Keep Those Pesky Money Problems to Yourself

by Mara Model

Though the pressure of finding a job, a place to live and figuring it all out is a downer, the best thing about being 23, in my opinion, is the freedom of becoming the person you’re meant to be, and sharing the experience with friends. If we can’t let out steam, and have a great time, how are we ever going to make it? But the catch-22 of all of this—to live life to the fullest you need money, and you need a job that takes time to make the dough—has left friends arguing over a topic we have very little control over.

Lately, there’s been a clash between those who are financially supported by their parents and those who are just trying to get by on their own. And like friends-with-benefits, friends and money are two words that just don’t go together. Even worse? Friends complaining about money.

I remember when I was eight, I kept a pile of money I had saved from birthdays in my sock drawer. One day, I showed the collection to my friend and I’ll never forget her mom’s reaction when she walked in on us counting each bill on my queen-size bed. Words like inappropriate and not the right time came up. It was that moment I realized that discussing money, even if you’re eight and hadn’t even earned it is still a no-no in friendship etiquette.

Having to hear your friend rehash every loan they have is different than lending someone money. It’s like stress. We all go through it and we’re entitled to feel it, yet we present it as our very own personal dilemma.

For the most part, it’s everyone’s problem. USA Today recently published a story that explained how post-graduates in America are facing enormous debt, “Class of 2012 graduates faced an unemployment rate of 13.3%,” and that, “two-thirds of 2011 college graduates graduated with an average student loan debt of $26,600, or $27,500.”

The same goes for South African students. According to the Economist, the jobless rate among young South Africans is around 55%. And according to iOL news, universities like University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of Venda have a total of student debt running between R100 to R220 million.

So why are we taking our personal fight with debt out on our girlfriends?

The problem with friends venting about money is that they expect you to understand what they’re going through. When you don’t, it opens wounds you didn’t know were there: it becomes a conversation of what you have vs. what I don’t have.

But the truth is most people don’t have a choice in their financial luckiness or unluckiness in life.

The reason people live with a no-worries attitude when it comes to money is partly because they know there will always be that invisible support system ready to catch them. But it’s also because money is a part of life: we earn to spend and consume to satisfy. It’s a cycle that’s never going away. That calm composure your friend has as you vent your latest dues isn’t a judgement on your life or your accomplishments. It means they’ve accepted that being independent means more than making your rent on time. It’s a realization that you’re growing up, that the money in your sock drawer is now your life savings, and though it may be scary, it’s real.

Remember there’s nothing a friend can do that can take away the burden of a bill. Instead of competing over who has it the worst, let’s accept what’s happening and go through it together. Maybe your friends don’t understand, but it doesn’t mean they don’t feel the sting of money struggles either, it means they handle it with ease. So save the money talk for your parents; that’s what they’re there for.

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