How to talk to friends or family about finances without it getting awkward

Lessons learned from money discussions with friends.

There is no one perfect way to track, control, manage or spend your money. There are a lot of professionals in the field of financial management who can give expert advice. When it comes to providing advice to friends or family, the best recommendation is to understand a few things before diving into the advice arena.

  1. Everybody spends their money differently. There is no “one size fits most” when discussing spending habits. Even financial gurus and money management experts disagree on just one way to manage money.
  2. Friends and family may not want advice on how they handle their finances, despite any expertise you possess and despite indications of their need for assistance.
  3. It’s much easier to give advice than to accept it, so before offering to provide know-how on spending, make sure to resolve your own financial skeletons. Make any judgements as to how others manage their money silently until asked. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
  4. Use the “I” sentence to talk to friends about money and spending. How we spend or save is very personal so rather than telling someone how to spend, instead explain your own methods. Talk about what works or worked for your particular situation including your methods and reasoning.
  5. Be prepared for your advice to be rejected or ignored. As well intentioned as the advice may be, the client (friend or family member) may not be ready to accept the advice. Financial coaching models emphasize that clients aren’t always able to accept sound financial advice when given.

Have a conversation, not a lecture. Listen to what the family member or friend is trying to tell you, not just in words but in actions and body language. Always honor requests for confidentiality and space. On the flip side, when the friend or family member is spending their income on vacations, luxury cars or expensive home improvements, don’t be jealous of their expenditures. This is especially true if you’re on a tight budget. While it may seem as if your buddy always has extra cash for life’s luxuries, everyone has a different value for their spending and different incomes can mean different types of spending.

Learning to live within your means is a goal at every income level and the path taken and results will look different for each and every person. In the words of Warren Buffet, “Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.”

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, go to either http://msue.anr.msu.edu/events or www.mimoneyhealth.org. Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health.

Michigan State University Extension has released a new toolkit for homeowners who are experiencing or have previously experienced foreclosure. This toolkit will equip these individuals and families with tools to help them recover their financial stability, in the case that a recovery of their home is not possible. The toolkit is available to download free at MIMoneyHealth.org.

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