I was not prepared for how I would feel after I made my first blog post… I immediately felt exposed and intensely uncomfortable. I felt like I had bared my financial soul to friends, family, and strangers alike, and I began to think I had made a big mistake in discussing my finances so publicly. I really shouldn’t have been surprised to feel this way. After all, I had broken one of the few remaining taboos of American culture. Americans may talk openly about relationships, sex, health, and any number of other personal matters, but rarely do we discuss personal finances.
When I posted that I had accumulated $28,000 in home equity debt and wiped out my savings (which was meager to begin with), I felt like I had shared a dirty little secret. My financial situation is not a complete disaster, but still, I felt embarrassed. I can’t claim that no one ever talked to me about money; my dad made sure I understood the wonders of compounding interest and the evils of consumer debt from a young age. Also, I was a business major and even earned an MBA, which means I’ve had more than my share of finance and economics classes. Shouldn’t I have known better?
Well, yes. But that’s not actually the point of this post. The point is how embarrassment, shame, and guilt can hold us back from taking control of our finances. These negative emotions cause us to devote more energy to hiding our true financial situations than we devote to taking action to improve our financial standing.
Many of us have probably been in situations where we have been asked to participate in something that we simply cannot afford. Maybe it was an exotic vacation or a contribution to an expensive gift for a friend. Because we would feel embarrassed or guilty about saying no, we put ourselves through a lot of stress to come up with creative excuses, or we take on more debt in order to participate. We have to do this to hide our financial secrets. The result is that our finances only get worse, and we feel the weight of more debt and stress on our shoulders.
It doesn’t have to be this way! After making my financial situation public with my first blog post, I received an amazing reaction from many readers. The encouragement I have received is liberating. Within just a couple of days, I went from feeling exposed to empowered! Instead of trying to hide the money mistakes I’ve made in the past, I can celebrate the good choices I’m making now. By discussing my finances, I get the benefit of support from people who care about me. It’s like I no longer have to fight my financial battles alone… I have an army of supporters at my back.
Imagine if we ALL started talking about our finances publicly… What kind of culture shift would that create? I think it would almost certainly reduce our drive to hyper-consume. Why? Because the people who truly care about us want us to be financially secure. If given the chance, the people who love us will tell us that we don’t need to spend money to impress them or show them how much we care.
If we all discuss our finances openly, we can create a culture of support. Imagine the collective weight this would lift off of our debt-burdened shoulders. Imagine how great it would feel to not just achieve our own financial goals, but to support our friends and family as they achieve theirs as well. With a little honesty and a lot of positive attitude, we can do it!