Sex and money are our top taboo subjects

4 November, 2015

Research finds personal finances more difficult to talk about than religion

A national survey commissioned by industry super fund−owned bank ME reveals Australians are less willing to discuss personal finances openly with other people than other thorny topics like politics, religion, death or emotions.

More than a quarter of Australians (28%) said they don’t like talking about their finances openly with others, more than any other topic measured including health, relationships, politics, career, death, religion, taxes and emotions – but not sex (36%).

The survey found 63% are worried about their finances, but 16% won’t talk to anyone about them, even their partner.

On average, people are more likely to discuss their finances with a partner (64%), parents (27%) and friends (23%).

The survey also shows why we don’t like talking about money with 78% indicating it is a source of judgement and comparison between people which can lead to embarrassment, jealousy and exploitation.

Money talk has big benefits

But the survey also found talking about personal finances with others can have huge benefits.

The more you talk openly about your finances with others, the less worried you are about them.

  • Of respondents who said they don’t like talking about their finances, 78% were worried about their finances compared to 35% of those who do like talking about their finances.

The more you talk openly about your finances with others, the more likely you are to actively manage them.

  • Of respondents who said they like talking about their finances, 80% said they often/always actively manage their money compared to 69% of those who don’t like talking about their finances.

And when it comes to relationships, the more you talk about money, the less tension and conflict it causes.

  • Of those who like talking about their finances with their other half, 61% rarely/never experience tension or conflict because of money, compared to 34% who consider the subject off limits. This is important considering 11% of all respondents said money is often/very often the cause of tension or conflict in their relationships.

ME Head of Deposits and Transactional Banking, Nic Emery, said the research presents a strong call to action for consumers to talk more about money with someone they trust.

“Discussing your finances with others is clearly linked to better financial management,” he said.

“It reduces money worry, increases the chances you’ll actively manage it and can help reduce money conflict in relationships.”

“Everyone knows talking about health issues with an expert, friend or family member can help – so too with money.”

“Because money can be a source of judgement, choose someone you trust but also consider their financial expertise and experience − you want to ensure you’re getting the right advice, if you’re seeking that out. Similarly, be mindful of divulging details that may put your finances at risk – use your common sense.

“Talking to a professional like an accountant can also make it easier, particularly around complex or embarrassing financial issues. It’s their job to talk about money.”

Gen Ys more open, but more worried

Gen Ys are more willing than other generations to talk about money, but worry about it more too.

• 56% of Gen Ys are more likely to discuss money openly, compared to 28% overall. • 57% of Gen Ys are happy to discuss money with their parents (27% overall), 56% their partner (64% overall), and 34% their friends (23% overall).

“Talking about money is more important for younger generations who are still learning life skills, particularly in an environment of rising education and housing costs,” added Emery.

ME’s findings indicate Gen Ys may lack financial confidence and may need extra help with only 67% actively managing their finances, compared to 72% of people aged 30-49 and 79% of people aged 50-plus.

“A higher proportion of Gen Y than other generations reported money worries (70% Gen Y vs 63% overall) and were more likely to report that they often/very often experienced tension and conflict in relationships because of money (25% Gen Y vs 11% overall).”

- Ends -

Note about the survey: Survey was conducted in September 2015 via iView, using an online survey method. The survey was completed by >1,000 Australian adults.