Why We’re Embarrassed to Talk About Money

By Damon Poeter

Talking about money isn’t a comfortable topic for most people, or even a social one. Most of us would agree that it’s considered taboo to discuss certain financial situations, like how much you make at your job or how much you spend on particular items or experiences. Additional reasons for being embarrassed to discuss finances include:

  • Being ashamed by our lack of knowledge about money. It doesn’t help that the financial industry uses a lot of intimidating jargon regarding investing, saving or starting a retirement fund.
  • Reluctance to seem “greedy” or “pushy.” Have you ever felt like you deserved a raise at work, but it just never seemed like the “right time” to ask for it? Or suspected that you weren’t being treated fairly in a financial transaction but didn’t want to “raise a fuss” about it?
  • Being in debt. It happens to the best of us. Whether it’s related to school loans, a low-paying job or a few decisions that soured, it still feels the same to everyone: just awful … and probably the last thing anyone wants to open up and talk about.
  • Avoidance of the cold, hard truth. It’s very human to pretend things are going just fine by avoiding bad news whenever possible. It’s why some of us are reluctant to go to the doctor and why others don’t want to review their bank statements or learn what their peers are making at work.

You’re Not Supposed to Navigate Your Financial Life Entirely by Yourself

These can be tough emotional roadblocks to get past. But here are a few action steps you can take to start feeling confident and knowledgeable about money:

  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand the terms of a deal being offered, like financing for a car or a new cell phone plan, ask for an explanation. If the salesperson can’t or won’t provide an explanation, don’t continue. Let them know you need more time to make a decision and don’t feel pressured to purchase anything.
  • Seek out advice. Aside from professionals or even just friends with money smarts, many websites and books at the library offer a ton of valuable information for beginners. You can learn how to start a monthly budget, create a savings plan or begin to invest.
  • Practice opening the door to discussions. Many people don’t like asking for a raise or haggling over a deal because it feels confrontational. But being your own advocate sometimes just means exploring your curiosity. For example, instead of marching into your boss’s office and “demanding” a raise, you might approach it more as opening a dialog to discuss your contributions and future at the job.

And finally …

Know Who to Talk to About Money

It’s a healthy thing to keep your financial life private for the most part, especially since identity theft is a common threat, but there are certain people with whom you really do need to be open with about your financial situation:

The Professionals

Financial advisors, tax professionals, and lawyers all need the truth and nothing but the truth. Others include people and entities that can penalize you if you misrepresent your finances, like the IRS, says Matthew Angel, a USAA advice director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.

The Personals

Also maintain an open line of communication with the people who you want to inherit any of your property and those you’ve chosen to become guardians of your children if something happens to you and your spouse, he says. “Family discussions about end of life and estate planning aren’t always easy, but failure to discuss it now can lead to pain and strained relationships later.”

The most important person of all to discuss finances with is your spouse or partner. He or she should know about and discuss with you all the good stuff and the bad stuff: the bills and the debts but also the goals and aspirations.

“It’s really important to talk with your spouse about the dreams you have that you want to be working towards. It’s not just about revealing skeletons in the closet like large debts you might have, it’s about being really clear and up front and honest about what you’d like to do in the future financially,” Angel says.

Money matters can certainly be difficult to discuss. But money isn’t going away anytime soon and neither is the need to talk about financial issues with the most important people in your life. As embarrassing as it can be to discuss certain topics, it does get easier the more practice time you put in.

Want to kick off a more productive financial conversation with a spouse or partner? Try USAA’s free online calculators and planners to help make your next money talk more actionable.

Matthew Angel serves as an advice director at USAA, focusing on the personal finance tenets of short-term saving and home advice. Matthew holds professional credentials including a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, AAMS®, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas San Antonio. Matthew’s history at USAA includes seven years serving members as a financial planner and leading teams of financial professionals to help members achieve financial security. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys hunting and riding motorcycles and is a proud husband and father to four kids.


This calculator is a self-help tool. This information is provided for illustrative purposes only. Results may vary depending on your individual circumstances.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

The information contained is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining professional financial advice. Please thoroughly research and seek professional advice before acting on any information you may have found in this article. This article in no way attempts to provide financial advice that relates to all personal circumstances.

 

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