Howard Stern is known as the shock jock, but if you ever hear him interview celebrities you may be surprised that the questions most people are hesitant to answer revolve around money. Despite discussing other intimate topics, many of Stern’s guests become audibly uncomfortable as soon as finance is mentioned.
Clearly money is a topic that many people consider to be taboo. But why is it that in an age of over-sharing through social media and open forums, finances is still an off-limits subject?
Why Money’s Often Off the Table
In 1999 the Clinical Social Work Journal published a piece by Dr. Richard Trachtman that discussed how even psychotherapists rarely talked about money issues because of social taboos, despite the fact it’s an important part of everyday life. Dr. Trachtman points out that marriages, friendships, professions and social life are all directly affected by money.
But for decades the American culture has been engrained with the idea that it’s impolite to discuss how much you make or to ask others about their financial situation. Over time it has become stigmatized to the point that some people are reluctant to ask for financial help when they need it. It’s an unsavory subject because we’ve made it so. Finances are often connected to a host of negative emotions, embarrassment and insecurities, so it’s not something we want to talk about.
Because of the lack of discussion around it, we oftentimes also feel like we don’t understand money. This, of course, only increases avoidance of the subject, and the cycle continues.
The thing is, there are plenty of folks willing to help you break the cycle. That’s why we’re taking a look at financial mentors this month – tax month. To kickstart the taboo talk, here are four ways to take fear out of finance.
Four Ways to Take the Fear Out of Financial Discussions
1. Take a Financial Class – Community colleges, banks, credit unions and business groups all offer classes that cover a range of financial topics. In this environment it’s expected for people to discuss financial matters, however, it doesn’t have to be personal in nature. This is an excellent first step towards becoming more comfortable with discussing money matters with others – and possibly finding a long-term financial mentor. A financial class will also help you become more familiar with the topic so it doesn’t seem so foreign and frightening.
2. Have Family Meetings About Money – Gathering around the kitchen table with family members to create a budget each month is another way to talk about finances in a safe setting with people you trust. With each passing month you’ll become more accustomed to talking about money matters, and we all know practice makes perfect. Bonus: you can begin teaching your kids early on about the importance of tackling and talking about financial issues.
3. Get Acquainted with Your Net Worth – Too often we let our bank account rule our spending, investing and savings habits. Unfortunately, it’s our net worth that should dictate our financial decisions. This is why it’s so important to track and maintain your net worth. Time block to look at your finances on a weekly basis. You’ll be surprised how much you learn just by making time to focus on your numbers.
4. Find a Financial Mentor – A financial mentor that has a healthy relationship with money can help you learn to approach finances in a more positive way. Having the support of a trusted advisor that you can turn to when you have questions or need more information is enough for many of us to face our financial fears. Start with some well-known authors on the subject, develop a relationship with your CFO, find a group of friends and start an investment club, or make time to sit down with your CPA on a more regular basis.
What are some ways to break the financial ice you’ve had success in? Share them with us.