03/09/2015 05:53 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT

The Financial Truth Shall Set You Free

Man and woman with money and financial documents in home interior
JackF via Getty Images
Man and woman with money and financial documents in home interior

In 2015, personal finance is still a taboo topic. We might live in a liberal country, but Canadians are not very open-minded when it comes to talking about our pocketbook. In fact, many of us downright lie.

A recent poll by Ipsos Reid shows only about half (49 per cent) of us are completely honest about our financial situation. Forty-five per cent of us maintain that we are "mostly truthful but do tell some small white lies or omissions." Six per cent blatantly lie.

What's interesting about these numbers is that the pollsters weren't asking about discussing with 'strangers' -- they were simply talking about 'others', which includes friends, family, co-workers, and partners/spouses.

That's right -- spouses. Your for-richer-for-poorer partner. That's how deep our financial discomfort runs.

I guess it's not all that surprising. At Consolidated Credit, after our clients complete our debt management program, we often reach out and ask them to share their tales of financial freedom in our "Success Stories" section on our website. But even in their moment of debt-free triumph, many are hesitant due to fears of revealing their past mistakes.

The reasons are varied and some are noble. The Ipsos Reid poll says that the top reason for a lack of truthfulness is that people want to protect their loved ones from stress or worry (36 per cent). Others don't want to feel like a failure (22 per cent), and some cite culture or learned behaviours (16 per cent).

Despite these hesitations, I think one thing is clear: The more openly we discuss our finances, the more opportunity we have to gain financial literacy and take control of our financial outlook.

Think about your car. If something seems to be going wrong, would you keep it secret? Would you shy away from discussing it with friends who might've had similar problems? Would you be too embarrassed to go to a mechanic?

It's time we shatter the financial taboo. By taking control and owning our financial reality, we can begin to make steps toward improvements and we can let go of secrecy and stress.

Here are some ways to ease your way into financial conversations with a spouse, parent, friend, or anyone else that is close to you:

Tread lightly - Dip your toe in instead of diving head-first. Don't lecture or judge. Treat it as you would any other sensitive topic.

Even the playing field - If you're asking someone to open up, you need to be prepared to share as well. Reciprocating openness will establish a level of trust that is necessary for a conversation that many people don't want to have.

Bragging is bad - We can be understandably excited about good financial news in our lives. But before you share it, consider the feelings of others. Your success might exacerbate another person's feeling of failure.

Forget about gender roles - Banish any stone age stereotypes about breadwinners or household budget-makers. The Ipsos Reid poll showed that men are more likely (54 per cent) to lie about finances than women (47 per cent), but finances have nothing to do with the X or Y chromosomes.

Brush up - Financial literacy will increase your confidence and allow you to assess financial situations in a less subjective way. There's a multitude of free online material available to help you help yourself and others.


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