Should we stop finances being such a secretive subject?

By Hayley Hemmings

Money: it’s a taboo subject that we generally don’t feel comfortable discussing around the dinner table.

But why is the topic of money still taboo for many millennials today? And more importantly, should it be?

It’s funny because even though we don’t like to talk about the nitty-gritty details of our personal finances, we still love to talk about money to a certain extent. Such as price rises or price cuts, how we’ve bagged a bargain on our car insurance or mobile deal, or perhaps whether or not we can afford certain things.

But what we tend not to discuss are the finer details about our personal wealth. Such as how much we earn, how much money we have stashed away in savings, or how much debt we’ve racked up. Those are the kinds of details that we’d prefer not to share, because it gives a snapshot (to others) of how we’re doing financially and where we are in life.

Why should that matter? Well, many of us worry about what other people will think.

Some of us are afraid of being judged by others. For example, if we’ve previously mentioned the amount we have in savings, other people might give us an eye roll or say things like, “Yeah, yeah!” when we say we’re broke.

Money Talk: It’s a Grey Area

The problem is that a snapshot doesn’t give the full picture. And the full picture is harder to explain. Suppose we have a certain amount of money stashed away for a house deposit... that doesn’t mean we’re rolling in it and free to spend money whenever we like. Our savings could have taken an age, and a whole lot of hard work, to scrape together.

Inheritance is another tricky money topic to navigate. We don’t want our friends to go green with envy at the thought of a lump sum just handed to us, so it’s perhaps easier not to mention it at all.

Being open about how much debt we’re carrying can feel a bit like confessing a sin. It could feel embarrassing to admit that we’ve been borrowing money to fund certain things, depending on who we’re speaking to.

Could Income Differences Divide Friendships?

Let’s consider salaries and divulging how much we earn to friends. What if we earn more than they do - or less? How would we or they feel about that? It could make things awkward when it comes to simple money matters like splitting the bill at a restaurant.

Remember the episode from Friends (The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant) where Phoebe, Joey and Rachel order the cheapest things from the menu, but the others order whatever they like? When the bill arrives at the end of the meal, the “richer” friends suggest splitting it – and the “poorer” friends practically end up spitting feathers!

No-one wants their friendship to be divided by money issues. If we disclose what we earn, there’s a chance that could happen. We may be judged on what we can and can’t afford just because we earn a certain amount of money.

Again, disclosing what we earn only provides a snapshot of the full picture of our finances. For example, we may earn a great salary but have a shed load of debt or expensive bills to deal with that eats into our income every month.

In other words, even if we earn a lot of money, that doesn’t mean we have a lot of disposable income. And people who earn less money may have more disposable income to play with, depending on their financial circumstances.

It can seem almost easier not to discuss the finer points of money at all, so that we don’t have to give out even more personal information to justify our situation.

The Benefits of Breaking the Taboo about Money

With all that said, there certainly are plenty of benefits to be had by being open and honest with certain people about money.

Talking about money with friends for example can lead to great things! We can learn from one another’s mistakes and support each other through tough times. We can each improve our financial knowledge by doing so.

By disclosing how much we earn, we can steer well away from pay inequality and strive to make sure we’re getting paid our worth for the jobs that we do.

How Talking about Money Helped Me

I can vouch for that benefit personally. Several years ago, I was climbing the corporate ladder and working as a marketing assistant. I had been at this particular company for a year already when another marketing assistant was employed.

We became friends as well as work colleagues and a good few months later, the topic of salaries came up in conversation. I’d assumed that we were paid the same, or that I was earning slightly more since I had been working at the company longer.

Not so! It turns out that my co-worker was paid £2K more than me per year. Finding that out was a bit awkward at first as I felt annoyed at the fact that we were doing the same job but I was paid less. However, having that conversation gave me the ammunition I needed to feel confident in asking my boss for a pay rise.

I didn’t get an immediate raise as I was told that my co-worker had more overall experience than me and that was why there was a difference in pay. But I did get my employer to fund a training course for me and then I succeeded in getting a pay rise after I completed it.

Other Reasons Why Talking about Money Can Be Helpful

So talking about money can provide practical benefits like the one I’ve described above. But in addition, being open about money with close friends can help us develop more trusting relationships and avoid the burden of money secrets.

Money is very personal, but if we can talk about our finances with a close friend or two who won’t judge, it could make us feel more secure and happier overall.

On the contrary, by not feeling able to talk about money, this can result in us trying to keep up appearances – brushing money problems under carpet so to speak, for fear of being judged by others.

Top Takeaway

It’s ok to break the taboo about money with those closest to us, whom we know we can trust. Doing so can actually help us to develop more solid and valuable relationships.

Talking about money could also help us in the long term as we work towards our own financial goals. We could learn from other people’s money mistakes – enabling us to build upon our existing financial knowledge.

If more and more people felt able to talk about money, there would likely be more understanding and support available for those experiencing financial difficulties. That can only be a good thing!

To what extent are you happy to talk about money? Comment below and share your thoughts.


Author Bio: Hayley Hemmings is a freelance writer, blogger and tea addict from Yorkshire. She’s passionate about money matters, frugal living and loves anything handmade. When Hayley’s not writing, she’s most likely to be found enjoying snuggles with her little girl or walking her border collie through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.  

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