How to Have Open and Honest Conversations About Money

Great friends are people with whom we can share anything, who are accepting of us in good times and in bad, who help us to grow, and with whom we can confide our deepest secrets. But for some reason, that all tends to go out the window when it comes to our finances. 

A lot of us close ourselves off in regards to our pocketbook, even with our friends, because money makes us feel vulnerable. It’s hard to separate our financial well-being from our identity and our feelings of self-worth, so we opt out of discussing it at all. Even those of us who are in a comfortable place financially don’t want to run the risk of coming off as snobbish self-entitled know-it-alls around friends who may not be as well off as we are. But if we’re truly going to have each other’s backs and help each other be the best we can be, perhaps it’s time to break down some of these social barriers. Here are some tips to being a good financial friend for those around you.

Talking About Money Isn’t Rude
Talking about money can be seen as inappropriate in our culture. But some social inequalities and cultural barriers could be better overcome with more financial transparency, and we can learn a lot from one another if we don’t feel so ashamed about what we’re earning and how we’re spending. When we don’t learn from others, we’re forced to learn by making mistakes, and when nearly half of all Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense, mistakes are something a lot of us just can’t afford. So let’s stop burying our experiences, feelings, and insights about money. Let’s talk about it.

Okay, Sometimes Talking Money is Rude
It’s important to be careful and considerate of others’ feelings and to navigate the comfort levels of others in any social situation. Don’t put anyone on the spot about their finances. If you’re not sure where your friends’ boundaries are, it’s okay to ask. Once you’ve established a track record of financial conversations, you’ll find that it gets a lot easier for you to be open and honest, and for your friends to be transparent with you.

Try Not to Make Assumptions
We’ve all done it – made assumptions about how friends either can or can’t afford their lifestyles. Everyone has financial circumstances that aren’t readily transparent, even if you have a vague idea of what their salary may be. From credit card debt, to student loans, to medical bills, to supportive parents, to parents they support, to trust funds – there can be a lot going on behind the scenes that are a mystery to you. So don’t jump to any conclusions or you could risk offending someone you care about. Always come at financial conversations without judgment and with the best of intentions.

Debt – It Isn’t Just You
You may be hesitant to talk with friends about money because you wish you were in a better place, and you don’t want to be judged. But it’s important to remember that, while we live in one of the richest countries in the world, carrying debt is an experience shared by many of us. Americans owe a trillion dollars in credit card debt, and $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. You are not alone in this, and chances are, your friends have a better idea of what you’re going through than you may think. They may even be able to offer helpful advice.

Be Open About Your Budget
It’s okay to tell your friends that something isn’t in your budget. Whether it be a bottle of wine at dinner, a weekend getaway, or even just going out to lunch when you know you should have packed a lunch instead. Good friends understand that sometimes you just have to say no, and there’s no reason to feel guilty or ashamed for making smart financial choices.

Encourage Your Friends
Likewise, be encouraging when you invite your friends to do something and they say they can’t afford it. Come up with less expensive fun ideas you can both do instead. Even better, before making suggestions, ask what’s in their budget range when you’re making plans. When you communicate and ask what works for them, you never risk putting them in a situation that makes them feel inferior, simply because they are trying to be frugal.

It’s Okay to Set Boundaries
Everyone should set their own boundaries and be able to express when those lines are being crossed. If your friends talk about finances in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, it’s best to say so. Talk it through and express yourself. They’re your friends, they’ll understand.

When you’re open and honest with your friends and you lift each other up, the possibilities are endless.