Money Matters Team

Why Is Talking About Money Taboo?

By Money Matters Team 04/03/2021

How to talk about money without feeling awkward

Money can be a popular topic of conversation. We speak freely about getting a good deal on a phone contract, or how it’s worth paying more for quality groceries. So why the unspoken rule that takes certain aspects of our personal finances off the table?

A recent survey carried out by The Money and Pensions Service found that around 29 million Brits don’t feel comfortable talking about their financial situation. We often avoid talking candidly about matters such as how much we earn, what our property costs, our savings and so on.

We look at the reasons why it’s so hard to talk about money and share some tips on how to change that.

Why is talking about money taboo?

There are lots of reasons why it feels so hard to talk about money. Opening up about personal finances can leave us feeling exposed. We might feel judged or worry we’ve put our hard-earned cash at risk, depending on the details we’ve disclosed.

Another big reason is that talking about money can be seen as ‘rude’. Perhaps it’s a little stereotypical, but in Britain chatting about cash can be deemed impolite. You might even go as far as to question ‘is it legal to talk about your salary?’ The answer to that is yes, you’re able to talk about your salary freely thanks to the Equality Act of 2010. That’s only in the eyes of the law of course. Socially, this can feel harder to do.

Take talking about salary with friends for example. If others consider our salary to be on the low-side, there’s a chance you could feel looked down upon. Whereas those who earn higher salaries might be cagey about sharing their income so as not to look flashy, or boastful.

Fear of rejection is another factor in why talking about money feels so taboo. This reason is especially present in job interview situations. It could be that we’re reluctant to start talking about salary expectations in this scenario due to a fear of being seen as brash or ‘only in it for the money’.

Ultimately, these reasons can leave many feeling that discussing personal finances is a no-go. And talking about money with friends or in relationships can be seen as insensitive.

Why it's good to talk about money

The more we understand about how we value ourselves and each other, the more realistic we can be about our lives and decision making. For example, keeping quiet about salaries is not only out of date, it helps cover up inequalities in pay (especially those relating to gender). With more open honest conversations on the subject, we not only help build a more accurate picture of our collective financial landscape, we’re encouraging a more level playing field too.

The statistics don’t lie. Among the UK’s adult population 52% of us find it hard to talk openly to someone about our financial situation. The same survey found that 48% of us have worried about money once a week or more in the last month.

We feel that the widespread silence on the topic has to change and here’s how.

Talking about salary with your employer (or in an interview)

There’s absolutely no need to stress about bringing up salary expectations in an interview, or at work. All that’s needed is a simple change of perspective. Our top tip is to remember we go to work because we need to earn money to pay for rent, mortgage, bills, treats and holidays. So, it’s in our interest to be open and honest about how much we want to earn.

Avoiding the awkwardness of the ‘salary chat’ can actually give employers the impression that you don’t value your skills as much as you perhaps should. Be bold. The fact is that everyone deserves to be paid fairly for doing their job. The more open we can be about our worth, the fairer our salaries should be.

How to talk to your partner about money

Every relationship is different so it’s impossible to follow guidance on ‘finding the right time when should couples talk about money’. That will be up to the two of you. It could be when you’re married and planning your future as a couple. Or trying to split the costs of date nights.

Either way, talking about money in relationships should be approached in a calm, pragmatic manner. Simply being aware that it’s a potentially ‘touchy’ subject and tackling the issue with as much understanding as possible will help lessen the chance of conflict.

Keep in mind that you and your partner will likely have different incomes. Although it’s not necessary to share your salary with your spouse, it’s worth getting a feel for each other’s budget. This will help you both be realistic about the way you spend as a couple and be sensitive to things which may be out of your partner’s budget. Whether it’s smaller decisions like choosing a restaurant to celebrate an occasion or planning a holiday away together.

Talking about money with your friends and family

Opening up to friends and family about money woes might seem nerve-racking at first. You might be thinking ‘Is it rude to talk about money?’ or ‘Can I trust them with this information?’.

To start the conversation perhaps begin by sharing your apprehensions up front to let them know it’s an awkward topic for you. It’ll give them a better understanding of where you’re coming from and that they should treat what they’re about to hear as confidential.

Of course, it may feel easier to bury our heads in the sand and expect that no one will understand. But learning how to face up to our financial situation head on and talk to someone can be a great help - even if that someone is a friend or family member who can simply offer a supportive ear.

It’s time to normalise talking about money

We’d argue that because it plays such a fundamental role in the quality of our lives, it really shouldn’t be taboo to talk about money worries. If talking about money with friends, family or your partner doesn’t feel right, you could reach out to a professional who’s able to give you actionable advice . There may be a charge for this service. Remember , there are other resources out there to help if you need advice. Citizens Advice is a good place to start and is a free service.

If you’re concerned about your finances, there are options to help you manage the costs of your outgoings. Take our personal loans for example. If you are eligible, you could borrow a sum to consolidate outstanding debt and repay it back in one manageable, monthly instalment over an agreed period. Try our calculator to see if a personal loan is the right option for you.

Either way, it pays to talk about money.


Sources
  1. https://moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk/2020/11/11/shame-upbringing-and-burdening-others-why-29-million-uk-adults-dont-feel-comfortable-talking-about-money-despite-feeling-worried-about-it/
  2. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
  3. https://www.sainsburysbank.co.uk/borrowing/bor_borrowing_zone?borrowing=&term=&loan-aprcalc-small=precalc&loan-aprcalc-small=precalc

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.