I overheard an interesting discussion last week involving two colleagues planning their summer holidays. They were complaining about high gas prices and the overall cost of their summer vacation, all while joking about just adding it onto their growing credit card debt.

I found myself nodding along in agreement, like I was feeling the pinch right along with them. Why didn’t I chime in with some frugal advice about a staycation or about the importance of paying off credit card debt in full?

Financial Literacy

Most of us have a need to belong, a need to fit in with others. Back in school you were considered a nerd if you studied all the time and knew all of the answers in class. Peer pressure does funny things to us, including making us pretend we’re dumber than we truly are. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we didn’t admit our knowledge or expertise on a subject because we felt that we might be judged in a negative way.

So if the majority of your friends and co-workers are not in great financial shape, should you be the one lecturing them about saving 10% of their paycheque and not going out to eat at a restaurant 3 times a week?  Personal finance seems to be right up there with sex, religion and politics as taboo subjects to discuss.  Perhaps even more than we think.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

In the situation that I described earlier, I chose to play dumb and just nod in agreement with my colleagues about their money woes. My personality is not a type-A where I need to control the discussion and direct the focus on my experiences. Besides, it’s easy to commiserate with friends and colleagues about our finances.  Even people who have their financial act together can find things to complain about.

Financial literacy is something that I feel should be addressed on your own terms. It’s very difficult to give financial advice to your peers, even to those who need it, because there is a sense of pride that gets in the way of admitting you might need help.

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to start a personal finance blog. I had experiences that I wanted to share about money, but I needed a platform that wasn’t an awkward water-cooler discussion or a boring dinner party conversation.

Should We Just Smarten Up?

Why do we have such reservations in discussing personal finances with our peers, especially when it comes to giving good financial advice? It’s not cool to get into credit card debt, so why do some of us talk about it in the same way we discuss getting drunk on the weekend? Do we want to be seen as normal everyday Canadians who are up to our eye-balls in debt, just so we can fit in with our peers?

It’s easy to express our opinions and share advice online. That type of candor is one of the reasons why personal finance blogs have exploded in popularity in recent years. People don’t want to be lectured by their friends on money saving tips or on how to get out of credit card debt. They would much rather seek out the advice and read about it on their own terms.

Maybe I could have made an impact with my two colleagues by suggesting some different ways they could save money on their summer vacation. I mean, this was not like the final episode of Seinfeld where they stand idly by while someone gets robbed in front of them. I wasn’t witnessing a crime and refusing to help, was I?

Have you ever played dumb with your peers when it comes to your personal finances?


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