Why do we have such a hard time talking about money in Quebec? Experts tell us it has to do with a lack of financial literacy and transparency. And let’s not forget about generational differences and attitudes towards money.
But it doesn't mean it can't change! According to historian Catherine Tourangeau, financial literacy is the key. It’s an effective way to make financial questions less intimidating and dismiss the taboos. This is the case as high levels of personal debt and problems with overspending continue to rise.
“A better understanding of financial matters can help people make sense of their own financial situation. And greater clarity in economic and financial policies from financial institutions and government could go a long way toward clearing away the taboos,” she says.
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Where does this unease about money come from?
Our negative feelings about money have a very long history! Back in the Middle Ages, religion took a negative view of people accumulating worldly possessions. “In those days, it was emphasized that the poor would be favoured to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Tourangeau explains. Being rich was considered a sign of greed or lack of virtue. “Wealthy people even tried to hide their wealth, or lessen their guilt by giving generously to the poor,” she says.
Nowadays, the Catholic Church no longer has the impact it once had on Quebecers’ lives. But Quebec culture was built on the Catholic faith, and the effects are still being detected today. This is why talking about money is avoided, sometimes even within a couple.
However, views of money began to change in the 50s because:
- People began working in professional careers (lawyers, notaries, doctors, etc.)
- They began to identify with their profession and view it as a source of pride.
- The idea of the “American dream” began to grow. This made wealth more attractive.
- The privileges associated with work – trips abroad, luxury cars, summer cottages, etc. – were seen as proof that you were part of a well-off but respectable social class.
Where are we today?
Things have improved. But there are still some topics that Quebecers avoid discussing:
We talk about things that cost money - but not about money itself!
“We talk about home renovations, our latest trip and the cars we drive - but we never talk about our pay cheques!” Tourangeau explains.
The only people who talk about money - are the middle class!
“Wealthy people avoid showing off their fortunes in public. Poorer folks don’t brag about having a hard time making ends meet. The middle class is more comfortable talking about their personal finances. But some things are still off limits,” the historian adds.
Are younger generations talking about money?
What about young people? Are they more inclined to discuss their financial status?
With the decline of the middle class since the 80s and 90s, a new financial awareness has emerged in this generation.
Because of rising inflation and stagnating salaries, Gen Z’s relationship with money is a little more complicated. This generation is often less comfortable talking about personal wealth. The same goes for savings. On the other hand, Gen Z is often more comfortable discussing public spending.
In the end, financial literacy is an effective way to unravel the complexity of financial questions - and get rid of the taboos. So, let’s educate ourselves!