With friends posting pictures on Facebook of their vacations, concerts and new cars, it's impossible not to have a pretty good concept of their spending habits.
Based on what I've seen, most of my friends spend too much money. Still, I maintain friendships with different spending habits and financial goals. Being open and honest about money keeps me from overspending and accumulating debt.
Even though people are pretty open about everything from what they ate to who they are dating, not everyone is willing to talk about their spending habits. They leave the full disclosure to the personal finance bloggers.
In fact, I've read etiquette experts who advise people to politely change the subject when someone asks them how much money they earn or how much they spent on an item.
Giving up the secrecy
I realized that when I am hesitant to discuss money, it's not because I value "privacy" as much as I don't want to be criticized or judged for my financial decisions. Nowadays, privacy is an illusion. Most people know more about our personal wealth and finances than we realize. I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it is reality.
For example, anyone can see how much you paid for your home by visiting Zillow.com. They also know how much you pay in taxes. I am the first to admit I spent to much money on my house, but I didn't know housing values would crash.
Keeping my opinions to myself
Although I've been known to give unsolicited opinions, I am learning to wait until someone asks for advice. When I think a friend spends too much money, I keep it to myself.
As a personal finance writer, I have been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice as well. One reader, a stock broker, called me to advise me not to put any more extra money toward my mortgage. I tried to explain to him that the reason I want to pay off my mortgage is because I want to quit working full time in my 40s. That's not going to happen until we pay off our mortgage. As a career man, I don't think he could relate to my personal situation or goal.
Asking my broke friends for advice
My husband thinks it's funny that I ask my broke friends for advice. He assumes I do the opposite of whatever they recommend. However, that's not always the case. A lot of friends with money problems have learned from their mistakes. They have wisdom that only comes from that place of "If I could go back, I'd do it differently."
My broke friends inspire me and motivate me to work hard every day and save for retirement. I avoid debt and reverse mortgages. Because of they were burned, I know to never lend money to friends or relatives or co-sign loans. And, finally, I won't enter retirement with a mortgage hanging over my head.
Like most people, I do value my privacy, but I realize that sometimes being private about money and debt is just enabling me to be dishonest with myself. It lets me stay in denial.
In the future, there will be even less privacy about finances. I imagine people will be able to point their cellular-like phone device at a person and get a download of their net worth, criminal background, legal history and other information with one simple click.
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