Listen Now! There are some money topics that no one wants to talk about. Find out how to get past these taboos to help lead to better financial outcomes.
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Hey, humans, I’m Michael Liersch, and this is the About Money Podcast, presented by Wells Fargo. I’m a behavioral scientist who loves openly discussing money to help humans better understand their money behaviors. By understanding our money behaviors, we all have the opportunity to make better money decisions.
We’re gonna have a lot of fun together, and start our first season with money taboos. For many of us, money was and still is a taboo topic to openly discuss. The question is why? We’re gonna address those taboos head on. And break through money silence. So we can all get closer to our money goals.
In this episode, we’re gonna ask ourselves what are the most taboo topics when it comes to money?
You might think to yourself, hmm, when it comes to taboo topics, what are the most uncomfortable things that people have on their minds? And I want to move away from the themes like money is gauche. Or the emotional discomfort. And get really specific.
What are the most popular taboos that really prevent people from talking about money? And this one comes to even money talk with people who are impacted by that information: How much I make. So that one’s very fascinating to me. So there’s research that shows that spouses and partners commonly don’t know how much each other make when it comes to a job or their income.
Another taboo topic that comes up – or a popular taboo, is how much do I have? And again, that could be with spouses and partners. It can be with family members. As many of you well know.
So many people don’t want their children to know how much, not only do they make but how much they have. And a big reason there is they don’t want potential beneficiaries or people who they might not have any interested in benefitting from that money beyond their life to know how much they have. Or to feel like they’re entitled to that money.
And then another taboo topic that comes up often is how much I can or can I not spend? So this one is extremely taboo. And you see it in environments like going out to dinner. Or gift-giving. It can be very challenging for people to say they can or can’t spend that kind of money. So oftentimes people move forward with those type of experiences silent, which can cause resentment or discomfort or, in some cases, financial distress.
And I’m sure many of you and I can relate this experience with gift-giving and the other example I gave, going out to eat, where, especially as a college student, I could not afford to do those things. But I did it anyway, because I just didn’t want to talk about not being able to. So those are some of the most popular taboos that we see.
And you might really think to yourself about why those taboos may be a good thing or a bad thing. And I would say it’s rare that those taboos can really be a good thing except in the following way: When you approach conversations like how much you make, how much you have, how much you can or cannot spend, there is something that we call the right amount of information at the right time. Meaning, you don’t really want to overshare, give more information that’s necessary. And you certainly don’t want to overshare at the wrong time.
So very common example of this is with children. Talking to your children perhaps about how much money you have, or how much money you make. There can be the wrong amount of information at the wrong time. So for example, if you have a five-year-old, telling them the entire details of your balance sheet, how much they may receive when you pass away. And how much money you earn on an annual basis. That may be information overload that really is very difficult for a five-year-old brain to contextualize. And I’m not saying that if you’ve done that that that’s a bad thing. But it can really be overwhelming. And it can potentially lead to risk of overwhelm for that human being.
So really thinking very deliberately about that information flow when you do it. And what information you’re communicating can be a very good thing. And that’s where taboos can actually check us a bit. You know, should I be talking about this or not?
Now, here is where taboos become a bit dangerous in these domains. When you think about how much you make, how much you have, how much you can or cannot spend. Not talking about it at all. Or not trying to find the right amount of information at the right time can lead to a lot of risk. And we covered a couple of them. Whether it be in terms of that information flow. Or even financial challenges that could be introduced like the example I gave around college. So you want to ask yourself what is the right amount of information at the right time?
But before you do that, the bottom line is you first have to ask yourself some questions. So I’m gonna give you those bottom line questions. And I encourage you to write these down and ask yourself these questions today. What this gets into is this idea of some self-talk about your money taboos. What’s holding you back? And – what could be the right amount of information to communicate at the right time to people.
So the first question I want you to write down and really answer it in your own time. It could either in your head, but I really prefer you to write it down on a piece of paper is: What is the number one job you want money to do for you? What is the number one job? And as you write that information down, I want you next to ask yourself what is holding you back from getting that job done? A reframe of that is what could you do to make sure that job gets done?
Next I want you write down do you feel you have enough? Just enough? More than enough? Or not enough to get that job done?
So I’m gonna give you some examples of answers here. So what I’ve heard some people say is the number one job they want money to do for them is to reliably provide for their lifestyle. Then when it gets to either what’s holding them back or what they could be doing more of, it commonly comes down to saving more, spending less. Really thinking about how deliberately they’re gonna use their financial resources to make sure they have enough and peace of mind for the rest of their life, and for the rest of the family members that they care about, their lives.
And then when it comes to this question of do you have enough? What some people say is they don’t know. In fact, many people say that. They don’t know if they have just enough or more than enough, or not enough.
And in fact, many people don’t even know where that money is. Which gets to the last question I want you to ask yourself: Who do you need to talk to this job about, and whether you have enough about? In order to assess whether you have enough financial resources to make sure you’re gonna be okay. To give you that peace of mind. To get that job done.
And when you think about who you need to talk to, don’t just think about a human being. Maybe it’s a system. Maybe it’s a financial statement. Where are you gonna get all that information, put it all together in one place so that you can really start thinking for yourself about whether or not you’re on a path to success.
So you’ve asked yourself those questions. You’ve gotten that information together. Now I want you to think about the actions you should take. What do you do next? So when it comes to what you do next, I want you to think about three things.
The first is, make sure you put that information in a safe place so that it’s secure. And that you can go back to it again and again and revisit it. And what I mean by revisit it, is say what information here has changed? What information has stayed the same in order to reach the progress or the job – progress to the job that I want to get done?
The second thing I want you to consider is involving or engaging the human beings that will be impacted by those decisions. By that job you want to get done. Maybe that’s a spouse or a partner. Maybe that’s children. Maybe that’s a parent or a grandparent. Who should be in those discussions? So you could all collaborate around the progress to getting to where you want to go with your money.
The last action I’d really encourage you to take is to think about each and every week. So when you think about each and every week, set a day. Maybe it’s a Sunday. Maybe it’s a Saturday. Maybe it’s a Monday. Wednesday. Whatever day that is. Set aside 30 minutes to focus on this information. And one incremental tiny action you can take to get closer to the job you want to get done with your money.
And in this way what you’ve done is at least for yourself started to overcome some of these most popular taboos around how much money you make. How much money you have. How much money you can or cannot spend, because by not talking about them with other people, what typically happens is people ignore that information in their own self talk. So what you’ve done is you’ve started that habit on your own, involved some other people in very deliberate ways. So you’re sharing the right amount of information at the right time in a very deliberate way, so you can get the job done you need to with your money.
And as you get that job done, what I hope you’ll see is that you start to normalize money. And by normalizing money, and normalizing money talk, what you can do is start to be inspired to do more and more and more. And those small incremental moves you take each and every week start to add up. And what you’ll find is you’ll want to spend more than 30 minutes. Maybe an hour. Maybe two hours. And in this way, it’ll help you achieve your financial goals, and lead you to better financial outcomes. And I can tell you I’ve done this in my own financial life. So I encourage you to do it in yours.
That was it for this episode of the About Money Podcast. Please email us with ideas or topics that you’d like us to address at AboutMoney@wellsfargo.com. If you really liked the episode, share it with your family, friends, or anyone who listens to podcasts. Wells Fargo About Money is produced by Wells Fargo. I’m Michael Liersch asking you to talk about money today.
This information is provided for educational and illustrative purposes only.
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