A while back, I was at a party talking to an acquaintance who had just bought a new house, and, unprompted, she came out and told us how much it had end up costing after the bidding war she’d had to engage in. My first reaction was surprise – I mean, who comes out and says that to people you don’t know really well? But at the same time, it was actually pretty useful information – my husband and I had considered looking at houses in that neighbourhood and we were skeptical about whether or not the asking prices were anywhere close to what the houses would actually go for.
Talking about money is not something most of us are brought up to do, even with people closest to us – how many of you grew up knowing how much your parents earned? Or how much they saved for retirement? These days money-related questions like how much did your house cost or how much did you pay for those shoes are still as taboo as they were years ago – even in an age when people have no problem sharing details about everything from sex to bikini waxes.
At the same time, trading information about money is really important – it can help you set goals or trade strategies for doing things better. I think we could all do with more open and frank discussion about money.
The question is how much should we share? Sure there are lots of articles out there on money etiquette: how to sidestep rude questions or deal with splitting a restaurant bill. But there’s a whole grey area around sharing information about personal finance with friends and family. Should you discuss salaries or the cost of childcare for example? Comparing notes might be helpful – but you need to consider how asking questions like that might make your friend feel. Or how knowing that kind of information might make you feel (I am paying my nanny way too much!! I can’t believe what a pittance I get paid!!).
I don’t think there are any firm answers – but I do think it’s important to open up more about money. I’d be interested to know if any of you regularly share information about your finances with your friends – or whether talking openly about money has helped you learn to make a good money decision.