Julien and Kiersten Saunders of Rich and Regular

Do you avoid conversations about money with family, friends, loved ones… maybe even yourself?

Much of our actions with money today stem from our past beliefs and experiences. Learning to voice those beliefs and experiences about money is the first step in creating real change in your financial life.

My guests today are Julien and Kiersten Saunders, the co-founders of Rich and Regular, Hosts & Producers of Money on the Table, and authors of the forthcoming book, Cashing Out. After paying off over $200,000 in debt while making the transition from corporate employees to full-time entrepreneurs, they have made it their mission to inspire better conversations about money. The conversation that we ended up having was nothing close to what I thought it was going to be, and I think that it’s really going to open your eyes and your heart to looking at your past with money differently.

Why is it important to challenge one another’s beliefs about money?

Julien and Kiersten believe that having disagreements about money with your partner can actually be a good thing. Why? Because it forces you to defend your position and face your own beliefs about money — why you believe them, and if you even want to continue believing them as you realize they may or may not be serving you.

Kiersten states, “the the act of saying your money story out loud or defending your point of view on money is one way to learn where your money story has plot holes…so for me I had connected money to almost everything — you use money to celebrate, you use money when your family is grieving, you use money when you’re sad, you use money when you’re happy…”

Kiersten goes onto say that Julien was the first person in her life to actually challenge her beliefs. She was forced to say her money story out loud — she had to explain it and attempt to defend it. But in the end, she realized that her view on money didn’t actually serve her or make sense for the goals she had in life. “…it just required me to get very specific about my money beliefs. And that’s really where the change started” Julien challenged Kiersten’s thinking on finances through powerful conversation, and it forced her to look deeper into her past relationship and ideas about money, which became the catalyst for change in her financial future.

How do you start having better conversations about money?

Kiersten says you should “start small and very specific. I think the tendency is to try to fix your finances as a whole…overnight or immediately. And the reality is, it is an ongoing relationship. You should think of it as the third wheel in every relationship you ever have…so start small. Pick something very specific and time-bound. So maybe spend 30 minutes on Thursday, trying to figure out what the story you’re telling yourself is…why do you need to keep ordering DoorDash and Uber Eats? Why are you spending so much money on food delivery? That’s one small example.”

Julien adds that he began the journey to better money conversations through both frustration and curiosity: “I realized that this was one of those things that wouldn’t necessarily require me to learn more, or to be smarter… it was actually much more emotional. It was more cultural, it was more social. Those were the things that was really been avoiding. And so I kind of dove into exploring those things, everything down to my Caribbean ancestry, the stories that I’ve been told, the role that religion played in the stories that I’ve been told that shaped how I think about money… the role that men played, and how that was shifting with the rise of women going to college and earning more. And so I just became really curious about those things. And then I got really frustrated because I felt like, no one’s talking about money this way. Even though this is how most of us learn about money. We learn about it through what we see to the stories that we’ve been told. And as a creative person, as a high achiever, I just felt like that was curious to me and I just decided to dive into it. And obviously I started with myself, and the more I started to have unsolicited conversations with people who did not want my advice, I realized how pervasive this issue was. Not even specifically in the black community, but in American culture as a whole. And so all that to say, we learned that money was a very, very taboo subject, and it needed to be approached delicately. And so it was a bit of a challenge that I just wanted to take on.”

Why do we avoid digging deeper into our behaviors with money?

Kiersten believes we avoid difficult conversations about money because “a lot of us prepare for this hard, emotional work.” When in reality, “a lot of the solutions to financial problems — after you remove the emotion of shame and judgment and guilt — is really practical. Simple as — well then don’t carry the [credit] card…don’t keep the money in the account…make sure that you have frozen food on deck.”

Julien adds, “I found that after having probably hundreds of conversations about money with people is that most people aren’t willing to let something go. So they may not be willing to let go of this habit or this practice, or this thing that they believe is the cornerstone of what makes them black, or Puerto Rican, or a brother, or a daughter, or a teacher, or whatever it is…but what I find is that a lot of people are really looking for progress at no cost. They don’t really want to have to change anything about who they believe they are.”

How do we begin the process of change when it comes to our money habits?

Referring to his past money actions, Julien adds, “I didn’t really have a choice. My brain and my heart was kind of running on autopilot. But now that I know better, I have to make a conscious choice or decision to say ‘those things, those habits, those components of who I say I am are going to change.”

Kiersten adds, “Go deep. Keep asking yourself — why does that matter? Do that either with yourself or with a partner, without trying to make it mean something about who you are as a person. You can do that without applying a layer of shame or guilt, just objectively asking ‘what was the circumstance? Well I was tired, and I didn’t have anything [to eat at home]. And then next time you’re at the grocery store, you might say…can I go to the frozen section and see if I can find some beef and broccoli and egg rolls? [instead of spending $50 on your original craving]. And if I had that and an air fryer, I might be able to recreate it in my mind.”

What type of conversations do we need to have with our loved ones, with ourselves, with our colleagues — to not only find change in our own hearts and lives, but in the lives of others?

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