Money Shame Surfaces in Tough Times

Apr 7, 2020 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

It’s easy to overlook the emotions that swirl around money. But they often come to the surface when our financial security is thrown into question. The spread of the coronavirus has kicked Americans’ financial anxieties into high gear, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found last week. More than half of the workers who were surveyed fear they will lose income when their workplace is closed or their hours are reduced. Even when financial problems stem from events that are outside of an individual’s control, a feeling of shame can take over. Shame is the thread running through three TED videos that explore the emotions around money.

With economists increasingly predicting a recession in the wake of the virus, it might be useful to keep in mind the insights and coping mechanisms discussed by the speakers in these videos. Shame is that “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed...based on our bank account balances, our debts, our homes, or our job titles,” Tammy Lally explains in the first video. Lally, a financial coach, believes her brother was driven to suicide by his shame about his bankruptcy filing earlier that same day. She said she was judgmental at first but, after encountering financial problems of her own, came to a better understanding of the intense pressures her brother was feeling.

In 2007, a year before the financial crisis hit, Elizabeth White, a Harvard Business School graduate and one-time international consultant, was tumbling into “economic freefall.” Unemployed and on food stamps, she said in the third video that she felt ashamed and hid her financial problems from her friends. She was in her 50s at the time, and in the video she reveals her fears about running out of money as she barreled toward retirement age. She did rebound from her emotional crisis and wrote a book, Fifty-five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal. Telling her story is an act of empathy for other older people who are going through the same thing.

You can find the full article and links to the TedTalk videos at Squared Away Blog.

 

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