Episode #5: Alex Holder
Be willing to be vulnerable. How to have conversations about money
In this episode, Caroline talks to author, journalist and policy-changer, Alex Holder, about why it’s so important to be able to talk about money.
This episode was recorded before the coronavirus crisis really took hold in the UK. A lot of us are going to be facing difficult decisions and conversations about money over the next few months. Hopefully this episode shows you that it’s ok to be vulnerable and have those conversations. Most of us find it hard to open up about our financial situation, and that’s ok. The more we do it, the easier and less awkward it becomes.
Welcome to Money & Me, the podcast where we talk honestly about money and how it makes us feel. Before we dive into this episode, I wanted to tell you that we’ve just launched our crowdfunding campaign for Lifetise. So please check out our campaign at seedrs.com/lifetise.
In this episode, Caroline talks to author and journalist, Alex Holder, about why we find it so hard to have open conversations about money. Why it’s important to share details on how much we earn. And the pressure to consume.
Thanks for joining this episode of Money and Me, today I am joined by Alex Holder. Alex is a journalist who writes for Elle, Grazia, Refinery 29, The Telegraph and the Guardian, among others. She’s the author of Open Up – The Power of Talking About Money, and the host of audible original podcast, Awkward Conversations About Money. Her work has been debated in Parliament and taught in schools, and her campaign highlighting the gender pay gap went viral and helped change an actual law. Wow, Alex. Hi. That’s amazing.
Alex Holder 1:26
Oh, thank you. It sounds weird listening to your your life in a paragraph.
I always love it when I get to do intros of people. Because the highlights reel is always so impressive. And actually yours is so pertinent to what we’re going to be talking about today because you’ve literally written the book about talking about money and how we need to be more open about money. So how did that come about for you?
Alex Holder 1:51
Okay, well, the first thing I always like to say at the start of these conversations is that I’m not financially accredited in any way. So I actually have no expertise in money. I’m now 36. But up until my early 30s, I had many, many credit cards was very much in debt. And even though I was a high earner, which shouldn’t have been happening, but the way I got to talking about money was I guess through a general frustration that I wasn’t handling it. I wasn’t dealing with it very well. And the one thing that I used to kind of, I’d always go to my friends for advice about so many other things and the thing I needed advice on, I couldn’t turn to them,
Was it because nobody talks about it amongst your friends?
Alex Holder 2:37
I mean, it’s always been a taboo thing, you know, obviously money as a cultural and social taboo. I think I realised, I was at Elle Magazine, and at the time I was features editor, and every single morning there’d be a group of really smart women, we’d all sit down and we’d meet and we’d discuss the conversations that have been happening that day like the news stories, what content we needed to produce, where there were holes in the content we had. And during those conversations, we talked about everything. You know, in that room, I would know, when certain people had last had sex, who was dating…And we talked about periods and there was lots of conversations being tackled that had previously not been tackled. So yeah, this was about 2016.
And mental health was a big one. And, you know, it was when the Royals were doing Heads Together. So it was it was very much in the news and it was also entering conversations with my friends where we all started opening up about anxiety. And then there was this birth of resources where we saw like mental health work, you know, the mental health first aider at work, as well as lots of organisations and you felt you could put in your out of office, “I’m having a mental health day.” And so you saw that that had literally started through conversations, through people getting okay with talking about mental health and then we started set of periods around the same time, and I will bring it back to money in a minute. But with periods again, there was so much shame surrounding them, yet when we were able to talk about them and when people were brave enough to kind of stand up and go, “Oh, hang on a minute, I need to hold up my hands and say that this is a really important conversation, and we need to stop hiding.” Then shame was dismantled. And then it meant that again, there was this wonderful birth of resources where like a food bank could then put a Facebook post saying we need to have, you know, there’s a shortage of sanitary products. And you couldn’t have written that Facebook post five years previous because it was too taboo to ask for that in a public space.
