Shhhh…We Don’t Talk About THAT

Shhhh…We Don’t Talk About THAT

**Don’t bail on this post too soon – there is a flip cam giveaway at the end!

I’m not much for keeping secrets.   I pretty much feel like any topic should be up for discussion. Not with strangers perhaps, but with your close family – why wouldn’t you talk about things?

This made for an interesting introduction to my husband’s family.   While I thought I was very liberal about talking about anything and everything, I soon realized it just meant that I was trained about what was appropriate to discuss in my family and what wasn’t.  That didn’t necessarily translate well to knowing the acceptable boundaries in a new family.

And they were different.

For example, while circumcision may be a dinner table conversation over Thanksgiving with my relatives, it startled quite a few people the first time I brought it up with my in-laws (I was pregnant with a boy at the time.)  On the other hand, my husband has no qualms discussing money, not just in general terms, but our specific finances – whether about his wage, or about how much we paid for our house – he shares with friends and neighbors with no hesitation.    It drives me crazy.

My parents’ philosophy is that discussing your money with others is always a bad idea.  Either the person you’re talking to has less than you (or makes less) and they are jealous of what you have or they have more (or make more) and pity you for being excited about what you have.  Either way, it’s a losing proposition.  So, it gets under my skin when I husband starts discussing our personal finances.  Just like I know it gets under his skin when I bring up circumcision with his family.

Somehow we’ve managed to muddle along together either by ignoring each other or brushing it off – but there is a kink in that solution:

What Do We Teach Our Children?

While we’ve managed to ignore each other’s idiosyncrasies when relating to each other, how and what we teach our kids can be a struggle.    I found it interesting to know that we aren’t alone.   Parents find it harder to talk about family finances and investing than dating, drugs, smoking, or alcohol.   Only topic to beat it?  Sex.  (Source survey by T. Rowe Price on Parents, Kids and Money)

Why is it so difficult to discuss family finances and investing?

(Hold on because I will be asking your opinion for a chance to win a Great Piggy Bank Adventure Flip Cam.)

I have a theory that it mostly boils down to embarrassment.

Why would you be embarrassed?  Here are three ideas off the top of my head.

  • You were raised in a family like mine where family finances just aren’t discussed.
  • You aren’t confident about the state of your own finances so don’t want to talk about it.
  • You’ve never invested in stocks so don’t want to look foolish trying to talk about them.

Any of those ring a bell?  If not, what did I forget?

This post was sponsored by T. Rowe Price who collaborated with Disney to create an online game to help parents talk about money with their kids –  The Great Piggy Bank Adventure®.   They are giving one lucky reader a FREE Flip Camera just for reading and answering a question about discussing money.

Here are the details:


Open to US Residents    ~    Winner will be chosen August 18th and notified via email  ~ Leave a comment for each entry.

MandatoryEntry:  Post a comment with your answer to one of the following questions:

  • Is it easier for you to talk about drugs and alcohol than your family finances? If so why?
  • Why do you think it is easier for parents to talk about drugs and smoking than family finances with their kids?
  • Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?
  • What advice would you give to other parents talking to their kids about the family finances?

Additional Entries:


For additional entries (leave a comment for each):

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I just entered to win a Flip Camera on @mominmanagement and you should too!

Good Luck!

**A gift card and the Great Piggy Bank Adventure-branded Flip camera have been provided courtesy of T. Rowe Price. T. Rowe Price is not involved in or responsible for the outcome of this giveaway.

198 Responses to Shhhh…We Don’t Talk About THAT

  1. The topic of money in my family was never taboo growing up. We could talk about it if we wanted to do so.

  2. A terrific topic for discussion, Daria. Since I don’t face this quandary, I’ll simply offer that, in my chilhood family, finances were considered private matters, part of the boundaries set by my parents and shared by my friends’ families. I think it was driven by personal pride and the sense that money issues were divisive, individual, and simply no one’s business. I don’t think it was embarrassment but that may have been one factor.

