The Money Taboo: Breaking the Taboo – Part 2

Missed Part 1 - Find it here.

How can we change?

Follow our Youth. Our young people seem to be a lot less concerned about privacy on many levels, as seen by the gravitation towards the You-Tube and social-networking phenomena. While I am less likely to adapt to some of the freedom on those networks, personal finance blogs provide a forum for financial education and some confessions, allowing folks to talk about their problems, issues and plans with anonymity. A few blogs have gone overboard, giving excruciating personal finance detail, but we won’t complain. This is a step in the right direction to breaking money’s taboo status.

Financial Literacy. We all more than ever have to take responsibility for our own financial future, become financially literate and financially mature. If we aren’t financially savvy, we should seek out people in our group who are. Folks, who may have made a money mistake or two in the past, might be happy to pass on that information to you to avoid repetition of the error. We often by pass receiving that good information because we are afraid to broach the subject, and possibly show our lack of knowledge. Until we make the move however, we are destined to remain financially illiterate.

Managing our money wisely really requires that we become educated about it. Start talking about your money to your friends. Start a “money-group.” Use it to foster discussions about all aspects of your money. Talk about the fact that , e.g. there is a universal clause on most credit cards, which can raise the rates on all of your cards, if you are late on one card, it allows your other cards, if they so choose, to raise their rates, even if you are current and early on those other card payments. Think about it, if you fell into that trap, why allow your friends to fall in too. In this particular example, it is possible that if you are unaware of the clause – and you are not the type to check your interest rate each month (a lot of folks simply look at the due date and the payment due) you may not realize for several months that your interest rate has been hiked sky high, sometimes to 30%, and you have been taken for a pretty expensive ride. After all, as far as you knew, you are current on those accounts.

Why talk about it? It can be financially beneficial. Almost 2 decades ago, in a general conversation with a friend of mine, we started talking about our properties (my first home purchase) and as we talked, I realized that I had not been taking advantage of the homestead deduction on my property taxes, for probably 5 years. Now I am quite the reader, so it is certainly probable that at some point I would have come across that information, but it could have taken another 5 years. It should be noted, however, that as a student of “continuous improvement,” I am happy to talk about anything, particularly if it will ultimately improve my process or yours. My friend also did not consider money talk as taboo, and both of us came out of that conversation a little better off financially.

Talking about money could help you determine that what you thought was an excellent compensation package is not so wonderful after all. Of course, because no-one will talk, nobody really knows what the measurement gauge is. Be careful on this front, as some companies still have policies that prohibit salary disclosure among employees.

By not talking we often make money comparisons based on presumptions or specific misinformation, and cause ourselves more stress and financial problems than we really need to. If we try to keep up with the Joneses we often use debt to mirror a lifestyle that is financially out of our reach, but which we hanker for, because if it appears that our peers can afford it, we question, why can’t we? The ability to talk to someone about our finances, whether family, friend, clergy, or financial adviser about the instruments that we are thinking of using, can at the very least educate us, give us another idea, option, or can sound the alarm. Of course, there is no guarantee that anyone in your circle is anymore financially literate than you are, but two heads in my opinion is often better than one.

At some point, I am confident that we will come around to the realization that we carry around an unnecessarily huge burden when we isolate our money issues. The more we hide our money issues, the more problems or damage we are liable to cause ourselves. Actually as Shira Boss states in her book, most people are eager to hear the money details of others, they are just not that ready to share their own, and therein lies the rub, maybe we start by reverting to the childhood – "I’ll show you mine if you show me yours."

Share your opinion. How do you see it? Should money remain under our kimonos, or is it time to shake off the taboo?

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"No matter who you are, making informed decisions about what you do with your money, will help build a more stable financial future for you and your family." Alan Greenspan