Shortcuts are an ongoing series where I summarize quick ways to make maximum impact on your finances.
Think about the people around you in life, those who are close to you and not so close. How much do you know about their financial life? Do you know how much they earn per year? How much debt they have? How you can best support them in whatever financial goals they have? Chances are, you don’t know. Even some married couples don’t know about each others finances!
This apparent taboo of talking about money is widely talked about. Personally, I think it’s a hold-over from centuries ago when it was considered polite to squander your money on elaborate decorations and items, but impolite to discuss how much money you inherited in order to be able to buy such nice things. In modern society, perspective is gradually shifting towards the opposite; in the near future, showing off your money through purchases may be taboo, but talking about your checkbook may be considered a matter of relationship with others.
I’m going to go on the record and say that it is almost impossible to truly get hold of finances without being open and honest about where you stand. Without telling people your true condition, where is your accountability in getting into a better condition? How will they need to know what they need to do to help you out of it? For some, maybe start with telling one close friend, and ask them to check you if you are about to make a poor spending decision. For some, it may be starting a blog so that everyone knows your condition. Keeping things in the dark makes them rot. In the same way, either extreme you take will expose your situation to the light. From there, change can begin.
Plus, it will keep self-help gurus from going crazy:
I currently go to lunch with a co-worker who wants to spend more on lunch than me. I’m in a ton of debt, and I’m afraid that going to all these nice restaurants will put me even further in debt! How can I tell my co-worker politely that I have to start brown-bagging it?
This is a made-up example, but I’m sure you’ve seen similar things on “Ask Miss Manners”. Usually those “P.C. gurus” give some response that they should lie and say they could save lunch time by eating in the office, or other such nonsense. Here’s how it should be answered:
Shame on you! In a vain attempt to look like you have it together more than others, you’ve now sabotaged your financial health even more. You should have told your co-worker years ago the reason that going out for lunch was not good for you. Contrary to common belief, most people are in debt, and they will not only understand your reasons, but they may offer up their own state of debt, and that maybe it would be wise for both of you to bring your lunches and eat together. The only way for someone to know where you stand is to come straight out and tell them, so either swallow your pride, or be prepared to further damage your finances.
Unfortunately, things are so politically correct I don’t expect to see this happening in the near future. However, each of us can start the process by telling someone else. When I began, I started this blog, and I also told my best friend and my roommate. Guess what? They were in the same boat I was! Now, they are helping me get out of debt and I’m helping them. We share knowledge, keep each other accountable, and we all win. Yes, they know what I make each year and how I spend it, but why should I care if two people close to me know that? If you’re really concerned with telling people, then it must be really bad, and therefore you should tell them anyway.
There’s simply no reason for falling under an archaic system that leads to the systematic destruction of our finances. Maintaining a tiny bit of pride costs us the ability to do the amazing things we want to do in life, the ability to pass that gift on to our descendants, and a bunch of stress and health. Why not spend a few minutes, swallow your pride, and let someone that cares about you know where you stand. Maybe they will be the one that can help you out of it.