Do you ever hesitate to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong or makes no sense? Do you ever hesitate to tell a friend they are wasting their money or spending badly?
I ask these questions because I think many of us have at some time or another have witnessed some massive and wasteful spending and wanted to say something but didn’t because we were afraid offending the person. For obvious reasons I have no problem pointing out wasteful activities to close friends and family. Notice I say close friends and family, people that I know well and who in turn also know me. I don’t go around randomly judging people’s spending habits. People expect this from me because of my profession. I can do it and get away with it because I know them well and most of the time they see it as a natural thing I do and don’t necessarily get offended (maybe annoyed but not offended).
In my financial coaching program a client of mine had this very problem. She is a reformed reckless spender. She is currently doing very well with getting her financial life in order. Her bank balance is testimony to how well she is doing. She was recently out with a friend and she saw a version of her old self in her friend. She recognized the same mindless spending pattern that she once knew only too well. She was tempted to talk to her friend about it, but felt she couldn’t because she was afraid that her friends would resent her for it or feel that she is no longer fun to be around. After all, not too long ago, they would both doing the same thing. She felt she had no right to say anything to her friend even though she really wanted to.
My advice to her was if this person is really a friend they would support you and would respect you for voicing your opinion even if they don’t take your advice. We can’t make everyone see things the way we do. The most we can do is to speak up. If they take our advice, fine, if not, then there is nothing we can do about it. If the people you are associating with don’t hold the same views and values, then it would not be long before the relationship fizzles out. If your friends are not respectful of your choices and lifestyle, then the relationship will eventually die of natural causes.
Working through financial issues goes past the numbers. I really mean it when I say Finance is NOT about the numbers. The numbers are symptomatic of what state you are in. The numbers reflect the state of your whole life. It is important to note that I am referring here to people who are more than able to meet their basic needs and in theory should have a lot of money left over but somehow they don’t. These are the ones whose bank balances say a lot about them. If they are content and happy with their life, it is reflected on their bank statement. If they are busy trying to meet social expectations and impress others with their material possessions that too will be reflected back to them on their monthly statement and usually it is it’s not what they want to see. When people start to get their finances in order, it usually means getting their life in order. It means prioritizing what is important and has meaning for you and what does not. It means developing and implementing the skill of knowing when you can and should splurge and when you should hold back.
I have excellent examples of quite a number of clients who simultaneously managed to fatten up their bank account while dropping a few pounds themselves. This was usually the result of a change in their lifestyle. They ate out less and started making their meals at home. This simple action significantly reduced their monthly expenses while simultaneously making a noticeable difference to their waistline! The savings continued because they could fit back into their old (expensive) clothes and didn’t need to buy new ones, this yet another way they saved.
Perhaps not all your friends and family would appreciate you being fiscally responsible but I feel it is our responsibility as a friend and a family member to point out wasteful spending or financial misconduct when we see it. Naturally, it has to be done in a gentle way which does not make anyone feel offended, but rather encouraged about the whole process. We are not aiming at reverse peer pressure. It’s more about making them aware of what they are doing. Perhaps they never realized it themselves and it only becomes evident when you point it out. You might be surprised by a grateful response to bringing this to their awareness. If not, then back off and let them be, it is not your job to change them. Change will only happen when they are ready and not a second before.
The next time you witness a friend of family member spending recklessly or committing some serious financial misconduct try telling them about it and see what happens. Feel free to drop a line and let me know what happened.