How do our financial tongues differ?

While children generally learn the variety of language their parents speak, seemingly ‘automatically’, this does not mean they have access to all of the dialects of that language equally. Furthermore, different dialects have different uses and are valued differently in different contexts.

I grew up speaking a more rural variety of English, and acquired a more ‘standard’ variety later in life.
Most children grow up speaking the familiar, informal language of the household. They learn the more formal registers considered suitable for education and the workplace.

Like stigmatised language varieties, some varieties of financial literacy – beliefs and behaviours connected with money acquired from childhood – are less valued in society. That is, they are associated with less symbolic and social value. They may lack prestige, and possibly lead to social exclusion.

While all languages and varieties of language facilitate communication (or they wouldn’t exist), the situations in which a certain variety is considered appropriate can differ widely.

What variety should I use?

I recently returned to my hometown after 12 years working in the ‘big smoke’. One evening, my brother and I went to a service station (the only type of store open 24 hours in this town) to buy some corn chips. The sign said that packets of CC’s were 2 for $5. But when I got to the cash register they scanned at $8.80. When I questioned this, the salesperson responded that it was the Doritos that were 2 for $5.

I knew this wasn’t the case as I intended to purchase the Doritos before I read the sign carefully. So I grabbed the sign to show him, saying ‘sorry for being a stickler’.

‘You’ve been living in the city too long’ commented my brother as we left.
‘What should I have said?’ I asked.
‘Sorry for being a ****head’
‘You can’t say that!’

Some varieties are considered ‘posh’ or ‘cultured’. Others, ‘uncouth’ or ‘lower class’. But as this rather extreme example shows, it’s not the case that one is universally better than the other. An accent or word choice that is perfectly acceptable in a city university is apparently quite inappropriate in a country town service station (or ‘servo’), while the inverse is equally (perhaps more) true.

Which variety will serve me best in this situation?

Like language varieties, some varieties of financial literacy – belief and behaviours connected with money acquired from childhood – serve us more or less well in different situations.

A conservative mindset might help us to save. But it might also prevent us from taking the risks necessary to be a successful investor.

Seeing the big picture might help us to focus on long-term goals and believe anything is possible. But it might also prevent us from making the small changes that can really add up.

Regardless of which variety of financial literacy you grew up speaking, I hope Enrichmentality will help you encounter new varieties to add to your repertoire, enabling you to choose the tools that best enable you to achieve your goals in each context. In the next post, we’ll look at how the influential cycle of talk and money can affect how we think and behave, and how you can use this to your own advantage.

We have a variety of beliefs about money. Some may serve us well in one area but not in another.Keep an ear out for the rest of the day – what language varieties do you notice?
What do they make you think about socioeconomic status?

This post is the eighth of a 10 part series over 10 days introducing Enrichmentality.

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