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The last taboo why nobody talks about money

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK Everyone knows there are a few hot-button topics that can make any conversation go nuclear. Religion. Health. Politics. Death. But when it comes to the most difficult conversation you can possibly have, a new survey from Wells Fargo & Co found one clear winner: money. Money landed right at the top, says Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank. "I don't know that we expected that."In fact, 44 percent of Americans point to personal finances as the most challenging chat anyone can possibly have. Even the existentially terrifying topic of death, which you might expect to top such a survey, comes in second at 38 percent. Also far behind are perennially explosive topics like politics at 35 percent, and religion, 32 percent. Wondering who would rather talk about anything in the universe other than personal finances? Meet Denver's Natasha Lannerd."I am definitely one of those people," says the national sales manager for an organic tea company. "It kills me to talk about it, just kills me. I have had this problem so long, I don't even know when it started."Lannerd, 28, says the silence was originally a family trait. Nobody in her house ever spoke about money when she was a kid, so she never got in the habit of talking about it as an adult."I grew up in a single-parent family, we didn't have a lot, and we just never talked about it," she recalls. "As a result, when I grew up and started making a fair amount of money, I never had a plan and could never stick to a budget.

"I started to worry that I would work 50 hours a week for 20 years and end up with zero dollars in my savings account. I didn't want that to happen to me."She was finally able to broach the subject with the help of financial planner Maggie Kirchhoff, who forced her to get her fiscal house in order. But without that encouragement, she figures she might have kept her lips zipped indefinitely. So what exactly is going on here? In a society that is ostensibly one of the wealthiest in the world, why is everyone so frightened to talk about such a basic subject?"It is such a loaded conversation, and there is so much subtext and hidden meaning wrapped up in money," says Daniel Crosby, a behavioral finance expert and head of IncBlot Organizational Psychology in Huntsville, Alabama."Money is shorthand for happiness, power, and personal efficacy, so it can be very scary," Crosby says. "When money is short, it can be seen as a deficiency on the part of the breadwinner, and when there is lots of money, there can be fears that greed takes the place of genuine love."

Whatever the reason for avoiding the subject - money mistakes, embarrassment, fear of conflict - silence is no long-term solution. Here are four key principles to keep in mind to help you get over the hump and talk openly about your this site FEEL THE SAME WAY People often keep their mouths shut about money because they feel alone and scared. If you know that virtually everyone else you see on the street is thinking and feeling the same thing, perhaps you would not be so reticent."People having hard conversations about money should be upfront about the difficulty and discomfort," says Crosby, who wrote the book "You're Not That Great" about our human tendency toward behavioral screwups. "And those receiving the news should appropriately respect the trust it takes to have such a hard conversation."SILENCE HURTS YOU When we put off the hard conversations in life, we tend to think of it as benign procrastination: We will get to it all eventually.

Instead, we should think of silence as damaging the quality of our lives. Without attention, after all, money problems only tend to get bigger."Being withholding about money is a form of loss of intimacy," says Crosby. "Where there is no intimacy, the relationship will die, guaranteed."SILENCE HURTS OTHERS If you tend to clam up about cash, pause for a moment and think about the longer-term effects. As seen with Natasha Lannerd, you are likely to pass your traits down to your kids, who might turn pass them to their kids. Your bad habits could be amplified 50 years down the road."What we know about money, we generally learn from our parents," says Wells Fargo's Wimbish. "If you are a parent and you are not having money conversations with your kids, you are handicapping the next generation of savers and investors."YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP Even if you never talk about money and would not even know where to start, people who deal with this stuff for a living can help you finally loosen your tongue. Find a professional financial planner at sites like or"If I wanted to learn how to play the violin, I would get a tutor," says Lannerd. "The same thing with talking about money: I really needed to someone to help coach me through this."Once I actually started talking about it, I realized it's not as scary a subject as I thought."

Your money 5 ways road tripping families can save money

(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)By Chris TaylorNEW YORK, July 1 With four kids between the ages of 1 and 12, Loralee Leavitt is a cost-savings ninja when she hits the road. Leavitt, who hails from Kirkland, Washington, estimates that she has gone on more than 30 road trips with her growing family, logging over 60,000 miles, to places like Utah, Colorado, Arizona and California. From packing their own food, to staying in state parks, to scouring for last-minute hotel deals, the family has made an art of saving money. Their piece de resistance: A trip to Montana's Glacier National Park that did not cost more than $400 total."It is easy to spend more than you expect," says Leavitt, author of "Road Tripping". "But if you prepare it right, it can be a lot of fun, and very cheap."More Americans are planning road trips around the United States. In fact, 65 percent of those polled report they are more likely to take a road trip this summer than they were last summer, according to a recent survey by booking site Travelocity. And when you single out parents, a whopping 81 percent said they were more likely to hit the road with the kids this year. Be careful, though. While a domestic road trip might appear like an affordable alternative to traveling abroad, costs can easily spiral out of control. A recent study by travel site Expedia found that Americans expect to pay an average of $898 per person for a weeklong trip within their own country, hardly chump change. To keep a lid on summer road-trip costs, we canvassed financial planners for their best tips, culled from personal experience. Here's what they had to say.

USE APPS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE Not that long ago, travelers squinted at printed maps and missed exits. These days, there is no excuse for not using smartphone apps. Google Maps, for instance, will get you from Point A to Point B without getting lost and racking up unnecessary mileage. GasBuddy will locate the cheapest local stations where you can fill up the tank. Apps like RoadNinja and Roadtrippers can tell you about local amenities and help plan your route, and HotelTonight or can locate last-minute lodging discounts nearby. GET CAMPY Ditch the hotels, and stay in campgrounds, says financial planner Therese Nicklas of Braintree, Massachusetts.

By camping in state parks with her family of four for around $10 a night, and cooking their own food, Nicklas estimates they save about $150 every single day. You don't have to pitch a tent every night. Consider an occasional splurge at a hotel with a pool, hot showers and free breakfasts. Diehard money-savers might enjoy so-called "dispersed camping" permitted in many national and state forests, where you set up away from designated campgrounds. No amenities, but no fees, either. Also consider an annual pass from the National Park Service, allowing you access to more than 2,000 sites nationwide for $80.

HOLD MONEY-SAVING COMPETITIONS Adviser Niv Persaud of Atlanta has an innovative idea: Make budgeting a game with your kids instead of a chore. "For each dollar they save, on coupons, special deals, or cheap gas, they earn a star," Persaud says. "The one with the most stars at the end of the trip gets to pick the location for the next family vacation."FORGET FLIGHTS AND CAR RENTALS Whatever savings you realize by staying domestic could be wiped out by airline bookings and car- or RV-rental fees. So do what David MacLeod did, and schlep to your destination in your own car, even if it's a long distance away. The planner from Fullerton, California recently took his family all the way from southern California to Montana in their trusty Honda Odyssey, saving $1,000 in the process. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD The silent killer of many family travel budgets: Eating out. Nip that in the bud with a cooler or two stuffed to the brim with snacks and quick meals."A simple gallon of milk, box of cereal, yogurts and fresh fruit can provide a great breakfast at 1/4 of the cost of eating out," says Janice Cackowski, a planner in Independence, Ohio. She also advises eating out only at lunch, when restaurant prices tend to be much lower. Above all, don't be scared off by the idea of being in a car for so many hours with your kids. Magic occurs when families actually spend time with each other. "Something wonderful happens: You pay attention to each other," says Leavitt.