It’s strange that in a culture where pop is so obsessed with money - quoth Bey, “the best revenge is your paper” - talking openly and honestly about money with your friends is still taboo. It’s in whispers when hint at the expected salary at our new job. We’re tentative about enquiring what people pay for rent on analogous apartments when we’re looking for one ourselves. And we skirt around how much you actually need for that downpayment on the house we’re looking to buy. People want to talk about money, but people don’t really want to talk about money.
Money talk is always couched in euphemisms and “ballpark” figures. But when you’re trying to learn about managing finances - what to expect, what your limitations are, where pitfalls exist - some of the best information can come from the direct experience of your peers, and vice versa with your own knowledge. Especially when you’re young and still trying to figure out your finances, having friends to sound off with can be as essential a tool as paying your bills on time. Here’s how you can talk about money with your friends without making it weird.
1. Ask questions.
There can be a lot of unknowns when you’re trying to manage your finances as an independent adult. What can you write off on your taxes? How does the share market work? What the hell is a 401K? You’re allowed to ask questions about these things. Often when you do ask these bigger questions, you’ll find a natural ease in the conversation turning to personal finances. And don’t be stingy when people ask you questions; be sure to share what you know if you expect others to share with you.
2. Don’t count your friends' money.
If you are having a frank conversation with a friend about their finances, don’t count their money. For instance, if a friend tells you they’ve saved $1,000, and in the next breath says they don’t want to go to an expensive restaurant, don’t be the person who says “But you’ve got $1,000!” Hard saved money is hard saved money, and you’re not the arbiter of where people should and should not spend their cash. It’s unhealthy to start thinking of your friends as the amount of money in their bank accounts.
3. Be true to your own financial situation.
If you find out your friends have investments and are worth a little more than you, don’t fret. You don’t have to try and play along with someone else’s situation. That’s how you get yourself into debt. There’s nothing more awkward than putting yourself into a situation where you’ve said you have the cash, only to find your cards bouncing. Be honest about what you have, your financial goals, and how you will achieve them. Everyone is different, and you might find that you excel in some ways and your friends excel in others - don’t try to be the same if you’re not.
4. Don’t be judgemental.
It can be difficult to listen to a friend talk about how much money they dropped on a handbag when you’re budgeting for rent, but it’s really none of your business. The second you start judging your friends’ financial decisions is the second people will stop talking to you about money at all.
5. Support each other.
The most important thing you can do when talking about money with friends is to be supportive. If your friend is in financial trouble, or if they’re looking to invest big bucks, or if they’re just trying to come up with a reasonable savings plan - support them, and they will do the same for you. Talk through plans, help come up with solutions. The best way to make a conversation about money comfortable is to make it positive.