And so I saw this happening with that shame in other areas was being dismantled through conversation. And yet we couldn’t do it with money, even in that room with those girls. And if it came up, and we knew that if we put any content out that was vaguely about money, people would read it, and people wanted it, but we still couldn’t talk about it, and we couldn’t really work out what was the next thing to say about it? Because everything just felt too embarrassing. The amount of you know, the inequality in the room.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because you are right, you know, if I think back to the way, the order in which these things have become less taboo, you know, so things around bodies and minds have started to become less taboo. And you’re right, we’re much more comfortable talking about our sex lives. And I wonder if we can do that because we were able to add an element of humour to it. You know, I think a lot of times, Brits, the way that we deal with subjects, which we’re a bit uncomfortable with, is that we add some humour, and we try to kind of get get over it in that way. And I wonder if we just haven’t been able to do it with money because money is so important. I don’t know. What do you think ?
Alex Holder 5:53
That’s really interesting. I’ve never thought about that and no one’s ever asked me that before, but I think there’s definitely some truth. It’s, you know, if you think about the bigger issues with money, that inequality is on the rise, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. You know, as the younger generation, like rents have risen, private rents have risen six times faster than wages have, that there are things that you just can’t laugh about. Because they, they matter too much to too many people, and are affecting too many people’s lives. So yeah, you’re probably right.
I think that’s a really interesting point. Because it’s almost as though, and this is something that I look at a lot with Lifetise, there’s the individual experience of money and life. And then it’s almost like the collective experience, which is sort of like the system. And yeah, I wonder if some elements of the system, you know, the inequality, the fact that you don’t always feel that you have so much control over some of those parts, filters down a little bit, I don’t know. But I’m with you on how it is it does really feel it’s only in the last 18 months that people have started, as you say, opening up, and I think your book has been a big part of that, of normalising the conversation and of saying, “you know what, we’re all kind of having these thoughts and feelings about it. And we don’t really know where to start. But we need to.” And so when you were kind of researching the book, what came up a lot for you, how did you go about it?
Alex Holder 7:22
First of all, I realised that if we were like you just said there is a collective and then there’s the individual and there are big issues that as a society, we just cannot tackle if we don’t talk about money. So our addiction to fast fashion, the effect the bank of mom and dad has had on the housing market, inequality. And then there were individual issues. So should you know a friend will ask like, should I want to move in with my boyfriend but I’ve only been dating him for six months, but I need to save on rent and he’s like, Okay, well, that’s the money conversation as well as a relationship conversation. Yeah, so this, there are just so many issues both in our daily lives and The big issues that we have, I don’t know that the answer is definitely talking about money. But I’m prepared to see whether that is the answer that if we can start talking about it, can we then tackle these issues together? And can we seek advice and counsel in our individual lives when we need it from the people we trust?
Yeah, it’s a big thing that’s come up. We’ve done quite a lot of research at Lifetise around: who do people trust when it comes to talking about money. And actually, it was very interesting for us that we found that people often in our demographic, we found that people often went to, like older siblings, or still to their parents, but that there was this general sense of, they weren’t quite sure where to go because because the lives look a bit different. So parents might have well meaning advice, but it didn’t necessarily fit because they hadn’t gone through exactly the same situations or struggles. And I know this kind of from friends who have been either changing jobs or looking to go freelance. And their parents have very quite old school advice around “Well just apply to as many companies as you can. And you’ll just get a job.” And they have to explain to them “Well, actually, no, you know, the job market is often very, very competitive. And I might not get that the old way of sort of just door stepping a company, or cold approaching a company just doesn’t work anymore.” And so it’s, I think there’s, there’s almost this gap that you’re book and I think others and certainly what we’re trying to do at lifetime is trying to fill which is where do people turn to? If they are ready to kind of have these conversations or they are looking for advice? Where do they go for advice that reflects their realities?
Alex Holder 9:42
Well, I think the parents thing is really interesting. So I’ve spoke to many people – now my expertise is in money. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people about the money they earn and the money they spend. And the thing I noticed is that people often, like you say, they go to their parents. And then because there’s only about five people in our lives that we often talk about money with. You know, it might be a partner, might be a best friend, might be a colleague or, even the person at work that we ask for a pay rise, and then our parents. That we often think our way with money is “normal”. I’m using like, quote marks around the word normal there, it’s not normal at all so even like the way we might judge a friend for how they spend money, because it’s so ingrained in us that, Oh, well, you know, you either just get a credit card and go on holiday and that’s just a normal thing. That was like normalised in my life. Yet I never realised that my mom would always be able to afford to go on holiday, because she would always just get a credit card. But I then copied her and did the same thing. But my finances were completely different. I didn’t have a house that you know, like she did, like that was an appreciating asset. And so where do you go to?