  3. Is it easier for you to talk about drugs and alcohol than your family finances? If so why?

    yes, i feel it is easier to talk about alcohol and drugs because its basically a get your point across kind of answer, but for finances its a little more in depth and its hard sometimes to tell the kids that we are not a wealthy family, and expect a positive outcome. But one day when they are old enough we will spill the beans.

  4. There are several reasons that it’s easier to talk to my children about alcohol and drugs than finances. First of all, there’s the fact that finances and economics is part of most every facet of life. Where does a parent even _start_?? It’s “too big” a topic, sort of like discussing air. It’s all around us, in our choice of home, furnishings, clothing, food, what we wear and do…you get the idea. Alcohol and drugs is easier to talk about because they are discrete topics, if that makes sense. Kids might see parents drinking a beer, they can identify that it’s alcohol, and parents can make a teaching moment about their well-deserved cold brew.

    Another reason we talk about alcohol and drugs more readily is that as a society we are much more judgmental about those who abuse substances than we are about those who lose their homes because of poor financial judgement. After all, financial disaster can happen to ANYONE, but substance abuse is seen as a sign of personal weakness. So when Johnny sees Mr Smith losing his home to bankruptcy, his parents are less likely to scare Johnny with the information that the economy is frighteningly capricious. But if Mr. Smith is drunk, Johnny’s parents are more likely to explain the situation and shake their heads at his behavior.

    Another factor is that we all learned about “smoking, alcohol and drugs” in health classes. We have the vocabulary and the signs and symptoms of abuse, and the willingness to pass this knowledge to our children. I never learned about balancing a checkbook, or creating a financial plan, staying out of debt, avoiding financial ruin. I don’t even have an idea of how to explain that to my children.

    However, in both cases, I am more likely to explain best choices than I am to discuss my personal choices. My kids have savings accounts and allowances. They’re set up with a system where they give some money to charity, save some, and spend some. We try to create good habits and show appropriate behavior when it comes to alcohol. But if I go to a wedding and drink too much, I’m not exactly likely to discuss that with my children.

  5. We NEVER talked about money when I was growing up. I remember watching as my parents so obviously struggled and yet, I was never given the tools to avoid the same mistakes when I grew up. I have had to learn as I was going along, as an adult. Thankfully, our children will be much better prepared.

  6. Yes it was embarrasment my parents did not make enough money to take care of all their need let alone the wants. My father used to sit down and pay the bills and he was so angry while doing it was never a good idea to disturb him.
    I teach some budgeting classes and I tell people their children learn about money from their parents and they need to sit down and have a conversation with them about money.

    • It makes complete sense and yet still surprises me that money is such a touchy topic in many families (mine included). I don’t quite understand why, but it does seem very common.
      Thank you for stopping by Barb and entering!

  7. I think it may be easier to talk about drugs and smoking with kids because there tends to be a right and wrong. Drugs are bad, spending a certain amount of money depends on the family and the situation. The boundaries of money are much less clear cut and much more situational than drugs.

  8. No, it is not easier to talk about drugs and alcohol than our family finances. When my children were young, I discussed the “state of the family” with them so that they understood why they were asked to be conservative in what they asked for. Now, my granddaughter also knows that when times are tough that her giving to the family includes not asking for un-needed items. She seems to enjoy knowing that there are times that it is okay to ask and expect extra’s (birthdays, holidays and rewards).

  9. The topic of money wasn’t “taboo”, but I knew that my parents struggled financially and I didn’t ask for money from them. That being said, I felt really proud of myself when I saved my babysitting money to buy something that I really wanted. Now I’m overall pretty frugal and I think about spending the $$ before swiping the card!!

  10. Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?

    It actually was, to a point. We could talk about how to save money, make money, the importance of money, but could not talk about real finances of the family. We weren’t able to know what our parents made, how much they paid for the house, savings vs checking, retirement etc. I think we will be teaching our kids the same principals.

