How to Talk to Your Friends about Money

Think about the intimate details of your life that you’re comfortable sharing with your closest friends. Maybe they’ve helped you compose a text to a crush or let you vent ad nauseam about your annoying co-worker. But have you ever opened up to each other about money? Chances are, you haven’t.

Talking about money remains one of the most stubborn taboos in our culture. We can dish about love, relationships, fear and hope, but when it comes to disclosing our financial goals, our lips are sealed. A 2014 survey by Wells Fargo revealed that nearly half of Americans feel the most difficult topic to discuss is personal finance. In fact, they’d rather talk about death, politics and religion.

But just as our friends can help us through relationship and work drama, they can offer crucial support as we navigate personal finance. Talking about money with friends can make us feel less alone in our uncertainty and even move us along in our journey toward greater financial health. Our friends can keep us accountable to our goals and, if they themselves have good habits, their stories can inspire us to do better. Since money issues are often fraught with anxiety, fear of judgment and insecurity, keep these four tips in mind when broaching the subject with your friends.

1. Know whom you can trust. You can’t talk to everyone about money. Think about the few people in your life that you really trust. You’ll want to share with people who know you, who look out for you and whose financial values align with your own. Avoid anyone who might shame you for your financial steps, or missteps.

2. Keep it goal-oriented. Open up and let your friends know what you’re going through. Keep the vibe positive by letting them know about your financial goals and questions you’re mulling. There’s no need to get into specific numbers. No one is asking you to divulge your salary or the precise amount of debt that haunts you. The point of talking about money is not about measuring up, it’s about finding support for reaching your goals. Maybe this is the year you decide to start saving for an emergency fund. Let your friend know and ask them to hold you accountable. Maybe they have similar goals or can point you to some resources to help you through your questions.

3. Be sensitive. Think about your audience and what they’re equipped to handle. If you are making a lot more money than your friend who is barely scraping by, they probably don’t have energy to hear you complain about how little you make. And, fear of judgment is a major factor that keeps people from talking honestly about money. So if you want to keep the line of communication open with your friend, don’t judge their financial choices. You never know a person’s full financial story and the many details that inform their decisions.

4. Ditch the Jones’. Don’t feel the need to keep up with the Jones’. Societal pressure can nudge you toward bad financial decisions, like buying a bigger house or an expensive car, just because your friends do this. It can work the other way around too. When you live large, you may compel your friends to follow suit. Ditch the Jones’ mentality altogether and talk openly about your desire to cut back. By simply making this an aspiration, you could tweak the culture of your friendship. Take this one step further by planning inexpensive friend outings. If your group typically drops a lot of cash on a Friday night out, offer to host a potluck or plan a weekend hike.

Talking about money with friends can seem scary at first, but if done with care, opening up this conversation can unburden you, comfort you and help you gain clarity as you move forward in your financial journey.

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