The freedoms money can bring to a person are paralleled only by the crushing weight a lack of it can enforce, and yet, knowing how integral it is for survival in our way of life, many of us just find it so difficult, sometimes even impossible to bring up the topic of money even with those closest to us.
This taboo-like approach to money most certainly forms the foundation on which many of us now deal with it. We may need advice, want to ask for a raise or even talk to our partner about our current situation, but it feels so mucky to approach that we instead just stay silent.
For most, this uneasy feeling when talking about money stems from our homes and how we were brought up. Reaching far back into previous generations, public conversations around money were almost treated as taboo, and that notion became like an 11th Commandment for many.
When the grown ups were discussing money, children were not to be present. It was always ‘hush hush’. And in your older years, if your parents did ever happen to confide in you about their finances or even gossip about somebody else’s, it was probably done with a secretive overtone.
In addition to this upbringing, we must also come to terms with the fact that money issues are essentially emotional issues as Certified Financial Therapist Ed Coambs explains.
Most, if not, all interactions you have with money, especially ones you consider very important, are always accompanied by some emotions. Think now on your biggest financial goal or an achievement or struggle you’ve recently had. Whether they be good or discomforting ones, does the thought not stir up some of your many feelings?
Joyce Marter, LCPC, licensed psychotherapist explains that it is common practice for people to attach their sense of self-worth directly to how much money they have and their ability to do fancy things. Those with money struggles might not talk about money due to shame or fear of being judged as not smart, capable, or responsible enough. On the flip side she also shows that others may fear that they will come across as bragging if they voice their success or people may think of them as materialistic or selfish for what they possess. In both cases, there is an overall fear that if others know your financial status, it could negatively affect their view of you.
When money is considered a “taboo” topic compounded with the slew of emotions that are attached to it, we’re left with questions and concerns that can create an environment of fear and uncertainty.
In our steps to start approaching and talking about money, firstly, “We need to understand that the financial part of our lives is just a small piece of who we are.” says Christine Luken, a certified financial counselor in Kentucky.
And according to Bert GambiniI in his article ‘Tying self-worth to money has negative psychological effects’ for the University at Buffalo, researchers found that, “subjects who based their self-esteem predominantly on their financial success experienced more stress and anxiety. They were also less likely to feel in control of their own lives.”
Yes, the economic value of money is real, but at the end of the day it’s a paper tool to aid in achieving certain things but not everything. It makes up part of our lives but not our whole lives.
So, as we do the hard work of choosing not to feel judged for how much we have or don’t have, we should also now try to focus on what we stand to gain from opening up about money as opposed to the status we think we may lose for it. The more we can engage in money conversations with trusted loved ones and colleagues, the greater our overall knowledge becomes. Better financial literacy is the name of the game. Instead of guessing if a financial decision is good or bad, if you’re charging too much or too little, guessing if your salary should be more or if you should ask for ‘the raise’; Instead of guessing and feeling uneasy, lost, or angry in the situation, we could instead choose the value of the information and advice we may gain from opening up to the ones we trust. Joyce Marter, LCPC puts forward that, “When we talk openly about money issues, we normalize and validate that we all have financial worries, troubles, and questions. We can learn from one another how to manage money — and our thoughts, emotions and behaviors around money — better.”
So, let’s take the first step. You know better than anyone, the people you most respect/trust for advice, and you know there are some money situations you’d like to wrap your head around.
Outrightly propose to share information surrounding what you seek. Avoid the covert operations of trying to get some form of ‘intel’ without being too obvious and everything that entails.
You start first, even if it’s minor monetary details about less important things to help you feel comfortable. But as you both share and receive feedback that may either immediately solve your problem or give you a new perspective, the value of the information and the progress you might now make in your life will help you ride your waves of concern and judgment.
Remember, the point of this is for your own growth; becoming comfortable with seeking and getting help with a very important aspect of all our lives. If you can confide in your friends some of your deepest secrets, rely on your colleague to help you with a work project to save your job or get that promotion, why is it so hard to turn to these people and also have them turn to us to help sharpen what we know about this thing we call money?