Money can be such a stressful topic. Talking about money can even be taboo among close friends and family members. Recently, at work I was having a conversation about why it is so difficult to get on the housing ladder. This led to me asking my co-workers the following questions: how much money do you save each month?
In my mind at the time it seemed like a pretty harmless question. The vibe in the room completely changed, I could feel that my question had caused tension within the group as everyone became quiet. Someone said “that is a personal questions”. I explained that I was asking for real numbers because I had just began saving and I just simply wanted to talk with others about saving money for the future. I was asking because I was hoping someone might share tips that I could use to better my savings skills. Someone made a comment that they are uncomfortable talking about money and that the subject of money should NEVER be randomly discussed. It became very clear that openly talking about money made some people feel anxious.
This got me thinking, why is the subject of money so sensitive? Why does talking about money have to be so secretive? Why is it a taboo amongst peers, friends and families? I then realised I was being a hypocrite since I personally had a hard time talking about money when I was facing financial problems after graduating from university. I became intrigued with the topic, I wanted to find out why the topic of money was a taboo in our society.
Although money is an integral part of our everyday life, the irony is nobody wants to talk about it. When I was doing some research on the topic, I found some interesting facts. A study conducted by University College London found that people were more likely to talk to a stranger about sex, affairs, and sexually transmitted diseases than discussing their salary. This was very surprising to me, many people are more willing to talk about their sex lives than talk about money. This just sounds crazy and unthinkable right! To many, money symbolises comfort and living with ease along with social status and wealth. However, what money symbolises can be a source that bring up scary issues of dependence and insecurity within people.
The main reason why people are sensitive about money is because we rightly or wrongly, think our success is judged based on how much money we are earning or have in the bank. The attitudes of friends and family or people around us also has an impact on how we view money. Personally, I grew up in a working-class single-parent family, we didn’t have a lot, and we just never really had a conversation about it. With my close friends we often discussed any personal experience including intimate secrets without thinking twice. I pretty much know every detail of their dating lives, political beliefs and greatest fears. We would talk about anything (every topic under the sun or moon) except our finances.
As a result, when I grew up and started university money talk always felt a little awkward and I always avoided the topic. I struggled with budgeting my money. I had a part time job which gave me a decent income but I never had proper budgeting skills or plan and could never stick to a budget. I ended up with a £2000 student overdraft even though I had a part time job. Although, £2000 might not sound like a lot of money, I started wondering how ended up owing this much money when I had a part time job. In last year of study while at university, I started to worry that I would work long hours every week for years and end up with nothing to show for it. I felt that I was going to grow old without any money in my savings account and could never have financial security.
After graduating from university things got worse, my financial situation was not improving which caused me a great deal of stress. It became obvious to me that the stress may begin to affect my mental health. I was feeling alone and scared that I was going to end up in debt. This is when I realised my financial situation had to change because it might spiral out of control. I didn’t want that to happen, so I made a brave decision and managed to summon enough courage to talk to close friends about my financial situation. After opening to them about my financial situation and how I was feeling during an emotional conversation, my situation dramatically improved. I admitted to myself and my friends that I had gone over my budget and I had accumulated over £2000 in overdraft. I couldn’t afford to spend money needlessly and I had to cut some costs down otherwise I could end up in debt. I explained that I had to lay low for the next few months to improve my financial situation.
Surprisingly, it started a dialogue between us and I received a lot of support from them. Everyone chimed in with similar experiences and opened up, about their own financial situations (we surprisingly found it easier to exchange strategies and we even spoke about the exact amount we were earning vs our outgoings). One friend was proactive in helping me create a budget and setting financial goals. We went through my income and how much I was spending. From this he then helped me analyse which cost I should cut as well as setting short term goals to pay off my overdraft as quickly as possible.
One friend explained his struggle paying off paying off her credit card. This helped with putting my mind at ease that I wasn’t the only person in the world experiencing money issues. We shared a lot of information between us, ‘there was so much to learn from each other’. We even started doing research together and sharing ideas on how we can build our finances.
Since talking about money with my friends it has not only helped me improve my budgeting skills, it has helped me improve my financial situation to the point that I have managed to pay off my student overdraft and I have been saving regularly for more than a year.
Although I have managed to improve my financial management skills, to this day I have never understood why I had waited so long to open up about what I was going through financially. If I had talked to someone about it early the problem could have been prevented before it started causing me stress. I wouldn’t have ended up feeling alone and scared about my financial situation. I’m forever thankful for the help and support I received from my friends.
Thinking back to my teenage days, I would have benefited from a few conversations about money to prepare me for what was ahead in the adult world. I feel that not talking about money when I was young didn’t make me think about the importance of managing money. This was one of the reasons I was not able to develop financial management skills and knowledge needed to budget my income properly. If i had a conversation about the importance of managing money I would’ve probably made fewer mistakes or even saved more money which would have possibly given me some sort of financially security by now.
I recommend you talk about money with people you trust. This will help you learn more about how other people value money, they might have strategies that will help you improve your money management skills. It can also be helpful to hear what others are going through.There was so much to learn from each other.
If you are not comfortable talking about money with your family or you don’t even know where to start, there are dedicated financial experts who deal with this stuff for a living who can help you. Find a professional financial planner at sites like Money Advice Service or send messages on Instagram, Twitter or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will be happy share my experience and point you in the right direction. If you email me you will remain anonymous, I respect privacy and I won’t judge you either.
What about you? Are you experiencing or have you experienced any financial ups and downs? Is there anything specific that’s on your mind? Or that you’d like to read more about? We will be writing more about this topic, so let us know what you want to hear. Feel free to comment anonymously, if you’d like or drop us an email
If you are in financial difficulty or you are struggling with debt, make sure you seek expert advice. Visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.