Man thinking about money and finances

(Photo by Tumisu on Pixabay)

NEW YORK — Money is an important aspect of life, and the ability to talk about money matters could help individuals grow their personal finance knowledge. However, the hesitancy to discuss personal finance topics continues to plague certain generations.

A new survey by Forbes Advisor, conducted by OnePoll, uncovers differences and similarities across generations (Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) when it comes to talking about money. The data also reveals how confident Americans are in their financial literacy, and identify the group Americans think should be responsible for teaching people about money.

We’re generally open to talking about money

No matter who you’re talking to, discussing money can be uncomfortable—but many people are up to the challenge anyway. The survey finds that most people are open to talking about money, regardless of their age. When asked to rate their current openness when discussing money-related topics on a scale of zero to five, with five being the most open, there was little variance among generations.

Overall, more than one-third of respondents (37%) chose four or five and about 35% chose three, indicating that they were neither open nor opposed to discussing finances.

When respondents were asked to select the personal finance topics they are comfortable discussing with others, the survey shows that Millennials (55%) were the most comfortable discussing salary and compensation compared to those who are older and younger. But across all generations represented, savings and investments are consistently the most talked about topic.

person holding pencil near laptop computer
A new survey suggests there are generational differences when talking finances, with 55% of Millennials being the most comfortable discussing money. (Credit: Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash)

While oversharing your personal or financial information is never recommended, those who have healthy financial discussions with others are better for it. According to the survey, 68% of Millennials have learned valuable financial insights or information by having open conversations about money or finances, followed by Generation X (63%), Baby Boomers (56%), and Generation Z (55%).

But despite conversations about money being productive for most, money is often still taboo, and many people feel apprehensive about opening up. However, over half of all respondents stated that they would be more willing to have financial discussions if someone else initiated them. Millennials (65%) led the way, with Generation X (56%), Generation Z (54%) and Baby Boomers (49%) trailing behind.

For those who aren’t willing to discuss their finances with others, even if someone else initiates the conversation, Baby Boomers (57%) and Generation X (45%) cited “money is personal” as their top reason, and 48% of Millennials cited “insecurity about their finances” as theirs.

Baby Boomers think salaries should remain private

Financial openness in the workplace could contribute to a more transparent work environment, but different generations have varying opinions about whether this would be beneficial or not.

Only 23% of Baby Boomers think talking about money at work could improve financial literacy in the workplace, compared to younger generations (55% of Millennials and 42% of Gen Z). And while most Millennials (76%), Gen Zers (74%) and Gen Xers (66%) were very or somewhat willing to share their salary or compensation with a co-worker, just 37% of Baby Boomers reported the same.

Baby Boomers not only feel uncomfortable sharing their salary information, but they also tend to refrain from asking colleagues about their pay. According to the survey, 36% said they’d be very or somewhat willing to ask a co-worker how much money they make. For comparison, 74% of Millennials said the same.

Do you lie about your pay?

When it comes to discussing salaries, people might be open, but they’re not always truthful. The survey also asked respondents if they had ever lied about their salaries to family, friends or co-workers. Although many said they had not, some said they had.

While Millennials led the charge as the generation most willing to talk about salary with co-workers, they were also more likely to lie to co-workers (52%) and friends (50%) about their salaries than any other generation. On the other side of the spectrum, Baby Boomers were least likely to bend the truth when disclosing their pay to their friends (25%) and co-workers (28%).

Tips for talking about money with others

Keep your emotions in check. Money discussions can become heated if you and the other person don’t see eye to eye on certain topics. If you’re struggling to keep your emotions under control, revisit the conversation later for a better chance at productive, objective discussions.

Be transparent. If you want transparency, lead by example. By sharing your financial goals, successes and struggles, you create a safe space for open and honest conversations about money. And if you’re seeking guidance from a financial expert, being honest about your finances and goals is even more important.

Seek professional advice when necessary. Certain subjects, such as taxes and loans, are complex by nature. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused by anything, consider finding a financial advisor to talk to. Financial advisors provide neutral and expert guidance to clarify confusion, answer questions, and help you make informed decisions.

Be respectful and understanding. Money can be a touchy topic for many. Always approach a conversation with respect, acknowledge the other person’s perspective and avoid passing judgment on others’ financial choices.

Survey methodology:

This online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults evenly split by generation (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) was commissioned by Forbes and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected from Sept. 6 to Sept. 19, 2023. The margin of error is +/- 2.2 points with 95% confidence. This survey was overseen by the OnePoll research team, which is a member of the MRS and has corporate membership with the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).


About Patrisha Antonaros

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