How Not Talking About Money Is Keeping Us All Broke

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Do you know how much money your friends make as a salary? I don’t mean acquaintances, but close friends that you talk to about everything.  I am talking about the people you would call if your mother got sick or if you need some emotional or personal advice. Would you ask them for advice if you had financial trouble, or before you got a new credit card? Do your parents know how much your salary is? The answer is often ‘”No.” There seems to be some irony to how we address private matters of sex, relationship, and other serious life choices with our close friends but rarely, if ever, talk about money.

It’s not because we have it all figured out, it’s not because we are making all the money we need, and it’s not because we don’t know people that can offer us good advice. In most cases it is because we are maintaining this veil of secrecy about how well we are all doing financially. We all see the cars that our  friends have, and we see their homes, we all  think we have a general sense of how a person is doing based on the status symbols we see.  These things are not real indicators of  income, wealth or financial health. Not at all.

Some of us are living paycheck to paycheck, with past due bills, and horrible credit. There are others of us that have Roth IRA accounts, bonds, savings plans, and a credit score that is high enough to be a decent batting average. This really has less to do with income but more to do with how we are spending our money. When we have conversations about careers and what parts of the city to live in, that conversation is always underlying and we need not ignore it.

As we encourage each other to live more creative, fulfilling, and expressive lives it is also important to encourage sustainable financial decisions. There is a distinct advantage some of us have that is not being shared within the creative community. We tend to be less focused on the economics of life, but ignoring the financial systems at play doesn’t make them any less real. To be invested in maintaining healthy personal finances does not make you greedy. The more we avoid candid conversations about money the more we allow these financial systems to continue operating without our input. The nickels and dimes add up, so do all those dinners, and movies but it is not something we talk about. Consumer culture is not something we need to participate in to have meaningful relationships or rich experiences. Our individual choices impact our social group, community, and creative economy.

We talk about impacting the education system, and we talk about being free to express ourselves. Let’s also talk about how to make our money work for us. Let’s talk about interest rates, and tax returns, and spending less.As Gen-Y moves into the age of home owner ship and more of us own our own business these conversations become more relevant but there is no reason why they haven’t always been. Not everyone has family to reach out to, and even those that do should be informed about what their money is doing.

For some of us, that big break is on the way, the big promotion is imminent no that it really matters. There are tons of high paid celebrities that fall into money trouble because of the same things we all do, but on a larger scale. I am not saying that everyone you meet needs to know what’s in your wallet, but we can do better than we are doing. It can only serve us to be more open about our financial health. We should be aiming to increase our collective knowledge broadly. Without it, the rich keep getting richer and we just keep running the rat race.

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