Debt Is a Taboo Conversation Topic


As a young adult, my parents taught me to never discuss religion or politics in a social setting,  especially if you know and like the other people in the room. I've since learned that sex is often included along with religion and politics in the trifecta of taboo polite conversation topics. Trust me, growing up 50 years ago in the farmlands of Ohio it went without saying that sex wasn't something you talked about in public (or even in private, for that matter).

See also: How to Recover From a Financial Setback

Remembering my parents' wise advice, I was fascinated by the results of a poll recently conducted by It showed that more Americans would now rather discuss their views on religion, politics, or even their love lives with someone they've just met than reveal the amount of credit card debt they are carrying.

In fact discussing money issues in general, like your salary or the amount of your monthly mortgage or rent payment, were generally considered greater taboo topics than sharing one's views on politics or religion, or even revealing personal information, like the details of health problems, your age or your weight!  More than twice as many people said that they'd gladly share their views on religion in a social setting than dare discuss the current balance on their credit cards.

I also found it interesting that people are more reluctant to discuss their indebtedness now, as compared to before the recession (the same survey was conducted pre-recession as well), even though during that time most Americans have actually decreased the amount of credit card debt they owe. Financial experts analyzing the survey data concluded that that is because before the Recession, carrying debt was often encouraged and considered almost a patriotic thing to do in order to stimulate the economy, whereas now indebtedness is commonly viewed as a personal failure.

Don't get me wrong. When it comes to money matters, I'm not suggesting that people should bare their balance sheets in public. Although, as I've written about here before, having an open and honest conversation about money problems with family members - as well as full and ongoing disclosure about financial issues with anyone you're involved with romantically - is definitely a prudent course of action.

In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that the latest survey reconfirmed that "the weather" is still the number one most appropriate topic of polite conversation in a social setting. Maybe at the next dinner party, try some schmooze-talk like this: "So, what do you think of this weather?  It just makes you want to pay off all of your credit cards, doesn't it?"

Photo by: Andres Rueda via Flickr.


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