How to Talk Openly about Money: Q&A with Melanie Lockert

By Andy Hayes

Debt is a big part of almost everyone’s money story – and one of our favorite blogs is helping open up the conversation. Dear Debt, run by Melanie Lockert, shares candid conversation about debt, and is helping clear the air about taboo money talk. We love it – and we hope you love our Q&A today with Melanie.

One interesting thing about your blog is that you feature many “open letters” where readers/community members talk about money openly. For many, money is a taboo topic – how do we approach the topic of money more openly with friends, spouses, family members?

I think in order to talk to friends and family about money, you have to meet them where they are. Talk about something that relates to them. I remember I started talking to my friends about money, because we were talking about our desire to travel. That spawned into us talking about our incomes, which turned into a beautiful discussion about negotiating.

Money by itself is tough to talk about. Make it casual and relateable. Talk about it as if you want to solve a problem together.

Your debt is mainly the result of crippling student debt, which we’ve covered extensively. How did you finally come to terms with your debt and get back on track to managing it?

All of my debt is from student loans. It’s been tough to deal with for so many years. Years ago, I was at a low point in my life and I just thought I’d had enough. I felt consumed by my debt and it was a huge stress for me. From that day forward, I started my blog and committed to making more money and paying off my debt. I have less than one year to go!

After overcoming your early struggles, you decided to become a freelancer. Why did you decide this, and what’s your advice for someone who wants to have more employment freedom but doesn’t feel safe given their financial obligations?

I became a freelancer for two reasons: more money and flexibility. I have worked in the nonprofit sector my whole life. My highest salary was $38,000. After freelancing for six months, I realized with some hard work and dedication that I could make more money on my own. I also wanted more time to spend with my partner and enjoy more time off.

For people that want to pursue self-employment, but feel scared because of their financial obligations, that’s totally normal! For a while, I thought I was crazy for quitting because I still have debt. But it’s been worth it for me. If you are interested in going out on your own, build your emergency fund as well as your clientele. Look at your worst-case scenario straight in the eye. Can you handle that?

Also, this may sound silly, but going out on your own requires a bit of faith. If you really want to play it safe, staying at a job makes sense. Going out on your own requires some faith, a dash of confidence and a large dose of persistence.

Pretend you’re at a dinner party, and the host mentions that you have a blog about debt. You’re then asked to share with the group your best piece of money advice for the group. What do you share?

My best piece of money advice for a group of people is to spend on your values and commit to paying off debt. So often we get caught in the spending trap of spending just to spend. Look at what’s really important. Use that motivation to pay off debt and go after a life you really want.

Don’t miss a future dear debt letter – follow Melanie over on Twitter.

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