Your friend is in financial trouble; here is what she wants you to know

It is well documented that financial problems can negatively impact romantic relationships, but what is less discussed is the impact of money issues on friendships. I know from personal experience that financial issues can cause collateral damage to relationships of all types. And in today’s economic climate, it is very likely that someone close to you is struggling financially.

To help your friendships weather the financial storm, I set out to discover ways you can help support your financially strapped friends—without giving them a loan. To come up with a list, I asked 30-somethings with financial challenges what they need or want from their friends.

There are two distinct categories of answers: one from a group of people who do not want their friends to know the details of their financial problems and the other from a group who feel very comfortable being candid with their friends. The difference has a lot to do with personality; however, I also noticed that the cause of financial trouble plays a role. For example, people who are having trouble due to an illness or divorce are generally more comfortable confiding than someone who overspent. However, even very private people offered advice.

Here is what the people who want to keep their financial situation out of the spotlight want their friends to understand:

-I need space. I might pull back for a while; please do not take it personally.
-I'm afraid of being judged. I don’t want to relive my mistakes. Please don’t assume I’m stupid.
-I want know our relationship is not contingent on me having money. Instead of going to happy hour, why can’t we stay in or go for a walk?
-I might need a little leeway. I am stressed out and might act like it. Please don’t hold it against me.

Here is what the group who are comfortable confiding in their friends want or need from their friends:

-I could use some empathy. If we have a reciprocal relationship, you should also share your experiences with me.
-I need to be given time and options. When making plans, don’t exclude me—just give me a chance to make a smart choice.
-I sometimes need things to be “normal.” I want you to listen sometimes, and let me forget other times.
-I don't want to be protected. Don’t deliberately try to “hide” purchases from me. It is okay that you are not having the same problems.
-I need to feel comforted. Give me a shoulder to cry on. If aren't sure what your friend needs or wants from you, perhaps the best thing to do is ask.

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. —Oprah Winfrey


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.