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Americans Like to Talk, Just Not About Money

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Ask Americans anything—about religion, marital problems, sex, race, politics, or even drug addiction. But don’t ask them about money.

Americans don’t want to talk about it. That’s according to a Capital Group survey, which found that out of a dozen topics people don’t generally chat about with their friends, respondents were more willing to talk about any others among them than the three that had to do with money: household earnings, retirement savings and debt.

In fact, just 35% of people—30% of men and 40% of women—have discussed finance-related topics with friends and peers in the last six months. It figures that millennials, at 23%, are almost twice as likely as boomers (just 13%) to talk to their friends about money. And yet more women consider financial topics a social taboo than men.

(Related: Daniel Kahneman: Your Intuition Is Wrong, Unless These 3 Conditions Are Met)

And according to survey findings, those willing to talk about the taboo matter of money are either very confident—it adds, “perhaps too confident”—or very insecure.

When asked about topics they consider off-limits in discussions with friends, respondents pointed to money in its various forms: household earnings, 39% said it’s a taboo topic; retirement savings (38% ), debt (32%) and inheritance (25%). Chat about politics? Sure; only 17% said it was off limits. Drug use? Why not (14%)? Even racial issues were nearly five times more acceptable to talk about, as just 8% said they were taboo.

Many respondents said their finances were nobody else’s business, while others cited awkwardness and concern about creating ill feelings among friends.

That said, if a big financial decision or event comes up, respondents said they’d talk about it with a spouse or a financial advisor, with women (50%) more likely turn to their spouse than men (36%). Incidentally, women (50%) are also more likely to speak with a financial advisor than men (41%).

To conquer the taboo about discussing money, the survey suggests starting at home by talking to a spouse or significant other—or with parents and kids communicating. In addition, looking for financial advice from an advisor, talking to an employer or picturing how they’d like their retirement to be all can help smooth the way to talking about money.

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