Can You Afford to Not Talk About Money?

THE PROBLEM

"Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." 

Most of us can identify exactly where we know this quote from. It's none other than the beloved Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, telling a young Harry that he should not be afraid of speaking the evil wizard Voldemort's name aloud.

In our society, we almost have a similar fear of talking about money. Even if it's not a fear, per se, it's an aversion. If conversation turns to how much something costs or how much money someone makes, things get ... squirmy.

This uneasiness in talking about money, sometimes subconscious, does us no favors. Not wanting to talk about a topic means that to some degree, you may not like thinking about it in the first place. How can you improve your finances if it's something you won't even think about?

SURVEY SAYS...

Surveys keep showing us that money is a topic we seem to avoid like the plague.

  • 63% of people would disclose how much they weigh rather than reveal their checking account balance
  • 86% of people are more comfortable discussing personal problems about their workplace, health, relationships, family, or legal issues than their money problems
  • 44% of people said the most difficult conversation topic based on a given list was finances - ahead of death, politics, religion, personal health, and taxes
  • 31% of people in one survey said money is the most taboo conversation topic, ahead of the birds and the bees (22%)...really?!

So how would you respond to these questions? Take a moment, and truly think about it. 

These results differ only slightly across gender, age, and income levels. We're kinda money-phobic. (Apparently, the legitimate phobia of money is "Chrometophobia." Go figure.)

WHY DON'T WE TALK ABOUT MONEY?

There are many reasons why we don't like discussing finances.

For most of us, it wasn't really the "dinner table conversation" growing up. We didn't sit down for a family meal and have mom or dad ask us about our money decisions (or have them share theirs). In a subtle way, you picked up on the anxiety and uneasiness with which your parents talked about money, and you inherited those feelings. 

Many of us get influenced by religious teachings that may warn us of the love or pursuit of money, so instead of equating our money as a good thing that can be used wisely, we become afraid of its power to influence us for greed or power like we witness everywhere else.

For others, talking about money reminds us of our "bad" financial decisions in the past, bringing up feelings of guilt or regret. 

Perhaps the most powerful reason of all is that we are worried about being judged. Or, we think everyone else knows more about money than we do - so we hesitate to talk about it at all.

But you know what's funny? Almost everyone thinks that they know less than others about money! So money ends up being an avoided subject simply because you think everyone else thinks it's taboo, and because you think that everyone else knows more about it than you.

MONEY TALKS

If you're reading this and realizing that you don't like talking about money, that's okay. I hope it's clear to you that it's pretty common. Recognizing that within yourself is the first step. The next step is trying to identify what makes you dislike talking about finances.

But the solution is simple: just start talking about money. Talk about it more with friends. Discuss it more often with your spouse or partner. Next time you're with someone you're close to - who you know won't judge you, if it makes it easier - go out on a limb. Find a way to mention how much you make if your job comes up, or the cost of your recent vacation if someone asks what you've been up to.

While doing that may take you out of your comfort zone, you will find that with each passing instance of intentionally talking about money, you will gradually release your own personal stigma about it.

TURNING MONEY AVERSION INTO MONEY EMPATHY

Why is it so important to become more comfortable discussing money? For one, talking about it more keeps you thinking about it more often. Consequently, you'll be more likely to be thinking about your financial decisions.

For another, we are powerfully affected by the social cues we pick up in conversing and interacting with others. To a large extent, we don't realize how much social interactions shape our attitudes and thoughts about things. If we make a concerted effort to bring the topic of money into conversations, we'll begin to feel less inept with our money, because we'll realize that we fit right in with how most people feel about it.

Here's my invitation: don't be in the 77% of Americans that don't talk about their financial stress. Share it with someone. You'll be surprised how much we can relate to each other, and empathize with one another's experiences. The more you talk about money, the less power it has over you, and the better you can manage it to achieve your goals.

DON'T LET MONEY AVERSION HURT YOU

The biggest danger to disliking money conversation, of course, is that there's a deeper issue of wanting to avoid planning your finances well altogether. Procrastination is the biggest enemy to financial success. The later you get a handle on your money, the longer it takes you to build net worth. And if you don't know how much it kills you to not save and invest money as early as possible, it's time for you to learn.

If you've felt like you need help with your finances but you've been procrastinating at getting help, don't wait any longer. Reach out and talk to a professional. As few as 5% of Millennials reach out for expert advice, despite your 20's and 30's being the most critical time period of financial decision-making.

To live in Wealth Mode, you've got to be able to discuss money comfortably, even if it's with yourself, in the form of setting time aside to conscientiously plan your finances. Ask yourself if your money is accomplishing for you what you'd like it to. If it's not, ask yourself again if you fear, dislike, or avoid talking about money. If needed, start your "aversion therapy" by just learning to think and talk about it more.

Fear breeds discomfort. Discomfort leads to avoidance. Avoidance leads to procrastination, a delay in necessary action. And you can't afford to delay planning your finances. You can't afford to not talk about it.

Dumbledore wasn't talking about money with Harry, but his wisdom applies. If you don't fear speaking of finances, you won't fear taking action on it.