How Deep Does the Money Taboo Go?

How deep does the money taboo go?  Pretty deep, if you ask me!  I recently experienced a remarkable example of just how systemic this taboo around talking about money is: I signed up for Medicare.  Yep, as of October 17th I will pass into one of those milestone years: 65.   I wish I lived it a culture where they’d send me flowers, maybe a watch, or even a certificate.

Instead what I got was the ‘joy’ of signing up for Medicare.  Frankly, it’s a bewildering experience.  For those of you who haven’t been through the adventure, here’s what you can expect:

  • A deluge of phone calls from people wanting to sell you Medicare of various parts and flavors
  • Warnings that you’d better pick Part B now, or forever pay more money—they don’t actually say how much more, just more!
  • Letters from current insurers telling you to contact Social Security and sign up
  • A letter from the Social Security Administration telling you to enroll

medicare-moneyWhat you don’t get is any clarity about the process or any idea of the cost.  I went on line to sign up.  I found it ironic that when you sign up there are not any questions about what carrier you have chosen for the supplemental stuff.   It’s more like “do you want this, yes or no?” Oh and up to this point there is absolutely no mention of what it might cost.  Hmmm.

So then the magic card comes in the mail, and for me the other card from Kaiser telling me to hide the magic card, and only use their card.  Again no mention of money.  (I know I’m a bit obsessed with wanting to know about costs—it goes with the territory being a recovering accountant and a money coach)

All this started in early July.  Finally I got a bill for the Part A and/or Part B (really just Part B but why make it easy?) issued on August 26th.  It was for October through December—so for a quarter—and it was for $365.40.  That’s $121.80 per month, which I assume is the going rate for people signing up now since I have one friend that pays $104 per month and another who pays $109 per month.

So the first time I actually received any notification of what it’s going to cost is when I got the bill.  That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?  When you buy almost anything you actually know the cost first, right?  But not with this!

And there is at least one more money thing attached to this that I found totally astounding.  You have some choices.  You can pay monthly instead of quarterly, you can set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking, and you can pay by credit card (sort of).  Actually the credit card option is both archaic and dangerous.  Want to pay by credit card?  Great, fill out the form on the bottom of the bill from U.S. Department of Health and Services and mail it back to them. Peachy.  Then a human (and no doubt a different one every time you send in a payment) will open and process your payment.  With all the concerns about keeping credit card information secure this is bizarre!

And just as a side note, the Social Security folks—who are very much tied to Medicare—decided to do this wacky thing earlier this year.  They were going to make it that each time you tried to sign on to the Social Security website they would send a special code to your cell phone that you’d have to input to get on line.  Sometime after the announcement they backed out of that mess.  I guess someone pointed out that. contrary to popular opinion, not everyone has a cell phone, or (like me) has it on all the time!

The reason I felt compelled to write about this is less about the vagaries of money and Medicare and more about how deep the taboo around money goes.  Deeper than we think, yes?  There is a way it is so deep we don’t even notice that we aren’t talking about it.

Given that money is something we use and think about everyday, it remains amazing how taboo it is.  I can’t help thinking that if the conversations were more open and the topic was just plain talked about we’d have less trouble with money… hmmm.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Want to explore your money taboo? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website: