My friends and I swap intimate secrets like my little brother used to trade Pokémon cards: gleefully and without hesitation. I know every detail of their dating lives, political beliefs and greatest fears. We talk about anything and everything — except our finances. Is this your experience, too?…
A 2015 survey conducted by Ally Bank found only 20 percent of Americans discuss personal money matters with friends. For something that influences major life decisions — education, career, family planning, possibly even how we see ourselves — it’s fascinating that the subject of money still feels so taboo. It even affects how you spend time together. (Have you seen the episode of Friends where Rachel, Joey and Phoebe can’t keep up with Ross’s expensive birthday activities?)
For me, money talk has always felt a little awkward, unless I’m choosing an emoji on Venmo. Research attributes this country’s sensitivity to several hurdles, including etiquette norms (70 percent of Americans think it’s rude to bring up in a social setting), a person’s upbringing and the fear of judgement (people are seven times more likely to chat about their number of sexual partners than their income). Lately, though, I stay quiet because I compare my finances to unrealistic standards — how is everyone on Instagram always brunching? “People may be reluctant to talk about money because they are ashamed that they haven’t saved enough, or that they don’t know much about personal finance and so they don’t want to ask ‘dumb’ questions,” writes Paul B. Brown.
Tackling the subject could be beneficial for everyone, though. “Knowledge is power,” explained Greg Heller, founder of HCR Wealth Advisors. “People tend to feel a huge sense of relief from discussing their situation and possibly fears with regard to money.”
Recently, I admitted to my friends that I had gone over my budget this summer, and that I had to lay low these next couple months to stay on track. Surprisingly, it started a dialogue between us. Everyone chimed in with similar experiences and opened up about their own financial situations (we found it easier to trade approaches and percentages, rather than exact numbers). A good friend explained her struggle paying off student loans, while another revealed her responsible habits — she deposits a percentage of her nannying paychecks into a retirement fund and she just purchased her first individual stocks (!) We saw a new side of each other, and there was so much to learn. Why had we waited so long?
I’d also love to talk to them about saving strategies, salary negotiations and the wild world of investing. It’s definitely not as entertaining as our usual topics, but we can work to make better decisions together, or at the very least, have a companion to figure things out with along the way. I’m learning that this transparency with those you trust makes you feel less alone.
What about you? Are you experiencing any financial ups and downs right now? Is there anything specific that’s on your mind? Or that you’d like to read more about? We will be writing more about this subject, so let us know what you want to hear. Feel free to comment anonymously, if you’d like.