  11. The only “taboo” subject regarding finances in our house was how much my dad made. Other than that, we learned to save our allowances for big purchases. We learned that we got jealous of the other kids when we didn’t save up too. So it worked out pretty well. It’s easier to talk about money I suppose when you don’t have a lot of it.

  12. When i was old enough to get a job my parents never push or talked about getting a job. Even if they really needed me to get one. Think that it is so hard for parents to talk about money issues because they don’t want to put the weight of them bringing money in to the house as a issue. They would rather try to do it on their own. Now that I am older they are more open in talking about money and the different struggles that they faced.

  13. Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?

    Well, some aspects were taboo; we certainly never talked about our salary or how much we spent on a car or house. But growing up; my father frequently sat us down and opened up a pie chart showing us where our money was going. Looking back now; I know how much my father struggled financially; but in the moment I certainly didn’t know.

    Today; I still do not discuss my salary with anyone other than my husband and I cringe when other people discuss theirs.

  14. My parents taught me the same view of $$ that yours did. Talking about it publicly can only bring angst.

    But we did talk about it privately. My parents showed me how to balance my first checkbook and how they paid bills every month. They reinforced that you always spend less than you make.

    I hope to teach the same to my kids.

  15. Talking about money wasn’t/isn’t taboo to talk about in our family. When we were growing up my mom & da would talk about it with us so we understood that money just didn’t grow on trees and there were bills to pay & necessities to buy before the extras. My son and I keep it open like that and it works. Everybody makes money some more than others but what eveyone needs to realize is that money and the things you buy with it, doesn’t make you more of a person than someone who makes less. I know of a lot of people who make more than I do but are in debt because they bought a ig expensive house, a new car, a boat, along with a few other things they didn’t need-all while I am debt free and not the least bit jealous they aren’t. I feel bad that we are going on fun vacations and they can’t because they are working constantly to get out from under the debt blanket they got themselves covered in. I would rather them and I talk about it instead of them feel because I am a single mom and make less that they are superior because they might learn something that I am doing right that they an implement in theirs!
    Thank you for the opportunity!

  16. I think money is easier to talk about than drugs and alcohol. That said, we talk about both with our children. I don’t want to make the mistakes my parents made in each category. We did not learn to manage money or deal well with peer pressure when it came to drugs and alcohol. With both we were told to make good decisions.

  17. Was the topic of finances taboo in my family? Not exactly. We never discussed it, but it was because my family, grandparents included, were all of the mindset that you got a job with a big company and worked there your whole life, you lived below your means, and you saved. There was no guidance about expanding that at all through investments or entrepreneurship. Since I chose to go the self-employed route, I’ve had to educate myself on finances. I do wish that my parents could have helped me in that department, but they were simply ignorant on the topic themselves.

  18. I used to work with recovering addicts, so it’s easier for me to talk about drugs and alcohol. My dad used to talk with me about our finances since his work wasn’t steady… it was normal for his trade to lay him off for about 3 months every year. Other family members didn’t think I should know how tight money was… but it helped me learn about living within our means.

  19. I would much rather discuss family finances with our son than drugs or alcohol. Growing up, family finances were always an open discussion. My dad and mom set up a budget at the beginning of every month and so much was spent, saved for the future, saved for vacation, and saved for a rainy day. Even as a kid, I was always kept in the loop and my parent’s friends would always comment that I never threw tantrums. I knew what was budgeted for and if I wanted something I had to save. I try to teach my son the same thing. He’s 8 and gets about $10-$15 dollars a week based on his chores and attitude. 15% is saved and 10%-15% goes to a charity of his choice at the end of the month and he uses his money to buy the things that he wants. He even has a check registry that he balances.

  20. The money topic was pretty taboo in our house. We weren’t ever to have any idea how much my dad made and we didn’t talk much about anything with money. This was a mistake and I will not do that with my own kids! We already talk about money and saving and giving and spending.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  21. I still get surprised how hard it is for people to talk about money. I think it is connected to fear of not making it and embarrassment of being less than others.
    Great post Daria!

