Why We Need To Change The Conversation Around Wealth And Prosperity

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Founder of Icons Incorporated, helping clients define and implement strategies to become icons in their space.

For centuries, many have considered discussing money to be taboo. We’re taught that the topic of wealth must be avoided whether we’re conversing with total strangers or close friends. It’s gauche. It’s ostentatious. It’s simply “not done.”

I want to see that change. Whom does this restrictive social norm serve? Whom are we trying to protect by barring the subject of money from all discourse?

In my work as an elite brand strategist, I collaborate with high-income clients. And many of them feel the need to hide their wealth from friends and family.

In many cases, they are trying to avoid becoming embroiled in conversations with peers and relatives who simply do not understand their success. They fear they’ll be accused of showboating or even ostracized by their loved ones.

But I actually believe that normalizing the discussion of prosperity and success can only have a positive impact on us all. Here’s why.

Inspiration begets motivation.

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Imagine a world where wildly successful, fabulously wealthy people could speak freely about their lives—not just celebrities but entrepreneurs, innovators, thought leaders and executives. If more people understood that wealth isn’t the exclusive domain of movie stars and professional athletes, it could become more relatable. Abundance could feel within reach for those willing to work hard and dream big. People who feel inspired by the journeys and accomplishments of others could feel motivated to pursue their own ambitions. I believe that open, honest discussions of wealth could be the next rising tide that lifts all boats, leading to fulfilled individuals, healthy economies and a world brimming with passionate pioneers.

The networking opportunities would be stellar.

Research has shown that people network with peers who look and act just like them. We seek out others with similar life experiences and share opportunities and contacts with them because that feels safest. This means that high achievers who’ve built legacies of wealth gravitate toward other successful, wealthy people. The favors they grant go to their upper echelon peers, and the positions they fill are given to people who run in their circles.

If we normalize the open discussion of wealth and luxury among all people, those walls could come down. People who haven’t reached the apex of their careers could chat with top earners, forge connections and build meaningful relationships. The wealthy could gain access to a wider and more diverse pool of talent, and the yet-to-be-wealthy could gain entry to a new world of career and life opportunities—another win-win.

Success is not a finite resource.

By making abundance and personal success taboo topics, we are making them seem reserved for a small group of chosen people. In my experience, this feeds into jealousy, as well as perpetuating the myth that there is a limited amount of success in the world (i.e., if Tricia has it, that means there’s less of it for Tanika). This isn’t just wrong—it’s harmful. The idea that success is both off-limits for some and a dwindling resource for all pits people against each other. It puts the wealthy in an adversarial position and puts the not-wealthy on the defensive. I recognize that many people face real barriers to building wealth—things like racial inequality and entrenched poverty—but I think that if discussions of success and wealth were normalized, more people could recognize that they have the power to transform their own lives. More people could see that success is created by individuals with vision, talent and passion—and there’s plenty of it to go around.

Besides all of that, people who have achieved great things should be allowed to feel pride in their accomplishments. Keeping them silent, or insisting that they only express their joy to certain peers, is a bizarre form of censorship that hurts everyone. I think bragging is good for people of all kinds. We should normalize that, too, while we’re at it. Let’s all take a page from superstar producer Shonda Rhimes’ book: In an award acceptance speech in 2018, she said, “I will not hide. I am going to brag. I am the highest paid showrunner in television.” And I adore her for it.

Bringing discussions of money into modern society won’t instantly fix long-standing issues like opportunity and wealth disparity, but it could get the ball rolling. The longer we cling to the idea that abundance simply cannot be mentioned or explored with anyone who isn’t already living in the inner circle, the longer we allow a chasm to exist. Successful people can support and inspire others, but only if we are given free rein to talk about our choices, lives and lessons with anyone and everyone.


Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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