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  • Writer's pictureZachP

#38. Talking About Money Is Taboo. Let’s Change That

I can not remember if I was taught to avoid talking about money or if it was learned on my own.

No matter which one is true, the majority of others feel the same way about money. In society, you may talk about certain aspects of money, such as how you want more of it. However, the moment something comes up that aims to find out how you spend your money, fear and uneasiness sets in.

A lot of these feelings are understandable. Caring about what others think of you is natural. If a person is living paycheck to paycheck, the last thing that person would want to do is confront what they are actually spending their money on. Especially if it meant that others knew this information as well.

Let us take a non-financial example to see how being open about a subject could benefit you and others in the long run.

Other than the saying "I do not have enough money to invest," another common phrase is, "I do not have enough time in a day." Both of these statements may be true for you, but until you determine how your time is being spent, you should not make such a general statement.

So let us take the "I do not have enough time in a day" example to see if being open about the topic may be beneficial.

Example: Charlie is married with no kids. He works a physically demanding job from 6:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. five days a week. After work, he goes straight to the gym. He gets home everyday at 5:00 p.m. He eats dinner, relaxes with his wife, and showers. He is generally in bed by 10:00 p.m.

Charlie is asked by a friend to start a side business together. Charlie listens to his friend, but he is only thinking about how he does not time to start a side business. He chooses to ignore most of his friend's pitch because he has already determined he does not have the extra time.

Over the next five years, his friend's business grows every year. By year five, he is profiting north of $500k a year.

If Charlie would have done the proper analysis on how much extra time he had, things may have been different.

Instead of making the blanket statement, "I do not have enough time in a day," Charlie should have said, "I only have my weekends and five hours per weekday to relax, and I do not want to spend it on starting a business." This sort of honest (although uncomfortable) response would have created a dialogue with his friend that could have resulted in a different outcome.

Charlie may have made the right decision for his life at that time, but he should not have made the decision solely based on "lack of time" without doing a deeper dive. Being honest with his friend could have changed that.

If Charlie realized "time" was not as big of obstacle as he thought it was, he may have given his friend's pitch more consideration.

How in the world does this relate to the title? Trying to make talking about money less taboo?

Just like the above time example, people will say "I do not have enough money to invest" and leave it at that.

Again, this may be true, but if you do not know how every dollar is being spent, you can not make this general statement.

If you do not think you make enough money to invest, try the following with a friend who is willing to listen.

First, tell your friend what you spent money on last month. This will take time and require you to find your prior bank and credit card statements.

Now, have two colors of pens while you are going through your bank and credit card statements. One color you will mark things that are non-essential purchases. With the other color, you will mark things you are too embarrassed to share with your friend (trust me, there will be at minimum two or three purchases that fall into this category).

After you are done going through everything, add up all the marked purchases. Then, tell your friend this - "It is not that I do not have enough money to invest, it is just that I would rather spend my extra [insert total amount of marked purchases] on these other discretionary items than investments."

This sort of open dialogue forces you to confront any spending issues you may have. You might not start investing immediately, but being honest about your money and spending habits puts you one step closer to "paying yourself first."

Final Thoughts

People often default to comparison mode. This results in caring more about a person's appearance rather than what is beneath the surface. If you are comparing yourself to your rich-acting neighbor, you will be more likely to mimic their outwardly lifestyle.

Comparison mode makes being open and honest difficult. In an ideal world where people would more openly talk about money, you could learn one of two things from your rich-acting neighbor. One, your neighbor actually lives paycheck to paycheck and spends all their money on material things. Or, two, your neighbor is actually wealthy, and they share with you how they achieved such wealth.

Both of these outcomes reached through open and honest communication would leave both neighbors better off.

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