Sunday, 28 October 2018

How Come We Never Talk About Money

A week ago, as you may know, was my birthday. Aside from the exhibitions I visited with my sister, something interesting happened later that night. While my friend Maya wished me a happy birthday, she expressed her desire to see my 30 Before 30 list. That got us talking about long-term goals and personal finances. Maya is probably the most organised friend I've ever had; she almost always plans ahead and knows what she wants. Her finances are no different. It was really eye-opening and liberating to be discussing such substantial topics with someone. And I realised that I've never really talked about these things with most of my friends. In fact, it seems to be a really heavy and difficult topic to bring up. But why? Why don't we talk about money with each other more often?

Okay, this is my personal reason why: I feel financially inept among my peers. As a 26-year-old who still goes to uni, barely working as a freelancer and never having had any experience with tax, it's hard not to feel inferior amidst most of my friends. People my age usually already graduate with a Bachelor's degree—or even Master's—and work a steady 9-to-5 job, which allows them to have a certain standard of living. They usually don't have to think twice before eating out, maybe even have some extra cash for luxuries, such as clothes or movies. What to them is chump change may actually make a difference in my life. They may never have to weigh whether to pay off their credit card or buy toiletries.

However, whenever I do talk about personal finances with other people, I am almost always exposed to new information and knowledge on the topic. It shows me an entirely different perspective on how to manage our wealth—how little it may be—and what monetary obligations we may have as a law-abiding citizen.

For some reason, though, most of us really just keep to ourselves when it comes to money. Whenever we are low on cash, we dismiss our friends' invitation to go out—even though they may have a zero-expense solution to our quality time together. Whenever we are desperate for money, we work like crazy—not believing that someone else would be able to help us manage it better instead. When we are blessed with excessive wealth, we often stay silent about our savings—without realising that our friends may need tips on how to start theirs. Why is it, when it comes to money, we don't realise that there is strength in number? Why do we think that money is something so utterly unsuitable for discussion that we just refrain from touching the subject altogether? Doesn't it help us a lot more if we make a habit of discussing our finances?

Case in point, a few days ago, I was suddenly faced with the single most painful part of adulthood: taxes. This whole time, I didn't know that, even though my income isn't quite enough to require me to pay taxes, I'd still have to apply for a tax ID. In fact, it's a requirement that we do it when we hit 19 years of age. If it wasn't for a client's inquiries, I would've lived my life completely oblivious to this fact—possibly kicking me in the rear later in debt and fines. The thing is, most of my friends are already part of the workforce. They're already paying taxes and, obviously, own a tax ID.  Now, imagine if we regularly discuss finances, imagine if it's such a natural topic among our peers, don't you think the tax ID conundrum would have been casually brought up at some point? Wouldn't that save us from the painful consequence of having to pay fines—or, worse, owe millions to the government?

Of course, we could argue that we don't know what we're doing with our finances—let alone taxes—that we're embarrassed to share or feel that we've got nothing to share anyway. Sure, that makes sense. But none of us knows what we're doing. We're all slowly turning into adults, but our environment forces us to grow at lightning speed. Who knows? What you know and what your friends know may vary greatly. You may learn something different, something you've never thought of before—and your friends may too. By sharing, we actually have a fighting chance.

Do you talk about money with your friends? If not, why not?

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