I remember the day, about 12 years ago) that I found out that we weren’t going to talk about money amongst the social circle. It was after college and I had asked one of my good friends what he was offered when Microsoft was courting him. He said, “I don’t discuss money with friends.” It was really shocking to me, but I accepted it. After all, he had this great career and I was still working retail management and going to school part-time. And that was my experience all through my college career – I worked full-time and went to school part-time (I’m still doing it now during grad school). And I’ve never made very much money, because I needed to find the jobs that are flexible enough for me to attend classes, and those jobs don’t tend to invest much, because everyone involved knows that it is just temporary.
But as I’ve gotten older, my husband and I notice that there is generally a very large gap between what we make and what we have discovered our friends make. One of our closest friends makes more by herself than we do put together. Now, she’s been in the same company for 10 years and has an MBA, but we’re in professional jobs, too, just at non-profits. And a large number of our friends own houses (in metro Los Angeles, nonetheless), while we can’t imagine that we will ever be able to afford to buy in this area when the median house price for the County is $360,000 and over $600,000 where we live. I’m sure that this is not uncommon for most people – if you are out there and being social, you’ll probably have a mix of people in your life that represent the whole spectrum of Net Worth. So why am I writing about this?
I’m writing about this because our experience of going through the financial crisises that we have over the last few years has further illustrated the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in our social circle. This is shown when we have to decline dinner plans at restaurants, or give homemade gifts because we can’t afford to eat out of purchase the $100 saute pan on the registry. And we haven’t had much luck talking to our friends about our money woes and our very real worry about filing for bankruptcy, because they talk about being broke, or money being tight, but they are also putting away several thousand in savings each month. It is simply two different scales of economy. So, we made the choice to reference it, but not to give details. I think this was a mistake – we should have been more transparent and explained to our friends that “no, we don’t make 6 figures with our combined incomes” and “yes, our total debt is more than we take home in a year.” We should have just told them. I think we were afraid that we would be judged and our friends (and family, to be honest) would think poorly of us and that it would affect our relationship with them.
I guess this means that my husband and I need to think about letting all of that worry go and have honest conversations with the people that we care about – not ALL of our friends certainly, but I think the burden might not be so heavy if others were walking along side…
Have any of you had those conversations with your friends/family? What was the outcome? Were you surprised?