One of the reasons financial literacy is so abysmally low among Americans is simply the fact that the subject itself is somewhat of a taboo.
Parents hide their financial woes from children to protect them. Spouses hide their financial mistakes to save face in front of their partners. And children grow up thinking money is a dirty word that parents fight about, that student loan applications are simply too confusing to bother deciphering, and that if they overdraw their bank accounts, then it must be the Big Bad bank's fault.
It's a vicious cycle, and although the fallout from the Great Recession left most people a little more open to the idea of discussing their money woes, the improvement in the economy may be giving them an excuse to go mum again.
The latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index® survey shows just how far consumers will go to get around opening up about their finances.
More than 60% of Americans said they'd rather divulge their weight rather than talk about the state of their wallet. Not surprisingly, men turned out to be more self conscious about money than their pants size. Nearly 70% of the fellows said they'd rather fess up about their weight, compared to just 58% of women.
But there's more to the picture. Men are more apt to lie about their finances in general –– 22% said they've lied about their money, versus 18% of women.
The bottom line: It's high time Americans did away with the stigma surrounding personal finance. It's one thing to keep your salary private from coworkers, but the simple act of commiserating over financial strife can help send home to others –– including ourselves –– the most important message of all: We are not alone. We are not all idiots. We are all in this mess together.
Helaine Olen, the author of "Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry," says it best in the final paragraph of her book:
"If honesty about our personal prospects helps us as individuals, imagine what such a thing could do fo us collectively. It could empower us to insist on changes that will benefit us all."
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