Today I am sharing a guest post from Octopus Wealth – it seems that us Brits are still shy when it comes to talking money.
Britain’s biggest taboo — politics? Religion? Sex? Or…money?
Most of us have been brought up in a culture where mum’s the word when it comes to money. We keep our finances to ourselves, we avoid discussing our salaries at all costs, and we wouldn’t dare ask someone else how much they earned. That would just be rude.
Lloyds has recently launched a nationwide campaign on the topic in a bid to get people talking about their finances, as it seems we’d rather talk about anything else other than how much we’ve got in the bank. (No surprise there).
But why is it that so many of us struggle with the M-word? And what are the repercussions of keeping quiet about our financial concerns, or flying blind when it comes to planning for the future? Potentially many and serious, as it turns out.
It could pay to open up. And in ways you might not even imagine…
Too much or too little?
Whatever the case, money has a way of making us feel genuine embarrassment when we start talking about it.
You’re on contracted hours in a job you love, but you’re struggling to pay the bills each month. You can’t afford to splash out on overpriced sushi or £15 cocktails each week like some of your friends can. It’s embarrassing to discuss your financial concerns with your high-flying peers.
You’ve unexpectedly come into a sizeable amount of money through a late relative. It’s enough to make a real difference to your life, yet you feel a pang of guilt as you haven’t earned your money ‘the hard way’. You’re excited about the future, but don’t want to talk to those around you about your windfall — will you be judged?
You’ve just been promoted at your well-paid job — congrats! You’ve got a nice raise along with it (even better) but you’ve got a bad case of imposter syndrome and are feeling more insecure than ever about how much you’re earning. Do you deserve it?
In any scenario, add in some feelings of shame, a dash of guilt, and a heavy measure of anxiety and you’ve created the perfect ‘let’s-not-talk-about-it’ cocktail.
What does “wealth” mean to you?
I’d argue that one of the reasons we keep schtum around the subject of money, is that ‘wealth’ is extremely subjective. Maybe if there was a universal answer, things would be a lot easier. You’d either be wealthy, or you wouldn’t. And everyone would be held to the same standards.
But there isn’t. Perhaps owning two cars, a second property and not having too many financial woes keeping you up at night is your idea of comfortable living. Yet, to your neighbour, it’s a life of luxury.
The reason we begin to sweat a little when talking about our finances is because ultimately we’re not sure if we have enough, or too much, according to what society tells us — and more importantly, our peers.
In the age of comparison, we’re never really holding ourselves to our own standards, but those of the people around us. Our own image of what wealth looks like might have been distorted by the underlying drive to ‘have more’ — even if we’re living like kings to others.
The monetary mental load
The impact that bank balances can have on people is enormous. It can be the catalyst for experiencing poor mental and even physical health.
And it’s hard not to let the pounds and pennies rule the roost when we consider the influence that money has over every aspect of our lives. As the world becomes ever-more fast-paced and ‘on-demand’, money is becoming an increasingly ‘always on’ concern. It’s everywhere, and it’s unavoidable.
The social norm to keep quiet about our financial concerns isn’t helping things either. Perhaps if we could shake the money taboo and open up a little more, fewer of us would be carrying a mental burden in silence. We’d have the courage to ask for help when we needed it. We’d be encouraging others to do the same. And we’d be making strides towards a more open society where the ‘M-word’ doesn’t cause us to immediately change the subject as soon as it’s brought up.
Talking with transparency
Aside from giving your mind a well-deserved break from incessant number crunching, opening up might actually bring some financial rewards, too.
Have you ever thought about when you’d like to retire? Whether you can afford to send your kids to university? If or when can you pay off your mortgage? Or if you can afford to go on that once-in-a-lifetime holiday next year?
Burying your head in the sand about how much you’ve got tucked away isn’t going to answer any of them. Transparency, on the other hand, can help you kick-start planning and saving towards some of the big events in you and your family’s family future.
Your retirement isn’t going to plan itself. But saving into a pension as soon as you can means you’ll have a little more to play with when you finally hang up your boots, rather than relying on the state pension alone (up to £168.60 per week or £8,767.20 annually).
And more importantly, what if the unexpected were to happen? Would your family be covered? Could you support yourself and loved ones if you had to stop working due to illness? Are your children going to be hit by a sizeable Inheritance Tax bill if you haven’t got your affairs in order?
Life is full of unexpected surprises. If you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be for what might be around the corner, it’s time to rip off the plaster and start planning early.
Breaking the money taboo won’t happen overnight. After all, we’ve spent our whole lives believing that the proper etiquette for talking about money is to not talk about it at all.
(And it may just be a British thing — many Scandinavian countries take the opposite approach entirely. Salaries are made public and attitudes to wealth are surprisingly open.)
But in order to lift the mental load that so many of us carry, and to ultimately plan for what’s ahead, it could pay to talk.
Mum’s not always the word when it comes to money.