At TFD, there are few things we advocate more than transparency about money. With friends, colleagues, family, and especially significant others, money should be a frequently-discussed and well-understood topic. We only stand to gain from learning from each other’s strategies, mistakes, victories, and differences, and when done right, talking about money can be just as fascinating (if not more so) than talking about dating. But there has to be a certain amount of common sense involved when it comes to revealing things about your financial life, and not all money talks are created equal.
Whether it’s the person you’re talking to who might not be trustworthy, or the information you’re sharing that might put you in real jeopardy, sometimes it’s better not to talk numbers. And while we talk all the time here about the enormous liberation and life-upgrading that can happen when you ~own your financial truths~, it’s also important to consider the bad things that can happen when you play too fast and loose with your talk.
Particularly when it comes to big sums of money — which are often more than enough to fundamentally change or even ruin a relationship — care is of the essence. And this particular question, of why one should be discreet about a large windfall, was recently asked in a Reddit thread. R/personalfinance users came out in droves to share their own experiences, and I gathered a few of them here together to talk about the other side of financial transparency: the kind that might actually get you in trouble.
And while none of this means that we should ever stop talking about money, it does mean we need to be smart about how we talk about it, particularly when we have a lot of it. There is a difference between constructive talk and bragging, and there are ways to be constructive and useful with extended circles with financial talk, and ways to create problems for yourself, as in these stories.
Here are just a few of their horror stories, and check out the entire thread for much more.
1. “One time, I made the mistake of telling some people at work my grandma invested a small amount of money for my retirement when I graduated high school instead of giving me a gift, which was annoying then, but awesome now because it’s grown into a ton of money, which I also kept contributing to, and the investments were doing quite well. It was my way of recommending they look into investing.
I work with a bunch of people who are terrible with money, live paycheck to paycheck, don’t plan for retirement, etc…so somehow my smart planning, NOT EVEN A WINDFALL (grandmother’s investment was $1500) turned into ‘she doesn’t even need to work,’ ‘she’s hogging the hours from those of us who need a job,’ and other spiteful comments. Not really a horror story…but it was annoying having to work around people who thought I was independently wealthy.” – listen-
2. “I started a business at 15, completely self-financed. Built it over 20 years of blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights. Turned it in to what it is today (few hundred employees spanning most of the Southeast and lower Midwest). You would not believe how often I get told I ‘just got lucky.’ My standard reply is ‘maybe you’re just fucking lazy.'” – Turk_TurkletonMD
3. “[My mother’s] step dad passed away and received a large lump sum of money due to life insurance. Mom was depressed, and wanted to get back into the dating scene, and soon started dating this guy who sells insurance (so basically no stable job or income). My mom is an open book so I’m almost positive she told her new boyfriend of the money she just came upon. This boyfriend just so happens to be a compulsive gambler and eats this up. My mom ended up blowing over 100k in a year after buying a new car (one that HE suggested she should get, because her 2 year old Toyota wasn’t good enough. she needs a Mercedes), going out of town every weekend to casinos, and just other miscellaneous stuff.
Granted a lot of this can be assumed my mom was not in the best mental state and giving someone like that a large sum of money is a bad idea. I tried to help manage her money but she never let me. I wish she had gone to a financial advisor but she never did. She ended up begging me for money a year and a half later and I would get so mad because I knew she had blown so much money.
Long story short…keep the list of people you tell SMALL. Close family only, because beggers will come out of the wood works to take advantage of you.” – magic_monicle
4. “Unfortunately I witnessed an example of why this maxim exists in my own family. My uncle on my dads side struck it big with a startup. I don’t know the details as I was around nine at the time, but when he started telling all my uncles and aunts, I saw them behave in shocking ways. Aside from my dad, the rest of this family was lower class, when my Uncle revealed that he was soon to be immensely wealthy his siblings took it as ‘he could make my problems go away and it wouldn’t even make a dent.’ I have no idea how much he actually made, but when he only gave money to my grandparents, and didn’t give any to his siblings, they extremely resented him. I didn’t know all this was going on until I heard one of my Aunts screaming at him that he could pay for her son to go to college and he ‘wouldn’t miss the money,’ it was really shocking to see my normally nice relatives behave that way.” – MajorMustard
5. “You get some of this just from being in a respectable profession. I’m a healthcare professional and have had former patients cold-call my office trying to sell possessions when they fall on hard times. I suppose the assumption is “job X pays well, he’s loaded”.
