One of the saddest stories I’ve ever seen about indebtedness has been making the rounds on social media lately. It’s about a U.S. couple who make a combined US$160,000 per year, yet owe so much to so many that they can’t really keep track.
This couple’s apparent willingness to ignore debt and keep spending – nicer house, private school for one child, big food bills – is quite something. They are an embodiment of our how our consumer culture makes us feel entitled to a certain lifestyle, even if we can’t actually afford it. What interests me most about their story is how it highlights the shame people feel about their finances, and how others react to that shame.
Money shame was described in a recent report by a firm called Seymour Consulting as combining “a feeling of being out of control financially with embarrassment about admitting this to oneself and others.” Money shame is a symptom of the alarming levels of household financial stress documented by Seymour Consulting in its 2018 Financial Health Index.
HuffPost wrote a story about the indebted couple, and the judge-y comments poured in on social media. The sense you get from reading these comments is that if this couple doesn’t feel ashamed, they bloody well should.
Our own insecurities about money make us prone to lashing out at others for their financial mistakes. Now, we’re seeing financial companies use this rush to judgment about money for their own ends.
The story of the indebted couple appears in a magazine published by the robo-adviser Wealthsimple, which will manage your investments for you at low cost. The other day, I got a PR pitch from RBC Insurance that basically shames people for spending money on coffee that they could use to buy life insurance.
You want to know the real shame about money? It’s that our ability to discuss it like adults is about where talking about sex was, oh, about 30 years ago. Shaming and judging is so 1980s.
Article written by Rob Carrick, The Globe and Mail