Why is it so hard to talk about money?

Money Taboo

There is such a taboo around the topic of money.  I am not sure where it comes from, but it for sure exists.  I am amazed on tv and in life how open people are about their loves lives, marriages, children’s issues, in laws and even health problems.  But ask someone how much they make or how they invest…. the conversation comes to a screeching halt!

Most people are raised from childhood to not talk about money, but they don’t know why this unwritten rule exists.

We have a love / hate relationship with money.  We love it, because – well, who wouldn’t want it?

But we also hate it, avoid dealing with it, and avoid even talking about it.  Here are some of the reasons why.

  • I think people don’t talk about how much money they have because nobody wants to feel bad.  For example, if I have a lot of money and you don’t, then talking about money might make you feel bad.  Or if you have a lot of money and I’m poor, then talking about money would probably make me feel bad.”

I believe that, ultimately, people don’t talk about money out of fear of being judged.

  • I think people don’t talk about money due to insecurities.   I am always amazed at no matter how much wealth someone has they always seem to think it “isn’t enough.”  We never think we have enough.  “Everyone” else has more.
  • Talking about how much money you have makes you vulnerable.  If you have a lot of savings, investments, or an expensive house and you let it be known, you could be unknowingly setting yourself up for a home invasion, robbery, or identity theft.  Even people you perceive to be friends, colleagues, or harmless cordial neighbors could commit a crime against you or your property.  I was raised to keep this QUIET so you would be SAFE!
  • Talking about financial abundance can make you false friends.  It is human nature to want a high social status, and if someone thinks that being your friend will give them a more prominent status, then they are likely to want to get closer to you.  They also can expect favors.  We have lived this.  But the nature of true friendship is not based on how much money a person has.  Keeping quiet about your finances is more likely to ensure the people that become close to you do so because they genuinely like you.
  • Talking about your net worth causes rifts with friends and acquaintances.  Do you want to see a good friend or colleague become bitter, withdraw, or be overcome with jealousy?  Talk about your finances.  To some people there is nothing more disappointing than knowing that someone in their social circle has a lot more money than them.  Even though you might be a very cordial and friendly person, revealing your financial status can make others feel that life has been unfair to them, and being around you will be a constant reminder of that – even if the person is somewhat well-off themselves.

Although, all the above are TRUE and are very real we should not let this stop us from having money conversations.   Trading information about money is really important – it can help you set goals or trade strategies for doing things better.  I think we could all do this with more open and frank discussion about money.

The question is how much should we share and with whom?  Sure there are lots of articles out there on money etiquette:  how to sidestep rude questions or deal with splitting a restaurant bill.  But there’s a whole gray area around sharing information about personal finances with friends and family.  Should you discuss salaries or the cost of childcare for example?  Comparing notes might be helpful – but you need to consider how asking questions like that might make your friend feel.  Or how knowing that kind of information might make you feel (I am paying my nanny way too much!! I can’t believe what a pittance I get paid!!).

I don’t think there are any firm answers – but I do think it’s important to open up more about money.

You don’t always have to give exact numbers or details but share how you are investing or saving, share the big picture.  Tell people what is working for you and what isn’t.

Also, talking to YOUR CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN about money is SO, SO IMPORTANT.  If we aren’t helping them navigate the topic who will?

Explain to them budgeting, savings, and giving.  Help them to see that hard work pays off and how to make their money grow.  I am AMAZED at how many young adults are clueless about all things money.  We need to open up the dialogue.

I’d be interested to know if any of you regularly share information about your finances with your friends or family – or whether talking openly about money has helped you learn to make a good money decision.  What sorts of things do you talk about?  What sorts of implicit (or explicit) boundaries do you set?

Money is important.  Not the most important thing, but maybe more important than we care to admit, when we avoid thinking about it, talking about it or doing something about it no one wins.  Let’s start the dialogue.