Hope for your financial life and beyond

6 Shocking Things Your Broke Friends Need to Hear You Say

If you’ve ever gotten into conversations with broke friends about money, you know how hard it is to determine if they actually want your help. There are several ways to figure that out and perhaps lead your discussion to a deeper level. If that happens, you’ll learn more about your friend’s financial struggles and perhaps be able to offer some counsel.

However, the counsel part is when it gets really tough. If you’ve had success with money, the answers seem obvious. You know what must be done.

broke friendsChange your habits.

Spend less and save more by following a budget.

Get out of debt.

Invest, invest, and invest some more.

The sad thing is your broke friends might not want to hear any of that. They are in financial trouble for a whole host of diverse reasons. And those reasons have a grip on their life that will make it hard to break free.

Your Broke Friends and Their Dilemma

Your broke friends really have a dilemma. Their situation likely resulted from a lack of knowledge and/or poor decisions over a period of time. They are behaviors they have acted on time and time again.

This is a problem because when our way of life becomes ingrained – in other words, normal and acceptable to us – we really don’t want to hear about ways to live differently. We have our set routine and way of thinking. So, the more we practice the same things over and over, the less likely it will be for use to break out of the mold and see things in another way.

This is even true in the realm of money.

In order to break through and see outside the box, we either have to experience severe pain, be faced with a crisis or be shocked by someone or something. We don’t simply wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll change all my habits today.”

Behavior change comes as we act upon the pressures forced upon us by others and by ourselves.

Related Content: Bad Personal Finance Habits Only Change When the Pain Spikes

So if you are in a money conversation with a broke friend who is lamenting their situation, you may have to lob a few shocking statements their way. Most likely they won’t want to hear them. They’ll probably become upset if you use this strategy, even if you do so with a calm, sensitive and caring tone.

But with some people you can’t beat around the bush in the hopes they’ll get it. You can be empathetic and at the same time be direct and passionate. Let them know what you think. If they are truly your friend, hopefully they’ll appreciate it in the long run.

Shock Your Broke Friends Into Change

If you want to facilitate and create behavior change in the lives of your broke friends, here are some statements you can make.

1. “That’s not good enough.”

The beauty of this statement, is that it creates a minimal and acceptable standard to reach. Additionally, it lets them know that you understand they are trying.

Your friend might be proud of what they are accomplishing. But from your vantage point, you can obviously see more has to be done. You’ve learned what it takes to be successful and you know what they are doing isn’t going to cut it.

So you have to push them by saying, “Hey, it sounds like you are making progress but what you are doing simply isn’t good enough. You have to do more to win with money.”

2. “That’s hurting you/them.”

This statement forces them to see how their actions are impacting not only them but those around them. Because the truth is, the impact of our decisions always reaches further than we think it does. The consequences are not isolated to us alone.

Often times, the last thing we want to see or acknowledge is that our actions are having a negative impact. We’d rather bury our heads in the sand and pretend we are not hurting ourselves or anyone else. We’d rather justify the behavior and avoid dealing with the outcome.

By pointing this out, you force your friend to confront the painful truth that their behavior is damaging.

3. “That’s affecting your future.”

This statement causes your friend to project beyond the present. People with financial troubles are so wrapped up in the moment. They can’t see beyond their immediate needs.

One of the most effective methods for creating change is to visualize what you want life to be like 10, 20 or 30 years down the road and then set a goal to reach that vision. It’s hard for us to imagine what we will be doing 30 years from now. But we can project what we want to be doing. We can easily dream about what we want life to become for us.

Related Content: How to Set Goals: Make them SMART

So causing them to confront their future self can be an effective method to facilitate change in the present. When they see how their life might turn out because of their present actions, they may not like it and choose to do something about it. It’s a method that certainly worked for Scrooge.

4. “That’s wrong/bad.”

This statement challenges your friend on the morality or ethics of what they are doing.

They have to face it. Some actions are just wrong – morally, legally and ethically wrong. And in every situation they eventually cause us harm. Even if we don’t get caught, there are emotional and psychological issues we have to live with.

