Monday, November 16, 2009

On friends and money

Some of us grow up poor and learn frugality and resilience and common sense. We learn how to make-do with little, expect little and learn how to be satisfied with what we have. We take the lessons of our youth with us into adulthood and we are cautious with our money. We save it and only purchase items we have cash on hand for. We plan in advance for unexpected events because we are always mindful that it can all come tumbling down with a loss of a job or accident. And we do our best to teach our children the lessons we learned and hope that they too will be prudent in their adulthood

And others....

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!

Or so it feels to me. It's frustrating to hear of the financial missteps of dear friends. It pains me to see potential hazards along their path and know I am unable to counsel them because they don't want to hear what I have to say. And because it's none of my business.

Money is funny. The standard rules of friendship do not apply. It seems my job as "friend" is to sit back and watch as the misery unfolds and do my best not to say “I shoulda told you so”.

What an unnatural thing to ask of me.

How do you handle these things?


  1. As a former member of the eat, drink and be merrier tribe I can tell you this: I wish someone would have said something...and that I would have been prepared to listen.

    Now I am teaching myself the past-due lessons of frugality, sustained living, and the beauty of simplicity. It can be a rough teacher - but I am so glad that my husband and I are at this place. Hitting the bottom now with two young kids and learning how to climb back up is much easier than doing it later...

    I wish I had wonderful advice. I wish I knew what someone could have said to me that would have made me stop. The best advice in this may be just to continue your example. Maybe even say "Hey I know you struggle with budgeting, and it's something I really enjoy doing. Can I help you set yours up?"

    Sorry to hear that someone you love is going through it - it is a painful place to be, full of despair and depression and the overall feeling of lack of control.

  2. i thought about this post a lot last night as I was trying to fall asleep.

    i think I sound boastful and that wasn't my intent. (see? money is funny that way)

    just know that the words came from a place of concern for a friend of mine (no worries, nobody anyone here would know) and her absolute refusal to think about the "what-ifs".

    I see this kind of thinking all around me. I doubt our finacial woes as a country would be as significant if more people just learned to not spend more than they actually bring home.


  3. It is hard to watch friends do things that you know will cause them pain. I think what Shelly said about being prepared to listen is key. You can't help someone who doesn't want help, so I think you just have to be there for them when they do want it- even if that's at the point when they're trying to clean up whatever mess they've gotten into.

    I have a relationship like that with one of my sisters. It's painful sometimes.

  4. Growing up poor doesn’t guarantee frugality. I know people who grew up poor, yet constantly live outside of their means and dig themselves deeper into debt.

  5. kim, i know that. I think that was a big reason for the post. you'd think you'd learn how quickly money disappears.

    you'd also think that growing up poor would teach one the lessons needed to make better choices just as growing up wealthy would teach kids how to never be satisfied.

  6. oh, and i know that things are never that simple.

  7. Kim is right; I know several people who grew up poor and now seem to be trying to make up for what they lacked as a child regardless of their financial status. And while some who grow up in better circumstances seem to take it for granted and consume without concern for financial consequences, others have learned valuable lessons from the successful examples of their parents. As I've learned this, I've become convinced that one's background has little to do with their attitude towards money.

  8. And yes, it's tough to watch people make mistakes which can have some serious future consequences knowing that nothing you do can make a difference.

    Of course, I've made a mistake or two myself which I've seriously regretted...

  9. I suck at giving advice, always have. So I rarely ever give advice. But this is only because I suck at giving advice. something I have noticed about you is you are exceptional at giving advice. Seriously, you could write an advice column (and I don't mean that jokingly at all).

    Whether or not you actually step forward to give this individual some tips, let me just say that your example of frugal living has been a tremendous example to me and has been of much value as I try to control my own consuming/purchasing. So... whether or not you actually say something, your lifestyle in and of it's self serves as a form of advice. for what it's worth.

  10. I just want to ditto G. You've been a huge example to me. I'm still not quite up to your level of non-consumerism, but I've learned a lot about cutting back and being satisfied with life from you. Thanks.

  11. The thing is, Mel, that the people I know who grew up poor and can’t manage money also grew up in homes in which the parents could not manage money. Perhaps it was learned.

  12. This was a great post. I don't have anything useful to add, but I LOVE having savings and feeling financially prepared and I love it when others are that way also so I don't need to worry about them!

