Experts say talking about money can be empowering in many ways
People aren’t putting their money where their mouth is.
More than two in three (68%) people say they’d rather talk about their weight than money, according to data from investing app Acorns, which surveyed more than 3,000 Americans ages 18-44. “Talking about money is culturally shameful. Everyone needs it, and it controls so much, but no one wants to talk about it,” says Colin Walsh, CEO and co-founder of Varo Money.
Many would also prefer talking about sex than money. “It’s no big deal for girlfriends to go to dinner and discuss their bikini wax situation or their sex life, but when asked what’s in their bank account, it’s crickets,” New York Times bestselling author Nicole Lapin who wrote Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together tells Moneyish.
So why is it hard for Americans to talk about money?
An old school way of thinking might be to blame. In her 1922 book Etiquette In Society, In Business, In Politics, and At Home, manners guru Emily Post advised people to keep their finances private — a lesson that has lasted nearly a century, even though the current social, political and financial climate have evolved exponentially.
Los Angeles-based psychiatrist Kirsten Thompson tells Moneyish, “In our culture, money is not only a basic need, but also a measure of success. When people don’t feel as though they measure up, to even their own standards, it’s often anxiety provoking to talk about it. Anything that can be conflated with our sense of value as humans is often difficult to discuss with ease.”
And, women have an even harder time facing the subject. According to the 2015 Fidelity Investments Money FIT Women Study, 56% of women say they refrain from discussing finances because the subject is too personal, while 27% say they were raised to not talk about finances and just 10% said they don’t understand or know how to talk about it intelligently.
What’s more, the same study indicated that 47% of women are hesitant to talk about money and investing with a financial professional and 50% of women who have primary investment firm have never spoken with a representative there.
But talking about money can confer big benefits, women say. “I went through the smiling and nodding syndrome, I was freaked out to join the conversation but once I did, I felt empowered. It’s kind of an ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ situation. When one person goes first, when you open up about something that feels more personal, the other person feels license to do the same thing,” says Lapin.
NerdWallet’s personal finance expert Brianna McGurran tells Moneyish, “Talking about money opens up the possibility that you’ll find common ground. You might feel alone when you see student loan payments have nearly wiped out your checking account for another month. But learning your roommate feels the same way can relieve some of that loneliness.”
And Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews tells Moneyish, “If we talk more about money — in terms of how much we have, how we save, and how we spend — it can be easier to sense whether we’re doing things right.”
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