Would you go to a “Death Café”? These are pop-up gatherings of people who come together to talk about the ultimate taboo: our mortality. The topic of death is put on the table, alongside a helping of tea and cake, which undoubtedly aids the conversation.

The first one in New Zealand was held in 2014, and death cafes started overseas a decade before that. There are 6560 on record, with 70 here so far. They can be held in a variety of places, but the tea and cake seems a constant – alongside the somewhat morbid theme of course.

I’ve no fascination with death, but I do find it fascinating that folks would create an environment dedicated to talking about something awkward and at times uncomfortable. Money’s like that, too.

What I also find encouraging is that the conversation around death is not orchestrated or engineered to go anywhere specific – we can talk about it in many ways, feel differently about it and draw different conclusions. I like that freedom.

What would we say about debt?

We see many households struggling under the burden of debt. Most would be managing just fine if it weren’t for the high cost of their borrowing from places like truck shops.

Debt can unfortunately be hidden by silence. The German word for debt can mean “guilt” or “shame”. Perhaps that gives us a clue as to why it becomes difficult to talk about.

Keeping in mind that a good death café is without set conclusions or specific agendas – so we are free to really talk – I can think of some conversation starters around debt to get the ball rolling:

What is debt doing to us?

The experience of paying back loans and mortgages can be a drag… how are we coping?

What is debt doing for us?

Hey, debt can be productive at times, so it’s certainly not all bad. It needs to be about dialling up our wellbeing. How do we make sure it does?

What are the pitfalls?

The two big ones with using credit are: 1) paying way more than we ever intended for something, and 2) overextending ourselves by taking on more debt than we can handle at a given time. What are some others?

Has borrowing gotten too complicated?

There are so many organisations flogging different types of loans – credit cards, hire purchase, personal loans, car loans, buy now and pay later options, payday loans, peer-to-peer lending, mortgages – that we can get lost in the mix.

How do we simplify and choose what’s best for us?

What advice would you give, and if you were looking for professional advice, where would you go?

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to money matters, but we have to get past the taboos. Some suggest that couples have their money talks over a date night or candlelit dinner. Great idea!

To talk about a taboo, tea and cake will always help.


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