3 Shameful Financial Problems You Fear To Talk About

Americans are well known around the world for certain things. One prime thing is our tendency to talk and even brag about our lives and our abundances. We are pretty proud of living in what we refer to as the “greatest country” in the world and we have good reasons to feel that way. If you are a bigtime world traveler, you are probably sending a clear message to everyone you meet: you have lots of money and you enjoy spending it freely. You probably stay at a fine hotel, eat at a fancy restaurant, travel at the height of the season, etc. and that is the message you’re sending.

Sometimes financial problems are embarrassing and we're afraid to share them with loved ones. But getting help is better than trying to work it out alone.

The Art of Braggadocio

Speaking of bragging, we also have great fervor when spreading good news to others, especially our family and neighbors. We make it obvious so they will notice when we drive into our garage with that big new $85,000 2017 Land Rover that’s so perfect for those cross country trips and exploring the Gobi Desert, but will more likely spend its time parked at little Debbie’s soccer practices every Tuesday and Thursday!

But in spite our willingness to outwardly brag about our lifestyles and even our need to brag, we are all pretty tightlipped when it comes to sharing some hardcore pieces of our finances. These are just certain things that are embarrassing and we don’t like to talk about with anyone at all. They may be matters that have caused us to have more than a few sleepless nights. They can even cause disruption in our marital tranquility. Creature comforts are not the “be all, end all” way to insure you a happy life. Overspending and secret spending money issues are frequently a cause for divorce.

3 Shameful Financial Problems

Some of those embarrassing financial issues include:

1. Financial Infidelity

This tightlipped secret is a very common occurrence when two people do not share the intimate details of their incomes and spending habits in an honest way. For some reason, one or both of the partners hide details of their income and spending habits from the other and when that happens, financial problems are bound to develop. It’s known as “financial infidelity”.

I have known and counselled so many couples at my former job as a financial specialist regarding their secret lives when it comes to earning and spending. It’s shocking to think that married couples in particular wouldn’t be able to share and work together towards their common goal of financial security, but I am here to tell you it is way more common than you may think.

If you have ever been in this situation you already know that you cannot plan, budget, and control your finances without first having all the pertinent information at hand.

2. Unemployment

Have you ever lost your job? My guess is that at some time or other you probably have had that unpleasant experience. Job loss is far more frequent today than ever before. There is of course the infamous and dreaded “downsizing” that seems to be ever present in our lives. That can be a reason you are asked to pack up your cardboard box and move along. But, there are also those situations when perhaps you are terminated for cause.

Losing your job can be the most depressing thing that can happen to anyone, especially when it is for some wrongful action or incompetence that is embarrassing or even humiliating. It’s frequently a shock, an unexpected event, and something you aren’t in any way prepared to deal with and worse, to share with anyone else.

So much of our self-esteem is involved in our job and our feeling of self-worth and value is directly tied to it. In addition to the financial problems that a loss of income immediately causes, there are thoughts of how and what you will do to get back into the job market and “fix” your situation.

The likelihood that you will not talk about your firing and its surrounding circumstances will hinder you.  Networking is a first line of attack when it comes to getting another job offer, but your fears of embarrassment can prevent you from getting to that point.

3. Credit Card Crush

That plastic card you carry in your wallet or purse can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. When you have crushing credit card debt, it feels like having an incurable disease and you probably feel as if it may be terminal. It can be even worse if you are keeping it a secret from loved ones and family. The first step to reversing the problem is to admit you have a problem and then to plan your new debt solving strategy. You will need some help with that process. Keeping it all to yourself and wishing it away will never work.

How to Prepare for Financial Roadblocks

With all the potential problems we face in our lives, the least successful ways to overcome your most difficult financial problems is to try and do it alone. Whether you depend on a life partner, a friend, a relative, or a professional to lean on and confide in, you must get some outside help to solve your issue. The best strategy to avoid financial roadblocks is to make a prevention plan. The list is simple and works. It includes:

  1. Communicate and share your financial information with the person(s) who share your finances so that you know your limitations and then track your progress before any problems develop
  2. Make an agreed upon detailed budget and live within it
  3. Don’t spend to impress your family, friends, and neighbors
  4. Have an emergency fund to deal with unexpected situations, about 3-6 months worth of bare bones expenses
  5. Set goals for your finances that involve this year, next year, 5 years from now and future years’ plans for things like houses, cars, travel, education, and retirement
  6. Use your credit cards sparingly and never spend money that you don’t have the ability to repay promptly
  7. Think frugally, and find ways to save your money – frugality isn’t a dirty word

Final Thoughts

While our finances tend to be confidential information, some secrets aren’t worth keeping. If you’re having a financial problem that’s tough to deal with, letting your family and friends provide encouragement and help will get you further than keeping it to yourself. Don’t let the braggadocio get the better of you!

