had. I spent two hours in a Wells Fargo branch asking questions, brainstorming options for my business and laughing with the staff about my comic about breaking up with a bank. I left feeling so incredibly comfortable and empowered about my money and my business, something I never would have gotten online

2. The Money Honesty Circle:

Last week, I brought together group of millennials for a “Money Honesty Circle.” It wasn’t your traditional personal finance workshop, and I wasn’t sure how this conversation was going to evolve. But by simply providing a space to openly talk about money – a space that we don’t normally get in our everyday life – we ended up talking for two and a half hours. We shared stories, examined our strengths and weaknesses around finances, and revealed deep insecurities around money. It was emotional and unfiltered, and I realized things about my own financial habits that I’d never considered. I walked away feeling more self-aware and supported than I ever have before, and everyone agreed that these types of gatherings should happen more often.

After both of these moments, it hit me: I was trying to do everything online with my money, when what I needed was human interaction. I was trying to figure out my business money needs online and sharing my thoughts and feelings online, when what I needed was a conversation.

Because something incredibly powerful happens when you interact in person, especially around money.

Why connected feels so disconnected

I feel like I’m on social media and answering emails all day, and rightfully so: my blog is how I present myself to the world and I use every social media channel out there to connect with my friends, family and readers.

But as connected as I am, I feel extremely disconnected.

I feel isolated. And some days, I feel downright lonely.

But here’s the crazy part: I know others sitting right next to me feel the same. Every day, I find myself surrounded by people, and yet we’re all in our own worlds: browsing Facebook, checking twitter, sending texts… all to feel connected. And yet, we aren’t connecting with the people right beside us, in person.

And even when we are talking about taboo topics like money online, it’s rare that we expose our doubts or our struggles. What we share is the perfectly crafted status or tweet to send to our followers and “friends.” We tend to show people what we want them to see without sharing the full story.

Even as I write this blog post, I’m editing and perfecting what I say. I get to sculpt the words and how I want to share my emotions. I always try to convey the raw feelings behind my money in my posts, but there’s still something missing, something that you only get in person when you have a conversation in person.

What you don’t see online is:

  • The huge grin on my face when you tell me that my comics made you laugh out loud at work.
  • The tears well up in my eyes when my fear overtakes me and I say that I doubt my ability to earn a living doing what I love.
  • The conviction in my voice when I declare that I’m worth more than my bank account balance.

This is what it means to connect. Connecting in person allows you to read between the lines and read body language. It allows you to open up a conversation and take it in a direction you never considered. Connecting in person allows you to feel the weight of the words.

Especially around money. Because money is not just numbers on the screen. Money is emotional, and it always involves other people.

Talking about money in person allows us to:

  • Share stories, relate and say “Yeah, me too” or “I’ve never thought of it that way”
  • Stop judging and realize that we see on the surface of another person may not show the whole picture
  • Feel the emotional weight behind statements like “I feel like I’m too cheap” or “I don’t know what I’m doing”
  • Say “I don’t know what I’m doing” and see others nod in agreement
  • Smile and laugh

It takes a willing, brave person to open up, share and discuss his or her weaknesses and insecurities around money. It’s awkward, it’s vulnerable, it’s embarrassing… and it’s liberating.

So this week, I challenge you to talk to have a face-to-face conversation with someone about money.

And when you’re done reading this blog post, look up from your computer, tablet or phone and say hi to the person sitting next to you 🙂

P.S. If you’re in the Washington, DC area and want to join me for the next in-person Money Honesty Circle, send me a note!

P.P.S. If you ever see me in person, let’s talk about how this post made you feel 🙂

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16 thoughts on “Conversation power and why we can’t do everything online (even the money stuff)

  1. Robb @ Ten Degrees Warmer

    I’m in DC for another two months, and I would LOVE to attend one of your meet ups. I’ve been blabbing about money for years, but I’ve found this makes many people nervous. I’d love to find some like-minded souls who find it liberating and powerful to be open and honest about setting goals and tracking successes and sharing tips. That is the best way to learn and grow!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Awesome, Robb. I’ll definitely keep you on the list. I’ll let you know when we schedule another money circle!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Thanks Jay! It’s crazy what a conversation can do to change your perspective 🙂

    2. dave

      I agree J this is a fantastic article. Now that I am abroad I realize how hard it is to do everything online. Sometimes banking institutions require you to be present to verify and things like that.

  2. femmefrugality

    I love this. I started writing online because I needed money, but my family life and schooling schedule didn’t allow for a traditional job. Since I’ve been doing it, I’ve noticed how artificial it can be. We craft our words, but we also voice judgements we often wouldn’t say to people to their face. I almost wonder if we would even make those judgements in a face-to-face conversation. Because the internet does take a lot of the humanity out of it. We forget that we don’t know the whole story. We forget that the person behind the story that we are writing or reading has real feelings and struggles, or even a face.

    My best money conversations are with my friends and family in person, though I admit that the group I feel comfortable sharing with is small.

  3. Free To Pursue

    “And even when we are talking about taboo topics like money online, it’s rare that we expose our doubts or our struggles. What we share is the perfectly crafted status or tweet to send to our followers and ‘friends.’ We tend to show people what we want them to see without sharing the full story.”

    I love your way of tackling the topic of vulnerability. As Brené Brown tackled in her famous Ted Talk, being vulnerable about what you want with who you choose is powerful and others are incredibly accepting, which never ceases to amaze me. It takes courage and makes us stronger as a result.

    You’ve inspired me to have more of these powerful conversations, and maybe not just limited to money. Thanks Stephanie.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      🙂 Vulnerability unlocks some incredible things in life. Keep having those powerful conversations!

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      The circle concept really brings out a lot of fascinating perspectives. You can always start one yourself Melanie!

  4. Bill at FamZoo

    Love the sentiments here – great post! If a face-to-face isn’t possible, I think a phone conversation is a good middle ground. Not perfect, but still conveys a ton more emotion and allows for twists and turns in direction more easily.

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Agreed, Bill. Any place you can allow for the emotion and unexpected twist and turns to happen is a good place to start.

  5. Scott @ VacationCounts

    I agree that a bank branch is an often forgotten “save your money more wisely” resource. I recommend that everyone has one banking relationship where there are actual bank branches and friendly/helpful bankers in the places where you live and travel. That will give you the personal financial advice and service such as a safe deposit box.

    Next, open a second bank account at an online only bank such as Etrade or Capital One 360. That way you can benefit from self-service investments, higher interest rates (still not high enough), and lower ATM and foreign conversion fees (for those who love to travel).

    -Scott, VacationCounts – Take More Vacation Time Off

  6. Sarah G

    I love this post! I oo had an awesome experience with another rite of passage that we’re “supposed” to dread — car purchasing. Had a great experience, totally changed my feelings about spending a huge amount of money (and they actually did give me some good financial advice along the way too).

    About banks — I maintain a real-life account through one bank which all my direct deposits go into and all bills come out of — also all automated savings is routed through. I have a secondary account, through Simple, that is for day-to-day things like groceries, coffee and small purchases. Everyone’s formula is different, this works for me.


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