Working Through the Money Taboo
Have you ever been told that it’s “rude” to talk about money? Have you ever felt your face get hot and your stomach start to flutter when the subject of money comes up? Are you afraid to ask for a raise because it feels selfish to ask for more money?
Have you ever been told that it’s “rude” to talk about money?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, welcome! You’re just like the rest of us. And that means that you’re affected by the money taboo that exists in our society. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to be afraid to talk about money. In fact, the more we talk about money, the less alone we will feel and the more informed we will be.
Understand Why the Taboo Exists
According to a 2018 Capital Group survey, most Americans would rather talk about anything but money. Asked about more than a dozen topics that might be too taboo to discuss with friends, such as marital problems, religion, sexual orientation, survey respondents ranked household earnings, retirement savings, and debt as the most taboo, with women of all generations more likely to consider these topics taboo than men.
But why do we feel this way?
An easy, obvious answer is that money conversations can make people uncomfortable. Talking about things like income and net worth can bring up feelings of jealousy, resentment, embarrassment, and more. So many people want to avoid feeling those feelings themselves or triggering them in someone else.
But the taboo comes from somewhere deeper in our society, too. According to a Forbes piece, America’s money taboo stems from the British, who, traditionally, deemed it terribly “gauche” to talk about finance. This was true among the wealthy, who didn’t need to talk about money, because they could show with their property and clothing that they were wealthy. They also didn’t need to talk about money, because they didn’t have to worry about money. The same couldn’t be said for the working class.
But I think it goes even deeper. When people don’t talk about money, they aren’t raising facts about the inequality in our society. When women and people of color aren’t talking about money, they aren’t going to be learning that they are earning less than their white, male counterparts. When we don’t talk about money, we aren’t talking about how the gap between the rich and the working class is growing wider every day. To put it simply, if we don’t talk about money, we’re more likely to be kept in an unjust, unfair situation. That’s why it’s so important for us to work through the taboo and get louder about money.
Dig Into Your Own Money Hang Ups
Yes, we are all impacted by society and feel a lot of similar pressure as those around us. But we also have our own unique hang ups around money. These might be due to our parents’ relationships with money or from traumatic experiences related to money. They could also be related to past mistakes we’ve made. They could also be from judgment imposed upon us from others. Whatever your story is, it’s important that you understand it. Starting that journey to understanding yourself and your own hang ups around money is so important to improving your relationship with money. The process won’t happen overnight, and it probably won’t be very pleasant, but it’ll help you to end up in a stronger place.
Do you want some help working through your money baggage? Financial coaching might be right for you! Let’s talk.
Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes
Through any healing process, you’ll probably get to a point where you have to forgive yourself for something. We all make mistakes, and that’s especially true when it comes to money. But if you are struggling with the money taboo, chances are that you’ve turned that taboo onto yourself and feel pretty awful about mistakes you’ve made with your money. But the truth is that we can’t turn back the clock to change things in the past. But we can learn from our mistakes and move forward knowing that we will do things differently. In order to move forward, though, we have to forgive ourselves. If we get stuck in the negativity of the past, it’s impossible to do things differently.
Shame and taboo thrive in the dark, so we must bring these issues out into the open. The more you talk about money, and the issues you have with it, the less alone and ashamed you will feel. So start talking about money. Start talking about your relationship with money. You can start small, like casually mentioning that you’re working with a financial coach or that you’ve just created a new budget. From there, you can build up how often you talk about money, who you’re talking to, and which topics you focus on. Having these conversations more often will make you feel less embarrassed or ashamed about your finances. It will also show your loved ones that they can feel safe talking about money around you. Not only will you be helping yourself, but you’ll be helping them too. Plus, you might be surprised how many people you know who are going through the same things that you are.
Use More Positive Language
You won’t be able to go from taboo to loving money overnight. It will be a process, and how long it takes will vary depending on who you are. It’s important to practice patience here while you make this journey. But one of the best ways to start improving your relationship with money and shake off the taboo is to start using positive language around it. For example, if your friends invite you out to dinner but you can’t afford it right now, don’t respond with “I can’t, I’m broke”, respond with, “Thank you! I’m trying out a new budget this month, and I’ve already hit my dining out limit, but how about we do a potluck?” Not only will you be centering and reminding yourself of your own goals, but you might inspire your friends to start thinking about their financial goals themselves!
Ask For Help
Sometimes, things become taboo because people don’t understand them enough. That’s why education and exposure are so important! It gives people the opportunity to learn and understand, which in turn shows them that they don’t have to be afraid. So if you’ve been trying to work through the money taboo and you can’t seem to get there, you don’t have to go it alone. You should reach out to professionals who can help you. This could be a financial advisor who can teach you how to prepare for your future and your retirement, or a financial coach who can help you improve your relationship with money and create daily money management systems, or it could be a financial therapist who can help you to work through those deeper, more serious money-related issues. Whoever might be right for you, it’s important to ask for help when you’re feeling stuck.
Taboo topics are not easy to work through in our society. You’ll likely feel the pressure to avoid the topic of money even as you have improved your relationship with it. But the more we talk about money, the more empowered we will all be, especially as women. Help break the money taboo by talking about money today. Good luck!