Breaking the Silence

Discussing your finances is such a taboo.  Sure, people boasted about what their house was worth, how much they paid for it and what a deal they got.  That served their egos.  (Maybe today, with the housing market upside down, they do less of it …)

But ask them how much they bring home each month, what they spend, what they have left, how much credit card debt they’re carrying and what their net worth is … and see if they invite you back for dinner again!

I mean, people have no qualms about discussing their sex lives and their body functions … topics that in other cultures are far more taboo.  But discuss personal finances?  Never.

Actually, I had never given that fact much thought until I faced my own “Moment of Reckoning” after losing everything in the wake of 9/11.  That’s when I started investing a lot of time in understanding how I had gotten into financial trouble in the first place and what I needed to do to be sure it never happened again.

That’s also when I started looking at how emotions get in the way of healthy financial behaviors.  And when I discovered why discussing personal finances was verboten: somewhere along the line, we mistakenly got our net worth confused with our self-worth!

So whether you’ve just lost your job, or are facing foreclosure on your house, or have filed for bankruptcy, remember one thing: those are events.  They are temporary.  They don’t define you.  They are not who you are.

Do not identify with the events or allow them to define your self-worth.  Instead, find someone you can talk to comfortably about the situation … in all its gory detail … and figure out what lessons are to be learned.  Neutralize it by talking about it.  Master the experience and how you respond to it.  Grow from it.

Whatever you do, don’t hold it inside, festering.

Break the silence.

  • Ginger Pugliese

    Great article, Sharon.  Suze Orman (I believe) coined a phrase ‘ Face It to Erase It’ referring to one’s debt.  The ‘shame’ associated with losing one’s home has diminished, in part, as people are starting to see similar situations of their friends and family. It’s a small step in the realization that your worth as a person is not decided by your debt or your FICO score as the banks and financial institutions would have us believe.

    • Ginger, you’re right!  Actually, it’s a huge step … because most people never give any thought to that false linkage.  And, yes, financial institutions do blur the lines any chance they get.  It’s creates a convenient distraction so we don’t look at the reality behind the numbers, the market manipulation and the excess profits so many transactions reflect. 

  • Michele

    As always…great content. There are so many people that need to read this.