I remember when I was young probably 8 or 10 years old or so I met a guy who was friends with my dad. They were both salesmen and I knew that the friend had been mentoring my dad and so my conclusion was that he was also richer. So to figure out if I guessed right or not I asked “How much money do you make?” Everyone probably laughed and looked around awkwardly since this kid asked a taboo question. Honestly I don’t remember a lot of details about this exchange but I do remember my father looking at me and saying “Kraken, you’re not supposed to ask people how much money they make.” My response since then has been don’t talk about finances with people, it’s rude and you will come off as arrogant, nosy, or weird.
I think the way I remember this exchange is a neat phenomenon. The only clear memory I have of this point in time is that I asked a question and then was informed that it was taboo. I don’t remember the guy’s name or what I did before and after. I just remember that I shouldn’t do that again. Remembering taboos is definitely a characteristic of human evolution. If our caveman ancestors whom forgot taboos and continued to ask taboo questions would get kicked out of the tribe. If they got kicked out of the tribe it would be pretty hard to survive, mate, and pass on these taboo forgetting genes onto the next generation.
I’m sure taboos have/had their place in society. I’m not an sociologist or anthropologist so I don’t know what that place is but I’ll just assume that evolution had it’s reasons. However, we need to be smarter than tradition, or at least willing to question it. SO, why would a taboo on talking about money exist?
I think the best reason for it to exist is because money and emotions get tied together, and the knot is tight. Spending money on people is a very common way to show affection. Buying diamond rings and fancy steak dinners at restaurants are common ways to show that you like someone. Spending money on yourself is how most people show off where they stand to society, or at least where they want people to think they stand. Getting into debt in order to have the newest car to commute to work in, or a house that has twice as many rooms as it does people living there is far too common. The worst emotional pairing of all would be, if I am making less than someone I work with but I feel like I do more, or better, work than them then my reaction would be envy of their salary, or even anger at the company, right?
Why do we do this to ourselves though? Why do we tie so much emotion into something that is the least emotional thing in the world: numbers. Words can illustrate beauty, songs can stir up emotions, and pictures can frame a story but all numbers can do is state facts. If you make 3k a month but spend 4k the fact of the matter is you’re living beyond your means. If you spend $85 on dinner and a movie with your significant other does this mean that you love them more than another couple who enjoys hiking in a state park or wandering around in a museum? It shouldn’t! It should mean that you don’t know how to cook and prefer sitting in a dark room with strangers and not talking to them, but that’s a rant for another day. If I find out I am getting compensated less than a co worker this means just means that my time and my skills might be under valued. I can double check this theory by googling what my degree is worth or checking websites like glassdoor.com.
Think about what we are missing out on by tying emotion and money together. We could all be happier with less stuff if we didn’t think stuff showed the world what we are worth. If it was socially acceptable you could make someone stop and think about whether or not it’s a good idea to buy a new car on loan while they still have student loan debt. Your friend who has a massive amount of credit card debt could share his dilemma with you and that could lead to swapping getting lunch together to catch up with frisbee at the park until the debt problem is solved. I could talk about my salary with my coworker and find out that maybe my product is being under valued and I should research selling my time and skills to another company that values me more.
So I want to start that conversation with all of you, my readers. I have announced my current net worth on it’s own page. Anyone from the internet can see what I make. I am not doing this to brag, I’m definitely not doing it to make people envious of what I have, all I am doing is stating a fact. I have amassed this much wealth and I think I need this much more to reach my goal. These numbers should be read with no differently than hearing a friend tell you that he is 5 minutes away from your house. I will be talking on this blog about what I am doing to increase, or decrease, that wealth and justify it with articles about those choices. If you, my loyal readers, have suggestions on what I could be doing differently share it with me since I am by no means a professional in frugality. I am going to be working hard at untying the knot between emotion and money in my own life, and I hope you can help.