Last week I read a really honest post by Carly Findlay about her experiences with debt and mismanaging her finances. Carly wrote that she felt vulnerable admitting she had previously been financially irresponsible and that the experience was embarrassing. I applaud Carly for her honesty and think we could all benefit from breaking down the taboo of talking about money.
For a long time it has been considered distasteful to discuss how much money you earn or have. It’s impolite to ask how much someone takes home or how much their house/car/boat costs. I understand this to a point. It’s private information and can lead to judgment and envy. But in an age of increasing personal debt, you have to wonder if we’re all doing ourselves a disservice by being so secretive.
The idea of keeping up with the Jones’ is nothing new. The grass often looks greener when you don’t know what it takes to keep up appearances. We now live in a time where there are more products and gadgets than ever. Everyone owns a mobile phone but that is no longer enough. You must have a computer at home and a tablet for when you’re out and about. We’re being advertised at constantly. It’s not enough for companies to try and show us their wares via a television ad. Now we are offered to sign up to their email list so they can bombard us with digital correspondence about their latest bargains. How are we all affording to live in a society like this?
I have a few friends who have found themselves in a bit of financial strife. This information has only been revealed to me well after the fact due to shame and embarrassment. The sad part is that none of it has occurred due to redundancies, medical issues, becoming a caregiver or any of the other curveballs life can throw at you. No, this is due to personal loans and credit cards. Some have just liked shopping, some have wanted to go on a holiday they couldn’t afford, and others wanted brand new furniture as opposed to second-hand goods. The issue is that they all spent freely at the time like it was money they had earned, as opposed to a debt that was beyond their means to pay back.
I’m also no shining example when it comes to finances. I’ve never been in trouble but I’ve certainly purchased things on credit that were not essential. Luckily these loans were something I could pay back, at the time, anyway. I’m not sure what I would have done if I suddenly lost my job. My point is that it seems like many people are creating an illusion about what they can afford. Items and experiences are secretly purchased on credit and others purchase similar items and experiences on credit just to try and keep up. But it’s all in secret. We’re all fooling each other into thinking we’re better at managing our finances than we are. And it’s got to stop.
Do you think we should talk more openly about our finances? What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?