A survey of 1,202 adults completed by Los Angeles-based Capital Group found that Americans would rather discuss marriage problems, mental illnesses, drug addictions, racial issues, sex, politics, and religion than their finances.
Only 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women had reported discussing financial topics with friends and peers in the last month. The most commonly identified taboos were household earnings (39 percent), retirement savings (28 percent), and debt (32 percent). Women were more likely to list financial topics as taboo, but they were also more likely to discuss finances with a partner or financial advisor.
Millennials (defined in this survey as those currently aged 21 to 37) were more likely to seek advice from family and peers than older generations. However, Gen Xers (aged 38-52) and Baby Boomers (aged 53-71) were more likely to seek advice from a financial advisor or discuss finances with their partner.
That millennials are more open to discussing finances and methods of creating wealth with the people they know is a good sign and perhaps bolstered by the internet’s influence. Refinery29, a popular website geared towards female millennials, publishes daily “money diaries” that give insight into one woman’s week of purchases. Each money diary begins with their mission statement: “We’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money.”
The diary reads as part-QuickBooks and part-voyeuristic narrative, which often sparks a healthy debate in the comment section on what constitutes a “good” budget. The authors of the money diaries frequently chime in to answer questions that are raised by their diaries--why their rent is such a large percentage of their income or how they split finances with their partner. Because the diarists and commenters are anonymous, this both protects the diarists from perceived consequences of discussing their personal choices openly but also does provide more freedom for commenters to exercise their judgement. Overall, the community does strive to be supportive and encourages women to discuss finances more freely in their offline lives.
To break the taboo of financial discussions, it is great to see more and more mediums encouraging such discussions. There are a number of financially related podcasts that have regular followings, not to mention the hugely successful programs run by Suze Orman (until recently) and Dave Ramsey. To challenge the taboo, people should continue these discussions, seek professional financial advice, take advantage of financial assistance and resources offered by their employers, and visualize their lives in retirement to allow for effective financial planning.
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