Why don’t we talk about money?

There are certain topics that we all understand not to bring up in certain situations; sex, religion, and politics. Discussing those things with strangers, recent acquaintances, and work colleagues is inappropriate. 

But there is another subject seemingly so taboo that many of us dare not bring it up even with our closest friends, family members, and sometimes even our partners. What is this subject that shall not be named? Money. Our finances seem to be the final frontier of taboos. But refusing to discuss this important topic isn’t doing anyone any favors. So it’s time to break down the barriers that prevent us from talking about money. Let’s end the money taboo. 

You Have No Idea

Think you know a lot about your partner? Quick, how much money do they earn? You don’t know? You’re not alone. Fidelity did a study showing that 34% of couples who live together, married or not, can’t answer that question. 

Do you know how much your co-workers make? Probably not. You might even think it’s forbidden to ask. And perhaps your employer has told you it’s forbidden to ask. That’s untrue, and it’s illegal for an employer to punish or fire an employee for discussing their salary. 

A lot can go over our heads as kids, and we only realize certain things in hindsight. That may be true of the financial situation you grew up in. At the time, you probably had no idea that your parents were struggling financially and how much they sacrificed to give you the things you had and wished they could do more. You can see those things as an adult. 

Money is often the elephant in the room. We can see it, the others can see it, you know they see it, and they know you see it. But no one talks about it. 

Why Money?

If you’ve watched even five minutes of reality television, you know there are people out there who will talk about anything, the most personal, embarrassing stuff imaginable. But money is rarely discussed, at least not until those tabloid denizens have no other choice because they’ve had to file for bankruptcy which is a matter of public record. 

So why are we so hesitant to talk about money? Sometimes there are pretty clear answers. Couples don’t discuss money because it causes fights. Money is the second most common reason couples fight behind cheating. 

Employers don’t want employees discussing salary because it could lead to those being underpaid demanding more. Thanks to sites like Glassdoor, salary information is less opaque than it used to be, even if your colleagues remain tight-lipped, though. 

And of course, parents don’t want to worry their children about money. 

But why do we not discuss money with our close friends and family member?


Money can be a shameful or embarrassing topic. If we don’t earn a lot or have a lot of debt, we may feel ashamed. Or maybe we have a lot of cash sitting in a savings account. We know that’s not the best thing to do with that money but investing seems so complicated, and we don’t want to make a mistake and lose our money. We feel embarrassed we don’t know more. 

Maybe we have a ton of student debt, and we didn’t even graduate or did graduate but decided for whatever reason to work in a field not related to our degree, so all of that debt is “for nothing.”

And money is so much more than a number. In our society, money is power, status, happiness, work ethic, and in a warped way, even morality. Being poor can be seen as lacking those things. 

Whatever the reason, we’re often ashamed of our money situation, and that’s why we don’t talk about it. 

Secrets Make Us Sick

The phrase “secrets make us sick” is most often heard in the worlds of addiction and recovery, but it applies elsewhere too. Shame is what creates secrets. When we feel shame about something, we don’t like to talk about it with others. And when we don’t talk about things, we can’t get help for them

Money secrets can make us sick too. The American Psychological Association conducted a survey that found 72% of Americans reported feeling stress over money at least some of the time in the prior month. 

Secrets and the stress they cause can hurt us mentally, physically, and emotionally. Stress over finances has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, migraines, sleep problems, depression, and more. 

Open Up

How do we overcome the money taboo? We talk about it. I know! But hear me out. You don’t have to get down to the nitty-gritty. You don’t have to disclose exact numbers. You don’t have to tell anyone exactly how much you make or how much debt you have. You can be vague. 

Let’s say you have credit card debt. A great way to tackle that can be a personal loan. Ask friends and family if they’ve ever taken a personal loan, where did they go, what is a reasonable interest rate? You don’t have to say what the loan is for. If they ask and you don’t feel comfortable admitting it’s for debt, tell them you’re considering doing some home renovations. It’s a start!

If you have a friend or family member who seems money-savvy, ask them what kind of investments they have. That’s not a prying question. You’re not asking how much they have invested or how much their investments have made. It’s a pretty general question. 

Student loans have been in the news lately. Ask friends or family members who’ve been to college if they plan to apply for loan forgiveness. 

All you have to do is start the conversation. People will be forthcoming. They really will. You’re not the only one with financial stress, other people experience it too or have in the past, and you’ll be surprised how eager they are to discuss it and offer any advice they may have. So break the money taboo for yourself and those around you. We can benefit when dark things come into the light. 

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