Why You Should Stop Keeping Your Money Problems to Yourself

By Max Wong on 5 April 2018 0 comments

It's hard to talk about difficult money problems. But keeping it all to yourself makes it harder, and more costly, to get out of debt. Don't believe me? Here are some things you are missing out on by staying silent.

An honest marriage

Secret bank accounts are not just for Don Draper. In a 2017 poll by CreditCards.com, 5 percent of respondents confessed to financially cheating on their partner in the form of secret bank accounts and credit cards. When extrapolated to the entire U.S. adult population, that means 12 million people are hiding secret accounts.

Obviously, getting caught in a financial lie by your romantic partner is going to breed general mistrust. And even if your spouse isn't technologically savvy enough to suss out your money dalliances, if you ever need to file joint taxes or pool your resources to secure a mortgage, all your secrets will be laid bare during a routine credit check or audit.

A lack of transparency can thwart your relationship and your goals. Squabbles over money are the number one reason for divorce, and unfortunately, new romances rarely begin with a discussion on how to save for retirement. Many couples discover each other's debt only when it becomes an obstacle too large for one person to manage.

Lying about your money problems prevents you from working as a team and efficiently leveraging shared assets. Couples who communicate regularly and honestly about money not only have a better shot at maintaining a happy union, they have a better chance at achieving financial goals because they are on the same page about things that can dramatically impact their lives — like saving for their kid's college fund or paying down a home loan. (See also: 5 Painless Ways to Manage Money With Your Partner)

A community of friends

If you keep your financial problems secret, you deprive yourself of moneymaking or money-saving opportunities your social network could provide. A lot of people get tremendous pleasure out of helping others. Let those people help you by giving them a problem to solve. For example, someone you might know may have the perfect job for you.

If outing yourself to your friends and family as a poor person is too hard, reach out to like-minded strangers. The internet is full of websites, blogs, forums, and other communities that are great for sharing resources. More importantly, an active community can come up with solutions custom-tailored to your situation.

Mental health

There are numerous ongoing studies that show the link between poverty and mental illness. But if you have ever been poor, you don't need scientific proof that poverty degrades mental health or that money really can buy happiness. You know first hand that poverty leads to depression that, in turn, makes it harder to rally against poverty. It's a vicious cycle.

Self-care groups like Debtors Anonymous can help with managing the stress that comes with financial dysfunction. In addition to providing a safe place to emotionally vent, these groups also offer targeted programs for small business owners, people who have financial problems due to under-earning, or compulsive shoppers. (See also: 9 Ways Money Does Buy Happiness)

Debt reduction

Be proactive about calling your creditors. Your creditors already know all about your debt, so there is no downside to reaching out to them. Actual, feeling humans work at credit card companies, insurance agencies, banks, and even the IRS. Let those people help you find a path back to creditworthiness.

Talking honestly with creditors lets them know the context of your financial problem and also your willingness to pay down your debt. Debt collectors are more likely to go soft on someone who they know is paying down debt from a self-inflicted disaster than they are on someone who won't answer the phone.

Beyond peace of mind, letting bank fees and fines stack up just makes it that much harder to get out of debt. Even if you can't break your cycle of poverty immediately, often you can get a little relief just by calling and asking for help. Did you get dinged with a $35 overdraft charge? Call your bank. Most banks give a once-a-year opportunity to erase one bank charge. Screw up your tax paperwork? Call the IRS. If your money woes came from an honest filing mistake, IRS workers actually have a lot of leeway when it comes to reducing fines, sometimes back to a zero dollar amount. (See also: 5-Day Debt Reduction Plan: Pay It Off)

An authentic life

Ask yourself: Are your problems with money really about the money? I have many friends, who, even though they make a much larger salary than I do, are never happy. They spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about how much less they have than our even richer friends. They also waste a ton of money purchasing the trappings of wealth rather than actually investing their money to build actual wealth.

Personally, I am willing to admit that I get a little emotional lift when people compliment my too expensive, but so adorable shoes. Sadly, I never feel the same burst of satisfaction when my tax accountant compliments my 401(k). So, I know the tyranny of sameness, and that sick desire to match the (often imagined) wealth of the people around me. (See also: 4 Money Lessons You Can Learn From the Joneses)

Are you keeping yourself poor? Not just financially poor, but emotionally, intellectually, or even spiritually poor? Would an honest conversation about your finances actually destroy relationships with your friends and family? Would taking a pay cut to take a job that you love make you feel more stressed than keeping a higher paying job that you hate?

Even if life has dealt you a bad hand, what do you gain from suffering in silence and isolation? Nothing, which can make your debt burden all the more difficult to bear.

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