Why It’s So Hard to Talk About Money

I’ve heard that it’s harder to talk about money than about sex, even with your spouse. That sounds backwards, doesn’t it? What can be more intimate and private than sex? But, like sex, many people consider how much money they have and how they manage it as their very private business. Unlike sex, which usually takes place in private settings, money decisions and actions are often performed in the presence of others – family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Even financial decisions that are made in private have a public face, because how we save and spend money are apparent in our lifestyles. Financial choices represent who we are more than most other things we do.

People who are financially successful appear to be personally successful, self-confident, happy, and competent. People who struggle financially are often seen as unsuccessful, unhappy, and incompetent. If a person’s financial situation does not represent who they want to be, they may try to hide the reality and pretend that their financial condition is different than it really is. Because the way we manage our money represents who we are (or who we want to be), explaining our spending means explaining ourselves. If money management was just about the numbers, everyone could set a budget based on a particular formula and follow it faithfully. Money decisions are based, at least in part, on what is important to us and what meets our emotional needs, and that is very personal, indeed.