5 Money Taboos Around Ghost Month

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Aug 06 2018 08:14 AM | Updated as of Aug 09 2018 08:41 PM

Come August 11, expect many Chinese to shy away from making decisions that involve money. Their cautious streak will likely last until September 9, which will mark the end of this year’s Hungry Ghost Festival.

That four-week period is actually the 7th month of the Lunar calendar, and the time when the Chinese believe that the gates of hell are opened, releasing ghosts to roam the earth until they are called to return on the last day. These ghosts need to be appeased prompting many Chinese to prepare food offerings, so the spirits do not unleash bad luck.

But feast or no feast, the Chinese prefer to take a prudent stand when it comes to their finances. This has worked in favor of investors like Melvin Esteban, a wealth management executive with Insular Life Assurance Co. Ltd., who are able to take advantage of investment "bargains."

"I’ve come to view Ghost Month as an opportunity to invest. You tend to get better deals because there are fewer buyers," says Esteban. With Chinese parents raised by grandparents who came from China, Esteban is no stranger to Chinese superstitions and traditions but has chosen not to subscribe to all of them.

There are a number of things the Chinese would advise not to do around the Ghost Month, and here are five that concern your wallet.

1. Buyer beware. Acquiring anything from a car to a house during the month is not advisable, and not just physical assets but even a spouse! No weddings are celebrated during Ghost Month because it is believed that whatever you come by will likely bring you bad luck, and that goes for a wife or husband too.

2. Let the seller beware too. The Ghost Month is also not an auspicious time to dispose of any assets. You are warned to likely get the raw end of the deal by not getting the best price, or worse, be made responsible for anything that can go wrong with the item after the sale. Those are at least two instances when bad luck is predicted to meet the seller, by not choosing to wait out the Ghost Month instead.

3. Sit out investment opportunities. Maybe you’ve been looking at buying into a stock for a while and it finally hits your target price – can you invest during Ghost Month? The Chinese will advise you to let it go, and not start anything during the period. Again, so you don’t court ill fortune.

Esteban however advises otherwise. "Treat Ghost Month like any other month. Do not limit yourself if there’s an opportunity simply because it’s that time of the year." By not allowing himself to be held back by superstitions, Esteban claims he has boosted his investment income and is looking forward to doing so again this year.

4. No signing on the dotted line. Have you been in talks with someone for months and you are both ready to commit but then Ghost Month descends before you can sign on the dotted line? The Chinese will tell you to postpone but what if your non-Chinese partner wants it now? Should you let your fear of misfortune get in the way of a sound (and likely profitable) business deal?

5. Keep the status quo. Maybe you’re thinking of going back to school? Or switching jobs? Again, the Chinese will tell you to keep the status quo for now as you could regret any change you agree to, believing that any commitments made during the Ghost Month will be tainted by bad luck. But what if the new job will pay you at least 20% more than the old one? Is that enough incentive to say yes now and worry later?

"Interestingly, I see that even the non-Chinese have come to embrace the Ghost Month. I suspect it’s because they see that many Chinese are successful in their businesses and they attribute the successes to following the traditions," explains Esteban.

In the end, Esteban encourages investors and consumers to make informed decisions about their money, whether or not it’s the Ghost Month.

"There are traditions I follow, more out of respect for my elders, but when it comes to money, it is always best to make decisions based on facts. When you have the information you need, you are less likely to regret your action or non-action, whatever time of the year."

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.