Do you talk openly about money with friends? - Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Do you talk openly about money with friends?

I asked this question last week, and it’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past few days. To me, it seems like 20 or 30-somethings are more open to talking about finances than older generations – like our parents or grandparents. Why is that? Why have we all of a sudden gone from shying away from a taboo subject, to talking so openly about it? How come in the 6.5 years I’ve been blogging, the personal finance blogosphere has exploded?

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I think it has a lot to do with the internet. Your voice has more reach online, and it’s way less intimidating to talk about things that might otherwise be awkward. Take me, for example. When I was getting out of debt, I was too embarrassed to go to my parents, friends, or boyfriend for advice. Instead, I turned to the internet. And soon after I discovered personal finance sites, I became a blogger myself. It’s difficult talking about failures – especially when it came to money – and I really wanted people to hear my story: a normal person, with a normal salary, dealing with student and credit card debt. I’m not unique, but maybe think that’s the point. I know I personally don’t want to hear about exceptional stories all the time, because they’re hard (if not impossible) to duplicate. I want to hear about normal people succeeding; digging out of debt, saving money, and living a comfortable life – that’s what I can relate to. I cannot relate to someone who makes my entire annual salary in a month, and spends thousands of dollars a month of clothing, dining out, and other luxuries. :)

For 20 and 30-somethings, most of us have been in debt before, and most of us have struggled with our money at some point in our lives. And I feel like maybe it’s that commonality that brings this generation closer together and more willing to talk openly about how we can improve our situations. Since money is so closely tied to success in our society (whether that’s right or wrong is another topic), it seems easier and less intimidating to talk about it when it seems like everyone is going through the same sorts of problems.

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All of this information we are sharing is great, but being so open can have a negative impact as well. It’s extremely hard not to compare yourself with your peers, or those success stories. And if you’re online looking at someone’s financials, or talking about them over a cup of coffee, it can be easy to get discouraged.

Even now, I can get caught up in feeling down about my situation. While my blogging friends are making $10,000 in advertising, or climbing up to a $1 million net worth, or earning $250,000/year, I should be inspired by their success! I remember once dating someone who was so put together and so successful, that I felt completely useless in comparison. He willingly shared details about his mortgage, his job, and his investing strategies – not to brag, but just in normal conversation. Yet, in all of these cases – whether it’s blogger friends or real life friends – I find I’m often left feeling a little inadequate because I’m not doing what they’re doing.

But, we can’t compare ourselves to others. There will always be someone more successful, richer, better looking, etc. than you, and if you keep focusing on what you lack (instead of what you have) you’ll be a pretty unhappy person. The only comparison that’s fair is you, and we all know that, right?

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However, I do think all of this openness with our finances has changed us for the better. I know that had I not found the online personal finance community, I doubt I’d be where I am today. Sharing ideas is always better than hoarding them, right? But will we become so open that nothing is off limits? Will so much information just confuse and overwhelm us? It’s really hard to say how all this will affect our generation in the long run.

Do you think being more open about our finances is helping us change for the better?

How open are you with friends and loved ones with your money?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

15 comments

  1. I wish that my friends wanted to talk about finances more! Everyone is very private, but quick to go out to lunch/happy hour/expensive dinners.

  2. I have to say it depends. I’m actually pretty open about our finance in terms of we’re saving for retirement, this is what we are paying for x. I’m more weary on sharing salary details. I know some people will think differently if we share our salary, so we take it easy.

  3. We used to all be very private, but lately have been talking about finances more and more. I prefer it this way!

  4. I’m open with my friends about my finances. If I get invited to an event and I have nothing left in the budget, I’ll tell them I don’t have funds to go. Right now, a friend and I are trying to plan a trip and I’ve flat out told her the max I’ll pay for a flight and if it means we don’t go anywhere, we don’t go. I try not to share my salary though. I think being open about my finances is helping, it’s keeping me accountable. My friends will openly question my spending.

