Photo Courtesy of: JD Hancock

America has a self-esteem problem, but we refuse to talk about it because, well, we have a self-esteem problem. Low self-esteem can be defined as having a negative opinion of oneself. A view that we generally place on ourselves and those around us. Labelling further perpetuates this negative perception by forcing a generalization across a group of people. As a result, stigmas are born. A stigma is a mark of shame based upon a person’s circumstance or quality. These negative attitudes give rise to prejudice and suppressed feelings of inadequacy, which lead to unhealthy behaviors.

We grew up with the idea that certain things shouldn’t be talked about. Politics and religion perpetuate heated arguments, sex is taboo, and money is no ones business. As we transition into a time where it's socially acceptable to express our beliefs and opinions, talking about money is still frowned upon.

Money is one of those things that carries a negative social stigma. How many times have we told our friends that we’re too “busy” to hang out because we’re too ashamed to admit that we can’t afford to spend $50 on drinks? How about asking for a raise you worked hard for and probably deserve? Off limits. No matter the situation, if it has to do with money, it’s hard to talk about.

“Why is it considered rude to ask someone how much they paid for a house? In 2008, housing was a major factor in the economic crisis, yet asking someone in 2016 what percentage of their household income will go to a mortgage payment and house-related expenses might not always be met with a clear answer.” says Kris Alban, Vice President of iGrad Financial Literacy “Talking about money is considered rude. You can’t ask about it because that’s being nosey, and you can’t talk about it because it might be bragging.”

Reality is, we live in a society where talking about money makes us seem like greedy, self absorbed individuals- a perception that is driven by our low self-esteem. A condition that creditors like to take advantage of.

Creditors condemn individuals who have trouble paying back their loans and intimidate them by threatening to ruin their credit scores- a metric that non-rich Americans depend on to make a living. They also hire collection agencies to harass individuals. In fact, The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 has enabled creditors to harass people with an unlimited amount of robo-calls and texts. Unfortunately, that’s how creditors make their money.

"Giving one of the most abusive industries in the U.S. free rein to inundate people with robocalls to their cell phones is a terrible idea," said Margot Saunders, of the National Consumer Law Center, in a prepared statement. "Debt collectors regularly call land lines to harass and threaten friends, family, and even strangers with similar names to the debtor."

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As a result, people reach an emotional tipping point that impacts their lives and general wellbeing. But we shouldn’t feel ashamed. Instead, we should look to educate ourselves and the people around us. We need to promote programs that teach basic financial concepts to our children as a means of establishing a sound financial foundation that can help prevent financial collapses like the one we’ve been experiencing the past 7 years.

Organizations around the country have stepped up their efforts to promote the benefits of financial wellness. The University of Michigan has long since been a proponent for financial literacy among students and young alumni. Through the University’s Financial Literacy Resources webpage, students have access to a variety of financial tools meant to broaden their understanding of finance-related issues. Through a strategic partnership with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, these financial literacy resources are made available at no cost. The content available to students includes blogs, videos, recommended books, detailed articles, and in-person seminars. Students have the opportunity to learn about building and maintaining good credit, personal budgeting tips, ways to minimize fraud and identity theft, methods to increase savings and home-ownership information. In addition to providing free resources to students and alumni, the University of Michigan also created an iOS app that offers easy access to financial tips, tools and calculators.

Talking about money remains an uphill battle. Since we were never taught how to have healthy conversations about money, any mention of it seems embarrassing or arrogant. But the stigma around money is simply unwarranted. We as Americans must evolve and realize that we have less to lose from condemnation and more to learn from conversation.