Northwestern Mutual pushes frank talk about money

Why do conversations around money -- presumably one of the most important topics on anyone's mind -- make most people squirm? A recently launched social campaign by Northwestern Mutual sets out to find the answer to that question and ease the discomfort many people feel around talk about finances.

The bank enlisted digital production house SoulPancake to host two-hour conversations between pairs of family members -- siblings, spouses and parents with their children -- that touched on money and why it can be so difficult to discuss. The result is a three-minute digital video called "The Talk" that is being used across social networks to facilitate more conversations around the taboo topic.

We asked Christina Wegner, Northwestern Mutual's assistant director of field marketing, to tell us more about the campaign and its impact:

Wegner
Wegner
Credit: Northwestern Mutual

Who were the people in the video, how long did they speak on the topic and what sort of guidance or facilitation was involved?
The Talk features four diverse pairs: parents and their son; a brother and sister; a husband and wife; and a mother and her daughter. Each was given two hours to discuss questions from a SoulPancake facilitator about what topics they do and don’t talk about with each other in their daily lives. The participants mention discussing their emotions, health, religion, politics and other topics without much thought, but all hesitated when asked whether or not they talked about money.

Is the video primarily an ad spot designed to start the conversation?
This video is a social experiment with real people, not actors, that brings families and loved ones together around a topic often considered taboo in our daily conversations: finances. We wanted to provide a forum to introduce these (potentially intimidating) conversations, and showcase the payoffs that can result from open communication and honesty.

How did you come up with the concept for The Talk?
The conversation around money is one of life’s essential topics – you could say it’s one of life’s “big questions.” The problem is that openly talking about our financial lives with others – even those closest to us - is seen by many as taboo and inappropriate. Our research shows the majority of Americans feel financial anxiety – and over half say their anxiety is negatively affecting their health – perhaps because they’re not comfortable having conversations about money.

We want this project to raise awareness for this issue and serve as an ice breaker to help dispel some of the taboos around financial conversations. Our hope is that people will feel empowered to start their own money conversations today and begin their personal planning journey.

Why do you think so many people are hesitant to talk to loved ones about finances?
The video highlights many of the reasons people have a hard time discussing finances, even with loved ones. Some of the discomfort stems from finances being identified as an uncomfortable topic, or a burden individuals don’t want to place on others in their lives. It’s often easier to put thoughts and stress about money into the back of our minds, pretending they will work themselves out, when in reality this can have a negative impact on our lives in a lot of ways, as we’ve seen in our research.

Where has the conversation gone now that the video is up? Are there social media channels where people are weighing in on the topic?
SoulPancake launched The Talk first on their Facebook and YouTube pages, in addition to creating a social networking plan across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #TheTalk. Since the video went live on Oct. 11, it’s generated more than 368,000 views on Facebook and more than 384,000 views on YouTube.

We’re also hosting the video on Northwestern Mutual’s website and promoting it through our Facebook and Twitter pages.

We’ve seen great engagement from viewers through commentary about the different conversations they have with the important people in their lives. We’ve also seen people comment whether they consider money conversations to be taboo in their social circles, and why this might be. These are the types of conversations we set out with a goal to motivate, and we’re excited to see a continued increase in willingness to talk about money.