Well, I realised when I started talking about money with my friends, and at the start, it wasn’t the easiest of conversations, no, it was definitely a few glasses of wine in. But I did realise that once people started talking about money, everyone around the table wants to join in. And it’s almost like they’ve been starved of conversation and they want to ask all the questions while they can like that sigh of relief where everyone just kind of like, drops their shoulders. And I only started paying into a pension when my friend who lives in a houseshare where plants literally go to die. And yet he could pull himself together to have a pension. And when he told me he had a pension, I was like, Oh, God, I really need to get one. And no, you know, I have a financial advisor. I’d had one for a few years. He told me to get a pension and I’d never listened to him. I was always just like, I can’t really afford to at the moment, I don’t want to. So I think expert advice is definitely we should be leaning into that. If you should take all the advice we can get around on money as possible. But when an expert who doesn’t really know your life tells you what to do, it can feel very patronising. So I find chatting to peers, people that understand my insecurities and my anxieties and the reality of my day to day life much more fruitful than actual advice, but it requires vulnerability and bravery and saying, This is what I earn. And this is how much my childcare is and this is when I wanted to quit a full time job to go freelance. It definitely wasn’t my parents that I went to for advice. It was my friends and to get the advice I needed from them, I had to like list the meat of my money out like this is what I’m currently earning. This is what all my outgoings that aren’t going to change, things like childcare, and this is what I may or may not earn in the future. Am I mad to quit this job?
And how did that feel like that first, the first sort of few times that you opened up to people, did you carefully select who, did you kind of like have an order of people that you felt comfortable opening up to any kind of like, dipped your toe into it a little bit with ones where you felt safe?
Alex Holder 13:04
Well, I was lucky enough that I wrote about money a couple of times. And then I realised that people weren’t writing about money in the, with the level of honesty that I was. And in the space I was. So yes, it has always been the money pages. But I think if you don’t see money as a topic for you, you just avoid those pages in the newspaper or those kind of publications. I was being published in, like women’s press where, you know, alongside an article about a bad date, and so I knew that there was a want for those conversations. I could feel it from the feedback I’d got from the pieces. And then I would just, yeah, I chose close friends and I chose friends that worked in the kind of same industries as me so there wasn’t a huge financial divide. Although, amongst all my friends we actually earn very different amounts. And only through conversation have I realised that that really doesn’t matter. You can awkward about that in your own head, but when we actually talk about it, everyone’s awkwardness is about something different. It’s not the same thing that you feel awkward about, like, I might sit there going. “I don’t know if I can talk about not being able to afford that, because I know I earn more than them.” but they’re not thinking that. And so yeah, I’m not gonna say it was really easy to have those first conversation. But all of them turned out to be positive experiences. And we all learn from each other.
Yes, because I know in my own life I have, I’ve definitely hesitated. So back when I was a lawyer, I felt quite self conscious about ever talking about how much I earned, for example, even though my friends might have been other professionals, there might have been accountants and things. And you just know that certain professions tend to be paid more, right at the early stages, at least, everyone’s kind of on this escalator. And you roughly know, if you’re in this profession, this is what you’re going to get paid. But still even knowing that knowing that lawyers generally get paid more than accountants I didn’t really want to ever say it because I didn’t want to make anybody else feel uncomfortable or feel like I was showing off in any way. And I know that I’ve always had this fear, around telling people what I earn, in case it makes them think badly of me in some way. But, of course, what you’re saying is absolutely right. We’re all preoccupied with whatever, whatever our own anxiety about things is, we don’t really think about it in that way about others, we just listen.
Alex Holder 15:30
Well, it’s only when you talk that you kind of humanise everyone’s own issues. And I guess what I’ve realised is that the facts exist anyway, you, as a lawyer, would have earned more than an accountant in most instances. And that is a fact that exists whether you talk about it or not. I also know that money, much like other personal issues or issues that do really affect our lives, like kind of sex or mental health, belittling and showing off is never okay, that would never be okay in any conversation about anything personal, but sharing and listening are so it’s definitely, you know, with everything in life with especially conversations with friends, you don’t want to hurt someone else. So it’s always about thinking about how the information that you’re gonna say even if it’s, you know, when you’ve got two friends both trying for a baby that’s a difficult conversation to have, then there’s an announcement or something. So think considering other people’s feelings, but not constantly presuming that say, more money is better or more money makes you more successful, or less money makes someone doubt their self worth like these are things that they’re not those aren’t ok.
