talking about money, how to talk about money, addressing financial issues

Money Talk Goes From Gauche to Gainful

November 27, 2008 03:56 PM
by Isabel Cowles
People have been increasingly open to discussing money in the last 50 years, a trend that may prove beneficial during the current economic crisis.

Money Talks, and so do People

People didn’t used to bring up money in polite conversation; now it’s all anyone can talk about—and some experts say it should be.

According to NPR, 50 years ago, public discussion of money was strictly taboo. But in the 1970s, the word “money” became part of the cultural dialogue. This occurred partly because of sharp increases in annual income between the 1950s and 1970s, as well as the introduction of new financial publications like Money magazine, an affiliate of Time magazine.

Another event that inspired economic conversation was the1978 congressional decision to allow contribution-based 401(k) plans, which prompted average American workers—who had until then relied on pre-determined retirement packages—to seek financial counsel. Suddenly, Americans were in charge of their own economic future, NPR explains.

Deena Katz, a professor of personal finance at Texas Tech University, told NPR that contribution-based retirement made people recognize that “they have to care more about their money than their advisers do. They realized that nothing is for sure anymore."

Indeed, recent evidence suggests that the more insecure the economic situation, the more inclined people are to discuss their personal finances. According to CNN, when people feel that their economic problems are the result of outside forces—like the mortgage crisis and credit crunch—they are more likely to discuss money openly.

Jodi R. R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting told CNN that in the past, no one would have told a stranger, "My credit card company is really sticking it to me," because it would reflect badly on their money-managing abilities. But when the blame lies elsewhere, people are more open. “There's a general consensus that the blame lies on either the banks, the government, the mortgage brokers, but ‘it's not my fault that I am in this situation,"' Smith elaborated.

In fact, openly discussing personal finances may be a healthy way of dealing with the current crisis. CNN explains that keeping financial troubles a secret can often prevent people from seeking necessary financial advice.

For some, talking about money today is therapeutic. California resident Amy Swift, 36, told CNN, “People want community around it, and I think that's natural. Just like when you are going through anything, the more people you know who are also going through it, the better you feel." 

Related: How to talk about money


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines