When someone is struggling with finances, it's never an easy place to be in. That's why it's so important, if someone confides in you about their financial issues, to avoid making them feel worse about themselves and their current situation. Knowing what not to say to someone who is struggling with money can prevent you from coming across as jugmental or critical; being in a financially precarious position can feel vunerable and isolating, and even if someone has the best intentions, comments that are meant to be supportive may still turn out to be anything but.
Talking about money remains very taboo in American culture, but the reality is that between a tight economy, rising cost of living, and student loan debt, many people are struggling with money and have concerns about their fiscal future. Even though you can't solve someone else's financial problems, lending a caring and supportive ear might make a world of difference — and, for that matter
While it can be tricky to figure out what exactly to say, there are definitely things we shouldn't say when someone comes to us about money struggles, though. While everyone will react differently, these are some helpful starting points on things to avoid saying when someone is having a hard time with money:
1. "Stop Worrying About It So Much."
If someone confesses to you that they're worried about something, it's always a good idea to avoid dismissing their concerns. Even if you're trying to reassure them, telling them something isn't worth worrying about can come across as demeaning. For so many people, money is something to worry about, and if you hear someone's concerns and answer with a simple, "Oh, it'll work itself out eventually!", they may leave the conversation feeling misunderstood and distant from you.
2. "Hey, Let's Do [Thing That Involves Spending Money]! It's Supposed To Be SO FUN."
In our society, we often try to cope with difficult times by distracting ourselves with other activities. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can be really beneficial to get a friend who is feeling low out of their home and into activities, new places in your area, their favorite restaurant for lunch, and so on and so forth.
If your friend is struggling with money, though, don't put pressure on them to spend even more money by going out, even if it's an activity you have enjoyed together in the past. Instead, suggest free or nearly-free activities that you two can enjoy together, like a walk in the park, free museum days, or an afternoon spent browsing the bookstore. Let them know that you'll still be there to hang out with, even if their budget doesn't allow you to do the same things you used to.
3. "Can You Really Afford To Do That?"
Even if you are trying to be helpful, it's best to avoid making judgments about someone else's financial decisions — whether it's questioning them about whether they can afford to do something, or whether it's a comment on their decision not to spend money. When someone confesses that they're having money problems, it can be easy to think back to what you know they've spent lately and assess it's value in your own perspective. The thing is, however, that everyone has different needs, wants, and values when it comes to money and where it goes, so what you may consider optional may be very much a requirement to someone else. Even if you don't think certain decisions were the smartest, it's important to remember that this person is coming to you for support, not financial planning.
4. "Too Bad Money Doesn't Grow On Trees!" Or Other Jokes
Because it's seen as such a taboo discussion in our society, money talk can make a lot of people feel awkward and uncomfortable. If someone opens up to you about their financial concerns, resorting to humor or jokes may not be the best way to redirect the conversation. While you're certainly never obligated to have a conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable, if you do feel the need to change the subject, there are tactful, less hurtful ways to do it. As Michelle Crouch explains over at CNN, it's OK to redirect a conversation if you're feeling uncomfortable. It's not OK, however, to do so by poking fun at someone else's experiences or worries.
5. "It's Probably Good For You To Get Used To Being Poor."
No matter what the situation is, making classist comments is never OK. Classism is seriously embedded into a lot of our society, from our media to our entertainment, but it's so important we all work on getting classist language out of our heads and mouths.
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