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Why not break the money taboo?

Marketplace Staff Jan 1, 2008

Why not break the money taboo?

Marketplace Staff Jan 1, 2008


TESS VIGELAND: The holiday shopping season is, blessedly, over. You know what that means — the credit-card bill is in the mail. Retailers are moaning over the fact that sales from Thanksgiving to Christmas only rose 3.6 percent over last year. But they still rose. And that means we all probably spent more than we should have. So next time you go out with your friends, will you share with them that you’re clamping down on your own spending? Commentator Shira Boss says a lot of us would profit from talking about our money issues.

SHIRA BOSS: Money is known as “the last taboo.” We’re more likely to know about our friends taking anti-depressants than to know about their dreaded credit card balances.

Why is this? Well, as my eighth-grade teacher used to say about a lot of things, it’s “rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.”

But since we seem to have lost our manners in many other areas, why be so proper when it comes to personal finances?

I think it comes down to fear. If we ask, we might have to tell. We might have to admit that we’re in financial trouble.

We’re also afraid of not fitting in. Who wants to be the one who speaks up at a group dinner and says, “I’d rather not order wine, actually . . . ” Why does it seem like everyone else can always afford it?

The fact is, anxiety over money is much more common than we realize.

More Americans are going bankrupt than are getting divorced — but bankrupt families can’t find one another and talk it out, because we’re too ashamed to admit money trouble.

So why not break the money taboo? It’s only adding to our stress. Let’s speak up about our envy, be honest about what we can’t afford and wonder out loud how our neighbors paid for that weekend trip to Paris.

I like to put it as, “Wow, how long did you have to save up for that?”

Open the door a bit and see what you find out. Even if it’s just a look on their faces that tells you they hadn’t saved.

You’re likely to learn that you’re not alone. After all, 70 percent of us report living paycheck to paycheck. At least you’ll discover the relief of honesty — and often get a reality check.

That’s a way we can improve our financial well-being, even before we make more money or pay off all our debts.

VIGELAND: Shira Boss is the author of the book “Green with Envy.”

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