Would you rather talk to a stranger about your sex life or your financial situation? Chances are, if research from University College London is to be believed, you’re seven times more likely to discuss the former.
After interviewing 15,000 participants, the institution discovered that people would much rather discuss how many sexual partners they’d had, whether they’ve contracted an STD, or even if they had been unfaithful to their partners instead of talking about income.
Although the main takeaway from the study was how increasingly liberal we are when talking about sex, it seems to have glossed over the main issue – and failed to answer the question; Why don’t we talk about money?
Money: the last taboo
Although we may chuckle at the above study, it’s not hard to understand why we hesitate when it comes to discussing our salaries. After all, career status and income are two of the most common ways people measure self-worth. By disclosing this information, we invite comparison. Assuming someone has a larger salary or ‘better’ position, it typically only leads to an uncomfortable situation.
Fortunately, there are far better ways to measure self-worth than the size of our bank accounts. We could go over these but, quite simply, they are more numerous and diverse than the people who adhere to them – they should also be unique to the person. Perhaps you could focus on skills, experiences, being a good partner, whatever you feel is important.
Fundamentally, finances and careers are fragile pillars for our self-esteem. All it takes is one recession and the very measurements for our success can come tumbling down.
It’s for this reason that we need to normalize the discussion about money. Essentially, it is a trivial factor as changeable as the tide. It’s also important to do so as then we can focus on opening the conversation about debt.
Why we should discuss debt
It’s worth noting there are such things as good and bad debt. Whether going to university, buying that first car, or purchasing a home, debt is a normal part of our lives. It only becomes ‘bad’ when interest rates pile up and the debt becomes unmanageable.
However, you ask anybody about this distinction and, chances are, they won’t recognize that one exists. Furthermore, these people will probably keep the matter to themselves. Despite this, debt affects almost everyone across the country.
In fact, nearly 90% of families in the United States owe money. It’s estimated the average debt per household stands at more than $137,000. Compared with how things stood twenty years ago, that’s an increase of around 174%. In contrast, median household income has increased over that time by about 48%.
What makes up this debt demands on a person’s age. Millennials, for example, are more likely than other age brackets to have student loan debt and credit card bills. For older individuals, mortgage debt appears to be one of the more common reasons for getting into debt.
Although this clearly demonstrates that debt is definitely not something we experience alone, we’re still hesitant to talk about it. Those in debt have reported not talking to others about it due to fear of being judged, ruining their relationships, or affecting employment.
However, we need to talk to others about this as refraining from discussing the issue can lead to anxiety, loss of sleep, and may be the catalyst for the development of other mental health conditions. Furthermore, assuming the debt remains unchecked, not talking about the matter can have severe financial repercussions.
How can I get on top of debt?
If you want to reduce the amount of debt you have, the first step is recognizing that this is an extremely common issue. Although it may feel like you’re the only person in the world experiencing this, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
To begin with, pick a loved one or a close family member and find time to chat about your finances. In the best-case scenario, you may find these people have also dealt with debt issues. In this case, it may provide a solution for your financial worries. At the very least, having someone to share your concerns with could make a world of difference.
Next, it may be beneficial to seek help through debt service. Although free advice is available, there may also be solutions available in the form of IVAs or debt consolidation loans. Regardless of which option you feel is right for you, the important thing is you’re making the first step to discussing your finances and – in doing so – dealing with them.
After all, it’s been reported by one financial charity that people wait around a year before dealing with their debts – that’s 12 months of unnecessary stress, worry, and worsening finances. Although it’s understandable why this occurs, it doesn’t have to be the case.
Just realize that debt is something that affects us all. By dealing with it together, we can all help make this matter a normal part of everyday conversation.
This content is brought to you by Tom Chapman.