Any relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic, can be strained by debt. Conversations about debt can sometimes make or break a friendship, marriage, or family. Here’s how you can navigate the discussion when a loved one approaches you about your debt.
Reflect on your money personality
It’s important to reflect on how your relationship with money has been shaped by your life experiences to pinpoint your financial strengths and weaknesses. Below are the different types of financial personalities to consider. Regardless of what type you associate with, you could benefit from hiring a financial advisor to plan for and alleviate any financial distress.
You might feel happiest when you have a large sum of available funds at your disposal to do with what you please. In addition, you tend to equate money with self-worth or power. You may feel anxious when you don’t have enough perceived income or savings.
If you procrastinate on bills, neglect checking your bank account, or wait until the last minute to do your taxes, you’re likely a money avoider. Sometimes this avoidance is due to feeling overwhelmed by numbers and anxiety with facing financial decisions.
A saver might use trackers, analyzers, and various other financial apps to save and invest. Savers don’t spend frivolously at all, which is great for long-term goals. However, they tend to set strict expectations for themselves, frequently leading to feelings of burnout.
On the contrary, spenders will spend their money without fear of financial impact. Spenders are more likely to use credit cards to purchase big trips or technology, for example. While they tend to seem happy, without constraints put in place, the debt is probably constantly looming over their heads.
If you’re a thinker, you contemplate money and the implications it has on your life—morally, philosophically, and emotionally. Most times, thinkers believe that more money leads to more problems. But this could mean improperly saving and not thinking long-term.
How to handle the debt talk
Once you know your money personality type, you can be better prepared to have discussions about debt. Follow these tips the next time a loved one starts a conversation about your finances.
Talk about your money personality
With your knowledge of your money personality, tell them that you know what the problem might be and that you want to work toward a solution. This shows them that you have thought through your financial situation. Then, ask them how they personally feel about their relationship to money so you can understand how they perceive your debt. This is important to establish because your personalities might be clashing, but you can work together in thoughtful discussion to brainstorm a solution to your debt.
Acknowledge the other’s feelings
Someone you care for is approaching you about your debt, so you don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable or invalid in their feelings as it can be equally as nerve-racking for them. You don’t need to agree with their perspective, but it’s a good idea to acknowledge how they feel. Tell them you want to clarify a mistake in why they may feel that way or that you completely understand why they feel that way. Either way, it’s key to pinpoint the reason for their concern before moving forward with the discussion.
Own your decisions
Denying is not helpful in this scenario, especially if this person knows how much debt you have. Instead, show you are responsible and mature by owning it. Tell them you know exactly how and why you got into debt. Perhaps it was for a college degree or a car you needed to get to your job. Whatever the case may be, explain and own your decision. At the same time, it’s important to be honest about your situation. You can’t change the past, and they can’t either, so honesty is the best policy to implement so you can focus on moving forward, not backward.
Treat each relationship differently by setting boundaries when talking about money. If you feel uncomfortable, let that person know you appreciate their concern but would prefer not to share your financial details with them. You don’t owe your financial records and information to anyone in your life, aside from a spouse or legal guardian. That’s why financial advisors exist! They have a judgment-free and unbiased plan for your cash and investments.
Provide or ask for a plan
There are two ways to approach the end of the conversation, either provide a plan you’ve thought about or ask them for advice in downsizing your debt. If you have a plan, lay it out in as little or as much detail as you’re comfortable with, and ask them if they feel good about your plan afterward. If you don’t have a plan, ask them if they feel like you could benefit from trying a new strategy.
Debt is scary. Most of the time, a loved one will approach you about your debt because they care. Friends and family come from a good place of concern because no one wants to take on the financial and emotional burden of debt alone. Implement these strategies while talking to a loved one about your debt to work toward a meaningful solution. Also, consider talking to a trusted financial advisor about concerns with your debt to start living a life of financial freedom.