What Are You Afraid To Ask About Money?

Let's get transparent and break the money taboo

I have a complicated history with money. I want to say, “Who doesn’t?” But I can give you the answer to that: my husband. He grew up with two professional parents, where money was never tight. For him, money is simply a nice thing. You get it, you save some of it, you spend some of it on things that make you happy.

My relationship with money has never been that simple. Nor is my family history with it straightforward. I grew up in a household where we always knew we’d have food to eat and the utilities paid (no small thing where we grew up), but my mom would have horrific panic attacks about things like unexpected car repairs. We owned our own home, which my parents had bought for a grand total of $25K in 1980 (with inflation adjusted that’s $77K, but still, those were the days). But that house had the same enormous rip in the kitchen linoleum for twenty years, because my parents never felt like they could afford to repair it. My mom’s family had a huge amount of money before losing lots of it in the Great Depression, but my Dad’s mom supported her family of ten single-handedly as a typist after her father got black lung.

In short, my relationship with money is all over the place.

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A few years ago, I wrote about how I didn’t know if I could ever change my relationship with money—one driven mostly by my mom’s panic attacks and the constant childhood messaging that there is never enough money. Now, five years later, I’m proud to say that I have shifted that relationship quite a bit. We bought a house (instead of just hoarding money BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW). I have far less panic about money, and I’m even able to spend it on things that make me happy without guilt (which is a huge shift from a few years ago).

But the healthier my relationship with money gets, the more I wish we talked about it openly. Like everyone else on the internet, I’m fascinated by Refinery 29’s Money Diaries (particularly the ones that feel brutally honest). But sometimes I Google things like, “How much should you have in savings by 38?” (as if that’s a question with a firm answer), because I wonder what other people’s financial lives look like.

Over many years, Maddie and I have developed a pretty open conversation about money. I’m the saver in our family, and she’s the spender in hers, so we bring different points of view to the table. I encourage her to make sure she’s properly invested in mutual funds with Vanguard (even though that scares her), and she pushes me to do things like buy real estate (because that scares me). And just by having open conversations about the state of our finances, we’ve both been able to push each other to make smarter financial choices.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to cover married and engaged finances more on APW. I’d love to bring that open conversation to our comment section (where we all have the distinct advantage of being able to share details or give advice anonymously). So today, I wanted to throw it to you. What financial questions do you have? (You know, the probing deeply curious ones that can’t be solved by a financial planning article.) What are your issues with money? What problems are you looking to solve? What topics do you feel like you’ve mastered(ish)?

Let’s talk about money. (And remember, you can use that anonymous commenting feature today and every day.)

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