I think that’s a really important thing because I think sometimes because we’re not used to having these conversations, we build that up in our own minds. And then we are clunky you know, and you know, your new audible series, you know, the the fact that you’ve called it awkward conversations around money is so apt because I think particularly Brits, you know, culturally, we’re not used to doing this, we’re awkward at the best of times, let’s be honest, you know, very British problems exists for a reason. And so, we don’t really know how to have these conversations gracefully yet. And probably we need to just tell people that that’s okay as well. You know, the first time that we’re going to talk about stuff, you’re probably going to feel a bit crap, and worry a lot about are you going to say the right thing? Is it going to be well received? What’s everyone else gonna say? And it’s probably not gonna be a nice fluid conversation until you have got a couple of glasses of wine down you then it will be fine.
Alex Holder 17:40
That’s exactly it is. And I would say to people, when people say, Well, how do I have that first conversation? Well money comes up in conversation a lot anyway, whether it’s a friend saying I can’t afford to do that, or I’ve got a pay rise. And I think often we very quickly brush those conversations away and under the carpet as in just say, okay, we’ve had that conversation now it’s a bit awkward. So we move on. But just sitting with that conversation for a moment, and maybe asking the question that comes to your mind, you know, when a friend says, I’ve got a pay rise, we all want to say how much, how did you get it? Did you ask for it? Did they just give it to you? Just ask those first initial questions if you can, and just try not to shut down the conversation. And then another thing is like not expecting it to be completely, you know, tit for tat, like, I’ll tell you this, and then you tell me yours is maybe sharing your own experience or your own issue with money and not waiting for them to get comfortable enough to share theirs.
Yeah, that’s a big one. Because I think sometimes when we go into any situation that involves from readability, because if we are the if we are the first it’s, it’s like if you’re dating and you’re in the early stages of relationship, and you’re the one that accidentally says I love you first, and then desperately wishes you could stuff it back into your mouth because you’re not sure if it’s gonna be reciprocated. This is like a hopefully slightly smaller version of that. But it’s anything around vulnerability where you start to feel exposed you, you naturally have that hope that you’re going to have that reciprocity that someone, if you’ve put something out there, then somebody else is going to respond in kind to make you feel better about it. But I guess one of you is just gonna have to be the brave one.
Alex Holder 19:23
Yeah but it’s amazing how receptive people are to someone being the brave one, especially when it’s about a practical issue with money. So, if someone I always see this in friendship groups, and especially my own if someone says, I can’t afford to do that, can we do something cheaper? There is generally like a collective sigh of relief and often with like conversations, especially when money is getting out of hand, like when you’re arranging a group trip or you know, a group outing or something or a hen do . Someone being the brave one and being like we just dial it down? Everyone is pleased that they they stuck their neck out and normally follow suit.
Actually that’s a really good point because do you know what hen dos and the cost of weddings and being like bridesmaids or groomsmen is something that comes up so often for our members? I remember writing an article for our website on somebody who someone had written to us and said, I’m, I’m being asked to be a bridesmaid for one of my close friends, and I’d love to, but they’ve decided to have it in Barbados. And there’s just no way and it was a single person, and she’s just like, I can’t do it. And I don’t know what to do about that. And she got herself into a real pickle around it, she’s almost to the point of: ‘do I fake my own death to try and get out of this?’ Rather than just be able to say: ‘you know what, I just can’t afford to do that. I’d love to celebrate with you, but I can’t afford the big thing.’ And I do think if we can make it easier for people to be the one that puts their hand up and says: sorry, but I’m not going to be able to do that. Even if you frame it as: sorry, I can’t do this right now. You know, if it feels too hard to say, actually, I don’t have enough money, full stop. I think it has to be important to be able to say: ‘I’ve just got a lot of things on so right now my budget is around this…’ And maybe there’s ways of framing things.
