Money Matters

Americans Would Rather Talk About Politics, Religion and Health Issues Than Money

Shedding light on our financial taboos and mistakes

New research from TD Ameritrade uncovers a stigma in talking about the thing we all want more of: money.

July 31, 2019 — OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–According to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade, Americans would rather discuss politics, health issues and religion over money and personal finances while more than a third (37%) wish they could discuss their finances more freely.

“In many American households, money isn’t something you talk about,” said Wende Rhodes, vice president of Branches at TD Ameritrade. “While politics and religion are topics regularly debated, money conversations seem to be stigmatized or off-limits, and that needs to change.”

The finance taboos breakdown

A third of Americans (34%) feel that it’s not polite to discuss finances in social settings, and the fear of being perceived as a failure is the number one reason millennials don’t openly discuss the topic.

  • Student loan debt is the most uncomfortable financial topic to discuss (36%), followed by childcare expenses (30%) and living paycheck to paycheck (26%).
  • While many Americans feel comfortable discussing key financial elements with their spouse/partner/significant other, only 45% feel comfortable discussing student loan debt with them.
  • Americans are twice as likely to discuss housing, medical and living costs with their significant other than with a financial advisor.
  • Money spent at restaurants or for takeout is the most uncomfortable topic to discuss with financial advisors with only 16% of Americans feeling comfortable.
  • Half of Americans (51%) and seven in 10 millennials (71%) think that society would be healthier if people felt they could discuss personal finances more freely.

“A common theme we see from clients who visit our branches, regardless of their geographical location, is they don’t realize that others are going through similar situations. But it’s far from the truth,” continued Rhodes. “Once people understand that they’re not so different from others, they start to open up.”

In many American households, money isn't something you talk about...

Financial mistakes are common

The data shows that Americans aren’t comfortable discussing their personal finances, especially financial mistakes that they’ve made. Three-quarters of Americans (75%) admit to having made a financial mistake, with a lack of financial education/knowledge (36%) as the primary cause.

  • Not investing in a 401(k) is considered to be the biggest financial mistake, followed by not having an emergency fund.
  • For millennials, not having an emergency fund is the No. 1 mistake, followed by having a low credit score.

Boomers are twice as likely as millennials to not share their financial mistakes with others (25% vs. 12%). Regardless of what mistakes you’ve made or uncomfortable topics that may come up, don’t be afraid to discuss them with those around you,” said Valiere Simpson, managing director of Investor Services at TD Ameritrade. “Try to share your successes, but also your mistakes. Personal finance can seem overwhelming, so it’s important to build an environment that’s more open and safe for these discussions.”




About TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation
TD Ameritrade provides investing services and education to more than 11 million client accounts totaling approximately $1.3 trillion in assets, and custodial services to more than 7,000 registered investment advisors. We are a leader in U.S. retail trading, executing an average of approximately 800,000 trades per day for our clients, more than a quarter of which come from mobile devices. We have a proud history of innovation, dating back to our start in 1975, and today our team of 10,000-strong is committed to carrying it forward. Together, we are leveraging the latest in cutting edge technologies and one-on-one client care to transform lives, and investing, for the better. Learn more by visiting TD Ameritrade’s newsroom at, or read our stories at Fresh Accounts.
Brokerage services provided by TD Ameritrade, Inc., member FINRA ( (
Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation
About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest-running surveys in the U.S., tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963. It is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that strives to reveal the authentic values of modern society to inspire leaders to create a better tomorrow. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. The Harris Poll is separate from and not affiliated with TD Ameritrade, which is not responsible for their services or policies.
Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade from February 13-20, 2019, among 1,006 U.S. adults aged 22 and older with at least $10,000 in investable assets. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.