From the question of what makes an ethical dollar a dollar to the perspective of seeing money as a development tool everything in between creates the ideal space for one of the most taboo issues – money.
Amongst the values of the cultural creatives the idea of sharing creates a base for their “trademark”. But even so our personal experience as well the studies show that there are subjects that people are not comfortable talking about. A study made by Wells Fargo & CO shows that nearly half of the Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal financing (44%) while subjects as death, politics, religion and others are more approachable. Without taking into consideration the study, looking back into our experience we barely find any moments when money represented the subject of our conversations. If asked why would anyone talk about anything else in the universe rather than their finance, people’s responses vary. Natasha Lannerd, the national sales manager of an organic company says “the silence was originally a family trait. Nobody in my house ever spoke about money when I was a kid, so I never got in the habit of talking about it as an adult. I grew up in a single-parent family, we didn’t have a lot, and we just never talked about it. As a result, when I grew up and started making a fair amount of money, I never had a plan and could never stick to a budget. I started to worry that I would work 50 hours a week for 20 years and end up with zero dollars in my savings account. I didn’t want that to happen to me”. If we were to look for an answer to this, we would most probably shame the society, maybe people’s idea of the fact that money represent you, that they wealthy means a lot more than being healthy, sane and prosper. But is it really the case? Doesn’t society tend to lean towards individualism and not care as much about the others as before? And if this is the case why is money still a taboo subject?
While looking for the answer, Daniel Crosby a behavioral finance expert and head of IncBlot Organizational Psychology in Huntsville, Alabama says that “It is such a loaded conversation, and there is so much subtext and hidden meaning wrapped up in money. Money is shorthand for happiness, power, and personal efficacy, so it can be very scary. When money is short, it can be seen as a deficiency on the part of the breadwinner, and when there is lots of money, there can be fears that greed takes the place of genuine love.”
In fact, there might be no certain reason why we would restrict ourselves from talking about money but here are a few advices to make us comfortable while discussing this subject:
- Other people feel the same. In his book “You’re not that great” Daniel Crosby says that “People having hard conversations about money should be upfront about the difficulty and discomfort and those receiving the news should appropriately respect the trust it takes to have such a hard conversation”. The same opinion shares Stephen Burke, president of Ithaca Hours who says that money is a taboo subject they broke through and “people started to talk about I don’t know what I’m doing wrong but I never have any extra money so once we start to talk about it we find out that this is the problem with everybody”.
- Silence hurts you. Silence in this case, likewise in any other, makes you gravitate towards the two extremes. One being that we will tend to over think the problem by diverting from the actual issue to a whole causal-effect situation where we will find no answer to please us or we will slowly but surely lean towards procrastination thinking that we will solve the problem one day. Taking into consideration the second scenario, we will eventually figure out that any problem – including money- that does not receive our proper attention becomes bigger. With this being said, Crosby adds that “Being withholding about money is a form of loss of intimacy, where there is no intimacy, the relationship will die, guaranteed.”
- Silence hurts others. Stephen Burke says “Money is the one taboo that people don’t talk about. We talk about our sex life, we talk about our drug problems, we talk about our psychological things but money people don’t talk about”. While talking about money with others can be difficult and uncomfortable, talking about money and our financial problems with our family should be a little less restrictive since we don’t have problems in talking openly about other issues. Another example to sustain this point of view is the case of Natasha Lannerd that we mentioned before. Keeping these problems and refusing to talk about money within our families can be equally as harming for us as for our close relatives. Talking about money can also have other implications and while discussing this subject with people and especially kids if we are to take into consideration the family context, we can make correlations between money itself and the value of money. From this perspective in Wells Fargo’s survey we see the following statement “If you are a parent and you are not having money conversations with your kids, you are handicapping the next generation of savers and investors.”
- We can ask for help. Starting from the same premises that we are afraid to talk about money we have the option of having someone to guide us and talk openly about our financial options. Natasha Lannerd compares asking help regarding money with wanting to know how to play the violin and asking a couch to learn her. Her personal conclusion was that “Once I actually started talking about it, I realized it’s not as scary a subject as I thought.”
To sum up, talking about money should not feel like a “minefield”. Being conscious about our personal finance will help us in using money as a development tool eventually rather than making money to use money. We have clearly seen through the examples given that the others have the same problems as us and by talking openly regarding this issue we can find the solutions we seek.
- Daniel Crosby, You’re not that great, (Word Association Publishers, 2012)
- Deborah Nixon,Why Is Talking About Money So Taboo? September 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/deborah-nixon/talking-about-money_b_3980775.html
- Chris Taylor, “The last taboo: Why nobody talks about money”(November 5, 2013), accessed April 8,2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/27/us-money-conversation-idUSBREA2Q1UN20140327
- The (R)evolution – Cultural Creatives, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMqVzdRKOJE
Tirnovan Andra Teodora
Journalism, year III