This week I’m featuring a guest post from Katie over at More Money For Me (see her bio at the end of the post!) related to money and friends. I’ll admit it –I’m horrible at integrating the two, which is why I’m so glad Katie broached this topic. Wouldn’t it be great to have a support system there for when you’re struggling to hit those financial goals or, better yet, to pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate your wins? This post helps you figure out how to bridge that subject and become better cheerleaders for each other. After reading, let us know: what struggles do you encounter when trying to talk money with your friends?
Sex, religion, and money: three topics you should avoid in polite conversation. Bring up any of them and you’ll get an awkward silence, a heated argument, or a disrespectful reaction. This social pressure to keep quiet about money does more harm than good, though. By avoiding financial topics we rob ourselves of one of the most valuable resources we have: each other.
My friends have all sorts of financial backgrounds and areas of expertise. One is buried in student debt and has incredible discipline around sticking to a budget. One inherited stocks from her grandparents and knows all sorts of investing terminology. One bought her first house at just 24 years old and has loads of advice about the home buying process and mortgages. Without paying a dime, I have access to all this useful financial knowledge from people who’ve been there. In addition to being resources of knowledge, friends make great cheerleaders, sounding boards, and check-in buddies.
I only know this, though, because I’ve made a point of bringing up money in conversations with friends—even when it feels awkward. How do we break past the taboo? How do we foster relationships in which talking about money is not only tolerated but encouraged? I’ve developed strategies to do just that, and I hope they’ll help you, too!
Bring up money one-on-one.
My best finance-related conversations have happened in private conversations when everybody feels relaxed. The fewer people in the room, the less competitive/threatening/awkward the vibe. Plus, you’ll get more out of an in-depth conversation than a group complaining session.
It pays to be honest about your financial situation.
Social decisions (like choosing a place to eat) used to stress me out like crazy—was there something on the menu in my budget? Was it too expensive for this friend or not fancy enough for that friend? Then I started, separately, to keep friends in the loop about my financial goals, and all of a sudden the stress over each little decision went away. Nobody tried to cajole me into overspending, and I didn’t feel bad about prioritizing my goals in the moment, since I knew my friends were on my team.
You don’t need to share numbers to talk about finances with friends.
If the conversation is about taking advantage of our 401k match, it doesn’t really matter that I’m maxing it out and she’s contributing 1% of her paycheck. Comparing salary or savings account balances rarely adds anything useful to casual conversation, but discussing goals and focusing on strategies does. On the other hand, when my Excel-wiz friend offered to look over my budget spreadsheet, I shared more detailed financial information.
Share a lot or a little—whatever feels right.
When I moved into my first apartment, many of my friends asked about my rent. Some of them were just curious about the cost of living in my area, but I also got pushy, judgmental vibes from several friends. If that was the case, I usually answered “it’s a great deal for the neighborhood” (it was), then quickly changed the subject. If they kept pushing, I told them I’d rather not share the number. If your friend pushes you for information you don’t want to give, that’s on them, not you.
Reach out to friends when you’re struggling.
Before I landed my first freelance client, I felt really insecure about starting my own business. When I finally confessed my feelings to a close friend, she became my go-to cheerleader and encouraged me through the difficult stretches. She also opened up about her own money insecurities. When nobody talks about financial problems, your own challenges may leave you feeling isolated. It’s comforting to know that you and your friends are in the same boat.
Celebrate your friends’ big wins…
When my friend paid off her first student loan, we opened up a bottle of wine and toasted to getting rid of the next one. Create a culture of positivity around sticking with goals and making progress. When your time to shine comes around, they’ll be right there to celebrate you.
…and celebrate your own big wins!
When was the last time you opened up about your financial accomplishments? Did you tell anybody the first time you maxed out your Roth IRA, or when you bought your car with cash? Have you ever celebrated a big financial milestone? Until recently, I hadn’t either. Just like any other big achievement, reaching your financial goals is a big deal, so treat it that way! I like to order pizza and plan out my next big move. Creating a reward system that includes social affirmation is a great strategy to reach your financial goals faster.
Since I started bringing money into the conversation, I’ve made smarter financial choices. I stopped feeling jealous of my friends because I know we’re in different financial situations and have different goals. My friends know that I’m cutting my spending to invest in my business, so we find ways to spend less money when we hang out. I’m more confident in my ability to achieve my financial goals, and I’ve gotten lots of encouragement as I work toward them. Just by bringing money into my relationships, I gained a community of money cheerleaders, accountability buddies, and financial teachers—all for free.
Katie helps millennials build financial confidence and achieve big money goals over at More Money For Me.
When you get a chance, visit her page - she's got a special something for all of you Britt & the Benjamins readers!