To talk about your personal finances is to risk being judged.

And so, we have a lot of people who hate talking about money. As part of Financial Literacy Month, Toronto-Dominion Bank recently issued a poll showing that 59 per cent of people would rather go to the doctor for a physical and 56 per cent would rather clean their whole house. Just about one in three said they were uncomfortable discussing their finances for reasons such as embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy.

People who do like to talk about money divide into two groups – the first genuinely helpful, and the second judgmental, either inadvertently or on purpose. Here are some ideas for pushing back in a non-confrontational way against the judgmental ones.

You’re still renting?

Yes, buying a house doesn’t fit my finances right now. I’m building my down payment so when I buy, I’ll have the freedom to look after my house, save for retirement, travel and enjoy life. For sure, rent can be expensive and I notice that mortgage payments for homeowners aren’t far off monthly rental costs. But when I add the cost of property taxes, maintenance, improvements and other stuff owners pay, I see myself in a financial straitjacket if I buy now.

How much more money would you have if you didn’t buy lattes and order in food all the time?

Some, but not that much. And, anyway, the enjoyment I get from those expenses is a true value. The pandemic has really shown me the need to save money, and I do, but it’s also highlighted the importance of enjoying life as you go along.

Seriously, you’re carrying a big credit card balance?

I get it – credit card interest is close to 20 per cent. But for a bunch of reasons I don’t need to share, I have been unable to get out from under my credit card debt. I’m hacking away as best I can and I’m thinking about consulting a non-profit credit counselling agency for advice. Onward.

Why did you buy such a big house?

We really maxxed ourselves and we do feel it. But here’s our thinking. Instead of buying a “starter house” and then uprooting ourselves in a few years, we found a house for a lifetime. Moving is really expensive, right? And, because we’ll be here for decades, we couldn’t care less what the housing market does from month to month.

Surely you’re not using your tax-free savings account for savings?

I’m putting a priority on building an emergency fund/home down payment fund/wedding fund/travel fund in the next few years and I need to keep the money 100 per cent safe while earning at least some interest. Not everyone has the financial resources to fill up their TFSA with investments and then keep their savings elsewhere.

You bought a home in the suburbs – won’t you expire from boredom living there?

Look, we got a lot more house and yard by purchasing a home in the suburbs rather than in the city, and our mortgage is lower. You know what that gives us? Money to save, pay for our children’s activities, go on vacations and drive a nice vehicle. When the kids have graduated and found work, we’ll move back downtown. Meantime, in the pandemic, it’s super easy to find parking if we drive downtown.

How could you buy a downtown condo when everyone’s buying a house in the ‘burbs?

Easy – condos in some locations have come down in price, so I have a chance to do something that’s usually impossible for home buyers – buy low. Also, I love the freedom of a condo. No yard to tend, and the condo fees give me some predictability about maintenance and upkeep. I’m using the extra time not spent looking after a house to bike/run/walk/ski/snowshoe/read/watch TV more.

What possessed you to invest in mutual funds?

I know, I know – mutual funds have high fees. But I am an investing rookie and funds were the easiest way to get started with a diversified portfolio. I’m planning to see if I’m getting good value for what I’m paying and, if not, whether cheaper alternatives such as a robo-adviser would be better.

The Globe and Mail, November 16, 2020