Things We’re Not Supposed to Talk About: Money

I have had very vivid dreams for as long as I can remember. My earliest dream involved a monster in a warehouse trying to steal my favorite stuffed animal, a sheep named Sheep (I’ve always been a very practical person*).

Last night, I dreamed that the 11-year old I nanny complained to me that she only had $100,000 in her trust fund. Being an adult, dream me didn’t scoff at her and give her a speech about how the rest of the world lives; dream me tried to assure her that that would do her just fine until she got older.

I wondered idly this morning what prompted that specific dream interaction. Yesterday was a rough day of nannying, so I assume that influenced my stream of consciousness.  Then I remembered a dream from a few nights ago in which I was calculating some budget items; when I woke up, the numbers seemed to check out, so congratulations, brain.  Is this the start of an endless number of “adult” financial worries?  Probably.

Growing up I was taught to never talk about certain topics with friends.  Of course, I quickly found out that these topics were my favorite discussion pieces, and I had interesting (although likely ill-informed) conversations about religion, politics, and money with anyone willing to participate.  I once asked my piano teacher how much money all the pianos in her house cost–a practical question, of course, if I was going to buy myself a house full of pianos someday.  Needless to say, my mom was pretty embarrassed by that one.

As I’ve gotten older, I found that most people of my generation are fairly comfortable discussing finances among friends.  These days, perhaps it’s less of a pissing contest than it used to be.  Particularly in grad school, none of us was overly impressed that someone else on a Research Assistant stipend was making $20k/year–we all did.  What we wanted (and needed) to know was how our friends’ budgets broke down.  How much do you spend on food?  What’s your rent here?  What are your student loans like?

Now that I am (barely) out of grad school, I haven’t found much of a change.  Young professionals are still comparing notes and asking about rent and utility prices, where you do your grocery shopping, and unabashedly asking how you can afford certain apparent luxuries.  On Reddit, I follow r/frugal, where mostly 20-somethings share tips on how to cut costs on day-to-day living expenses.  I follow a blog called Get Rich Slowly, and exchange favorite personal finance books with friends.

Maybe this is just the result of the particular microcosm of society I choose to spend my time with, but I’m curious if any of you have similar or different experiences?

*Real life me later brought Sheep to Show and Tell on the letter “P” day, and the following conversation transpired between another child and myself:
Child: “What’s that?”
Me: “Sheep.”
Child: “What’s its name?”
Me: “Sheep.”
Child: “That doesn’t start with a ‘P.'”
Me: “So?”
I was a pretty popular kid.

3 thoughts on “Things We’re Not Supposed to Talk About: Money”

  1. I have discussion about my (and coworkers) salary with people because it’s public record and there’s no point trying to keep it secret. I’m always surprised when people who don’t work in the public sector are less willing to discuss salary.

  2. The “off limit” topics are also my favorite and have been for as long as I can remember. I don’t understand keeping finances a secret. If you inherited your money, fine. If you earn a lot of money, fine. If you’re in a lot of debt, fine. Regardless, we can all learn from each other. Kudos to you for trying to make sense of it all. P.S. I’d probably blush if Ava asked her piano teacher (that she doesn’t have) how much her pianos cost. I would, however, after the fact, try to coach Ava on a more discreet way of getting that information 😉 I mean, I’m curious…

  3. I can appreciate why some companies don’t allow you to talk about how much you make. They don’t want it to breed competition or petty jealousy. My roommate is adamant about never telling anyone how much she makes. Even me. Which makes balancing our budget a tad difficult. I personally don’t see the problem of talking about it among friends as long as, as you said, it’s more about finding better ways to live on a budget rather than a pissing contest.

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