The Social Value of Your Net Worth

Excuse me if my posts have been less about my own personal finances and more about the conversation around money lately but it’s something that has been on my mind for months.

After posting a short two-part series on it last week, I was left with more than 45 comments to sift through, each more thoughtful and engaged than the one before.

One of the reoccurring themes in your words was the idea that our value as a person is based on our individual net worth.

“I think people are afraid to reveal their financial situation because they are worried that others will value them (or devalue them) based on how much money they have.” – Earth and Money

“I do feel like I would be “valued” a little less if my friends knew what my financial situation was.” – LilDesiqua

At first glance, I felt disheartened by these statements. Maybe because I’ve been broken (and heck, still am broke) and know what it’s like to hide that from family and friends, I can relate to worrying about what others will think of you. And really, isn’t that one of the reasons so many personal finance bloggers write anonymously?

Just like the number on the scale, or the size that we wear, the balance of our bank accounts seems to be just another thing in life to feel insecure about. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel better about myself the day I finally reached a positive net worth. For months – years, even – I felt like a hot financial mess. Being worth, something changed that.

But did my positive net worth change how my friends saw me? Or my family? It’s interesting that I didn’t tell anyone about this blog until I paid off my credit card debt. While I had openly admitted to carrying a balance, no one knew how bad my situation really was. And I didn’t want them to… Was I scared of what they would think? Or say? Or not say to my face but judge me for behind my back? Yes, yes and yes again.

The reaction from everyone proved how emotionally invested I was in that insecurity. Nobody cared about the fact that I had once been maxed out; they cared about my progress! Friends started opening up to me about their own financial situations and even asked me for advice on how to cut back on spending or pay down debt. “How did you do it?” was the start of a least half a dozen conversations.

More of your comments from last week showed me that there can be open and honest conversations about money with family and friends:

“I have a handful of friends who are superb with money, and I actively seek out their advice and honesty.” – MichelleC

“…with some number crunching over breakfast, [we got] my friend out of a consolidation loan (at 14%), into my preferred debt method of a line of credit (at 5%). Breakfast finances ftw!” – Lindsay

But while some people have taken the taboo out of this topic, many more have not. I have no choice now but to have everyone I know read about my personal finances but there are so many others out there who don’t feel comfortable broaching the subject with people they know. The way I see it is, if we can talk about what we do in the bedroom, and even in the bathroom now, then we should be able to talk about our finances.

Sometimes I still wonder what people I know in real life think of this blog, but I cannot tell you how foolish I felt for worrying as much as I did before. I can understand if there is a cultural rule or stigma around talking about money, but I do wish more people could see that they are not alone in their financial insecurities.

Do you think we will ever live in a world where we curiously seek information and share advice, rather than judge each other on what we do with our personal finances?

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