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What’s at Stake When We Don’t Talk Money

What’s at Stake When We Don’t Talk Money

“Daddy, how much money do you make?” “Honey, that’s not something we talk about in our family.”

“Mommy, how much did our house cost?” “Sweetheart, that’s not a polite question.”

“How much money do we have in the bank?” “Enough.”

We women receive the message early that we shouldn’t talk about money.

It’s so ingrained that, today, we are more likely to talk with our girlfriends about sex than about money. It’s so ingrained that, today, we are likely to HAVE sex much sooner with a significant other than we talk about money.

In the place of knowledge about money, there can be shame: Shame if we make too little money, since we’re wasting our educations. Shame if we make more than our partners, because won’t that emasculate them somehow? Shame if we feel like we are mismanaging our money.

I’ve felt it. I’ve been in the business of money my whole adult life.

Yet when I was interviewed on the podcast Death, Sex and Money, and they asked me about my net worth, I got nervous and pitted out. Sweat-dribbling-down-my-side pitted-out.

Here’s the thing ...

... I’m not saying that anyone did this on purpose ... but if — you know, hypothetically — society set out to keep women from being fully equal, what might those in power do?

Well, they might make the topic of money one that we aren’t *allowed* to talk about. One that would make us seem less feminine. One that filled us with shame.

They might have media messages to women on money infantilize us: “What’s your money personality?” “Skip that latte and watch your bank account grow!!” (Not seeing it? Well, can you imagine CNBC — the ultimate male TV channel — giving their viewers this kind of advice? “Yes, Dylan, in addition to packing my own lunch three times a week, I’m only going to splurge on just one new set of swim trunks for the summer. Those savings are going right into my bank account!” And then Jim Cramer would ring one of his toys and yell “Booyah!!” in celebration.)

In this world, men would likely dominate the money industries (like banking, venture capital, investing ... which are some of the higher-paying jobs.

The result for women?

We wouldn’t know how much money to ask for when we ask for a raise because we would be in the dark. We would leave too much of our money in cash because we wouldn’t know how to invest. Fewer women-run businesses would be funded ... leading to women building less wealth.

In fact, it would leave us pretty much where we are now. Less money, less power.

What can we do to fix this? Well, we’ve got a few ideas. And we’re going to share them with you at this weekend’s United State of Women. Stay tuned.

This article was originally published on Ellevest.

*Ellevest offers impact investment portfolios in both its digital and Private Wealth offerings. The digital offering can be up to 50% impact; as a fiduciary, Ellevest must put its clients’ interests first, and thus selects investments with an eye toward first investing to help clients achieve their goals.

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