Another time, an acquaintance of my girlfriend who happened to also be a student in one of her classes, whom I had met exactly once when dropping my girlfriend off to carpool, asked my girlfriend in full seriousness if I would loan her (the friend) $12,000 to bail out the friend’s boyfriend.
People are crazy.” – ja1484
6. “I think a lot of people have a basic instinct where we expect those who are successful to share their kill with the rest of the tribe. When that expectation isn’t met, other base instincts emerge.
Some time ago, someone close told me about a potential windfall they might be getting. I still remember the feeling of ‘money-hunger’ that formed deep down, and it absolutely surprised and terrified me, because I’m normally a very generous person not prone to avarice.” – del2phi
7. “Crazy people coming after your money is just one thing. There is also a more subtle thing that happens, especially amongst the middle and upper classes. Maybe you think you’re safe if you have relatives that don’t come after your money, but suddenly they are going to change around you.
I grew up in an upper middle-class neighborhood, and I saw when people were ‘outed’ for being far more financially well-off than their neighbors, it was almost as if the whole effect was emasculating. People would stop being friendly to them, people would gossip about how they were spending their money poorly, and there was literally nothing you could do that was right. They got jealous about it, but they couldn’t admit it, so they would make up bullshit stories about you just so they could justify in their own mind why they don’t have the money that you have. If you gives generously to charity? It’s because you want to look better than they do. If you don’t give generously to charity? It’s because you are stingy miser. Bought a cheap car? You must be an awful strict bastard. Bought an expensive car? Well, obviously you think you’re better than everyone else. You can’t win.
If I ever get wealthy, I will never flaunt it. I won’t even talk about it. It invites too much trouble.” – punkwalrus
8. “Not exactly about new wealth – but here’s how wealth broke my family.
My grandfather (mom’s side) passed away with a pretty large lump sum of money. In the will, he gave the his wife (grandmother) all rights to the money.
Unlike my grandfather, who was a strong willed, financial expert, my grandmother was a gentle, generous soul. So my mom’s family all decided to begin ‘pressuring’ my grandmother to begin distributing the wealth because she was ‘going to die soon’ too; they couldn’t even wait, and knew she was too kind to say no. They couldn’t do that to my grandfather because he always said no; they saw my grandmother as an easier target. For fucks sake, they even convinced her to sell her house and also give them the money while throwing her into a retirement home; she could have easily said ‘fuck off’ and hired 10 full-time nurses to help her around the home.
Long story short, they all got a piece of the cut (~100k to 200k each) — except for my mom. She didn’t ask for a single penny, which is something I admired her for. In fact, she was upset that my grandmother basically gave away everything, leaving very little for her to take care of herself with.
Fast forward five years later, most of them have blown the money into stupid luxurious shit and are heavily into debt because their temporary wealth made them lose sight of how to manage money. They all now think my grandmother has some ‘secret stash’ and keep asking for money — even though she has none; they are all convinced that she still has a secret stash and is being greedy.
Here’s the kicker — my grandmother is pretty ill right now and likely soon to pass away. She doesn’t have much energy to take care of herself, so she has an appointed nurse via government to help her out. One of my uncles convinced my grandmother to ‘waive’ this benefit and instead take money from the government while promising he will take care of her (how the waive is supposed to work).
But does he? Nope — he even lives 15 minutes away from grandmother, the closest out of ANY of us. None of the other family members, who took the money, even talk to her because they all think she’s ripping them off by having a secret stash. Now my mom has to drive 4 hours (round trip) about every other day to take care of my grandmother. In addition, they accused my mom and our family of secretly having the stash because my grandmother likes my mother the best now (Gee, I wonder why). They essentially now all joined forces to hate on us and my grandmother.
They’re all pieces of shit (and so are their kids, AKA my cousins). I wouldn’t give these fucking leeches a glass of water even if they were dying of thirst — they don’t deserve to live.
TL;DR: Assholes will try to weasel their way into easy money from you and will find clever ways to twist the story and do crazy mental gymnastics to convince themselves that they deserve a cut of the wealth. Friends and family who truly love you will simply be happy for you and never even ask for your help because they understand that asking for money puts a strain on the relationship.
Some of them will take legal actions and/or violence to get what they want because they’ve convinced themselves enough that your wealth is also theirs.” – sandwhale-