Alex Holder 21:19
Yeah, there’s a really amazing American financial therapist called Brad Clontz. And he explained because I was I went to him with a very similar issue, like, why does it feel so hard to say I can’t afford that, especially when it’s a group thing, and he explained, it sounds so obvious when he says it, he was like, we’re basically like tribal group animals. If you go back to kind of our innate sense of belonging, we need to be part of the group and the herd to survive. You know, when we were hunter gatherers, like if you got expelled from the group, you were basically going to die. And so I think the reason it feels like that, you know, that your chest has turned liquid, that kind of sickening feeling when you’ve got to go and say no to someone is because you’re like scared of dying. But we can all with our rational brains that we now have go, that isn’t true. I’m not actually going to be expelled from the group for not being able to go to Barbados. Yes, I might feel some FOMO. But if I really look at it, this feeling isn’t real anymore. Like it’s not a truth. You know, what I’m scared of is not going to happen. I always say like, don’t let someone else spend your money for you. What’s your priority this year? It’s not. Sometimes it’s like, I just can no way ever afford to do something like that. That’s ridiculous. And it’s so okay to say, and sometimes it’s like, I’d rather buy a laptop, you know, that’s going to bring me more pleasure this year and going to your hen do
There’s a couple of things that you’ve just said which I want to pick up on. If I put it all in a wrapper, it is that whole thing of don’t let other people control your money – there’s layers to this isn’t there? There’s the whole comparison issue. You know, it’s been around forever – social media has probably inflamed it as it has with other things. But it’s always been there you know. We always talked about keeping up with the Joneses. So in in suburbia, there was always that idea of: if the couple next living next to you had a new car, all of a sudden, you were like, oh, my gosh, I must have a new car. So it was always on your mind. Again, I think it must go down to just evolutionary traits that we have around wanting to be part of that tribe wanting to make sure that we are accepted.
I’ve been talking about this with some other guests on the podcast as well. It’s almost that you have to give yourself permission to say yes or no to things, rather than being reactive to whatever the external circumstances so somebody inviting you to something, you are allowed to say no. And I think sometimes we forget that with all of the societal conventions and the kind of pressure that we put on ourselves means that more often than not, we will say yes to something without really thinking it through
Alex Holder 24:01
I think we need to just get more okay with, owning our situation, and really understanding that there is no perfect financial situation. So it’s not about when I earn this much money, I would be able to do everything I want to do. It’s just, this is the situation you have right now how can we own it a bit? And look at kind of our money situation a bit like we would look at body positivity and kind of owning the body we have.
Yeah, and I really like it as a concept. Because I think that because we haven’t talked openly about money. As individuals, we’re all wondering whether we’re getting it right. And that, in turn, makes us look to others for what we should be doing. Instead of thinking, ah, here’s what might let you say, here’s what my situation is. What do I want to be doing? And I think it’s also I think there’s so much psychology around it, which is why I wanted to do this podcast because otherwise the only messaging we get around money is very mechanical. It’s all about what should I do in order to manage my money. And it completely neglects the fact that we’ve got all of these feelings underneath it, which are definitely dictating what we do with it, whether we take action, whether we don’t whether we stick our head in the sand, whether we really own it, like you say, and I would love to see much more around this idea of people being so honest about their financial situation, and so that we could all see that there is, of course, this massive kaleidoscope of everything. And we’re not just seeing those which are deemed traditionally successful, for example.
Alex Holder 25:37
Yeah, I mean, I, I wrote a piece for The Guardian about people that have been very publicly talking about money. And it ranged from interviewing like Carrie Gracie from the BBC, who, challenged them on the gender and equality of her pay to people online putting how much debt they’re in and making themselves accountable to their Instagram followers for paying it off. And from all those conversations there wasn’t a negative from someone going public about their financial situation. And because it was an article for The Guardian, I was like, I need to present some kind of balanced view, you know, like, has anything bad happened to you since you spoke about money or put your wages online? And, I honestly couldn’t get that answer from anyone.
