Money has long been one of society's most protected taboos.
Hands up if you remember being told it was rude to ask how much something cost? Or had one of those weird incomprehensible conversations about money where you’re trying to express a situation without actually using any numbers?
Your silence and secrecy around money might simply be a result of others around you not talking about it. But, for some people, a distinctly icky feeling arises whenever money is mentioned.
So, why is money such a taboo?
Also by Emma Edwards:
Money taboos conceal inequalities
There are many speculations about why money has always been such a taboo subject. Some suggest that revealing how much money you have means revealing your value in comparison to others. In a hustle and productivity-obsessed culture, that makes sense.
On top of that, avoiding talking about money conceals the inequalities and inequities in a society, which makes it easier for those with financial privilege to turn a blind eye to realities outside of their own.
Talking about money begins to dismantle these outdated societal standards and shines a light on the financial gaps that continue to widen in our society.
Talking about salaries could highlight gender, racial and disability pay gaps
A newly imposed ban on pay-secrecy clauses in Australia could see a significant shift in financial conversations, as companies can no longer prohibit their employees from discussing salaries.
With gender, racial and disability pay gaps still leaving marginalised groups worse off, openness about pay in the workplace is more critical than ever. But banning secrecy is only the first step. We need to get more comfortable speaking openly about money on a personal level.
Talk money with friends, family and peers
Opening the conversation about money doesn’t have to mean going from total secrecy to printing your salary and savings balance on a business card. It’s not always easy to open up about something that feels vulnerable, or that brings up emotions like guilt, shame or fear.
Instead, we can start shifting the way we think about money in conversations, and start opening up slowly to people we know we can trust – and that’s not always the people you’re closest to.
Talking to coworkers about money (or self-employed peers if you work for yourself) is actually a great place to start. By talking about money in the context of the workplace or business, you’re giving yourself a bit of distance from the emotions of your personal finances, and doing so with someone you already have a commonality with.
Gentle ways to ease into being open about money
The new year is a great time to start gently cracking the door on money conversations with people around you. You could ask your friends if they have a money goal they’re working on this year, or share one of yours.
Depending on your communication style, you could be more direct and tell people you’d like to talk about money more and share the benefits of doing so.
Perhaps you simply start being a bit more specific when having conversations that covertly involve money. Instead of skirting around the money stuff with things like, “Oh, I’ve got a lot on at the moment” or, “We’re cutting back a bit” or “I’m interviewing for a new job that’s more money than I’m on now, not loads more but a bit more”, try being more specific.
“I’m really sticking to a budget at the moment as I really want to pay off the last $5,000 on my car loan.” “I’ve got a great job interview and it’ll mean a $25k pay increase so I’d be on $90k, which would really help as our mortgage repayments have jumped up by $1,000 a month!”
Starting to add numbers to your conversations can begin to plant the seed of more openness around money, and can help you temperature check how comfortable people feel about money stuff.
Go easy on yourself when being more financially open
Talking about money can bring up a lot of emotions, especially around self worth. You might find some wounds come up when you discuss money, or just a general sense of unease at the thought of someone knowing about your finances, or learning that someone has substantially more or less than you.
It’s important to be gentle with yourself. Notice any areas that feel a bit tender during these conversations – there could be more to unpack there.