Confessions of a Reformed Money Meddler


money meddlingA few years ago, a friend announced she was ready to buy a home of her own. I was thrilled for her: Here was someone who’d worked hard her entire adult life, who’d saved diligently for her down payment and who was ready to cross a threshold of adulthood that few of my other friends had.

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I oohed and aahed over the virtual tours of the condos she liked, admiring the sleek appliances and central air that so many rental properties in Boston lack. When her choices boiled down to two potential homes—the second floor of a triple-decker and a studio in a converted mill—she consulted me to go over a list of pros and cons for each space.

I started asking about the HOA (homeowners association) fees, bypassing stuff like which neighborhood she liked best and which one was closest to our favorite bars. While the triple-decker was charming, it needed some work—and while the mill space was move-in ready, the fees were almost double that of the triple-decker, and for half the space.

“Do you feel confident in your ability to pay for renovations, without a credit card, if you go with option one?” I asked her. And just how far would her budget stretch to cover her living expenses if she chose option two?

I expected her to wax poetic about interest rates and discuss the state of her emergency savings. Instead my friend went radio silent, and shut me out completely. In fact, she never let me know which apartment she chose in the end. I didn’t even hear from her at all until I received an invitation to her housewarming party to that oh-so-chic studio I’d questioned several months later.

Alas, my money meddling had struck again.

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  • John

    I agree with “taking the log out of your own eye first” but a true friend, that really cares about their friends, will take the time to think about how they can lovingly communicate truth. I’ve got plenty of friends who will tell me what I want to hear, but the few that love me enough to be honest with me, even though they know I might initially react or even over-react negatively, those are my true friends, which are more valuable to me than gold!

    • Julie G

      The difference between your friends and the author is that your friends were probably aware of their own motives when they advised you. It sounds like the author is just now getting around to examining her own motives, and discovering the fact that loving constructive criticism wasn’t her intention, but propping herself up was. In the future, when she gets her own house in order and knows her own motives better, she might be able to give the kind of advice your friends have given to you, but not until then.

    • Rachel

      I see where you’re coming from, but I have to disagree. Most of my friends are competent, capable adults who make their own choices, even if those choices might not be my own. And, adding in my two cents when not invited is just insulting their ability to make their own decisions. I have to respect the fact that I may prioritize things differently, and that the financial aspect is only one part of decision making. Failing to factor in utility, lifestyle, quality, and just plain joy is a mistake.

      If your friends ask for an opinion, then by all means, pipe up. But, if they’ve made their decision, deriding it will do you no good, and potentially only lose you a friend.

      Just so we’re clear, I’m all for intervening when there is serious damage being done (addiction, financial catastrophe, abusive relationships, etc.), but spending a little too much on wedding flowers isn’t that case.

    • Mimi Von Boom

      I agree with you in theory. In practice, however, I’ve seen this type of behavior be the very thing that reduced those friendships to acquaintances without much time or warning. What’s worse, in my experience when you’ve damaged a friendship in this way it’s rare that it ever really returns to its former glory. People tend to remember the time you second guessed their ability to reasonably and rationally plan for their own decisions as they saw fit and they tend to not trust or confide after that. I’d rather be there to help a friend brainstorm a solution once she asks for it than sacrifice the friendship on the bridge of “but I was helping her avoid making that HUGE mistake…”

      • michwake

        Yep, many people can’t handle the truth. When they do discover that maybe people were right they are too embarrassed to admit it.

  • michwake

    I’m guilty and agree with everything you wrote. I’m trying to get out of debt myself and feel like I need to share the things I’m learning with my friends in worse situations. I have no room to talk and I know it. :-)