Studies show that people don’t like to talk about money — especially not with their friends. However, with the pandemic, inflation and even the very busy (and very expensive) wedding season for Canadians, money is becoming an unavoidable conversation among friends.
Money conversations are uncomfortable, to put it lightly. They’re even harder when you and your friends have different attitudes toward money. So how do you start the conversation?
For some insight on the topic, I decided to talk to the queen of uncomfortable conversations, Reema Khrais, about the subject. Khrais hosts a podcast aptly titled This is Uncomfortable, “a show about life and how money messes with it.” Guided by some of Khrais’ tips, here is how to get through those tough money chats and conversations with friends.
Money conversations aren’t just about money
Money conversations can be hard because they bring up a lot of baggage — especially if your friend has different money attitudes than you, Khrais explains. How do you even begin to talk about money when you grew up watching your parents fight about money and your friend grew up never hearing the word “money” in her house? Or if you have student debt and your friend keeps talking about her stock portfolio? Or if you’re a person of colour, and your friend is white?
What makes you anxious about money? Where does that come from?
“[Money is] not really what you’re talking about,” Khrais says. “It’s rooted in things that are so much deeper than sometimes you even recognize yourself.”
We often hide our fear, anxiety and shame around money — so much so that that nearly 40 per cent of millennials go into debt just to keep up appearances amongst their friends.
So, the first step in starting the money conversation with your friends is looking inward at your own anxieties around money. What makes you anxious about money? Where does that come from? How does it affect you now? This will help you explain to your friends where you’re coming from, when you begin the money conversation with them.
What’s the cost of not talking about money?
Even if you’ve now examined your own money anxiety, it can still be scary to start a conversation about it with your friends. Khrais says that when this happens to her, she asks herself: what are the real world consequences to not talking about money openly?
…when you’re talking with friends, personal finance is not an issue of personal ability.
For instance, if your friend just bought a house, you may want to just ask them: how did you afford that? You might find out that your friend’s parents helped with the down payment, a commonality amongst millennial homeowners. If you don’t have parents who can help you, this can open up a conversation with your friend about your different financial situations.
“[Recognize] that when you’re talking with friends, personal finance is not an issue of personal ability,” Khrais says.
Khrais adds that money conversations in the workplace are especially important. Women and people of colour tend to lose money when there isn’t salary transparency, so you may want to start asking your colleagues: how much do you make?
Having more transparency when it comes to salary may ultimately help everyone in your workplace get paid fairly.
You may also like: The richest celebrity BFFs — according to net worth.
So how do you actually have the money conversation?
You may be reading these scenarios and thinking, this sounds awful, I could never do this! And Khrais agrees. It’s going to suck. But it will be worth it. So she gave us some tips for making the money conversation a little easier.
- Be honest about your money situation. Khrais recommends being honest and upfront when talking about money. Let’s say you can’t afford to be part of your friend’s wedding party. Just say that! Remember: being a supportive friend isn’t dependent on what you can spend financially. In the case of the wedding example, you can also find non-monetary ways to support your friend on their big day. For example, you could ask the bride if she wants to talk about the stress of having divorced parents in the same room. Or you may offer a second opinion on the flower options.
- Use “I” statements. Khrais also uses the tools she’s learned in therapy to guide her through a money conversation. For example, when having an tough money chat, try to se “I” statements. Be open. Listen to your friend. The general “be a good human being” rules.
A true friend will understand that you can’t afford to do something with them or that you want to talk about your different money attitudes. It may be hard, but they’ll understand. And if they don’t? Khrais recommends re-evaluating your friendship with them.
“We need more empathy when it comes to discussing money with friends,” Khrais says. “Talking about it shouldn’t be another source of financial anxiety.”