A few weeks ago, I was out with some of these friends and we got onto the topic of jobs and money. Everyone — and I mean everyone — in a party of nine people was complaining about how they don’t get paid what they should. Normally, I say nothing about this topic — I know how lucky I am to have a job I like and be paid well — but the guy who had my position before me made 30K more than I do for less responsibility, so to contribute to the conversation I brought that up, and one of my friends RIPPED my head off.
She works a shit job, six days a week for just over minimum wage. (For what it’s worth, I have always encouraged her to find another job — I send her job postings when I come across them — and to go back to school). She said I had no right to be complaining when other people make way less than I do, and she berated me in front of our other friends. I didn’t say anything at the time because I was uncomfortable.
It’s been a few days now and I can’t stop thinking about this. Was what I said so rude? I know it’s a no-no to talk about money with people, especially in any kind of detail, but what I said was vague and relevant to the conversation. I guess I just missed this lesson in the “how to be an adult” class. Is there a right and a wrong way to talk about money? — Mystified about Money Talk
You were not rude; your friend was. And you have every right to approach her and express how out-of-line she was and how much she upset you. You have every right to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do. Clearly, money and jobs are super sensitive topics for your friend right now, and clearly she resents that you are in a much better position than she is where both of these issues are concerned. Is it fair that she takes out that resentment on you? No! She sucks for berating you in front of your other friends like she did. But I’m not sure talking to her about it will make either of you feel better.
The problem is that your friend is still going to see you as someone who has it so much better than she does, and your expressions of anger or hurt feelings aren’t going to change that. If she already thinks you have no right to express any dissatisfaction or complaint about your job in any way, then she probably doesn’t believe you have any right to express any complaint about her complaining about you complaining. And doing so will likely just succeed in putting her further on the defensive and creating even more tension between you.
I say let it go and make a mental note to: A) limit your time with this person; and B) avoid conversations about jobs, career, and money around her. I’d also suggest ceasing with any advice or assistance you’ve been giving her in terms of finding a new job or career/academic path. She doesn’t want to hear it. She’s miserable, and the company and advice she wants is from other people she believes to be as miserable as she is.
As for whether there’s a “right” way or a “wrong” way to discuss money with people, I think you’re on the right track. Avoid specifics, particularly with anyone who may resent what you have. Don’t brag. Don’t put on airs. Don’t lie in an effort to fit in. When hanging out with people whom you believe to have less than you, suggest activities that are in everyone’s, or most everyone’s, budgets.
Don’t place too much of your own self-worth or value on the amount of money you have or the quality of your possessions. Take pride in your accomplishments and the way you treat people. You can lose money and jobs and things, but your accomplishments and support system are yours for as long as you don’t take them for granted. I hope your friend figures that out sooner rather than later.