- A taboo around money persists in America, according to a new Insider poll.
- Talking money with friends is unpopular across all generations, and more so among older Americans.
- Money is a sensitive topic, but discussing it can lead to better financial outcomes.
- This article is part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master your Money.
Even after a year in which personal financial hardship dominated the national conversation, results from Insider’s new Master your Money Pulse Poll suggest that Americans still aren’t comfortable discussing money with friends.
When asked which topics they regularly discuss with friends, each of the following outranked the topic of money: health, sex and relationships, politics, current events, and pop culture. The survey was conducted in May 2021 and included responses from 2,130 people 18 and older.
Although there is some variation among generations, the trend tracks across all age groups – Americans are most likely to talk about current events with their friends and least likely to bring up finances.
Old Americans say the are less likely to talk about money with friends:
- 47% of 18-to-34 year olds regularly discuss money
- 38% of 35-to-54 year olds regularly discuss money
- 25% of 55-to-74 year olds regularly discuss money
These results underscore a longstanding taboo around discussing personal finances in America. This “society-wide gag rule” exists at varying degrees, Joe Pinsker wrote in an article for The Atlantic, particularly between socioeconomic classes, genders, and cultures.
“Many Americans do have trouble talking about money – but not all of them, not in all situations, and not for the same reasons. In this sense, the ‘money taboo’ is not one taboo but several, each tailored to a different social context,” Pinsker wrote.
Talking about money can lead to better financial outcomes
Money is an uncomfortable, emotionally charged topic for a lot of people. If you feel like you’re lacking or not saving as much as you’ve been told to, there may be embarrassment or shame. If you feel like you’re doing well compared to what you know (or assume) of others’ situations, there might be a tinge of guilt.
The negative associations go on and on, so it’s no wonder most Americans aren’t chomping at the bit to discuss their bank balances, debt journey, or salary with their social circle. But this tendency to be tight-lipped can be more harmful than we realize, particularly when it comes to solving issues like equal pay and the racial wealth gap.
Interestingly, when it comes to asking for advice, a higher share of the Master your Money survey respondents said they go to friends than a financial planner – though most turn to relatives and financial websites.
The younger a person is, the data revealed, the more likely they are to ask friends or relatives for financial advice. As a person approaches their retirement years, they are more likely to get advice from a financial planner.
Working with a professional, such as a financial planner, coach, or therapist, can help you navigate your current money struggles and even uncover the deeper beliefs and attitudes holding you back from making progress. Data show people who seek help from an advisor are more likely to report happiness, confidence, and stability in their financial and personal lives compared to those who go it alone.