What if we weren’t so private about our personal financial lives? That’s the provocative question asked in a recent entry to the It’s Just Money blog.
The author of the blog notes that, “after finishing school, we go from all being poor college students to varying levels of economic means.” We naturally develop an interest in seeing how our friends are doing financially, and in comparing their level of success with our own.
The trouble is–we make these determinations by looking at what stuff they have bought. We conclude that the guy with the expensive car is doing well, and that the girl going on the expensive vacation is doing well. We conclude that the guy living in the inexpensive apartment and the girl wearing inexpensive clothing are not doing so hot.
It might be that our conclusions are entirely wrong.
In our minds, we are penalizing people for saving. We are subtracting social status points from those who follow effective money management practices.
What a mess!
To really know who is a success and who isn’t, we need to see how much people have in their investment accounts. But nobody talks about that sort of thing.
It might be that that is starting to change, according to the blog entry. It notes that bloggers share all sorts of personal financial jizz-jazz with their readers. Perhaps that will put the idea in the heads of a lot of others that it is not so terrible a thing to share details of their personal financial circumstances.
Bloggers learn from putting their financial lives on public display, in my view. They learn about themselves by discovering what sorts of facts they feel comfortable sharing and what sorts of facts they feel a desire to hide. They learn about others by seeing what sorts of facts about their personal financial circumstances elicit surprise.
There’s a reason why people talk so much with their friends and neighbors and co-workers. We learn by sharing information and obtaining feedback. We have cut ourselves off from a big part of the learning process in the area of personal finance by being so secretive.
I understand why it is taboo to disclose details of our financial lives to people outside of our immediate families. I am beginning to wonder, though, whether the taboo might hurt us more than it helps us.