Let’s Talk Money: Reimagining Polite Society
In this series, we ask respondents from all walks of life the same set of raw money questions. The answers reveal intimate details of their financial lives, and for that reason some of our respondents have chosen to remain anonymous. These interviews will vary in length and detail, depending on the answers we receive.
Talking about money is one of the longest held taboo subjects in our culture. With this weekly series, we open people’s wallets (and with them fears, hopes, and closely held beliefs). We don’t approach this with a certain outcome in mind—we just want to open doors and find out if money is taboo for good reason, or if continued quiet is keeping us all down. We hope you’ll join us in considering this question: Is it time to reimagine polite society?
To participate in this series, please email us at [email protected]
From Gina, Age 28
Location: Oxford, England
HipLatina: How do you make your living? Where (geographically) do you do this work?
Gina: I don’t make a living right now—I am a graduate student in England.
HL: How worried are you about money? How do thoughts of money affect your life?
G: I think about money quite a lot. It’s obviously essential for day-to-day life and for long term needs. A few months ago I left a well-paying job to go back to school, and now I’m having to budget much more than I was when I had a steady income.
HL: How do you spend your money? How would you describe your level of debt?
G: A review of my credit card statement reveals that I spend most of my money on restaurants and entertainment. Right now I’ve got a scholarship so I don’t have to worry about paying rent. I don’t have any debt at the moment. I finished paying off my undergraduate loans last year, but I will be taking on more debt as I continue my studies.
HL: How would you describe your credit score? How does your credit score affect your life (for good or for bad)?
G: I had to generate a credit report for my last employer. My score was quite high. I haven’t felt many effects of the score (apart from not being turned down for that last job!), but I have not yet made any major purchases, like a car or home, where my credit score might come into play.
HL: What regrets do you have about money – decisions you’ve made, actions you’ve taken, or not taken? Have you changed anything because of these regrets?
G: I don’t have any major regrets yet, but I do wish I had started investing and saving for retirement earlier.
HL: How do your parents talk about money–with each other, with you? How much do you know about their income, assets and savings, and economic future? Are your parents “spenders” or “savers?” How is money handled in your family? How has this changed over the years?
G: My parents always talked about money as something that was scarce and needed to be saved. They are not big spenders, and both grew up in families that didn’t have much disposable income. They prioritized education over vacations and expensive luxury items. They are now approaching retirement age and I think they’ve saved enough not to have to worry too much, though they still talk about needing to be frugal day-to-day.
HL: Are you in a relationship? How much money do they make – do they make more or less than you? How do you handle money issues in your relationship? How are financial decisions made?
G: I am not in a relationship.
HL: Do you have children? How do you make decisions to spend money on your children’s interests? If you have children or plan to have them in the future, how do you plan on teaching them about money management?
G: I do not have children. I hope to teach any future children the importance of saving early, but also of not being afraid to spend some money on things they enjoy. I don’t believe we should save so much that we miss out on doing things like traveling and cultural activities that enhance our lives. I hope to find a good balance between saving and maximizing quality experiences if I have a family in the future.
HL: Do you have friends in different economic situations? How do you make social decisions with friends who have different incomes, such as where to go, what to do, taking vacations, or how costs are handled?
G: It can be hard to find a good compromise with friends who are strapped for cash and don’t want to spend on going out. I don’t have a lot of extra money myself right now, but I tend to prioritize experiences over items (like clothing and jewelry) so I usually find a way to afford doing the things I want to do (going on trips, concerts, museums, etc.). When planning a trip with friends with differing financial constraints, it might mean agreeing to stay in cheaper accommodation and spending less on food. For sharing meals together, going grocery shopping and cooking as a group is a great alternative to going out to eat.
HL: How does your financial life differ from others in your life, such as friends, family, or neighbors?
G: As a student, I think my financial situation is fairly similar to others in my class. Some of my friends back home are better off since they are working well-paying jobs, but others are struggling more, especially those who freelance in artistic fields.
HL: If you had more money, what would you do with it?
G: My greatest love in life is traveling, so I would certainly do more of that. I would also save more for retirement and contribute more to causes I support.