Talking About Money Is Inappropriate

money talkNot that long ago it was taboo to speak about money in public. But now, as with so many other things, talking about money has become more acceptable. I hear it all the time. Friends have asked me what kind of debt we have, wanting me to break it down into car payments, credit cards, and mortgages. (When I said, “None,” one friend got huffy and said, “Well, if you don’t want to tell us that’s fine, but don’t lie.”)

At a party a few weeks ago, someone that I didn’t know asked me, upon hearing that we owned a motor home said, “That must have set you back a pretty penny.” “How much?” Extended family members routinely ask us


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17 Responses to Talking About Money Is Inappropriate

  1. disneysteve says:

    Good post. I agree that manners seem to have eroded in this department (among others). Though at the same time, I think all the secrecy about money and spending can be harmful. We often talk about keeping up with the Joneses. Maybe fewer people would struggle to keep up if they discovered that the Joneses earned twice as much as them. I think there would be less competition if you knew who was on your income level and who wasn’t.

  2. Julie says:

    I think we should talke about money more, not less. I never mind when someone asks me about money.

  3. justme says:

    I am afraid I lie and actually tell people I owe money

    if one more person told me I was lucky I did not have debt I am afraid I would smack them .

  4. merch says:

    I have no problem talking about what I paid for the house, my mortgage, or taxes on my house. Basically, these are public records, so why hide them?

    As for how much something cost, I really don’t have a problem in general with that either. Usually, someone is thinking of taking a trip or buying something and just want a sanity check. I usually just talk about the price in generalities also.

    Things I think that are taboo are net worth, income, and debt level. But as you said in the article, it depends why these people are asking the question.

  5. disneysteve says:

    I find a lot of times when someone asks me what we paid for something or what we spent somewhere it is because they know we are frugal spenders and careful shoppers and if we did something, we must have found a reasonable way to do it. They usually want the details so they can do the same thing.

  6. Debra says:

    Well, I don’t generally mind if people ask but people don’t usually ask. If they do, usually it seems that they’re trying to figure out if their own bill was reasonable. “How much was your electricity last month?” or something like that. I don’t generally get offended but I’m kind of vague about money as well.

  7. Ceejay74 says:

    Hardly anyone has talked to me about exact numbers with money. It’s uncomfortable because it’s sort of taboo, but I feel if people were more open they might feel that their finances and their social life were more in sync. I had to be somewhat open about my finances when my family abruptly stopped spending tons on going out with friends; we’d be counting out one-dollar bills for our single beer of the night while friends ordered food and multiple drinks. I felt it was better to be upfront because it showed we still wanted to hang out with them but we were going to be a lot thriftier about it.

  8. Debbie M says:

    When I first saw your list of ways to deal with these questions, I thought to myself, “You should just say that that you feel like answers to questions like that are bound to make someone feel bad, so you make it a policy never to answer those kinds of questions.” But then your religion/politics comparison answer was quite similar.

    And your “more than I wanted to/less than I expected” strategy might actually tell them what they want to know without having to give them numbers. And your “why do you ask?” strategy could also allow for the same thing.

    I actually usually like answering these questions because they can show what’s possible. However, if you can see that someone is being belligerent, I’d agree that there’s no good way to answer their questions except to use one of these strategies.

  9. leslie says:

    People have actually asked how much debt you have? Wow…that just seems so completely out of bounds to me that I am astounded that someone would even consider asking that. Same with how much you make. The questions about how much something I bought cost don’t really bother me as long as I don’t sense something else behind the question (one-up-manship, for example).

  10. jan8662 says:

    I don’t ask people about debt, income, or net worth,
    but I do ask people about how much certain things cost just to have an idea of how much they cost!

    For example, Last year when I was trying to prepare for my wedding, I really had no clue how much certain things cost and if I was charged at fair price. So I would ask my married friends about these things.

    Or if someone just took a trip to a country that I am thinking about visiting, I may also ask them how much the trip cost just to get an idea.

  11. Aviva says:

    I have to admit that my husband and I sometimes look at the lifestyles of our acquaintances and are envious of all the “toys” and fancy furniture and huge houses they own. And we start to wonder where did we go wrong that we can’t afford all those things too.

    It’s possible that these people, who have similar jobs to my husband’s, really are earning way more than he does. But more likely, they have a lot of consumer debt while we have none other than our reasonable mortgage.

    We also squirrel away something like 23 percent of our income to savings, mostly retirement, while I know that at least some of these folks have almost nothing in retirement accounts. (Not that I asked, but sometimes that stuff is volunteered while talking generally about trying to prepare for the unforeseeable future, like whether or not to count on Social Security being around when we hit retirement in 25 years.

    In general, even though there are lots of consumer things we’d love to own, I’m happy we live more modestly and within our budgets.

  12. Cindy M says:

    Try doing without a car and see the reaction THAT gets from other people, ha-ha. The reaction I’ve gotten from everybody, family and friends, hands down, is the assumption I must be in terrible debt. I find myself hastening to explain that in fact I have no debt other than my mortgage and DO in fact have plenty of cash in my emergency fund but have chosen to pay cash for things I actually want and need from here on out, if at all possible. I hate that pitiful look I get from everybody, not one “good for you,” which I find disheartening, frankly. Right now, it’s wanting to put more in my home, so I just paid cash for new spouting and windows, which makes me feel terrific. Another car is so far down on my list and so not interesting to me right now. I catch the bus when I can’t walk to get what I need, and it’s working fine with planning ahead and being close to everything. And no, I have not bothered anybody for a ride anywhere and never intended to. I’m socking cash away and will eventually buy another car, mostly to make everybody feel better, I guess. We’ll see.

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  15. scott brandt says:

    absolutly true.. i have this grandpa.. all he does is talk about his buisness.. how much money hes made.. its really annoying.. but he has threats he makes if anyone talks to him about it or changes the subject.. what should i do about that?

  16. Girija Deshpande says:

    These are great examples of being assertive. You divulge only what you want to. You do not take away the right to privacy from any one nor would you allow anyone to do that to you.

  17. Mike says:

    Great subject. And equally interesting different peoples take on discussing money with others. Personally, I feel discussing money is often harmful as it can make people feel uncomfortable. If one is making head over heals more money, then it can make another person feel less than. Or, encourage someone to ask for a loan. This is another can of worms. On the other hand, knowing someone is making more money can leave someone feeling less than. Our culture is already so materialistic that it’s best to just enjoy others’ company without making people feel uncomfortable. Yes, there are exceptions and especially with a close family member or friend but most of the time, it makes things complicated.

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