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According to research professor and best-selling author Brené Brown, shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and connection—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” She’s found through extensive research that shame is not an effective tool for changing behaviour.
But, what does this have to do with money?
For so many people, shame weighs heavily over all things money. We put a lot of value on where we stand financially, and have a tendency to blame ourselves when we’re not keeping up with our peers. Or, when we haven’t measured up to both self-imposed and socially-imposed ideas of where we “should” be financially at certain periods in our lives.
We’re also socialized to be ashamed of not knowing enough about money, yet we grow up with no structural system in place to teach us about it. This shame spiral keeps us from being honest about money and seeking help. To add fuel to the fire, talking about money has long been considered taboo, and it starts young. How many times, as a child, did you innocently ask a parent how much they make, or how much the family home cost? Innocent enough questions that are most often answered dismissively with, “That’s not polite” or “That’s not something we discuss.” Pretty confusing and ironic money messaging, given the importance we place on it.
Not talking about money and feeling ashamed about it creates an ideal environment for destructive behaviours and unjust practices to flourish, like sinking ourselves further into debt, to gender and racial pay gaps in the workplace. And while we’ve come a long way, the pay gap remains alive and well. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, full-time working women earn $7,200 less per year than men. This gap widens for women who are Indigenous, living with a disability, racialized, or newcomers to Canada.
Shake off the money shame.
The best way to rid ourselves of behaviours cloaked in silence and shame is to expose them. In other words, find your people and get talking. Start with someone you know and trust, or find online communities sharing their money moves. The more you open up about the money struggle, the less isolated and ashamed you’ll feel.
As with learning anything new or trying to form new habits, talking about money takes practice. But like most topics that feel awkward, oftentimes the most freeing and rewarding thing is to push through the initial discomfort. The more you converse, the more that discomfort dwindles.
And, if you feel a sense of dread or shame around your personal spending habits, the key is to start small. A simple thing you can do to get started is put a few dollars aside into a high-interest savings account. EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account offers 2.45% interest* on every dollar, with no monthly account fees, no minimum deposits or balance, cheap international money transfers, free Interac e-Transfers®, and more. You can even divide your money up into buckets for specific money goals, and earn high interest on each of them. Over time, a little can add up to a lot.
Knowledge is power.
If you’re intimidated by personal finance and unsure of where to start, know that you don’t have to learn everything at once. Set aside dedicated time to read personal finance blogs or listen to a money podcast during your commute. The good thing is there is no shortage of resources.
EQ Bank—Equitable Bank’s digital banking platform—has set out to help Canadians up their financial literacy through stnce, a growing grassroots movement on a mission to inspire you to take control of your money. A lack of money confidence is something Sarah Zandbergen, Senior Program Specialist, has seen a lot of in her years as an ambassador for stnce, “I’ve had the unique opportunity to speak to so many individuals from every walk of life. One common thread I keep seeing, regardless of income or background, is guilt, shame, and fear surrounding financial conversations. One of the reasons stnce exists is to shatter that taboo and open up these conversations.”
Speaking directly to Gen Y, stnce.ca offers educational and motivational articles that make it easy to fill in your financial knowledge gaps, including regular content from personal finance experts, op-eds, book and podcast recommendations, and much more.
The more you arm yourself with knowledge, the easier it is to forgive yourself, tackle your money messes, and not beat yourself up. Remember, Millennials are the generation that started the movement toward open money talk, shifting our culture to be proud (and loud), and to carry this important message into the future.
*Interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice.