The Taboo of Discussing Wealth

Money isn't uncomfortable topic for just those who don't have enough; even the wealthy consider personal finances far more taboo to discuss than religion, politics, and sex.

Money isn’t uncomfortable topic for just those who don’t have enough, even wealthy don’t like discussing it, according to a global survey.

The deVere Group’s survey of 1,125 clients in the United State, Great Britain, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa revealed that 61% called personal finances the most difficult subject to discuss with family, friends, and colleagues. The clients surveyed had investable assets of more than $1.6 million.

“Money may be on most people's mind much of the time but this poll underscores that personal finance—which can include income, debt, tax, savings and expenses—is almost universally regarded as the worst topic of conversation,” deVere Group founder and chief executive Nigel Green said in a statement. “I imagine that it might come as a surprise to many that those who have money still dislike talking about it.”

According to Green, the survey’s results suggest that those who have accumulated wealth feel a degree of guilt or embarrassment about their money.

Discussing money is so taboo that topics like politics (14%), sex (11%), religion (8%), and health issues (6%) trailed far behind as uncomfortable topics for conversation.

“On a wider level, the survey indicates how there remains a ‘bury your head in the sand’ attitude to finances as people simply don't want to talk about money even to their nearest and dearest,” Green said.

A Wells Fargo study revealed similar findings, although to a lesser degree. In a survey of just Americans, ages 25 to 75, Wells Fargo reported that 44% said personal finance was the most challenging topic to discuss. However, these survey respondents didn’t want to discuss money because it was the biggest stress in their lives.

The fact that so many people are uncomfortable discussing finances is disconcerting considering a deVere survey from January revealed that clients fitting this same profile were concerned about their retirement funds and said building those investments up is their top priority for 2014.

“Ignoring or putting off tackling any personal finance issues is always the worst way to handle such things as you will, almost inevitably, be creating far bigger challenges in the future—this is especially true when it comes to managing debts and investments and saving for retirement,” Green said. “You wouldn't put off tackling a serious health issue and the same logic should be applied to money.”