Money Conversations With Friends Don’t Have to be Scary
Friends who share their most private thoughts still balk at talking openly about money. That’s a big mistake.
What do you talk about with your friends? Weekend plans, college memories, and work stories are probably at the top of the agenda. But when was the last time you talked with your friends about money?
Talking about money benefits everyone, yet money is still a taboo subject.
How Money Conversations Became Taboo
In 2014, 44 percent of Americans said that money conversations were the most challenging talks to have with someone, according to a Wells Fargo poll. But letting money stay off-limits is a problem for us all. Not talking about it only benefits those who have it and makes it harder for those who don’t.
It might seem like a questionable topic to bring up, but having money conversations with your friends is a must-do.
Our reluctance to have money conversations comes from our British roots. Talking specifics about your money situation or about things you own is considered rude in Britain, and that attitude carried over into the colonies. High earners don’t like to discuss money because it opens up the conversation about haves and the have-nots. If money isn’t a problem for you (you have it, you have a consistent income, and it’s not a source of stress), then there’s no need to discuss it.
But if money is an issue for you (you struggle with personal debt, don’t understand how to grow personal wealth, or don’t have access to capital), then talking about it is key to breaking down those barriers. For example, silence around freelance rates means that people often don’t know what to ask for. They adopt an “I’ll take whatever comes my way” mentality and stay stuck in low-paying cycles.
On a smaller scale, being able to ask friends how much they pay in rent can help you determine if you’re overpaying and learn where affordable neighborhoods are.
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How to Have the Money Conversation
Money pervades every part of our lives. Talking about it helps us earn more, save more, and share the sometimes heavy burden of it.
If you’re wondering how to talk to your friends about your money situation, here are three ways you can start:
1. Share Your Money Victories
An easy way to start talking about money with your friends is to share the financial victories in your life. When you get a raise, save money, or find $20 on the street, tell your friends. Everyone loves a reason to celebrate, so make money one of those reasons.
By switching the tone about money from something scary and rude to something fun and happy, you’ll feel more inclined to share that information with your friends. Hopefully they’ll start sharing their money victories with you, too.
2. Share Your Money Struggles
In 2014 and 2015, I was on a mission to pay off my student loan debt as fast as possible. I did everything I could to earn more. As a result, I had to turn down a lot of invitations from friends — no eating out, no weekend getaways, no drinks after work.
Rather than keep my personal debt payoff a secret, I told everyone. Giving your friends a reason for missing happy hour helps them understand that you’re not just blowing them off. Plus, you get a chance to explain a financial goal.
I was honest that my low income made it necessary for me to cut back on a lot of things in order to get out of debt, and my friends were super supportive. Many of them had personal debt themselves and felt the same pressures that I did. Being open about my money situation brought me support and helped to preserve friendships through my hermit phase.
3. Ask and Answer Questions
Having money conversations is a two-way street — you need to be willing to both ask and answer questions. Be the one who starts conversations about money. Ask your friends who are interested in homeownership about how they’re saving for their down payment. Ask your friends what kind of retirement accounts they have.
In the same vein, answer questions about your finances honestly. Be open about your money situation with others. We must give if we want to receive.
The Bottom Line
Having money conversations with your friends doesn’t have to be painful. It’s in our hands to remove the stigma of talking about money with friends. So let’s change the narrative about money and start making the conversation a helpful one.