Some topics are just not discussed in polite company. Sex, politics, religion, and money are usually deemed inappropriate subjects at the office water cooler or around the dinner table. Though these conversational taboos have their place, silence isn’t always golden.
According to Kathleen Burns Kingsbury, founder of KBK Wealth Connection and author of Breaking Money Silence®, money is the most awkward conversation topic of all. Kingsbury asserts that 44% of Americans say their personal financial situation is the most difficult topic to discuss with loved ones, ranking above death, politics, and religion in its unpleasantness.
Many people would rather suffer in silence than discuss a personal financial predicament and endure the shame associated with having financial problems or making bad financial decisions. People like to be seen as responsible and successful. In American culture, money plays a big part not only in how we see ourselves but in how we want others to see us both in our personal and professional lives.
Often money silence isn’t broken until risk of foreclosure, wage garnishment, utilities being turned off, repossession or the impending death of a loved one is imminent.
The fear of bad money decisions being exposed is akin to the fear an adolescent feels after banging up his parents’ car. He’s scared. He can’t bear the shame or the angry reaction he’s sure the truth will cause. A wise parent, however, is not afraid to capitalize on a banged-up bumper or expensive speeding ticket to teach responsible driving habits. In the same way, discussing financial matters, even bad financial decisions and unhappy financial predicaments, can open the door to financial literacy.
Financial literacy is having the knowledge necessary to make informed financial decisions. It means understanding how taxes work, and how to manage a budget, pay bills and save for the unexpected. It also means preparing for long-term goals like paying for college and investing and planning for retirement, as well as knowing how to buy a home and even how to avoid financial scams. Financial wellness is the ability to make healthy financial decisions. People who are financially literate are more likely to be financially well.
Unfortunately, a study by the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Foundation estimated that nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test. The prognosis isn’t good. The study revealed that Americans have low levels of financial literacy and difficulty applying financial decision-making skills to real-life situations. It appears most Americans don’t rate very high on the financial wellness spectrum, which means there are probably lots of financial predicaments not being talked about.