Should You Talk to Friends About Money?

by Mikey Rox on 23 February 2012 10 comments
Photo: takato marui

I have a friend (a loose term for this guy) who, whenever I see him, only talks about money. Everything has a price tag with this dude, and it’s incredibly annoying. Upon meeting my husband for the first time — who was my boyfriend back then and a lieutenant in the Navy — this “friend” had the audacity to ask, straight out, how much he made a year. (See also: Should You Lend to Friends and Family?)

If it were any of my other friends — who have manners — I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye (I’m sure a lot of people are curious about how much members of the military make), but when I heard it came from this guy, I was offended. Everything has a price tag with him (“My truck cost $_________”; “I paid $____ for this shirt”), and it eventually drove me away from being his friend.

My close friends who are reading this right now know exactly who I’m talking about, and that’s unfortunate (albeit telling), because he does the same thing to them.

In general, my friends and I don’t talk about money together — at least not the money we make. We all have different jobs and varying salaries, for sure, and I have never once divulged to any of them how much I make, nor have they to me.

And that’s mainly for one reason — I don’t care.

To be my friend — and for me to be theirs — doesn’t depend on how much money we earn a year.

I will be honest that money (or the lack thereof) can cause rifts between friends. Sometimes one party can’t afford what the other is doing — and when that happens enough, new relationships are established with those who are on a level playing field and existing relationships fall by the wayside. Still, in my opinion, loyalty is first and foremost. I have poor friends, and I have rich friends — but for me, it’s all about the person and how we click.

While I refuse to discuss base salaries with friends, though, I don’t think that discussing money all together is off the table. It just has to be done the right way.

For instance, saving. All my friends know that I’m frugal. Personally, I think I’m a generous guy, but I also don’t like to spend money that I don’t have to spend. I’m not embarrassed about using a coupon when we’re out to dinner, taking advantage of a Foursquare special, or doing anything else that keeps more money in my pocket.

Some may call that cheap, but there’s a difference. And that’s where the generosity comes in. When my friends need something, I’m there; I’m their biggest supporter — because that’s what friendship is about. It’s never about the money — and it never will be (unless, of course, you have a friend who takes advantage, and there have been those) — but we all know that our friendship with one another is priceless.

Yes, priceless.

You can put a price tag on a lot of things — like that guy I know; he’s not worth anything to me. But you can’t put a price tag on true friends.

Whoever says that money matters is both correct and incorrect. It matters to me because I have to pay my bills. But my money shouldn’t matter to you, because I don’t have to pay your bills — and vice versa.

We’re all grown, responsible adults who strive to make it. Some of us will make it big, while others will continue to struggle to survive. Neither of those circumstances (or wherever I fall on that spectrum) will ever dictate my loyalty to true friends.

The question of this piece remains, however — should you talk to friends about money?

In my opinion, no. In the grand scheme of things, money means nothing.

It’s only the good company you’ve kept that will mean ANYTHING when your life is said and done. 

What’s your opinion on this heated topic? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Grants

I always try to my friends about money because most of my friends don't know how to spend their money on the right things. I try to teach them to invest a little bit of money into something that will have the ability to make them money back.

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

I could care less what my friends make because it has no effect on our friendship at all. But if my closest friends ask me how much I make or if it comes up in conversation, I would not be opposed to telling tem. We are close enough to where it would not affect our relationship at all.

Guest's picture

I don't think it's a big deal. Talk about it, don't talk about it... just don't be that first guy.

Guest's picture
Millie

With regards to how much my friends and I earn, I don't care. However, I do think people should be more open about what they can and can't afford, and so I try to be open about this to encourage the behaviour in others. There would be a lot less debt in the world if everyone sat back and acknowledged what they can spend their money on.

I'm a lot more open about my specific outgoings in the Internet (on my blog) than in real life, but again that's because I want to encourage people to be open and to think about these things. I would never ask a friend any questions about this though, in case they thought I was being rude! Hopefully my openness will encourage them!

Guest's picture

I think you're missing some context here. If this guy you described brags about his money and makes comments that would indicate he thinks less of others based on their financial decisions or income, that's one thing. If he does that, sure, he's not worth being around.

But you haven't made the case that he does those things. So I think there's more to the story here, that you are not sharing.

I ask my friends/family about finances/income, but it's not to criticize, it's b/c:
a. I'm genuinely curious in other careers and their well being
b. I like talking about financial topics
c. If there's any way I can lend some expertise (I am a personal finance blogger and live and breathe this stuff), then

Financial topics, particularly income related, tend to be such a taboo thing in this country. I don't understand why. Perhaps that's why such a high % of Americans are severely in debt and most will never sniff retirement.

Maybe this guy is just interested in financial topics (like every WiseBread reader who will read this post, ironically).

Guest's picture

It really depends on the friend. I discuss money with my close friends (which is easier because we're all in roughly the same financial situations) but not really anyone outside of that.

Guest's picture
Guest

Of course he could really just have been curious what a naval academy graduate/naval officer was rewarded with for all the sacrifices... He might have some flaws but I'm pretty positive the author does as well. The gentlemen in question might also be very proud of his achievements based on the direction his life was once taking... I mean after all he beat the Glen Burnie stereotype fairly early, totally beating the odds... Hes probably also the first one to help someone, probably more giving personally then the author, but we are all biased though arent we? :-)

Guest's picture
Ndeapo

Everyone needs money. money never enough,if closest friend borrow money from me. I rather go to pay her medication from phamacy. never give money just to go squander someone money in an unnecessarly life. Everyone needs everything but everyone has to have limit of doing things or spending money in their life.If you are sick and there is no doctor What should you do? l should wait for a doctor to get a treament. so you should learn to wait when you earn your own money to go,and spend it or pay your loan back. family is different , when a family member is in danger is affect the same blood. Is up to family how to enforced him or her to overcome money problem to her self to become independed with her own money. if someone learn habit of owing people money one day they owe your whole life back. means complete lose your life for that..

Guest's picture
Jen2

I couldn't disagree with you more. I think that people should discuss money much more, especially with their friends. Your friends should be available to discuss whatever is going on in your life. For a long time I was in denial about my personal financial situation. I didn't know how much debt I was in or have a budget. I found that once I started "confessing" my situation to my friends and family a huge weight was lifted off me. They didn't help me financially and that wasn't what I needed. What I needed was support. I try to be open with my finances with my friends. I let them choose whether they will be also, but I do not think it should be taboo. Plus, some of my friends ask me questions about how I got out of debt and sometimes for advice on financial topics.

Guest's picture

I think there are levels. I live in NYC so the rent discussion is not taboo at all. You don't, however, ask salary. You can talk general savings or investment tips and tricks. Everyone wants to find a good deal, and typically have questions.

When you have acquaintances, it never hurts to suggest another activity or mention you are trying to save up or cut back, could you do X instead of Y. Most people understand and accommodate.

With your good friends you should feel free to talk about money. I am always surprised by a good friend who is very smart and talented, but just not money wise. Our conversations shed light on potential money mistakes or actions that will put them in a better situation down the road. Part of being friends is wanting each other to succeed, and like it or not, money and money management specifically is becoming an ever bigger part of that.