There’s nothing worse than tripping on a conversation land mine in an elevator. In a knee-jerk reaction to the prolonged silence, you ask what the guy standing next to you is reading, thinking it’s War and Peace or something palatably interesting, but it’s a bible, and the guy hosts a Noah’s Ark themed barbecue and he wants you to come this Saturday. Or the guy in the elevator sneezes and without thinking you say ‘God bless you’, and then every floor on the way down he calls you a brainless sheep in a different language. Sometimes the mines are nestled pretty deep. You offer a perfunctory,’ how’s your day going?’ And the recipient responds: “With this administration? Swimmingly.” You laugh and put your headphones in while they recite Bill Maher’s New Rules segment verbatim from the night before. Or even worse are the times when someone checks your how’s it going? with an actual honest answer, complete with medical records and pictures of where they “took it out.”
Up until very recently, the trinity of social taboos was pretty well established: Religion, Politics, and health. However, a new momentum cancer has entered the ring. Just like Godzilla was sired by nuclear fallout, an epileptic economy has championed finances as the most formidable beast of uncomfortable small talk.
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All the money in the world
According to a new Ameritrade survey, most Americans would rather discuss God, their medical issues and politics than money. In fact, the only thing that made people more uncomfortable in conversation than discussing their finances was sex. Student loan debt was found to make people the most uncomfortable, (36%), tailed by childcare expenses (30%) and then the depth of their poverty (26%). Just a modest 16% of Americans felt okay talking about their spending habits, even though more than half of the respondents queried (51%) and seven in 10 millennials (71%) think that society would be healthier if people felt they could discuss personal finances more freely.
More than ever, how and what you spend your money on, bears the potential to reveal a lot about you; politically and even emotionally. That’s always been true, but there used to be limitations. Even though financial literacy is at a record low it’s particularly fashionable to purport expertise in 2019. It’s heretical to speak favorably of younger generations and how they mind their green, but the truth is no-one really has it figured out.
About 1,000 Baby Boomers enter retirement a day, though a hair more than half actually has the savings to sustain a living. This burden often settles on Generation X, who are concurrently licking their wounds in the wake of their children’s tuition fees. These children, Millenials, graduate saddled with debt and degrees they’re ambivalent about, while Gen Zers watch the fiscal dominoes collapse with sweat-stained brows.
The solution is multifaced certainly, but continuing to observe money talk as a dialectic third rail is only making everything worse. At a certain point, you have to stop checking the sky for storks. Previously conducted studies suggest financial illiteracy owes the success of its invasion to the failure on behalf of parents to discuss the grit and grain of budgeting with their children.
The study’s authors explain, “Among those who wish they could discuss their personal finances more freely: 56% Millennials would like to discuss their personal finances more freely with their parents 31%, Gen X would like to discuss their personal finances more freely with their children and 41% of Boomers would like to discuss their personal finances more freely with their spouses.”
The reasoning for the reticence was similarily factored by generation. The primary reason most people didn’t want to discuss their financial standing is that they felt it was impolite to do so in a social setting, though more Baby Boomers feared coming across like a braggart compared to other generations.