When I started reading The Financial Diet, I became semi-obsessed with learning about my finances, and wanted to find resources to learn from others’ financial experience. I have always been very open with my parents about money, but I wanted to start talking to my peers, to learn from their mistakes and successes, and because I wanted to find out whether I was truly alone in the confusion of trying to learn how to manage my own money. While it was great that I found this online community that was so open about their financial lives, I sought out friends to talk to as well, so that I could find a personal connection and someone to be honest with about my financial concerns and triumphs.
At the time, my boyfriend and I were planning to move in together, and we now live together. We had to learn to be open and honest about where we were financially and how we saw our money pieces fitting into our joint financial puzzle. This part came surprisingly easy. I knew that I wanted this person in my life for a long time, so the conversation was going to come up eventually. It was natural. Even though I was nervous at first to discuss every pretty penny, it became quite easy with him.
As for my friends, that was a different story. I have an unusually close group of girlfriends. We talk about every last detail of our lives, from what goes on in our bathrooms to our bedrooms. However, other than the occasional “OMG where did all my money go?” text in college, we never got very deep into our financial woes. I think it was always just considered common courtesy amongst our friends to not talk about savings, 401(k)s, or our long-term financial plans. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but not talking about money just became the norm. It seemed rude to cross the line and start talking about salaries, because no one wants to feel belittled, or uncomfortable, including me.
Once I thought about it more, however, it seemed to me that it was worth trying to discuss these things. I was open with my friends about everything going on in my life, and looked for their support and guidance – why should my financial anxiety or concerns be any different? It is challenging to know where to start this conversation. So, I decided I would take the plunge and ask one of my best friends, Meghan, “If you don’t mind my asking, how much do you have in your savings?” It was a forward question, and I was nervous to ask, but I figured the best way to get the ball rolling was to ask a close friend something that could open up a conversation. She answered honestly, and then started talking how she wanted to budget to add more and more to her savings, so she could eventually take time off to travel.
And then, she continued, and hesitantly asked about my salary. And then it was: “How much are you putting into your 401(k)?” From there, we started discussing student loans, and I told her how I really wanted to work on building an emergency fund. After one of us broke the barrier, it was like any other conversation we had: laughing about the awkward financial conversations we’ve had with our banks, sharing the dread of looking at our bank statements after a late night out. I felt a wave of relief from that conversation. I’m not the only one who’s struggling to find room in the budget to grow an emergency fund. I’m not the only one who is getting frustrated by high rent prices, and struggling to work their budget around that. I felt like I had a companion in my quest to be better with money.
I think it’s extremely important to have someone you can talk to about your finances, and trust, who has no stake in your financial life. Yes, I am very open with my boyfriend and parents about my finances, but it can be a little different, because they are directly impacted by them, or have a family bias that my friends wouldn’t have. Being able to go to a friend when I’m stressed about my credit card balance, or need to vent about financial stress, or want to celebrate my financial success, has been helpful beyond words.
I am the kind of person who has to process things by talking them through, and being able to verbally sort through things with a friend helps me gain a clear understanding of what I need or want to do. This has been specifically helpful with my finances. Meghan and I can talk about our goals, mishaps, and “yahoo!” moments openly and without judgement. It has helped us each form strong financial goals, and we’ve both started to take steps toward reaching those goals. We are both still at the very beginning of our financial journey, but to have a close friend to go through the journey with makes it much easier. It helps that we are not a competitive pair. We do not compare our savings or salaries in a negative way, and we do not see one as more successful than the other. We are very different, and so are our financial goals. But we celebrate those differences, rather than ignoring them or questioning the other’s path.
It is a big step to be honest with your friends about finances, and while it seems simple now, it was a hard subject for me to breach. In my opinion, going to a financial advisor, or someone that doesn’t know you personally, feels safer. Whereas talking to someone you know on every other level is honestly a bit scary. To get comfortable with speaking to a friend about finances, I would recommend entering the conversation as you would start any other conversation. Making it feel natural will make both of you feel more at ease. Being honest, instead of being boastful, will encourage the conversation to stay positive, and build more trust between you and your friends. And the more trust you build, the more freely the conversation flows.
Abby is an IT professional living in Manhattan, originally from the beautiful land of Ohio. She’s obsessed with humans, solving problems, and tuna salad.
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