Talking about how much we make is the last taboo

Most people, if asked how much they earn, will not say, and most of the rest will lie to you about it.
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Most people, if asked how much they earn, will not say, and most of the rest will lie to you about it.

A fifth of us lie about our salaries.

That may not sound like many, until you realise a further 70 per cent of people wouldn't tell another soul what they earn.

These are findings from online polling done by Kiwibank to coincide with the airing of psychologist Nigel Latta's Mind over Money show, which the bank funded.

In the series, the last episode of which airs on Monday, Latta revealed how irrational people are when it comes to money, including how reluctant they are to talk about it.

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Kiwibank chief economist Zoe Wallis reckons this reluctance to discuss money is wealth-retarding.

"Our reticence to talk about money means that we often don't take a cold hard look at our own situation and the ways we could improve it," she said.

The polling found that 47 per cent of people claimed to be uncomfortable talking about money, but some of them don't appear to be being entirely truthful as 68 per cent of people said they did not tell people what their income was.

Kiwibank also found 18 per cent of people admitted to lying about how much they earned.

A good understanding about your finances is crucial to making good decisions, says Zoe Wallis, chief economist at Kiwibank.
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A good understanding about your finances is crucial to making good decisions, says Zoe Wallis, chief economist at Kiwibank.

"We are social creatures and we often learn by talking through issues with our friends and families," said Wallis. 

"We need to step up the dialogue on financial topics such as how to budget, save and invest.

"A society where people openly discuss money leads to increased financial literacy and should have a positive flow-on effect to people making better financial decisions," Wallis said.

"That's why we need to talk more about it. When people have a better understanding of how to manage their own finances, they make better decisions."

​The polling, which attracted over 3000 respondents, indicated that under the cloak of silence, many of us are suffering.

Nigel Latta's money show has lifted the lid on the reasons why our brains struggle to cope with money.

Nigel Latta's money show has lifted the lid on the reasons why our brains struggle to cope with money.

Kiwibank's online polling was anonymous, freeing people to confess their money worries without fearing they may be judged.

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In all, just over half were worried by their overall level of debt (58 per cent), or just their mortgage (56 per cent), or being able to pay off thier credit cards (59 per cent).

Many also confessed to buying things they later regretted (53 per cent).

"New Zealanders can tend to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to looking at their personal finances," Wallis said.

"Part of this is that many people take on debt without fully understanding how much it will cost them in the long run. As humans we're very good at focusing on the now, rather than planning ahead for our financial futures."

There could be another reason why talking about money, which is sometimes labelled the "last taboo", could also be helpful to many people who are struggling with money.

Writing in Psychology Today on a research project into helping people suffering from "acute financial stress" (or AFS), psychologist Ryan Howes found that the simply talking about money relieved some of the symptoms of financial stress.

"It turns out one of the most important treatments for AFS is older than money itself  - talking. Talk about your stress, and you may find you're not alone," Howes said.

 - Stuff

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