When you stop to think about it – there are very few things in this country that are more taboo to talk about than personal finance.
We rarely talk about our income (especially at our places of employment).
We rarely talk about our debts.
We rarely talk about our expenses.
We rarely talk about our desires to be financially independent and leave our cubicles in the dust (again, especially at our places of employment).
We rarely talk about our net worth, investments, mortgage/lack of, taxes, donations, goals, and retirement. The list goes on. Having an anonymous exchange online doesn’t really count, by the way.
We NEVER talk about estate planning (personal finance AND death in one package? Egads!!!!)
We don’t even teach personal finance in schools – despite it probably being the most real world applicable topic students could ever be taught and benefit from.
The irony of this is that we spend more hours working than any other developed country? Why? To make money! Most of our waking hours are spent trying to make money so that we can improve our personal finances (or at least limit our losses).
So why are personal finance matters so off limits? Here’s my take:
- Those who are doing well in the game of personal finance do not want to come across as a braggart OR they actually have a fear of becoming a target if word got around to the wrong people.
- Those who are not doing well in the game of personal finance do not want to be thought of as a failure. After all money = status. And nothing is more highly valued in this country than status.
Those might be legitimate reasons to not bring it up. So… nobody brings it up.
The unfortunate downside of this is that we all hold it in when we really want to talk about it. And then we miss out on phenomenal opportunities to learn from one another.
Instead of being so taboo, what if…
…personal finance was taught in school so that all children could have an example of the right things to do versus modeling the wrong from their parents?
…someone struggling with spending and debt could easily get free advice from someone who had previously overcome those problems?
…a rich prick with zero empathy for others could sit and talk with someone who had worked hard their entire life, but ran into bad luck and harsh realities?
…hundreds of millions of present and future Americans could more easily discuss and learn how to consume less and save more so that they could live richer, fuller lives?
Wouldn’t we all benefit? Wouldn’t our wasteful consumption habits plummet, helping to reduce our burden on the environment and boost our personal savings rate go far beyond the measly 4.4% average? Wouldn’t our debts plummet? Wouldn’t our retirement prospects become much more realistic? Wouldn’t our youth be more likely to make the right financial moves instead of the wrong ones?
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So how can we embrace and encourage more personal finance discussion? Here are some ideas, for starters:
- Petition those who set school curriculum to include more personal finance (at the national and local level).
- If you have children – teach them at every opportunity. You should have plenty of learning experiences to share.
- Express your interest in discussing personal finance with others, with the hope that they will want to reciprocate. Maybe this is as simple as sending out a Facebook message or tweet every now and then.
- Start up a club at work or in your neighborhood to discuss financial matters and invite those who you think might be interested.
Just don’t be a braggart…
Personal Finance Discussion:
- Why do you think topics around personal finance are so off limits?
- Does the off-limits nature of personal finance frustrate you? What topics do you wish you could more easily discuss with others?
- How can we change it?
- I am curious to know if the same cultural hesitations exist in other parts of the world. If you have lived elsewhere, is personal finance more/less taboo than the U.S. And why?