Talk About Money, Without The Stigma
Updated: May 22, 2020
In today's society, we learn early on that it's unacceptable to ask about someone's financial situation. No one asks their co-worker how much they get paid, and you don't ask your neighbor if they have debt piling up. As a society, we are uncomfortable talking about money. The majority of people wouldn't know if some of their extended family members were prospering, or on the brink of bankruptcy.
During a time of financial crisis, we need to focus even more intently on our finances, and communication around our finances. Right now businesses all over the world are concerned about paying their employees. Meanwhile, employees are concerned about paying their bills.
Over the past several years, technology has given us more opportunities to discover and share financial information. Will the continuous rise of technology, coupled with a rising financial crisis, change the way people talk about money? And how can transparent conversations about finances improve our lives?
Can we remove the stigma around personal finances?
Why Is Money A Touchy Subject?
Let's begin by answering this question: Why is it so uncomfortable talking about money? The simple answer is that talking to people about your personal finances isn't the norm.
This stigma is found in all financial demographics: people are taught from a young age that it's rude to ask someone about their financial situation. Society deems it unacceptable to ask someone how much they get paid, how much their house costs, and how much debt they have.
This stigma is likely born out of fear. People are afraid that if their real financial situation was exposed, judgment would follow. If someone was found to be poor, it's because they're uneducated and irresponsible. The middle class would be seen as average, and not overly ambitious. And the wealthy are judged as being greedy and taking advantage of people.
Everyone fears that being transparent would lead to judgment from others. And that their character will be judged by their current financial situation.
This is why finances are the biggest source of stress in the lives of Americans, according to a recent study from Northwestern Mutual. And 1 in 5 people reported that money causes a disagreement with their significant other once a month. When something is a big source of stress, it's easier to avoid it altogether.
But there are clear issues that result from the money stigma. We are hurting ourselves by not having open conversations about our finances.
Conversations You Should Have Now
The current economic downturn is temporary. We will eventually see the economy return to normal. Restaurants will reopen, and paper products will be restocked. Now is certainly not the time to ignore financial wellness.
Communicate With Employees
If you have people on your payroll, you need to have conversations with them. Many businesses have slowed down if they haven't closed their doors, and employees are concerned about their future.
Now more than ever is an opportunity to connect with your employees and invest in their financial wellness. Right now, the public eye is looking at how employers are treating their employees. When companies make the decision to invest in their employees' financial situation, people notice.
This is a time when employers need to assure workers that they care about everyone’s finances. If work hours need to be cut, you don't want the remaining work hours to be spent worrying and being unproductive.
Having a conversation around finances, the status of their benefits, and what the future may look like, will benefit your company. Open communication will give your employees a confidence boost and assure them that you’re interested in their well-being.
Communicate With Your Family
Families need to be on the same page financially. It will always be a challenge to tell people that you're earning less money or that you've been furloughed for the rest of the month. While this is likely a temporary situation, adjustments are necessary. Getting on the same page with the people you live with makes the sudden financial changes easier to deal with.
How Technology Is Changing Society
Technology is creating great opportunities to have more open conversations about money and has already started changing the way we talk about money, and it will likely continue.
The first noticeable change was with real estate. Have you searched your favorite real estate application lately? It’s fantastically simple. You can look up an address and see what houses have sold for, or see current rent prices for thousands of apartments in one place. Before that was possible, you would drive around to each property hoping that they weren't overcharging.
In families, budgeting apps and online resources can help ensure everyone is on the same page about spending and saving. Transparency is a great way to reduce tensions because there are no surprises.
Where To Start
As technology continues to improve, more solutions will be made available. We believe that technology will be one of the keys that help everyone talk openly about money. Research shows potential savings of up to $3 for every $1 spent on financial wellness tools. And there is a clear connection between financial and physical well-being. Investing in great financial tools is a proven way to help you and those around you grow both financially and improve all-around health.
We've established that having conversations about money is uncomfortable. But, when you have clarity about things such as your upcoming bills, credit score, and where you stand in your company, you will have greater confidence. We urge you to take the first steps and start having some of those uncomfortable conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues today.