How to Deal with a Friend Who Talks Finances
The cultural taboo around talking about money can make it tough to deal with friends who constantly like to bring it up. They may make you cringe with questions about how much you paid for something, how much you make, or maybe they constantly let you know what they dropped on new clothes or tech gear. Here’s a look at how to fend off uncomfortable money conversations—and have some productive ones as well.
Why Talking About Money is So Hard
If you’ve ever lived in New York City, you may have been startled to notice that people think nothing of walking into a stranger’s apartment and immediately asking how much rent they pay. This candid question is an exception that proves the rule regarding the general cultural taboo around talking about money.
Growing up, many of us were taught that money is not something that should be talked about in polite company. Many people won’t even talk about money with close family members.
And according to one survey , only 11% of Americans say they would be willing to talk about their income at a dinner party. Compare that to the 43% who would be willing to talk politics and the 37% willing to talk religion.
There are other roadblocks that make it difficult to have matter-of-fact conversations about money. Namely, there is no real formal way in which most Americans learn about money.
Yet many of us may feel a sense of shame for not knowing. If a friend asks you how much you save each month in your 401(k) and retirement accounts aren’t something you understand fully, that question may feel more prying and uncomfortable than if the topic was something you were used to discussing.
That said, having conversations with friends about money can be productive. They can help you learn how your peers are saving, whether you’re being paid an appropriate salary for your skill set, or teach you about financial tools you may have never heard of. So while it can be good to arm yourself with techniques to bat away questions that are too prying, it may also be a good idea to open yourself up to have these conversations every once in a while.
Avoiding Prying Questions
You may find that there are some conversations about money you don’t want to have. For example, a lot of people don’t want to share how much they spend on certain items. They may feel that admitting to how much they spend will open them up to criticism or assumptions.
For example, they may feel that admitting to the price of a purchase will give a false impression of their finances. Just because someone pays a lot for one thing, doesn’t mean they have room in their budget for other pricey expenditures.
No matter the relationship—friends, family, or romantic partners—communication is key when talking about money. If a friend asks you how much you paid for something, feel free to let them know you don’t feel comfortable sharing that type of information.
You don’t have to shut down the conversation there, however. Consider sharing other information you do feel comfortable disclosing. For example, if you researched the item extensively, you can let them know the reasons you chose it and whether or not you would recommend it if they’re looking for a similar item.
A couple of interactions like this and your friend should get the hint that you don’t like to talk about price. If a friend is repeatedly bringing up money, you could reiterate that in general, money talk makes you uncomfortable and you’d prefer they steered clear of the subject while you’re hanging out. You never know how someone was brought up to feel about money, and it may not occur to them that it’s making you uncomfortable.
When Talking to Your Friends About Money Is a Good Idea
There are some times when talking to your friends about money can be really useful, including when you need to alert them to your financial situation and when you’re in need of advice.
Being open about your finances can help keep you from feeling pressured into joining in on activities that you can’t quite afford. For example, maybe all of your friends are going to a pricey restaurant, or they’re going on a ski trip, or you’ve been invited to a bachelor or bachelorette party.
If an activity is too pricey for you, let your friends know that it’s a little bit out of your budget and you’ll have to sit out this time. You may have to fight some FOMO, but stick to your guns. Doing so will help manage friends’ expectations about the types of activities you can join in on.
If you’re saving for another financial goal, consider sharing it as the reason you can’t participate. Sharing may help alleviate some of the pressure you feel. If you let your friends know that you’re saving for a down payment on a house, for example, they may be more mindful about planning activities that cost a lot. Their excitement for you and your goal can help pave over some awkwardness.
As we’ve mentioned, there aren’t a lot of formal ways to learn about money in the US. Your financial know-how likely comes from a combination of what you’ve been taught by your parents, your financial advisor if you’re working with one, and what you’ve taught yourself.
Your friends can be another good source of financial information since they’re likely experiencing many of the same issues you are, such as what type of retirement account to open at work.
Areas of conversation like these can be fairly safe waters to tread. Talking about whether or not you should open an IRA is not a particularly emotionally charged topic. But you may find that things get a bit tense when you start to talk actual dollar amounts.
Yet, this can be incredibly useful information. For example, talking to a friend who works in a similar field about how high their salary is can give you an idea of whether you’re being paid in line with industry standards.
Being frank and open is typically key to broaching a sensitive topic like this. Don’t dance around the subject, and tell them upfront what your end goal is. For example, maybe you are trying to determine whether you’re being paid fairly or whether it’s time to ask for a raise.
Once you’ve shared why you’re looking for this type of information, you can ask them if they would feel comfortable sharing their salary. This can be a two-way conversation, so be ready and willing to open up about your own finances as well.
Doing so will help show your friend that you trust them and may make it more likely they’ll trust you with their personal information. They may be happy to share, and you may find you’re able to have a productive conversation about your career.
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