Today, I want you to break one of the biggest, unspoken money rules of all: The understanding that it’s improper to speak about money within polite society. All Southern women (including me) have been advised that a lady never discusses her weight, age or wealth. It’s an American thing; even the website Trip Advisor mentions the money taboo as a cultural attribute that prospective visitors from other countries should know about.
Here’s Why the Money Taboo is a Major Problem:
1. It keeps us in the dark about important information that we need to make good choices about money (like the salary of a co-worker or the price of someone’s house).
2. It keeps families from having open and honest conversations about money issues, leading to assumptions and misunderstandings that cause family problems. For example, parents rarely openly ask how children feel about the terms of their will before they write one.
3. It keeps us from exploring our own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and problems surrounding money with friends, mentors, and even our therapists. I’ve found that most of my patients do not talk about their money issues if I do not ask specifically about them.
So, What Do I Do About This?
1. Start a conversation with a close friend this week. For openers, try “Hey, isn’t itstrange how we know all about each other’s sex lives but nothing about each other’s money issues?”
2. Interview one of your parents about the role of money in his or her childhood. You have been affected by the lessons your parents learned and the experiences they had in their childhoods but may not really know the details of the story as your parent lived it.
3. Or, figure out what you really want to know about money and take a short survey of a diverse group of people (i.e. “Do you believe having more money would make you happier? How much money would it take to be happier?”)
Let us know how it turned out for you. Were you met with positive or negative responses? Think of this as an experiment, which will help minimize the awkwardness and ensure that you approach the situation with an open mind.