Talking about money makes you dirty. Yep, I just said it. And please note, it doesn’t just make you feel dirty. It actually makes you dirty.
Now for all the qualifications.
If it’s your business, talk about it. Are you a department head talking to a comptroller? Talk about it. Are you a husband talking to a wife? Go ahead. Are you trying to convince an acquaintance to invest in your company? Do it.
If it’s not your business, stay away. And don’t try any of that “Those who won’t talk about money won’t make any money” schtuff I ran across as I googled away in preparation for this post. I’ve had frank conversations about money with friends…when we were talking about going into business together. It might even be a very casual conversation, money talk doesn’t have to be stressful, but it does have to be…
…one of my favorite concepts ever! Money talk has to be modest!
I don’t care if you think my wife is hot. In fact, I’ll probably be pleased. It might even have become obvious over the course of our friendship that you thought so. And everything would have been cool. If only you hadn’t said “Your wife is so hot” out loud. It got weird then.
I don’t care if you’ve figured out how much money I make. I have a certain kind of job, I have a particular house, I wear these clothes. Just don’t ever get explicit; don’t get immodest.
The other day I got caught up in a conversation about home buying. An acquaintance mentioned that he’d looked in our neighborhood, at a house, in fact, that is just one over from ours. I expressed interest. He then told me that he didn’t think much of the price of this home. Fine so far, although I was beginning to get uncomfortable. Then he dropped the bombshell. “I looked up how much they paid for that house. I even looked up what you paid for yours.”
I was absolutely flabbergasted.
I didn’t mind that he had the information. I would have told a friend if the friend was just trying to get a grasp on prices in my neighborhood and was just being clumsy. I probably wouldn’t have told this person if he’d asked me directly (saying something generic like “We got a pretty good deal” and moving on), but I wouldn’t have cared if he’d gotten the information from somewhere else. In fact, as soon as he’d said “I looked up how much they paid for that house” I knew he’d looked up the price of ours.
It was his telling me he’d looked that blew me away.
Modesty, people. Circumspection. The lack of it when talking about money makes you dirty. It’s the way you do it. You make it creepy, dude.
I have family in Palm Beach County.
I hate going to Palm Beach County. Do you know why? It’s not because of Palm Beach. That’s where all the outrageously rich people live, both the sophisticated and the gauche, the nouveau and the vieux riche. The rich are like the poor: some are polite and some are rude, depending on what their mamas taught them. I hate going down there because of West Palm Beach. West Palm is where all the middle class South Floridians live their money-grubbing lives.
These people don’t even have the decency to drive gaudy convertibles and build houses with outrageous columns out front. No, these people commit a worse sin than that. They talk about money all the time.
I now become the sort of man who accuses others of being bourgeois.
Obsession with money is what makes these people “middle class”. They are the perfect example of what bourgeois is. The problem is not lack of money, or lack of business success. The problem is concupiscence.
1bour·geois1: of, relating to, or characteristic of the social middle class3: dominated by commercial and industrial interests :capitalistic
“Middle class…” “…a tendency toward mediocrity…”
There it is. Mediocrity. The word I’ve been looking for. The idea that will convince you to shut up and not talk about your money or mine.
Go make money. Lots of it. Save money. Lots of it. Tip less, coupon more, I don’t care. But don’t get caught up in talking and thinking about money all the time. It will crush the spark of genius in you that might have done great things…like write beautiful sonnets or explore new worlds or make lots of money. Talking about ideas (including business ideas) will make you smart; talking about money will make you dumb.
Men who think about and talk about women every waking hour cannot write love poetry or find true love. Those who think about and talk about money all the time only ever see that they don’t have enough, and they never will have enough.
Men who are openly lustful make the women around them uncomfortable; the women feel judged and violated. Those whose minds and mouths are always on their money make their friends feel judged and violated.
That is why it’s rude to talk about money. And if you insist on being asininely Randian about this, then I will advise you that your own self-interest will be best served if you close your mouth, pour yourself a lemonade, and open a nice book of sonnets. You might not get richer, but you’ll feel richer. And maybe, just maybe, the new sonnet-reading you will be able to vault himself out of mediocrity with a soulful bounding leap.