A Guide to Addressing Money-Shaming Conversations


Money has taken a front-row seat in the news lately. From the recent tax bill proposals, to the cryptocurrency boom, and the recent articles on the financial landscape for young professionals, it’s all the more likely wealth and earnings will be a topic of discussion. And often, when questions about money are directed from an older generation, there can be a lot of shame and blame packaged into the questions, usually unintentionally. Questions about why you haven’t bought a house or car, or haven’t created a Roth IRA, even starting a family, can trigger a lot of shame and guilt that goes far beyond having the funds for those types of decisions. Here’s some tools for address a money-shaming conversation to help guide you through awkward dinner table discussions during the holidays.


As a safety mechanism, we’re wired to re-route blame right back to the blamer. And in many way, baby boomers are actually at fault for the current financial landscape. But casting blame often doesn’t improve the immediate situation, and acts as an ineffective teaching technique, so you’ll probably have this conversation again at the next family gathering. Besides, just as you aren’t a stereotypical millennial, your older family members are unlikely to be single-handedly responsible for the spending habits of a generation. Instead, you can use straightforward facts and figures to help explain the current financial landscape.


It’s difficult to align the broader socio-eco-political reasons to justify financial instability for women like us, and can spark a larger dialogue on the current state of the world, leaving the conversation at hand lingering for future discussion. Instead, focus on you. How are these blockers manifesting in your life right now? How do you see it affect your path for the future? How does it make you feel? Making it personal with real-life examples helps drive it from an abstract conversation to something raw, authentic and deeply personal.


Blame is misdirected action. Give people opportunities to support you as a call-to-action. Whether they actually rise to the occasion or not, it proves you’re in charge of your current situation, and gives them another option for how they approach this in the future. It can be a direct ask, like a professional introduction, quick loan, or short-term gig from a family member’s business. Or, it could be a more holistic ask, like requesting they approach the conversation with more care in the future, wait for you to ask for their advice before giving it, or trusting in your capacity altogether. 


These conversations can be tough, especially when they’re started by people you love and respect. Make sure to take extra time to practice financial wellness before, during and after the holiday. You can write your gratitude lists, repeat your money mantras, revisit your goals, reflect on what you’ve accomplished the past year, and spend extra time talking money with your money-positivity BFF. 

If your money is going to be the topic of conversation at the table, make sure that has the biggest financial wellness ROI for you. And don’t be afraid to take control of the conversation, or simply shut it down if it’s too much at the moment.