  22. We talk about finances regularly – I actually feel a bit of excitement talking about it with my girls. I want them to understand money and not be afraid of it. I also want them to know that we have financial stability – not something I was raised with. I like the opportunities we have to show them the relationship between what a thing costs and the value it may or may not bring to our lives.

  23. I come from a family of CPA’s (my dad, sister & BIL) so it certainly wasn’t taboo but I hated that they thought they could micromanage my money behavior.

    SarahRose_914 AT yahoo DOT com

  24. We never talked about money in our family. My mom raised the kids (including foster children), and my dad worked- he was an accountant, then owned a furniture and appliance store, and then- and since- has run a used farm equipment business, all while keeping the family farm going. We always had enough money, but there were definitely times where it was tight. Now finally after decades of successful businesses, my father is at the point of being able to run the business (he gets sales based on reputation and quality of equipment), and enjoy the little bit more he is making.

  25. Money was not taboo growing up, but we had a code of silence in that we didn’t share family business (money included) to anyone who didn’t live in our home.

  26. What advice would you give to other parents talking to their kids about the family finances?

    I think teaching children about money with savings and what not but I do not believe you should tell your kids about financial problems in the family. Children worry and think it’s their fault when something “bad” happens. Like Dr. Phil says, “You don’t bring children into adult matters.”

  27. Growing up my parents talked with us about the family finances so I think this makes it easier for me now to talk with my son. I think children should know what is going on especially with the way the economy is.

  28. Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?

    yes, the topic of money was taboo, it still is. There was always one person who likes to control the money, so if anyone wanted to spend it we would have to go to him.. it always ended in an argument.

    madlen.vasileva (at) yahoo (dot) com

  29. The topic of money was very taboo when I was growing up. Looking back I see that it really colored my view in an adverse way and I’m determined to teach my kids how to handle money responsibly now

  30. Growing up, my parents never talked about our finances! My Mom managed opur family finances & she was NOT very good with it! I remember getting calls from creditors daily at our house…thank goodness I did NOT take after her & I am much better at managing our finances!

  31. I believe in our case, it is equally easy to talk about drugs and alcohol as well as finances. WE talk about everything. I think parents have a hard time talking about finances with their kids because of the state of our economy as well as they don’t want their children to think they are poor. WE didn’t talk about finances growing up, and I think that is why my parents have left a bad example for my brothers and I. To other parents, just be honest. If you don’t have the money to buy the toy, don’t buy it. Tell you kids that they will need to save up for it. It will help them in the future!

  32. Mandatory Entry. While talking about money wasn’t really taboo in my family it certainly wasn’t discussed. I was really unprepared when I went out on my own. I know I planned on buying a house and was shocked to discover I was going to need a down payment. I’m certainly going to have an open dialogue with my kids.

  33. My parents were very open about discussing how much money we had and what we could not afford but we were never allowed to discuss anyone else’s finances- a rule I still hold by in my family. LIke I tell me kids, “It’s none of our business!”

  34. I’m really lucky, I guess. Both my family and my husband’s are pretty vocal about substances and finances. And I tend to be vocal about just about anything….which isn’t always a good thing. ;)

  35. It’s way easier to talk about drugs! no parent wants their child to worry about money

  36. Why do you think it is easier for parents to talk about drugs and smoking than family finances with their kids?

    I think it’s easier because it’s more about parents being open about drugs and smoking because we are telling our kids “Don’t Do It”. I probably won’t delve too deep into finances with my children because I don’t want them worrying.

  37. Discussing money was taboo in my family. My mom shared stuff when I was older mainly so I could help her balance the checkbook and do most of the shopping

  38. Talk of money was never really taboo…we just knew we didn’t have much of it, so we knew not to ask for stuff. My parents were missionaries and therefore dependent on offerings which varied greatly month to month. They taught us how to balance a checkbook and to live below our means, but there was no talk of investments and we were simply taught that credit was bad…but not exactly why!!

