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About 87 percent of those ages 50 to 64 said they were uncomfortable with the topic, compared to 79 percent of those ages 18 to 24.Younger respondents were also more willing to chat about most of the other taboo topics, including their rent/mortgage payment, their salaries and the details of their love lives.

"But when he ran into financial problems, he wasn't comfortable sharing that with his pastor." Part of the problem, Compeau said, is that even though there are legitimate reasons people go into debt (medical bills, job loss), the American culture tends to assume that if you're having financial trouble, it's your own fault and you have some kind of character flaw.That's the topic people are least likely to want to talk about with someone they just met.The only other topic that makes people hold their tongues that much? Americans are more comfortable talking about politics, their religious views and their ages than they are talking about how much debt they carry on their credit cards, according to a new poll conducted for Credit "The hardest thing is to try to tackle it without telling anyone, without any support." Carrie Smith, a small-business accountant in Dallas, said initially she was embarrassed to tell others about the $14,000 in debt she carried."I would think, 'What kind of accountant am I that my finances are so messed up?America's Protestant work ethic culture means that much of our identity is tied up in how we're doing financially, Compeau says, so not being able to provide for your family or pay the bills can cause feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Compeau recently saw that firsthand, when he conducted in-depth interviews for a research project with consumers who had suffered major debt problems.

According to the old saying, you shouldn't talk about religion or politics in polite company.

Add one more to the list of conversational taboos: Credit card debt.

"Now, we've got people coming in who talk about how their relatives and friends and neighbors are going back to work and are back on their feet, and they're wondering, 'What's wrong with me?

'" Younger people more open The poll found that the older you are, the more reluctant you may be to talk about your credit card debt.

"On the other hand, I've seen relationships damaged because clients don't want to say anything to their friends, so they just keep turning down invitations and avoiding them." Credit counselors say they're not surprised that credit card debt is more taboo than it was five years ago, when more people carried a balance.