Saturday, September 5, 2015

Taboo Topics: Why Talking About Money is NOT Impolite!

When I was younger I remember hearing people say that it isn't polite to talk about sex, politics, or money. Perhaps people were saying this because these topics can feel very personal.  When I stop to think about what we as a society have gotten from not discussing these topics, it makes me think we had better START TALKING!

When it comes to our money, we are afraid to say "I can't afford it," or "I don't have the money," or even  "I'm in debt."  Somehow, we tie our person worth to our ability to keep up with the Joneses.  Boy do I understand how difficult that is!  I live in New York City, which is very expensive.  I have had friends that like to go out on the weekends, see shows, have dinners out, and it's been hard for me because I want those things too.  Sometimes it makes me feel like a party pooper to decline invitations to do those things and say "I'm sorry, I just don't have the money for that."  While they are going out I am at home with my Netflix subscription and a $10 pizza as my weekly treat.

I decided a while back that I wasn't going to "not talk about money" because it "isn't polite."  I started saying "I'm watching my money," or "I'm trying to pay off a credit card."  Once I gave myself permission to say it out loud, I noticed something.  Other people were relieved.  I was being truthful, and very willing to talk about it.  That seemed to be infectious.  I noticed the people around me saying things like "So, do you want to just do dinner and game night at our place?" or "Me too!  I felt like I was the only one!"  Once I gave myself permission to be honest about my circumstances, others seemed to be willing to do the same.  I feel good about that because keeping up with the Joneses is a bit of a cycle.  Someone in my social circle does something or invites me to something, I am afraid to say I can't afford it, I do it anyway, I get more debt, then the next invite comes..."  I've cut that cycle.  In breaking the cycle, I've helped other people to do the same.  Don't get me wrong, I am only responsible for my own choices, but  there is strength in numbers.  If one person is willing to "talk about money" regardless of whether or not it is taboo, perhaps that is at least a step in the right direction.

I've even gotten bolder about "talking about money."  I just ask questions of my friends.  We are taught that we shouldn't ask other people about their money because it is their "personal affairs," but I'm not sorry that I ask.  I called a friend of mine and asked her point blank about her life insurance.  She has a small child that I love very much, and I was concerned.  I instigated a conversation with a different friend who was divorced, and had survived a bankruptcy.  I knew that she had done an amazing job of rebuilding her life and her credit.  I wanted to talk with her about the possibility of her buying her own home.  I felt confident that she could do it, and I thought that if she did, she would set herself up well for her future retirement.  I could give you plenty more examples of times I've been "nosey" and inquired about the finances of my friends.  Maybe this is an annoying habit I've acquired.  I do not regret it at all, and I have never had a friend upset with me for asking.  In fact, typically the person thanks me for bringing it up.

Perhaps this week's article sounds a bit more like a rant, but I've been thinking a bit about this.  We need to talk about money, just like we need to talk about political issues, sexual issues.  Ignoring these things has not proven to be much of a benefit.  Ask the questions of the people you care about, and practice saying your truth.  I have started saying "I'm watching my money" and "That's not in my budget right now" when it applies to my life.... and you know what?  Pizza and Netflix night is serving me well, and who knows, perhaps a few friends will crash my party!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment