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New data shows how much money it takes to ruin a friendship

Conventional wisdom dictates an old recipe: Friendship + money = problems. Though most people can confirm this, Bank of America (BAC) commissioned a survey to get some actual data and details to back this notion up.

In the survey of 1,000 nationally representative respondents, money was cited as the fourth largest cause of stress in friendships after jealousy, gossip, and disagreements, and not something people like to talk about with friends. According to the data, the only thing people enjoy talking about less, apparently, is personal hygiene.

The findings show good reason for this. Fifty-three percent of people said they’d seen a friendship end over money, a fact that led 77% of respondents in the survey to believe that an IOU is harmful to a friendship.

One of the craziest things the survey found was how little was required to end a friendship. Almost three-quarters of respondents said they would end a friendship over $500 — and 40% said they would end one if the dispute was just $100.

“Friendships can endure a lot, but money is not one of those things it can endure,” said Meredith Verdone chief marketing officer at Bank of America. “I thought that was high and pretty surprising.”

The degree to how tenuous a friendship can be afflicted by debt was highlighted by how many people said they avoided talking about money with their friends. Around 40% of Americans have avoided a friend who owes them money because it’s so awkward, and asking someone to pay you back ranked at the top of most uncomfortable situations.

“It’s a stressor on both ends,” said Verdone. “It’s this awkwardness — no one wants to ask.”

Verdone put the data in context of modern peer-to-peer payments, noting that technology (think Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, Zelle) used to send a payment requests takes some of the burden off what used to be an in-person demand.

Reminding someone “you owe me money” is harder than requesting to be paid on one of those services, and every day it’s becoming easier. Thanks to these apps, it’s now socially acceptable to send these casual invoices after someone floats a friend some cash.

Confidential tip line: emann[at]oath[.com].

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