I saw the most astonishing scene yesterday. Two women in their 30s were huddled close together at a large communal table in a bustling café. As I walked by I heard one say to the other, “All you need to do is decide how much money you can really afford to spend on clothes and put that into your budget. Stop overspending!” The second woman looked absolutely horrified, as there were at least six uninvited strangers within earshot. Her shoulders were hunched over, her face was contorted and it looked like she was about to burst into tears.
I walked out onto the streets of the Upper East Side and thought about what I had just witnessed. Talking about your personal finances can be as unnerving as being naked in front of someone for the first time. I was thinking, “Why are they talking about that here, in public?“
Traditionally, in American culture, money is a taboo topic. People talk little about how much money they make and even less about how much money they owe. Others are so deeply ashamed of their spending habits and past mistakes that they go to any lengths to keep up appearances and avoid engaging the numbers. Like any other disease, hiding the truth from yourself and your loved ones can have devastating consequences.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I would never suggest talking to everyone in your life about the details of your finances, but I definitely recommend selecting a few trusted people from your inner circle with whom you can be transparent. These sacred conversations can be immensely healing for all involved. We’re not supposed to figure it all out by ourselves. By practicing honesty, openness and willingness, achieving your financial goals become possible.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that some people suffer from chrometophobia, the fear generated from certain credit- and finance-related scenarios. This is an actual phobia defined by the American Medical Association. As a money coach, I am not in the business of diagnosing people; I guide people on a path to financial freedom through a combination of financial planning and financial therapy.
Healthy financial behaviors include:
- Opening the mail
- Maintaining an accurate checkbook balance (ahead of online banking)
- Contacting creditors for information
- Paying all bills on time every month
- Remaining current with taxes
- Living within your means
- Having a plan (aka budget) and following it
- Earning what you deserve
- Securing insurance
- Living in housing that works
- Telling the whole truth about your relationship with money to a family member, friend or financial adviser
As long as you remain fearful of money, it will control you. Remember, there is an infinite resource of courage within. Taking steps toward self-responsibility, sharing the details, asking for help and aligning your finances with your values will shift the current to a more peaceful place.