  39. The topic of money was never taboo in my house growing up. My mother was always open and honest about our financial situation. She constantly lectured my brother and I on the importance of long-term saving (retirement, investments, etc), never spending more than you have, avoiding debt, and so forth. Because I grew up with that I make it a point to check my spending regularly, keep a journal of what I make and monthly expenses, and save 30% of my paycheck.

  40. growing up without a lot of money, it wasn’t discussed much at my house. It could have been because family members felt ashamed of their situation or because they felt as a child/teen I really didn’t need to know about family finances. I never went without, always had the basics, but maybe not the best name brands out there. I talk to my daughter about finances and drugs and alcohol equally-even though she is only 9 I try to educate her as best I can and answer any questions she might have.

  41. We were always open in my family talking about finances when I was growing up. There was never any taboo about it.

  42. I always had such an open dialogue with my parents growing up – for better or worse – nothing was taboo — I’ve tried to keep the same methods with my family – keeping communication is always a good thing!

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  46. Money was never a taboo subject in our household. My mom was a single mom so she made sure to let us know exactly why we couldn’t have that $60 pair of jeans we wanted. She showed us how much money she made and the bills. Then she showed us what was left over. I realized after that just how precious money is.


  47. It’s easier talking about drugs/alcohol, etc than finances because that’s easier for kids to understand. Finances are difficult to understand, even as an adult. Saying no to drugs is a no-brainer and the consequences of using drugs are easier to explain.

  48. Discussing finances in my family was definitely TABOO. My mother wouldn’t even give me the info I needed of their finances that I needed in order to fill out my college financial aid application (FAFSA). She was furious w/ me for asking and told me angrily that that info was none of my business. !!!! That really angered me. B/c of her refusal to divulge in the info I needed to fill out my form, I was unable to apply for financial aid to my private college which as a result put me in thousands of dollars of debt for many YEARS just for ONE AND A HALF SEMESTERS!!!! That made me very bitter. I did not think that was fair to do that to me. Especially, since it all could have been avoided. >:(

  49. I grew up knowing how much money my parents did or didn’t have. At times it was hard, especially when I could not have something or when if I wanted something I had to buy it myself. My husband and I include our son in our fiancees and he knows what we have and what we dont have. I think in the long run it helps you not get “Shocked my reality” when you move out into the “real world”! It definaly helped me when i moved out at age 17.

  50. Generally talking about finances isn’t a taboo subject, often I am just disappointed when it gets to the point of me being exasperated because we live such privileged lives and one has a hard time showing gratitude for something that is the only thing one knows. This reminds me to talk about it more.

  51. Q: Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?

    A: My parents never talked about money, mainly because we didn’t have it. I’m sure they didn’t want us to worry. But I knew. I remember going to Head Start b/c it’s geared toward low income families. Then, it was the free and reduced lunches through elementary school. Or (now it’s more cool) – “layaway”, lol.

  52. Great post!

    Yes, the topic of money was “taboo” in my family when I was growing up..My parents did struggle at times, and as kids, we knew it, but they felt that the $ issues should not involve the kids..I partially agree, because it could make a kid worry:(

    Thank you for the chance to win!


  53. I can’t say money was a taboo subject growing up, but it was never really discussed. If I wanted money I asked, same thing if I wanted something. I never questioned and never learned much about money until I got a job and moved out.

  54. talking about finances was completely taboo in my house growing up…as an adult, my mother still won’t discuss her finances with me, but expects me to include her in all my finances…it drives me crazy!

  55. Was the topic of money “taboo” in your family growing up?

    no the topic of money was never taboo in my family because my parents always wanted me and my family to know the reality of living with debt, credit and all of the money responsibilities everyone needs to know when they reach the age of adults.

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