Have you a secret financial problem that you are afraid to talk about? Do you share all of your finances with your significant other or family? What experience have you had that involved a major roadblock in your financial life and how did you overcome it?


  1. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    I’ve had periods of unemployment and it is really rough to get over it. Not only is the job search so much harder, but the financial stress and lack of direction can be really tough emotionally. As can the feelings of betrayal, since I felt I’d given good service and loyalty.

    Fortunately, we had the savings to weather it, and even found our way to our current semi-retired status. But the emotional component can still pop up sometimes even after life has moved on.

    1. It’s so true about the feeling of betrayal. I especially remember leaving my very first employer with whom I felt almost a father/son relationship. Truly it doesn’t get easier, even as you get older. The best defense is obviously to have a back up plan and emergency fund. Thanks, Emily, for your comments.

  2. A great topic Gary. We are quick to share our spending habits on social media, but often to private to ask for help. We need to break that cycle making money not such a taboo subject.

    When my wife and I got married my new in-laws gave us a copy of one of Suze Orman books. I said to myself no one is going to tell me how to manage my money. It was such a foolish way to think and $100k worth of debt later I’m kicking myself for not reading that book or listening to their advice.

  3. Ann

    Your advice is excellent – especially about not spending to impress your family, friends, and neighbors.

    Making frugal choices and not having the most “toys” (around here it is boats and snowmobiles), going on a lot of vacations, or having the biggest house sometimes is difficult. Yet, I’d rather live without all the credit card bills or high debt that I’m sure some of the families are experiencing.

    I’m still working on creating a larger emergency fund as you recommend. Hope to have it fully-funded by the end of the year.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ann. I sometimes think that the optimism of youth may be the stimulus for bragging. When you’re young, even if you don’t have the money, you think you will and you start living a lifestyle that’s more ostentatious. At some point though, we all realize that having peace of mind is the real goal in our lives.

  4. This post is terrific! And you’re right about unemployment feeling embarrassing, but at the same time, especially when it’s through no fault of your own, making your circumstances known and reaching out to your network is one of the best ways to get through it – and get new job leads.

  5. Jax

    I wish we, as a society, were more open about financial matters. Unfortunately a big part of the reason we aren’t is because of shame. If we talked more about it we might learn better financial lessons from each other, and we could probably get through hard time easier and faster.

  6. I’m not really one of those people that uses their blog for accountability, but I do think I have pretty open communication with the handful of people in my “real” life who need to know or can help me when I hit a rough patch. I think the bragging aspect can be accentuated in this day and age via social media.

  7. Jack @ Enwealthen

    I’m unemployed right now – laid off in January with my entire team. Been meaning to write about it, but been busy with my financial literacy month project.

    I’m fortunate I learned my financial lessons on the school of hard knocks, literally, decades ago. So I have a significant emergency reserve, and living in Silicon Valley should have an even better job soon. Been a very rough year since our youngest arrived, but has been getting better every month. 2017 should be a great year.

  8. Troy @ Market History

    Being a single guy, I don’t share my financial situation with my friends or gf.
    However, I do talk to my parents from time to time about my finances and business. Friends come and go, but parents are the only ones who will love you unconditionally forever.

    1. Total agreement about trusting in your parents, Troy. As a parent, I can tell you that the advice I give my children is more important to me than anything else that I can do. There may be a time when you will find someone as a significant other that you will want to share those thoughts with as well. But for now, you’re on the right track. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Unemployment wreaks havoc with your life. That’s why preparation for worst case scenarios is definitely a big part of planning. It’s like the boy scouts say, “be prepared”. If you are, the rough patches are overcome more easily. Hope you don’t have to deal with that kind of thing in the future.

  9. Mr. Groovy and I do share everything when it comes to our finances and we have each other’s passwords for all accounts. It’s too much work to have to lie or cover your tracks to keep details hidden.

    I’ve had periods of unemployment and underemployment and it’s not much fun. But it mostly happened when I was single. I’ve seen married couples break up over unemployment, mostly because the person wasn’t willing to compromise and take a lesser job. Sometimes you have to take two steps backwards in order to go forward.

  10. I feel like a lot of people will talk about how well their stock picks are doing when they are doing well. When things aren’t doing so well they are a lot quieter and not nearly as likely to brag. If only they got passive index funds and said look at me performing at the market 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to save even more?

Join our community today to get our weekly emails including blog posts, updates, saving tips, and more.