  13. I had this same experience with my brother. I think I even posted about it on FMH (maybe I should have left names out) but it infuriated me to see him be so STUPID, and more than that he thought he deserved it all. Everything, the house, the truck the kid, the four wheeler. I think he's kind of learned his lesson.

    But, from my perspective through the years, (and watching a lot of financial shows, and being great friends with people who can manage money) I realized how deep money really is. It isn't just green, it's a part of us, part of who we are, our value, and the way we treat it can teach us a lot about how we value ourselves. You have to respect money, (I hope I can teach THAT to my kids) before you can really play with it and understand it.

    I have a friend right now who always complains about how rough things are, how crappy things always happen to them, and how they are financially strapped. Well, when their huge TV broke they didn't pay to get it fixed, they bought a brand new bigger than life flat screen tv.. I just thought... huh... and you wonder why your finances are in the dumpster?

    I know I am totally preaching to the choir, but man I want to slap her and her husband upside the head and say...'what the hell you doing?' Good luck. Maybe you might find a small window in which your friend might be receptive to what you have to say. It's tough!

  14. I just went over my posts and FB to see if you're talking about me. :( I have been very insanely bad with money in the past. My parents never taught me anything about money. They were lower middle class, worried about money a lot, my dad filed for bankruptcy after divorce, so I feel like they should have worried about me and taught me something, but they just didn't. So I moved out and went crazy with credit cards with Jeremy (who also had no financial education even though his dad is in banking) and chalked up lots of medical debt with no insurance. I'm still paying for that, even though we haven't had a credit card in six years (since we got married) and we've never taken a non-student loan. It's restricted us in so many ways.

    I learned my lesson, but nobody could have talked me out of it at the time, without a foundation of financial understanding. I bristle when people try to advise me. I had to make my own mistakes to learn my limits, i.e., I'm not responsible enough to handle credit cards and it's never ever worth it to buy something you can't pay for outright. Credit is a racket.

  15. Oh, and my comment so very demonstrated my narcissism. Not only are YOU talking about me, but I talked about myself for the whole thing. And this one, too!!

  16. no chandelle, it's not about you. how about this. it's about an old friend of mine. someone i've known for more than five years. there, that should exclude all blog related friends.

    as for bristling at advice given. it's one thing for someone to offer unsolicited advice about money--i too would bristle. it's another thing when the friend complains, laments or expresses concern over their financial situation and basically asks for advice and then bristles.

    the way i see it, don't complain how desperate times are to me and then expect me to be thrilled when you take on more (huge) totally avoidable debt.

    It's like they didn't notice in all those years of being friends with me that i'm not a sideline friend.

  17. You wrote: "We plan in advance for unexpected events because we are always mindful that it can all come tumbling down with a loss of a job or accident."

    May I ask what "plan in advance" entails? I'm curious because many families live paycheck to paycheck just to meet their basic needs. Unless your family income is six figures, it's extremely difficult.

    I apologize if I've veered away from the intent of your post.

  18. kaloa,

    i guess it started when we got married.

    we bought a small house, one that we were sure we could pay for on one income should one of us lost our job.

    then we saved money. sounds simple but it requires a ton of self discipline on our part to not satisfy our every desire-even when we have the money to do so. we also eat simply, shop frugally and reduce monthly expenses by using pub trans/bikes and other small things here and there.

    i assure you, we are not earning anywhere near 6 figures. even before i was laid off, we didn't break the 50k mark between us.

    now we're down to one income and all of the money I saved over the two years i was working for the construction company has gone to pay my share of the bills and my university tuition (i didn't qualify for any grants because our 2008 income was "too high".

    i suppose, choosing to not have more children played a big part in having the ability to save.

    we also took that into consideration that adding another child could be a financial burden that maybe, we aren't/weren't able to handle.

    so...the bottom line, we saved a lot of money and lived well within our means.

    very much the counsel of our general authorities.

    (not to be too misleading, i live a comfortable life. it's just in a small house with a lot of second hand products)

  19. ps

    sorry that i forgot the second L in your name. I'd edit it but I don't think i can in blogger.


  20. How do you give advice to your friends on anything? I've got a friend who, in the space of a few months, went from a bad marriage to an affair with a married man to living with a guy she barely knew (not the married man), all with a 2 year old in tow. I don't think she's making the best choices but what can I say? And ultimately it's none of my business anyway.

    Another friend puts it this way: There is my business, your business, and God's business. If it's not my business I don't get a say.


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