Should You Talk About Money at the Friendsgiving Table?
So you brought the cranberry sauce and Mom’s famous stuffing—but is it wrong to also bring your financial woes to the table?
Financial topics feel loaded. Revealing how much money you make or how much you have saved can feel a bit heavy to discuss at the dinner table. And being the first person to broach the subject is like playing a hypersensitive game of Operation. One wrong move and chaos erupts.
Despite the risks, talking about money with friends may be something worth considering. You talk to your friends about everything else, right? Before you dig into your debt alongside the pumpkin pie, let’s examine the pros and cons of talking money with friends.
For The Record
When talking about the pros and cons of discussing money with friends, it feels important to note that you’re not the only one feeling uneasy. A 2018 report found that 58% of those surveyed would rather tell their friends how much they weigh over how much money they have saved.
A different survey revealed a whopping 76% of Americans surveyed reported they aren’t comfortable asking a friend how much money they make. But when you break it down a little further, evidence suggests that younger generations are more willing to have these tricky conversations.
25% of Americans surveyed in the 18 to 24 age range felt comfortable asking a friend about income. But only 9% over age 65 were comfortable asking the same question.
The Pros of Discussing Money
Even though discussing dollars and cents with your friends can sometimes feel like wading into treacherous waters, these conversations can be worthwhile. Here are a few potential benefits to consider if you’re interested in discussing money with friends.
The Wage Gap: Women in particular might benefit from discussing money with friends, even though they tend to have these conversations less frequently than men. According to the survey cited above, only 47% of women are comfortable asking a friend about their salary, compared to 53% of men.
But how can you know you’re underpaid if you don’t know what anyone else is making? Having a frank discussion about salaries with your peers can be a useful tool. It can shed light on any inconsistencies in salaries at a specific company, and sometimes even on a broader scope.
These conversations with both female and male friends can be a vital step towards income equality. Talking to your work friends about salary can be the quickest way to learn if you’re being compensated fairly. And for the record, it is perfectly legal to ask colleagues what they are paid. And your company can not ban you from doing so.
Lessons Learned: Chances are, your friends are in similar life stages as you. They may make comparable amounts of money and have some of the same financial needs too.
Since you’re likely dealing with relatively similar situations, they may be able to share insights on the financial woes that you’re experiencing. They may not be experts, but you can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
Even if you want to go to a professional for financial advice, starting a conversation with friends could lead to new tips and tricks that could be helpful for you. How do they stick to a budget? Did they save big bucks on that home renovation?
Ask three friends how they successfully landed a raise at work. Talk to that friend who works in sales about negotiation tactics. Share your knowledge as well and you all could be more financially fit in the future.
Stop the Guilt: Money can come with a lot of strings attached. And one of the hardest strings to cut, is the social one. Having friends can be pricey. In an ideal world you would make it to every destination wedding, happy hour, and weekend getaway. FOMO is real after all. But let’s face it, sometimes even if you can afford to partake in a social activity, you don’t want to. And that’s okay.
You have your own set of financial goals. Learning to not feel guilty about turning down social activities because of money can help you meet those goals. One way to help ease the guilt could be to discuss your finances with friends. The conversations don’t have to focus on what you can’t afford, but instead what you want to afford.
Be open with friends about why you’re unable to make some events or activities. Before you do that, you may need to do some prep work. Have honest conversations about the house you’re saving for, the wedding you’re planning, or the credit card debt you want to pay down.
Money is complicated, and the things you can’t afford are just one portion of the picture. Being up front with your friends could ease any tensions that arise from skipping social obligations.
Chances are, they will also be really happy to support you in your goals. And as an alternate, you could get the gang together with some budget-friendly activities.
Now that you’ve considered the benefits, it’s time to review some very real complications of talking about money with friends.
Damaging a Friendship: Discussing money can be complicated. Sometimes cultural and social norms can get in the way. There is often a very real, emotional connection to money, which can make discussing things like salaries and retirement savings feel difficult.
This could mean that opening the lines of communication around money with friends could be risky. Depending on your friend’s situation, he or she may be offended or upset. Before bringing the subject up, think carefully about the friends you want to discuss it with and perhaps map out a strategy for the conversation.
Sometimes, it can help to begin these conversations by sharing about your finances before you ask about anyone else’s. By volunteering information about your own financial life, that opens the stage for your friend to join in or stay silent. Respect their decision either way.
Don’t Play the Comparison Game: When you start having money conversations with friends, you can open a Pandora’s box. You may find you’re behind your friends a bit when it comes to how much is in your 401(k) or how much debt you have to pay off. But you can’t let their numbers make you feel bad about yourself.
If you feel like you’re falling behind, you can ask for their help catching up. Who doesn’t love to give advice? Give your financially-savvy friends a chance to impart their wisdom and can help you stay accountable towards your goals. We’re all in this together.
Hopefully, having these conversations among friends will leave you feeling inspired or motivated to take action on your own financial goals.
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