Do you talk openly about your finances with your friends? Or is it still something you keep mostly to yourself.
— Krystal Yee (@krystalatwork) August 14, 2013
I asked this question last week, and it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. To me, it seems like 20 or 30-somethings are more open to talking about finances than older generations – like our parents or grandparents. Why is that? Why have we all of a sudden gone from shying away from a taboo subject, to talking so openly about it? How come in the 6.5 years I’ve been blogging, the personal finance blogosphere has exploded?
I think it has a lot to do with the internet. Your voice has more reach online, and it’s way less intimidating to talk about things that might otherwise be awkward. Take me, for example. When I was getting out of debt, I was too embarrassed to go to my parents, friends, or boyfriend for advice. Instead, I turned to the internet. And soon after I discovered personal finance sites, I became a blogger myself. It’s difficult talking about failures – especially when it came to money – and I really wanted people to hear my story: a normal person, with a normal salary, dealing with student and credit card debt. I’m not unique, but maybe think that’s the point. I know I personally don’t want to hear about exceptional stories all the time, because they’re hard (if not impossible) to duplicate. I want to hear about normal people succeeding; digging out of debt, saving money, and living a comfortable life – that’s what I can relate to. I cannot relate to someone who makes my entire annual salary in a month, and spends thousands of dollars a month of clothing, dining out, and other luxuries. :)
For 20 and 30-somethings, most of us have been in debt before, and most of us have struggled with our money at some point in our lives. And I feel like maybe it’s that commonality that brings this generation closer together and more willing to talk openly about how we can improve our situations. Since money is so closely tied to success in our society (whether that’s right or wrong is another topic), it seems easier and less intimidating to talk about it when it seems like everyone is going through the same sorts of problems.
All of this information we are sharing is great, but being so open can have a negative impact as well. It’s extremely hard not to compare yourself with your peers, or those success stories. And if you’re online looking at someone’s financials, or talking about them over a cup of coffee, it can be easy to get discouraged.
Even now, I can get caught up in feeling down about my situation. While my blogging friends are making $10,000 in advertising, or climbing up to a $1 million net worth, or earning $250,000/year, I should be inspired by their success! I remember once dating someone who was so put together and so successful, that I felt completely useless in comparison. He willingly shared details about his mortgage, his job, and his investing strategies – not to brag, but just in normal conversation. Yet, in all of these cases – whether it’s blogger friends or real life friends – I find I’m often left feeling a little inadequate because I’m not doing what they’re doing.
But, we can’t compare ourselves to others. There will always be someone more successful, richer, better looking, etc. than you, and if you keep focusing on what you lack (instead of what you have) you’ll be a pretty unhappy person. The only comparison that’s fair is you, and we all know that, right?
However, I do think all of this openness with our finances has changed us for the better. I know that had I not found the online personal finance community, I doubt I’d be where I am today. Sharing ideas is always better than hoarding them, right? But will we become so open that nothing is off limits? Will so much information just confuse and overwhelm us? It’s really hard to say how all this will affect our generation in the long run.