My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Breaking The Money Taboo – It Makes Cents

In 1913, Sigmund Freud recognized the taboo of money when he wrote, “money questions will be treated by cultured people in the same manner as sexual matters, with the same inconsistency, prudishness and hypocrisy.”

One hundred years later, sex is often openly discussed, yet many money matters are still considered taboo. As consequence many people make bad financial and personal monetary decisions because they avoid the topic. This lack of communication can impact anything from your estate planning, to your marriage, to the selection of your executor, to even losing friends over how to split a restaurant bill.

In my opinion, the money taboo is out-dated and potentially detrimental from both a familial and financial perspective and needs to be broken.

The Free Dictionary defines a taboo “as a ban or inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion”. I think that is a simple and elegant definition. Whether the taboo’s origin is Victorian, French, or biblical in nature, our parents and their parents have propagated the notion that it is bad social etiquette to discuss money matters of any kind.

Every culture and every family have different money taboos. For example, North Americans dislike revealing how much money they earn. It is taboo. Norwegians, on the other hand, have the tax records of all citizens available as public record and have no expectations of privacy.

I have observed first-hand, the financial cost to clients, friends and family and the related personal cost in regard to marriages, sibling and personal relationships where people did not have open frank discussions about money. This issue caught my attention to such a degree that in 2013 I decided to write a book on the topic, encouraging people to confront and/or consider various money taboos.

As they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and unfortunately two years later, due to time and work constraints and the realization that many of my proposed topics had psychological bents I was not qualified to discuss, I had only finished two (way too long) chapters of my proposed 17 chapters. I thus decided to set aside the book on money taboos and wrote Let’s Get Blunt About Your Financial Affairs (which was a collection of my best blog posts and thus required more editing than writing). Check - bucket list item taken care of.

As I expect to go in a different direction should I ever write another book, I figured I may as well get some use of the time I spent on my proposed book, so I have decided to post excerpts of the two chapters I wrote (the first chapter over the next couple weeks, the second likely in September). These two chapters are:

1. I Will Not Talk About It – this chapter revolves around our reluctance to discuss our will with our family

2. Asking For Money: The Intergenerational Communication Gap – this chapter discusses situations where children need money (example to escape abusive relationship or start a new career) and situations where parents need money (example: need to reverse mortgage their home since they have no money left and have medical bills or just daily expenses they can no longer afford to cover).

In these posts I am going to discuss reasons people have given me for continuing specific money taboos and review the consequences they face by adhering to these off limit discussions. I attempt to explain why we should consider challenging these prohibitions and how to break some of these taboos.

Hopefully by the time I conclude this “mini-series”, you may understand why I think Canadians need to talk about money.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Mark,

    Sounds like a very interesting topic. I suspect I'm going through some of the inter-generational issues you'll be discussing. I'm looking forward to some helpful insights I've missed.

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  2. I'm all for talking about money. All the problems that could be fixed and/or minimized if we did...

    As someone who supports the need for a will (we just did ours last month - 25 years late but better late than never since I'm still alive), I'm interested in reading your chapter on talking about the will.

    We financially disclosed to our kids guardians seven years ago but they weren't really interested. I chalked it up to them having more money than us (which they do -- guaranteed) but maybe they had a stigma associated with it. I'm leary about telling other people how much they'd get if we died. No one ever knocked off someone based on the amount of sex they were having but money, people will do a lot for a little money.

    I just found your site (new subscriber) and am looking forward to learning more.

    Besos Sarah.

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    1. Thx for subscribing, it is nice when your kids have done so well they dont care about what u r leaving them. Good for them

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