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Taboo Breaking: Is talking about money like talking about sex?

Is talking about money taboo? How can we overcome cultural barriers to talking about money?

Photo of Jason Rissman
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At the recent Clinton Global Initiative University conference, BRAC CEO Susan Davis kicked off a discussion on financial education by declaring that talking about money is like talking about sex. It's a taboo and uncomfortable topic, especially for young people. 

If this analogy holds up, what might we learn from it? What efforts towards overcoming barriers to talking openly about sex have led to the most real impact? 

One example that comes to mind is the introduction of sex education in schools. (Interesting facts: In the US, 22 states require sex ed; 19 require that sex ed be medically accurate; 33 states require education about HIV/AIDS.)

Financial education in schools seems to be gaining traction. For some reason teaching basic economics has seemingly been prioritized over personal finance as economics were included in K-12 standard for all 50 states.  (See report here and a super interesting map here) . Perhaps that supports the idea of a taboo. Is teaching economics but not personal finance like teaching biology but not sex?


  • What other efforts to break taboos on important topics have been successful? 

  • How can we learn to talk about money more openly? 

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Photo of André Fernandes

the same applies for other topics surrounded by taboos and polemics, like bullying, drugs. many families feel more comfortable to talk about these issues than money. what worked to break down the taboos about these topics?

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