Not Talking About Money Sells Us Short
By Rachel Puryear
We all know that sex, politics, and religion are taboo subjects – that’s why HR departments don’t like people to talk about it at work.
However, there’s another major cultural taboo right up there with those others – money.
How do we know money is taboo? Because it’s considered impolite to talk about it.
If you don’t have much of it, many (unfairly) look down on you, and assume you’re lazy or undeserving. But if you do have a lot of it, many people expect you to feel guilty, and assume the worst about you.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d much rather deal with rich people problems than poor people problems, any day. Nonetheless, that all are suspect reflects a deep cultural discomfort around money and finances.
In any event, I would argue that unwillingness to talk more openly about finances and wealth is actually to our collective detriment.
I believe that many people are poorer as a result of feeling like they shouldn’t talk or ask about money, and that doing those things more freely could lead to greater prosperity.
Furthermore, being tight lipped around finances is even making their children poorer. The money taboo also perpetuates greater economic inequality and poverty, enables financial abuse to perpetuate, and leads to other financial problems.
Here are some reasons why:
Where Does the Money Taboo Come From?
In the USA, we commonly (mis)quote the Bible as saying that ‘money is the root of all evil’. In fact, 1 Timothy 6:10 says that ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and and pierced themselves through with many sorrows [emphasis added]’.
This eloquent verse condemns not wealth itself, but greed.
For relatively wealthy people, it’s viewed as poor manners to speak openly of one’s wealth. Even for some not necessarily from the upper classes, but who hold a more socially egalitarian outlook, ostentatious displays of wealth – and anything remotely construed as bragging – may be viewed with distaste.
Furthermore, people who came from modest means, but later achieved greater wealth than they grew up, with might be reluctant to discuss money with their kids; fearing that they will grow up to be “spoiled”.
What We Lose By Not Talking About Finances
When we don’t talk about money, we lose chances to share our knowledge about it – our wisdom, our mistakes, our losses, our triumphs, our successes.
We’ve all made bad financial choices at some point – some more than others, but we all have our past mistakes if we’re honest about it. Some also recovered better than others.
Additionally, at times, open dialogue about how much things cost and how financial decisions affect someone help others learn important lessons – without necessarily having to make costly mistakes themselves.
But if we can’t talk about it, we can’t learn from the mistakes of others – and instead, we repeat them. We also can’t learn about others’ successes, and adopt better strategies of our own.
Furthermore, in the workplace; talking openly about salaries can help reduce race and gender (and other) discriminatory pay gaps.
Some employers discourage or even forbid employees from discussing salary (this may or may not be legal). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if companies who do this have particularly egregious pay disparities – in fact, that should perhaps be strongly suspected if they’re trying to gag pay transparency.
Nonetheless, employees sharing pay information with each other puts pressure on companies to pay employees fairly. This makes it much harder for unjustifiable inequality to persist.
Alternately, employers can post ballpark ranges for salaries for all positions.
Nonetheless, People Can Still Have Reasonable Boundaries
While greater openness around financial matters in many ways would help a great deal; at the same time, reasonable boundaries still apply – and context also matters.
For instance; let’s say you want to ask someone you meet at a party how much they pay for their apartment or house, because you’re also looking for something you can afford.
While it’s okay to ask, this should be done in private – rather than in front of a group.
Furthermore, don’t expect someone you just met to quickly open up about details of their financial situation.
Additionally, you can ask what you want to, but someone else also has every right to say no if they don’t want to share that information with you.
In encouraging breaking money taboos, I’m not advocating that we all abandon privacy and boundaries around finances – only that it’s okay to ask, and to share, if one chooses to do so.
Talking About Money Might Make You – and Your Kids – Richer
When it comes to parents and children, this is one area where more sharing would definitely be helpful to younger generations.
Elders sharing more of their mistakes, and hard-earned wisdom, could better help younger people make those same mistakes. Setting an example of talking openly about finances shows that it’s an important matter, and that learning more about it is worthwhile. Furthermore, elders put their kids in a better position to help them manage their affairs when the time comes for that.
And, no, it’s not spoiling children to be transparent about family finances – they need to learn from you in order to carry on your success.
And yes, I realize that in some family circumstances, openness might be less appropriate because someone is likely to abuse that. However, this point is urged more generally, except where it doesn’t work.
In any event, a more open door policy is usually better than a closed one, with family members you’re trying to set a good financial example for.
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Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to breaking taboos around finances, and to greater prosperity.
Check out my other blog, too – World Class Hugs, at https://worldclasshugs.com. It’s about celebrating empathic and giving people, how we can have more balanced relationships with others, open-minded spirituality, and nature trips.
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I always say “Secrecy is the seed of abuse”. Secrecy about finances and money matters is no exception. When I was in college, my friends and I (most of us foreigners) used to share our salaries. That helped us make sure we got equitable pay, regardless of gender, age ..etc.
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