As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Personal finance is like sex and religion: nearly everyone has something to say but will generally avoid discussing it. Our society has made discussing your finances with anyone else taboo. We’ve spent years associating our self-worth with our net-worth to the point that people feel like personal finance is a competition. You try ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ because deep down you don’t want to get too far behind in the race you perceive to be life. That race can be lonely because personal finance is lonely.
The loneliness of personal finance
So many people deal with their personal finance issue secretly, constantly comparing themselves to how they believe others are faring. The taboo of openly discussing finance is so ingrained that we don’t often ask ourselves if that makes sense. Getting help in times of financial crises or success is difficult because you can’t talk about it. We should be helping each other along the path to financial independence and celebrating the milestones together as well. Personal finance isn’t a zero-sum-game. I don’t need you to fail for me to succeed.
The topic that launched a thousand ships
Well… books, shows, podcasts, blogs, and numerous other things at least. The vacuum generated by the forced silence around personal finance due to its taboo nature gave rise to an entire genre of self-help. When you can’t reasonably talk to friends and family about your personal finances, you go outside your circle. Finding someone talking about personal finance on a podcast, a blog, or in a book is safe. You get the information you need and nobody needs to know you needed it.
Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and the rest of the debt management gurus out there are capitalizing on how lonely you feel. They aren’t providing any revolutionary concepts or methods to getting out of debt and managing your cash flow. They provide a safe haven where you feel like your personal finance problems are normal and readily fixable. There is power in knowing that you are not alone.
Wait… this is a personal finance blog too
You got me. The desire to make money off of others isn’t what drove me to start writing about personal finance though. The loneliness did. Over the last 10+ years as a financial analyst and someone obsessed with my own finances, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on the subject. I have spreadsheets for spreadsheets about spreadsheets. The dozens of books and hundreds of articles about all aspects are clogging up my brain at all times. I find this subject so fascinating when many people, probably rightfully, do not. I’m not normal.
Combine all that knowledge with a lifelong love for sharing my passions with others and you get a recipe for constantly boring my wife to tears. I could discuss at length wholly mundane things. For example, why I decided to adjust our emergency savings balance and what I did about it. Pretty sure the day I went over rebalancing my 401k portfolio to functionally have the same investment mix while saving $20,000 in expenses was less riveting than I imagined. These personal TED talks on finance are more interesting to me than my audience.
COVID-19 enters the chat
The covid-19 pandemic of 2020 shut down my office building for the remainder of the year. I was suddenly home seven days a week, working from home full time. I’ll admit I spent the first few months catching up on streaming TV shows and movies. I eventually ran out of the top priorities in my queue and needed something new. I always joked about starting a blog or writing a book and now I had the time to actually do it. The fact that you are reading this now is proof that I followed through on that idea at least.
Writing the Personal Finance Path to Financial Indepenedence Series was a chance for me to share what I have learned with the world. I was ok if the only person who eventually read the articles was my son as he navigated his way to financial independence. The point was to have a way to share all of these ideas with a community that would appreciate them, discuss them, and build off of them. I wanted to contribute to making personal finance less lonely.
Personal Finance is lonely & taboo. Why?
The loneliness of personal finance, financial independence, and FIRE are a combination of factors that I’ve seen. It is a taboo subject, the stigma association, financial literacy, and inability to celebrate. I won’t dive too deep into the taboo nature of discussing your personal finances because many others have already done it better. 20 Something Finance discusses the topic on their blog, Bigger Pockets goes into how many people even hide it from their spouses, and Making Sense of Cents talks about how sex can be a more approachable topic sometimes.
Another barrier is the stigma related to being perceived as not doing well financially. America is a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘personal responsibility’ culture and this often gets applied to personal finance too. The sentiment is nice but, in reality, is misleading at best and dismissive of real underlying issues at worst. I wrote about the Inherent Bias in Personal Finance about a month ago and it is worth a read. This stigma forces people to suffer in silence because they are embarrassed of their situation.
It is hard to ask for help
If the world sold you on the idea that personal finance is easy and everyone else is handling it just fine, it can be hard to admit you need help. Many people can’t or won’t get help because they are embarrassed. In that situation you can’t ask your coworkers, friends, or family because they might judge you or not know what to do themselves. Books can be very impersonal or not relatable to their current dilemma.
Sometimes people refuse to admit they have a financial problem, burying their head in the sand. The feeling of financial dread is so lonely they bury it deep down hoping it’ll solve itself. We all know it won’t but I can understand the mindset. Other times, people aren’t financially literate enough to even know they have a financial problem. This one is scary to me.
Ask for help
Personal finance doesn’t need to be lonely. You can always ask for help. Ask me, ask a financial advisor, search online, ask Money-Twitter, or check a book out from library. When your car breaks down or a pipe bursts in your bathroom, you don’t suffer in silence. You locate an expert to help you out who won’t judge you for the situation you are in.
The feeling of loneliness financial problems can produce are complicated. You constantly feel underwater with no one or nowhere to turn for help. That can be rough. Just know that you aren’t alone and there is always someone who can help.
Is it lonely if your finances are good?
The good news here is you have a plan. The bad news is that personal finance is lonely on the success side of the equation too. The stigma surrounding the discussion of finances, salaries, savings, etc still exist regardless of the sentiment. These are things that are just not discussed in civilized society or some nonsense. I’m not saying it makes sense, just that it happens.
It can be so defeating when you have burning desire to discuss something finance related and have nowhere to turn. You can only stare at spreadsheets for so long before you need to bounce ideas off another person. Too bad. Your family, friends, coworkers, or that person forced next to you on the airplane may not care to discuss it with you. They may not even understand what you are trying to discuss in the first place. It’s not even malicious, we just all have our own passions and yours is personal finance.
Surely we can celebrate a success though
Ever reach a personal finance milestone and want to tell literally everyone? Have you finally paid off your student loan? Did you reach Coast-FI? Are you maxing out your pre-tax retirement contributions for the first time in your life? Did you sit down and create a budget you can stick to? Are you getting a promotion or big raise at work?
These are all times we should be celebrating but often don’t. People don’t want to come across as bragging about their situation to others. Well, usually… *looks at outward displays of wealth many people seem obsessed with in popular culture*. We should be happy our friend got that big raise at work or our family member got out of debt. They should be happy for you when you pay off your house or start that college fund for your children.
We can all be winners
Personal finance is not a zero-sum-game. We don’t need our friends and family to lose for us to gain or vice-versa. My colleague hitting a savings rate of 50% of their income has zero effect on my finances. The neighbor paying off their house 5 years before I do doesn’t change my path to financial independence. My friend getting a promotion at work in no way diminishes what I’ve accomplished in my career.
It doesn’t need to be lonely
Discussing finances, salaries, and debt are considered taboo subjects that need to be normalized. It should be completely normal to discuss personal finances with another person without making it weird. Personal finance is a subject that every adult has in common and should be fine to discuss if you want. I’m not saying you must, just that it should be more acceptable. Please don’t use this as permission to bore anyone in your radius with finance talk.
Personal finance is a taboo subject, forcing us to suffer and succeed in silence. This means personal finance is lonely but doesn’t need to be. Join the discussion here, on other blogs, and personal finance twitter. Follow me @PlazaAndMainSt .
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.