Then I recently put my earnings of last year on Instagram with a breakdown because what I was doing was I was crunching the data for myself to work out how much time I put into things versus how much I got paid for them. And then I thought I might share this because I think it’s there’s lots of information that other people can take from this. And sometimes a data point of one is enough for someone to go and ask for a pay rise or to know their own self worth next time they’re negotiating. And so I did and I’m sure there has been some people you know, bitching about it, in some place but I haven’t seen any of it, the response that I’ve seen has been very positive. And the conversations that started with strangers on the internet as well, as you know, my actual friends, again, has been only positive.
So I saw when you put that out, and I’ve seen other journalists and others in different industries put out their, again, very detailed descriptions of here’s what I did, here’s how much I get paid. And honestly, my, my own internal reaction when I saw it was one of shock. But just thinking that is so brave, and I think it’s just because we don’t see it. So there’s obviously like the novelty factor that then creates the shock. But then it’s really interesting data because, again, from the outside of industries, we probably make assumptions around how much people get paid for certain things, and to have all of that stripped away, so you just see the bare bones of it. I think it’s incredibly, I don’t like the word empowering, but I think it’s incredibly powerful.
Alex Holder 27:59
And what was the information that you’ve got from it that you thought like, oh, that’s interesting? I’m interested in the actual nuances.
So the first part of it was just shock at the fact of you being brave enough to do that, because it doesn’t happen. So do you know what my, I think my response was, oh, wow, she’s put that out there.
Alex Holder 28:19
I realise I’ve been on this journey of talking about money and I am now pretty brave and conversations that aren’t normal, I deem normal, because I have them regularly through my line of work. Now, you know, I’m interviewing people about money a lot.
And there’s so much power in it from the perspective of outsiders looking in. So those who might be thinking of going into your industry, thinking of doing that job, those who are slightly less experienced than you wondering whether they’ve got their rates rights, or wondering what career progression looks like, because otherwise it’s so opaque, isn’t it? It’s, you know, otherwise it’s each of us as an individual trying to forge our own way and trying to figure it out individually. And that puts so much pressure on us. That is where a lot of the anxiety comes from, because you’ve got no benchmark, you’re literally feeling your way in the dark and you’re constantly going, I don’t know, am I over am I under? and that does not help with any of the stuff around self worth. Or, like, what should I be charging just, it just creates unnecessary anxiety for us. Whereas, if you have something to benchmark it against, you can just go Alright, okay, I’m going to pitch that, and then I’ll see if it’s accepted or not.
Alex Holder 29:34
I’m very lucky in that I get paid well for what I do. And you know, I do wonder therefore does it pose as much risk for me being honest as it would to others? And I don’t know because I can only practice my own honesty.
That’s still great for those coming behind us. Right? Because they may not be in that position, but at least they know what they’re working towards. And then once they get to a position where they can, they can kind of do it for those behind them. And I guess that’s the only way that it changes because like you say not everybody is in a position where they can open up to the same extent it does take a certain level of experience and a certain level of kind of personal power to be able to do it, and not face any repercussions and not worry about it from either a reputation or a kind of professional perspective. But I’m just thrilled that there are people like you who are doing it for those who can’t, it’s whoever has a voice in a platform to do it.
Alex Holder 30:38
Yeah, in an ideal world, I think we need to be able to embrace the money conversation when necessary. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone going completely 100% transparent with how much they earn. But I think there’s so many issues with the lack of transparency, not just in wages, and we’ve seen you know, we know that transparency has helped the gender pay gap and hopefully it will be able to help other pay gaps like race and disability and but also in our daily lives we’re scrolling social media, seeing lots of things that people have or have not paid for on credit cards to get into debt, or maybe they’ve just got loads of money and we have no idea how they’re doing it. And I think we need some transparency around that as well. Well, also money isn’t the only currency. So you know, we’ve obviously been socialised to believe it’s the most important one, which is why, as you know, as a society, we, a lot of many people’s aims is to earn more money. But I always think that when I was a child and I thought of a rich person as a child, I pictured someone on a lilo with a cocktail in hand like they were on holiday, having the time of their life. And now, if I picture a rich person, they’re in a boardroom somewhere or in an office just sat at their laptop, but they’re working. And the stats back that up now. So elite men in America like the richest men in America have less leisure time than the poorest men in America. So money isn’t buying people I don’t believe better lives, like to a certain line it definitely does. There are too many people suffering in poverty and bottom end of the spectrum, there is not enough money to go around. So absolutely more money would benefit those people exponentially. But once you get to a certain point, more money doesn’t and you do start to earn it at the risk of losing, you know, your passions, spending time with your friends and family, your health, and there’s many others and I think we we need to start to value them as much as money.
