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Why Women Find it Hard to Talk About Money

Talking about personal finances is almost as hard for people to talk about as sex, survey finds

Talking about personal finances is harder than talking about religion, politics or death — and almost as hard to talk about as sex, a new survey finds. And women are more likely than men to find talking about money difficult.

Half of women said they were reluctant to talk about money because they consider it a private topic, compared to 41% of men, according to the survey, from Wells Fargo in partnership with Versta Research. Feeling judged was another top-cited reason, for 35% of women and 31% of men. 

The only money topic women were less reluctant than men to talk about is how much they earn, the survey found. Men were more open to talking about their savings, debt, specific investments, spending habits and money mistakes, among other topics.

Wells Fargo polled 3,403 U.S. adults and 203 teens between September 5 and October 3, 2023.

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Why personal finance is a taboo topic

Asked to rank conversations on their difficulty, 60% of respondents said it was difficult to talk about sex, while 57% said personal finance was difficult to discuss. To compare, 40% said it was difficult to talk about politics, 29% religion, and 28%, their personal health.

When asked directly about the difficulty of talking about sex compared to finances, 47% said having an open and honest conversation about their money is more challenging than discussing their romantic life. Privacy, not wanting others to know how much or how little they have and feeling judged were top reasons people cited holding them back from talking about their money. 

“When you think of money taboos and this idea that talking about money and talking about sex are actually almost the equivalent in their difficulty, it really just highlights the taboos that sometimes hold us back,” said Michael Liersch, head of advice and planning for Wells Fargo. 

“We really need to ask ourselves, what’s holding us back from getting the information we need to be successful on our own terms,” said Liersch.

The survey also found generational differences in how women feel about money discussions. More than half, 53%, of Gen Z women ages 14 to 26 said feeling judged made them avoid talking about money, versus 35% of women across all generations.

“Women are often penalized for traits their male counterparts receive applause for,” said Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a financial therapist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “When it comes to money, we are fearful that if we advocate for ourselves, such as asking for a raise or negotiating down a too-high car insurance payment, we’ll be met with hostility.”

‘There really are no stupid questions’

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