We’re All Afraid To Talk About Money. Why Is That?

The holidays are fast approaching. A time to visit with relatives who come from far and near to celebrate the day. It’s also a time to share your joys and triumphs from the past year and what you’re looking forward to in the future.

But when it comes to sharing your money wins for the year, friends and family often balk. Some see it as boastful, and others would rather talk about the latest gossip. So why is it so hard to talk about money?

As a culture, we have an unspoken taboo around discussing money. Never is that more prevalent than during the holiday season when old family stories about money woes seem close to the surface.

But we don’t have to be this way. We call bullshit on keeping money secrets hidden!

How did we get here?

There are a few theories on how our money taboo culture came to be. But the leading theory harkens back to our British roots and a heavy dose of conspicuous consumption. According to Jodi R. R. Smith, of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, discussing finances was considered gauche among the British aristocracy because  “People who were wealthy didn’t need to talk about it because they knew — from how many houses you had, what cars you drove, how many servants you had, the yachts that you had, where you vacationed. They could figure out what your net worth was.”

In other words, there was no need to state the obvious.

This attitude has been handed down like Grandma’s silver until landing in the modern times in the US.  One survey conducted by Ally Bank showed that 70% of Americans think talking about money is rude. More specifically, people don’t like to talk about their salary, how much they pay in rent, their mortgage or even how much they pay for internet service.

What an interesting commentary on our society when even the bill from your internet provider is a secret!

How we’re perpetuating the problem

If you’re the type of person that feels money shouldn’t be discussed at all, you may have a difficult time understanding why discussing money can actually benefit you. The truth is, if you aren’t talking about money, you may not know:

  • How much of a raise to ask for;
  • How to negotiate for the best salary;
  • The average selling price for houses;
  • What you should be paying in rent; or
  • Whether or not your expenses (utilities, phone, insurance, etc.) are normal or unusually high.

If you never, ever talk about money with anyone, you might not even know you need to improve your financial situation.

A friend of mine moved to a new city and didn’t have a lot of time to research rents in the area. She found an apartment she liked in a good neighborhood and moved in. After two months on the new job, she finally worked up the courage to ask a coworker how much they were paying in rent. Turns out her “bargain” apartment was TWICE the going r

ate for her area! Her coworker expressed her surprise that she moved in to begin with. “Everyone knows that’s the most expensive place in town. You should have asked us!”

Moving forward without all the information

Being in the dark isn’t going to help anyone. Unnaturally limiting your own access to information will actually hold you back, because you’re randomly guessing what your next move should be. Or renting apartments at double the average price for your area. An

Many people don’t like talking about money, because on some level, they feel vulnerable. They’re ashamed of their past mistakes and afraid of being judged.  But knowledge is power!

Dr. Tony Pennells, founding director of MindShift.money points out, “Improving your financial literacy benefits not just
you, but also your family, your neighborhood, and even your country.”

If you know things, like the average salary for a person in your position, you’re in a position to use that information to your benefit. Now you can negotiate a raise and start earning more.

Changing the future

If you have children, talk to them about the choices you’re making with your money as a family. Let them see why you make the purchasing and saving choices that you do. Help them understand that this is a normal part of life, and one that they’ll deal with as they get older.

When you are at a family gathering, getting caught up in the story you were told your whole life about money is easy. But you don’t need to perpetuate the old pain. Ask your family questions that help them view money, and talking about money, in a non-threatening light.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  1. What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever received?
  2. How do you measure your financial success?
  3. What money question have you always wanted to ask someone?
  4. Do you and your partner set a financial budget for your home? Do you have any good tips on how to find something that works?
  5. Have you ever successfully negotiated a pay raise? How did you do it?

Remember, people like to be helpful. If you ask questions that provide them a chance to give advice then they’re more likely to respond in a positive way.

Planning your financial future

Family gatherings are an adventure. But it doesn’t mean you have to keep having the same uncomfortable discussions around money you’ve had in the past.

If you’re a part of our Financially Fit Bootcamp, share what you’re doing (wins and losses) with your family. Let them see how having a financial plan has made a difference for your family. Who knows, they may even join you!

If you haven’t taken advantage of our Bootcamp, take a moment to consider your financial situation over the last year. How happy are you with how much you’ve saved, invested or used to pay off debt? Does your bank account look strikingly similar to this same time last year?

If so, it’s time for a change.

Join Financially Fit Bootcamp

Considering joining us in Financially Fit Bootcamp, and set the groundwork for a major Mindshift around your finances. Make this the year you get your money working for you and take significant steps toward Financial Freedom.

Let’s break the taboo around money, and start normalizing talking about our finances with our families.

Let’s create a cultural Mindshift together.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MindShift.money.

image credit: Bigstock/ Kasia Bialasiewicz

Wendy Priester is a former Tax Auditor turned freelance writer and certified Financially Fit Bootcamp Coach. When not working with clients to help them live their best financial life, Wendy can be found exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with her two hyperactive dachshunds.

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