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For a society so money-focused, it’s fascinating to witness all the stigmas related to finances. If someone gets a new job, it’s taboo to ask about their salary. When they move into a new home, no respectable person will inquire about the cost of the house. The list goes on. Adhering to these unwritten rules simply reinforces the stigmas — and the related outcomes.

Let’s say a friend invites you to go to a concert but you know the tickets are very pricey. You may be too ashamed to admit you can’t afford it. So, you claim to be busy that night and then sit home feeling bad. Why is this a social norm?

When Vulnerability Meets Materialism

Talking about your economic situation requires you to get vulnerable. Meanwhile, we live in a culture that fetishizes consumerism, materialism, and possessions. To bridge this unbridgeable gap, we try to mask the issue by making money off-limits as a conversation topic. If no one asks about it, the contradictions remain hidden.

Like any problem that is ignored, the social stigma around money can cause emotional distress. If you’re already struggling with your mental health, money-related stress will frequently exacerbate them. Unless and until the taboo is challenged, the problems will continue.

A recent study on financial wellness found:
  • Over 90 percent of participants agree that money problems are deeply connected with all of our other issues in life. So much so that at least half the times they’ve sought support, it was related to finances.
  • 46 percent reported money problems negatively impacted their physical health
  • 74 percent reported money problems negatively impacted their emotional health
  • But only one-third of the responders reached out to a counselor for help

That last finding highlights the insidious role of stigma. We identify financial issues as affecting our health and impacting all facets of our life. Yet, we hold off talking about it.

Money and Mental Health: A Few Numbers
  • Studies find money-related to be the top cause of stress in the U.S. with roughly three out of four adults reporting anxiety and pressure about their finances
  • Almost half of all Americans in debt have also been diagnosed with a mental health condition
  • Of those people, 86 percent report that debt worsens their symptoms
  • Compared to those without debt, people with both debt and depression are three times more likely to attempt suicide
Personal Steps You Can Take to Reduce the Stigma and the Stress

Get yourself a journal and a good pen and keep track of things the old-fashioned way:

  • Budget: Don’t try to wing it. Carefully and accurately assess your finances. From there, create and stick to a strict budget.
  • Know what you’re spending: Keep diligent records of every dollar you spend.
  • Go slow: When you have multiple financial decisions to make, write them as a list. Prioritize them and mindfully address them — one decision at a time.
  • Identify your stressors: What triggers you into money issues and anxiety? Write them in your journal and start doing the work to pre-empt these patterns.
  • Identify your emotions: What exactly do you feel when money stress happens? Naming your emotions makes them easier to tackle.

The parallel track to navigate is talking about your situation. Find trusted friends or family members with whom you can tap about money without guilt or shame. Break the stigma by ignoring it. Lead by example and make money a topic people can openly discuss.

Speaking of open discussions, there’s one place where no topic is taboo or off-limits. Therapy is designed to be where you can talk freely and with confidence. I invite to you connect with me soon.

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