Financial Inspiration Porn

Our Obsession with Financial Inspiration Porn, and Our Persistent Money Gap

As someone who is high key obsessed with talking about money, I talk about money ALL THE TIME. Money talk is like my morning coffee; a part of my routine and something I savor having each day.

But turns out, not that many people like talking about money! (Even people who like me don’t always like that I talk about money!)

Our Obsession with Financial Inspiration Porn, and Our Persistent Money Gap

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about a mutual friend of ours. I mentioned that I found it surprising our mutual friend has always refrained from telling us where their parents worked, since their wealth was no secret.

“I think they don’t want to talk about their money,’ said friend 1.

“Sure, but why? Like, we all know. We can all see it.” I replied.

“Well, it’s rude,’ my friend said, clearly surprised by my lack of social norms. She could easily understand why our friend would withhold where their parents worked. By saying it out loud, there was no denying the truth of the family finances.

If no one ever specifically says ‘we’re multi millionaires,’ then money remains merely a silent tool, working to provide comfort and joy in the background.

If a company name is spoken out loud, or a net worth gets whispered about, money takes an active role in all relationships from there on out. It moves from the background to center stage.

Who Benefits From Not talking About Money

Not talking about money benefits people who have money. Full stop, point blank, that’s a wrap here folks.

TALKING about money benefits everyone who wants more of it, or doesn’t understand it, or doesn’t have access to it.

Why do you think it’s considered ‘rude’ to talk about money? Because when we talk about money, at some point the whole ‘hey, some people have a lot of this but most people don’t…what’s going on there???’ conversation is going to come up!

And it was ever thus in the US- we’ve always had classes in our society. And, we’ve always had people with money and people without it.

But talking about money on whatever level you like, helps tear down these walls we’ve built up around it. Talking about money can help a co-worker get a raise. It can help someone score a lower internet bill. It can mean someone switching where they do their investing. There is POWER in talking about money, and POWER in learning about money.

But Not All Money Stories Are Created Equal

We’ve all seen the headlines splashed across our Twitter and Facebook pages: ‘How I Became a Millionaire in 10 Years’ or ‘How We Paid Off $220,000 in Three Years.

While meant to be inspiring and helpful, these articles are often just circle jerks for people with financial advantages. What often goes unspoken are the advantages that these people have, such as living with family rent free, or super high income jobs in low cost of living cities, and these are things that cannot be easily -or ever- replicated.

It’s amazing for individuals to take control of their financial lives and to take the privileges and opportunities they had and run with them. I take no issue with that!

But endlessly reporting on the same class of people does nothing to move forward financial health in the US. It does nothing for the people who don’t have the exact same advantages. What it does do is create an angry thread on Twitter, something which the world does not need more of.

Some wonder, ‘why do people get mad at these stories? Good for the person in them! They made something of themselves!’

And this is true. But the people in these stories are the exceptions to the rule, and the rule is crushing everyone else. People are mad or frustrated or hurt because they know that the money gap is only widening. The people who could most benefit from increased financial security are the very ones that lack the tools and access to it.

The US Census bureau reported in 2017 that 25.6 million people didn’t have health insurance. In 2018, the number rose to 27.5 million.

38.1 million Americans were poor in 2018.

These stories are nothing more than financial inspiration porn to 99.9% of people. The money gap is here, and it is growing, and stories of people who have generational advantages don’t help anyone change that.

So What Moves The Needle?

While I have the utmost confidence in myself, I also know I don’t have all the answers to problems like this. No one does, and maybe that’s why we desperately reach for the ‘success’ stories over and over again; the real problem is overwhelming in every sense of the word.

And yet I firmly believe that there are ways to move the financial needle in the US as a country, and for people as individuals. For me, living hyper frugally for two years allowed me to pay off my debt and save the beginning of an emergency fund.

But we have an obligation to look beyond the latte factor, and the thrift stores, and to say ‘here is what money in the US really encompasses’ and find a way to talk about that. We have to look past our financial inspiration porn and have real talks about money with the people in our lives. Shame, embarrassment, and denial help no one, not even my super rich friend.

When we talk about money, be it with our partners or our co-workers, we have to be able to zoom out and look at the entire picture. We have to say ‘I see that you have access to this; it can help in this way.’ And we have to say “I see that you don’t have access to this- tell me more about that.’

Money is not one size fits all. And these inane stories implying that by following in someone else’s footsteps means you can have their exact results have GOT to stop. Or at least provide more nuance. Because otherwise it’s just financial inspiration porn that helps no one at all.

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