  5. My dad thinks it also has something to do with the fact that, in his generation, parents didn’t talk to kids about money. Neither of my parents remember having their parents talk to them about money at all – and it was “rude” for kids to ask questions. I, however, grew up in a household where all we did was talk about money. Seriously, it’s a topic of conversation at almost every meal. I think this is one of the reasons I’m so comfortable talking about money with friends today – it doesn’t feel taboo to me.

    • My parents never talked to me about money when I was growing up. Even when I started to get a weekly allowance, nobody ever told me to save any of it. I spent it all right away, and was “broke” until the next week. :) Even as a PF blogger, it took me a really long time to talk about money with friends. I was embarrassed about it, and that’s why I was anonymous for so long… and even after I started blogging as me, I still didn’t tell people about GMBMFB. But now that I’m more open, and have friends like you, it’s easier to talk through financial/money issues – instead of trying to figure it out on my own. :)

  6. I am always happy ti discuss my own financial situation with friends, but I refrain of weighing in on theirs unless they ask because I don’t want to be too overbearing. I think that you are definitely right about the PF world – it can be a great motivator to achieve awesome things – but it can also make you feel bad about yourself, even if you are way ahead of the general population! That’s why I like to talk to real world friends about money, it gives me perspective about what the rest of the people my age are doing.

  7. michelle.crowfoot@rci.rogers.com

    I talk about money a lot – especially to my more successful friends, in the hopes that I learn something new! When I had “money trouble” in my mid-20s, I bared all to a friend who was very helpful and I still tell her everything in detail. My other friends get the overviews – but either way, I talk about it. The fear of being judged can put you in such a dangerous place (emotionally and financially), and my response to this is to throw caution to the wind. What’s the worst that can happen?, is my approach. Believe me, they’ve seen me through worse trouble than a little bit of debt!

  8. In some of my relationships we discuss finances and in some we don’t. One reason is that I have some friends in very different financial situations that I think makes it tough to relate.

    I would never talk about how I worry I’m not saving enough in my kids 529 accounts to pay for my kids college with a good friend who I know lives paycheck to paycheck despite working two jobs. On the other end of the spectrum I have a sibling who makes 500k a year and clearly doesn’t know what its like to save for a year to buy a piece of furniture.

    On a side note I have found that salespeople are more open about finances with coworkers because our incomes tend to be more public.

    I do think it helps to have some friends that you can discuss finance with for educational purposes as well as encouragement which is why I love personal finance blogs like this one, so thank you!

  9. “While my blogging friends are making $10,000 in advertising, or climbing up to a $1 million net worth, or earning $250,000/year, I should be inspired by their success!”

    Goodness gracious, I completely agree!

    & After years of reading blogs, I am still surprised when I can say “Oh my gosh, me too!”. Which relates back to why I read, why I blog, and why I love blogging even more when one is more honest. The “Me, too!’s” are even more powerful when they’re about important things (like money, panic attacks, and career choices).

    Thanks for featuring my tweet!

  10. I’m the most open with my finances with my mom and of course, my significant other since we live together. I have a few friends where I can really talk about finances, but it’s definitely not a group conversation when we’re all hanging out. I feel like it’s more one on one. I wish my friends would talk about their finances more but the topic never comes up and I would feel odd bringing it up.

  11. It depends on the friend. I do have quite a few that know a lot about my finances, but they date back.

  12. Just found your blog last night – very inspiring!

    I have several good friends that I talk to, and they are people that I hang out with most. My three very good girlfriends are all on the same page as me with money and I find it a lot easier and less stressful to hang out with people of a similar mindset. I know they’ll be completely on board with cooking at home and going out for a walk, rather than having drinks and dinner and clubbing all night. We can share saving money tips and they get excited about it, rather than thinking that I’m cheap.

    I think over the years I’ve distanced myself from the people who are incredibly foolish with their money because like many of you mentioned, you can’t relate to them. It’s also hard to resist the “just one more drink!” or “come on, treat yourself!” mentality. For the most part, easier to avoid it all together and hang out with people that think like you do :)

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