My wife and I (and our two boys) visited friends on Saturday afternoon. They’ve read my book and at one point the observation was put forward that it must feel strange to have the details of our financial lives on public display (I list the amounts assigned to each of our spending categories in the last chapter).
My wife said that she was concerned about this when she first saw the book, but that she no longer sees it as being that big a deal. Our friends commented that they have often found it disappointing that personal finance books do not provide line-by-line budgets that show in concrete form how the ideas discussed in the books influence one’s spending choices in the real world.
Honest and detailed money discussions are taboo.
A recent thread at the Early Retirement Forum discusses the taboo. A poster notes that co-workers and friends become uncomfortable when he brings up money questions if he shows an intent to explore them in any depth. We talk about television shows. We talk about sports. We talk about movies. We are reluctant to go too deep on money stuff even though the decisions we make about money affect how our lives work out in a hundred different ways.
If you want to learn how to manage your money well, you need to talk about your goals and your strategies for achieving them. You need to hash out the details. We learn by talking, by bouncing ideas off of others, by reformulating our ideas in response to the feedback obtained.
There are no one-size-fits-all money solutions. The particulars always matter. So it is not good enough to discuss general theories. We need to engage in back-and-forth on the specifics of our particular circumstances.
People are uncomfortable going down deep on money questions because money discussions are power discussions. Does he have more power than me? Am I going to have more power in days to come than I possess today? Have I squandered my power in days past?
We ban what we fear. Money discussions are taboo because we fear what we will find out from engaging in them. But it is only by breaking through the fear that we get to the other side, the place where we feel confident that our money choices make sense.