Near the beginning of each month, many in the personal finance community share, with varying degrees of detail, their financial situations. We see net worth reports, and some of them are even itemized. I always enjoy reading these reports and find them quite interesting — and sometimes inspiring. However, I have always been vaguely uncomfortable with offering too many details about my finances. A lot of it has to do with my upbringing in a family that did not talk much about the particulars of finances with those not in the immediate family.
While I think that this taboo is part of my reluctance to share details about my family’s financial situation with friends and family (and the wider PF community), for many of us, there are probably other factors at work. Especially if embarrassment about the financial situation comes into play.
Reluctance to Admit We are Poor
In many cases, being poor is embarrassing. We don’t like to admit that we can’t afford to buy something, or that we don’t make as much as our friends make — or as much as we think they make. It becomes a matter of pride to avoid sharing details that could reveal our circumstances.
Another compounding issue can be debt. I graduated with college with more debt than I should have had. While I admit that I had debt at my graduation, I am, frankly, embarrassed about the magnitude of it all. As a result, I don’t share dollar amounts. When combined with embarrassment about being poorer than friends and family, debt becomes a way to “prove” ourselves by buying things that we can’t really afford.
Reluctance to Admit We are Rich
Another difficulty arises for those who don’t want to admit how much money they actually make. Being poor has lost some of its social stigma now; the recession has created a whole financial movement that rejects consumption and values frugality. This means that it can be somewhat embarrassing to admit how much we have in some cases.
And, of course, there is the issue of what constitutes “rich”. Many of us are worried about being labeled “rich” — even though we don’t feel as though we are financially wealthy. It can also seem embarrassing when we find that we make more than someone else. It can be awkward to admit that we make more money, especially if friends or family are struggling financially.
Finally, there is also the issue of not wanting friends and family to know how much we make. Concerns about relatives asking for money because they think that we “make enough” can be a real deterrent to sharing how much we make, and contribute to a reluctance to talk about finances.
In order to avoid the awkwardness that can come with sharing financial details with friends and family, I just say that I make enough to live comfortably. And we do. My family has a comfortable lifestyle for our location, and enjoy our discretionary income. But I am uncomfortable discussing the details. And I’m not even sure I want to become comfortable with the idea of sharing, although I admire those who do.
How much you do share about your finances?