Survey: Money is a more taboo topic than politics or religion

A quarter of respondents in a new survey ranked money as the topic they're least comfortable discussing with friends and family. That's more than those who answered religion or politics. 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
US currency in one hundred dollar denominations on display for illustration purposes, in Washington. We’ve all been told not to discuss religion or politics in polite company. But a new NerdWallet survey finds that money and sex are actually the touchiest topics to discuss.

We’ve all been told not to discuss religion or politics in polite company. But a new NerdWallet survey finds that money and sex are actually the touchiest topics to discuss.

NerdWallet asked nearly 1,200 Americans in four cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York) various questions about their credit card debt and how comfortable they are discussing money, sex, religion and politics.

The survey revealed that 26% of respondents ranked money as the topic they’re least comfortable talking about with friends and family. That’s more than those who answered religion (25%) or politics (18%).

Only sex topped finances on the awkwardness scale. A full 31% called sex the most taboo topic.

In San Francisco, money trumped all other topics in terms of being off-limits to discuss: 31% of San Franciscans called it the most taboo topic, followed by religion (26%), politics (23%) and sex (22%).

Chicago respondents were the least concerned about flaunting their finances. Only 15% listed money as the most off-limits topic, compared to sex (36%), religion (29%) and politics (20%).

Credit card debt

The survey also asked respondents how much credit card debt they are currently carrying. Among those who said they carry a credit card balance, the average debt was $6,134.

New York was in the worst shape of the four participating cities, with credit card debt averaging $8,266. And San Francisco was home to the most fiscally responsible respondents; average debt there was $4,976.

“We were surprised at the results of the survey,” said Kevin Yuann, director of credit cards at NerdWallet. “San Francisco and New York are similarly expensive cities, yet New Yorkers with debt are running much higher balances than their West Coast counterparts. The data suggest that New Yorkers can’t blame their credit card debt on high cost of living.”

Chicagoans reported average credit card debt of $5,749. Respondents in Los Angeles reported average debt of $5,526.

Based on a NerdWallet analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data for 2014, the average household owes $7,283 on credit cards. Looking at only indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,611. (Keep in mind those are numbers for entire households, whereas the new survey queried individuals.)

“With a majority of card holders carrying debt, consumers should consider lower-cost options that can help them manage and get out of debt,” NerdWallet’s Yuann said.

On a positive note, 527 of the survey’s 1,194 respondents (44%) said they don’t carry any debt on their credit cards, opting to pay off their balances each month.


NerdWallet, the fast-growing startup that helps consumers make smart financial decisions by putting knowledge in their wallets, conducted the survey April 7, 2015, among 1,194 adults in four U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. All respondents said they have at least one credit card.

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