The top 5 reasons Americans hate to talk about money are the same reasons we don’t do most things:
2. Lack of sex appeal,
3. Delayed gratification,
4. It’ll never happen to me, and
5. Not immediately fatal.
It’s like having a conversation about flossing. Hey kids, let’s talk about the long term benefits of preventative dentistry! Seriously, I’d rather talk about the finer points of drying paint. Finance feels a lot like dentistry in that way.
We fear what we don’t understand. Most of our parents didn’t teach us about money and we didn’t learn about it in school. People are often terrified of what they may find out, so they’d just rather ignore the elephant in the room until it starts crushing the furniture.
Lack of Sex Appeal
Who wants to talk about budgets when we’d all rather hear about Jennifer Anniston’s latest boyfriend? Most people think that finance is a weird and difficult math spoken in a foreign language. Finance professionals are not exactly known to be entertaining. Even the famous ones on TV use a lecturing mommy tone (“You can’t afford it!”).
Have you ever tried to convince a child to eat broccoli instead of a cookie so he can be healthy in his 50s? In the end we all resort to the strong arm tactic: “Because I said so!” The same thing applies to money. It’s hard to deny ourselves the latest fashions and electronics today, for a chance at security decades in the future.
It Will Never Happen to Me
When we’re young we hear adults talk about nightmare root canals, but just like wrinkles and bald spots, we know it will never happen to us. Even with all the folks around us getting laid off and losing homes, we are always shocked when it happens to us.
Not Immediately Fatal
No one has ever died from severely under-flossed teeth. In fact it’s possible to go months without flossing before the pain starts. We can also go months living in ignorance and over spending before the consequences start. This makes reality easy to ignore.
The bottom line is that Americans have a fantastically large capacity for denial. Our ability to dream big makes us incredibly inventive, successful and sometimes ignorant. No matter what’s going on around us, and the glaring math in front of us, we are almost incapable of seeing anything other than the “American Dream”.
The problem is not a lack of available information. Although there are plenty of folks telling us to stop using credit cards, they are completely drowned out by the barrage of multi-media messages encouraging us to buy more. Unless we tackle the raw emotions that keep us from talking about money, we’ll never be able to hear reason.
Stay tuned for my next installment where I will present a solution (with immediate gratification!) to boring ol’, non-sexy finance: Tequila Shot Budgeting!