Wait, did you just mention the word money in a social situation? How dare you.
If you’re the person who brings up the subject of money at work or happy hour, well that is a big fat social no-no!
In fact, most people would rather talk about;
- Their weight
- Mental illness
- Their spouse
Before they would ever talk to you about their income, savings, or money.
According to a study done by Capital Group in December of 2018, Americans would rather talk about just about ANYTHING other than money.
Which leads to the question, why is talking about money so taboo?
Talking Money – Not That’s Just Taboo.
Try this today.
Walk up to a random person on the street or at the gas station, and ask them where they work. Follow that question up with, how much does that pay?
Chances are you will most likely get a puzzled look, followed by stammer and silence.
Perhaps it’s simply because they don’t know you, but just talking about money is a pretty taboo topic for most adults.
Ironically enough, ask the same person a question about their gym routine, diet regiment, or even their religious views, there is a much higher chance they’ll open up to you. But why is that?
Because talking about money is simply taboo. Here is why:
- When you talk about money, money represents social status, which for most people, can be imitating
- Most adults simply aren’t making enough money, and they know it, so why would they want to talk about it?
- We don’t feel knowledgable on the subject
In reality, the feelings of insecurity simply talking about money causes, happens to be an American issue.
Money is Taboo, is an American Issue.
Ever asked someone a question, and instead of them saying they don’t know, they give you a completely false answer?
While this might not happen all the time, this is 100% an American characteristic to pretend we know everything. The simple thought of feeling dumb will make most people act as they know more about something than they really do.
This contributes to the common view that simply talking about money is a taboo subject.
Instead of saying “I don’t know” to the questions, American adults will often – out of fear of feeling inferior – pretend to know that answer. Doing this is a form of self-preservation.
It’s the same reason why most American adults will refrain from talking about money and even go to lengths to shame those who do. They’re insecure talking about the subject of money.
Whether it is because they feel…
Typically, the social pecking order in America is based on social status, and social status is typically built on money and wealth. So the sheer nature of talking about money exposes us. We seem to think it will make us look bad.
But the question that we really should be asking ourselves is the mindset that thinking money is taboo actually holding us back?
Cons of Not Talking About Money
On Money Life Wax, it’s pretty well documented that when my wife and I first got married, we had close to $300,000 in student loans.
Now imagine had we started our marriage without ever talking about money, student loan debt, and our long term financial gameplan??
We could have potentially started our marriage with some issues when it came to our finances and what to do with our money.
Not talking about money can lead to:
- Conflict in relationships
- Insecurities in relationships
- Missed opportunities for raises and promotions
At this point, you may be scratching your head, but imagine this very real-life scenario. You’re at a social function, and you meet someone who works in the identical field as you, with similar experience.
The two of you start discussing work-related topics when the subject of salary is brought up. The conversation can go one of two directions:
1. Money is “taboo” mindset – neither party discusses the subject of salary, avoids conversation.
2. Money subject is discussed – one person finds out that the other is making $15,000 more each year, so the other is now able to command a raise from their current employer.
This is exactly why talking about money actually has many pros! Discourse can lead to new personal finance ideas, better opportunities, and more!
Pros of Talking About Money
Contrary to the common belief, talking about money actually has many benefits.
From helping set adequate financial goals to learning new financial approaches, talking about money is actually quite the opposite of taboo when you really get down to it.
Pros to talking about money include:
- New ideas or ways to approach money
- Increase in salary (Knowing your value)
- Financial apps that help you save or invest
- Learn new techniques (Like the HELOC technique we use)
The list can go on, however their are pros to talking about money and one in particular really stands out to me:
We use money every day and think about it every day, why not get really good with money and learn as much as possible?
Truth be told, you can't expect to grow in an area or become an expert if you're not constantly talking about it, this goes for money too!
All this is not to say, talking about money is an easy subject and nothing can go wrong.
No, there is a RIGHT and WRONG way to talk about money. Here are some tips to help you handle the subject of talking money effectively.
Tips for Talking About Money
Talking about money is going to actually do more good than bad in my opinion. Granted, I write about personal finance.
That being said, there is a right and wrong way to do anything, and this includes talking about money! Here are some tips:
1. Don’t Brag
The reason why talking about money can be seen as taboo at times, is well sometimes talking about money can turn into bragging about money.
Whether justified or not, it is bragging if you talk about money in a way that makes others feel less. Now, that being said, if you're successful with money because you work hard or take time to learn to invest for example – sometimes that can be seen as bragging – even if it isn’t.
So really, what it boils down when talking about money openly, is knowing your audience. If you happen to be chatting with someone who you know isn't investing – when you talk about investing, be sure to meet their “Love Language.”
2. Don’t Share Personal Information
This goes for you not sharing all your personal stuff, but really this tip applies to what someone might share with you.
In the case that someone open's up about money, chances are they trust you. As mentioned earlier, most are insecure when it comes to their finances, so don't go telling the whole world someone else's business!
Instead, if someone talks about money with you, be sure you're respectful. We have personally done budgets with people or gave recommendations on ways to pay off debt, but we have never shared that personal information.
3. Be sincere
Being sincere when it comes to talking money might fall in line with the first two tips, however, this goes a level deeper.
If the common perception is that talking about money is a taboo subject, being genuine and sincere can help ease that stigma. This is especially true for couples looking to discuss money!
Don't get upset about past history and do your best to empathize, which includes the next tip:
4. Don’t Judge
My wife had close to $300,000 in student loans when we first met! When we shared a bit of our story on Business Insider, I admitted that at times it was hard not too judge.
However, I had to get over that!
In the end, we recognized that we both had made really good and some really not so good money choices in our past and that neither was perfect. So when we talk about money, we never judge!
Whether it is a spouse, family member or even a friend, never judge them for their money mistakes. Remember we don't want people feeling worse about their money woes!
5. Agree to disagree.
At the end of the day, remember it is always OK to agree to disagree!
Let's say you happen to be focused on paying off debt and a friend is really focused on channeling all money to investing…
In this scenario, is there a right and wrong? NO!
Just what is right for that person and their life. So when you talk money, you want to always make sure you're not imposing your money views on someone else.
In other words, you should learn to agree to disagree when you're talking about money with others! Either way, encourage others for taking control of their financial future!
Final Word on Taboo Money
There was a time when certain family members at holiday events would say things like, “Oh you’re just money-hungry,” or “You’re tight with your money.”
These same people could openly talk about anything, but when you brought up money, those conversations needed to end.
Luckily, all of this has really started to change.
Financial books, personal finance Facebook groups, the “FIRE” movement, and money pros such as Dave Ramsey have actually reversed the trend of money seen as a taboo subject.
In fact, in the personal finance community, talking about money is actually really cool and it’s making the subject trendy. And perhaps the biggest benefit of talking money these days:
There are no more secrets when it comes to money.
In 1920, there were people who knew, and those who didn’t. Fast forward to the present day and the plethora of information can almost be too much (It is why I asked these wealthy people about their financial goals).
Needless to say, maybe the biggest reason some people are reluctant to change is because of this last point:
We all know what we should do when it comes to money, but sometimes we just don’t.
Knowing what to do with money is one thing, but actually doing it is another. And sometimes talking about money simply makes some of us uncomfortable.
But as we part, maybe it’s time to get uncomfortable. And as Tim Ferriss so eloquently said in his book The Four Hour Work Week,
Success in your life boils down to the tough conversations you’re willing to have.”
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.