I mean, it’s a capitalist society. So just how much focus we put on monetizing everything has skewed things, I think for a lot of people, and I look at all the articles written about how is it even possible to have any hobbies anymore, that are just for the pleasure of doing them without somebody saying to you, oh, are you thinking of turning that into a business? And all of a sudden the joy is sucked out of it. Because oh no, you hadn’t thought about doing as a business and you don’t really want to do it as a business. But should you do as a business? Should you be making money?
Alex Holder 33:16
I’ve just moved to Lisbon after spending 18 years in London. And now that I live here, obviously, all the advertising I’m surrounded with is in Portuguese, and my Portuguese is not yet very good. So I don’t feel sold to suddenly, which is a very strange experience. And then also, the consuming cycle is just not as apparent as it is in London. So over Christmas, I popped back to London, and I went into Tesco Metro, and they had Christmas versions of everything from biscuits to shower gel. And I hadn’t seen that in Portugal, going to the local shop and I was like, Oh my god, Christmas versions is just another reason to buy the same thing. It’s like another sales tactic. It looked quite crazy. When you suddenly step back into it, like, why are you buying this? You don’t need any of this. And obviously I had absolutely accepted that for so long and part of moving here I guess was getting fed up or feeling like you couldn’t walk around London without being sold to and I didn’t know what I actually wanted or needed anymore because I know there are too many multibillion dollar companies trying to sell me things I don’t want or need every day and I couldn’t filter them out. It’s just kind of quite amazing that we’ve got to go against all this capitalist society all these adverts and expect our budget to come out okay at the end of the month, and it’s just not happening for so many people.
You can’t escape it. So is I do think we have to give ourselves a little bit of a break around just how strong those forces are trying to push us towards things.
Alex Holder 35:01
Yeah, it’s so unfair.
But my god the pressure of it.
Alex Holder 35:06
Yeah to make us feel less than and that if we buy something, our life will be better. And yet we also know that that’s not true. Like how many times have we done some internet shopping, the thing has arrived, the dress has arrived that we thought was going to make us into a new person, we’re just the same person in a new dress. And our addiction to new, I think everyone needs to work out what their relationship with buying stuff is. And just to kind of think like, as they’re buying something, truly, why am I buying this? I just did my first skincare order and I’m so disappointed with it and so disappointed with myself like why I felt the need because they’ve got me at that moment in life as you know, as a woman and we’re always meant to be optimising as Jia Tolentino says and this idea that for the life that I want to live I should be spending certain amounts of money in different things. So I worked in advertising in quite a corporate environment for many, many years. And I used to dye my own hair, I remember the moment when I thought to be taken seriously now that I’ve just got this pay rise, I need to start getting it done professionally. And then it’s that wage creep, whereas I was earning more money, but you know that money wasn’t a huge benefit apart from, I had to go sit in a salon for four hours every month now.
The connection for me is, oh, I’ve either done something hard, and therefore deserve a treat, or I’ve done something well, and therefore deserve a treat. And it’s really the interplay of those two things are probably the things that drive me to spend money. We’ve been very well trained in the reward system.
Alex Holder 36:46
You often notice if a friend says, oh, should I get this top? Or what do you think should I book this holiday? We often go like: “go on you deserve that Go for it. Totally.” Rrather than saying: can you afford it? We say “You’ve done well, go spend money!” And it comes back again to don’t let other people spend your money. So just checking in with yourself, and just always saying like, what else could I spend this money on?
Alex, this has been brilliant, to have your knowledge, to have your openness and transparency. Thank you! You’ve been a pioneer in this and I’m really grateful to you for it. The more of us that can normalise these conversations and can make people feel safe in having these conversations and talking about money, the better everything gets for all of us. So thank you so much.
Alex Holder 37:33
Haha, thank you, Caroline.
Alex has been brilliant. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Alex, where can people find you if they want to find out more?
Alex Holder 37:39
I’m on Instagram @AlexandreHolder.
I will have all of those details in the show notes for everyone listening so you can find Alex. Thanks again Alex and have a lovely day.
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