But we are masters at rationalizing our behavior and convincing ourselves “It’s not really wrong.” That’s why it’s often left to others to point out the error in our thinking.

Be prepared here though. Whenever you start telling someone their actions are wrong, you open yourself up to two things:

  1. A philosophical debate about morality and the definition of “wrong” and,
  1. Having your friend point the finger back at you and criticize all your “wrongs.”

That’s why this particular statement is so hard to make. We don’t like debating ethical, moral or spiritual issues and we don’t want to be called a hypocrite.

However, if your friends can realize they are on the wrong side of the good-bad-right-wrong debate, that may give them the incentive they need to change.

5. “That’s incorrect.”

This statement points out errors in knowledge. A major reason people are in a financial mess is because they just don’t know the right things to do.

This statement is a little less controversial than the “That’s wrong” statement. It allows you to challenge incorrect information they may have received. We always make mistakes based on bad information or advice. Unfortunately, there is a lot of that in the realm of personal finance.

The great thing about this statement is that it creates the easiest path to change. All they have to do is get the right information about spending, saving, budgeting and investing and implement that in their life.

Related Content: The Ultimate Guide on How to Make the Best Monthly Budget

6. “That’s dumb/stupid/silly.”

This ultimate shocking statement introduces them to best practices, plans or steps and calls out the behavior as completely inappropriate and abnormal.

Yes, it is the most blunt. It’s the most forceful and in your face. And it’s the one you may lose the friendship over.

(I supposed if you wanted to be slightly more tactful you could say, “That’s not the best way to do it.” That may soften the blow.)

But like I said, sometimes we need to raise the tension level of our broke friends to create change. This statement might just be the thing they need. Plus, you can always walk it back later and apologize for being so harsh.

If I were going to use this phrase I’d quickly follow it up with a personal example. Haven’t we all done our share of stupid mistakes that cost us money? Sharing where you’ve been stupid and what it cost you will lessen the sting of the statement. It will even provide encouragement that you had a failure but were able to move beyond it.

Related Content: Confessing a Really Stupid Money Mistake

It Takes Courage to Be Blunt

All of these statements will shock your broke friends. They are not used to someone telling them, “No” or “That’s wrong” or “That’s stupid.” So it will mean more hearing it come from the lips of a trusted friend.

But be prepared for some resistance and hurt feelings. It may even strain the relationship for a while.

To lessen the negativity though, be sure to use the word “That’s” instead of “You’re.” Go back and insert “You’re” into each of those statements. Doesn’t it feel a lot more personal when hear it that way?

“That’s” puts the emphasis on the behavior. “You’re” puts it on the person. People will become more defensive if they feel you are personally criticizing them or their character as opposed to their behavior. It’s a fine line to draw but a critical distinction.

So be bold and help your broke friends. It won’t be easy but you might just change their life. Wouldn’t that be worth it?

Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Do you think these statements would just tick off your broke friends? Could you ever/have you ever been this bold? Do you think any of these are out of bounds? Do you think there is a difference between pointing to the behavior and not the person, or is it all one in the same?

Original image courtesy of Daniel Zedda at Flickr Creative Commons

Related Content: The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

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  1. These are all really blunt and honest. I agree, though! Sometimes, your friends just need to hear it like it is. I’m not the type of friend to let you stay in a bad place. I’d rather possibly hurt your feelings now with honesty than encourage you to continue your bad habits.

  2. Hi Brian,
    I like honesty and I think it is important when working and wanting to help people. I tend to consider different parameters like situation, state of mind and what the person I am talking to can stand to hear at that particular point in time. But yes, very often something served straight forward and blunt can be the best way to get the message across.

  3. I absolutely believe in being blunt and honest with my clients and most of them really appreciate that I give them the honesty that I do. I have a few people who didn’t enjoy it, but I realized that if they weren’t ready for the truth, then we probably wouldn’t experience success together anyway.

  4. They certainly have to be framed the right way….I just had someone ask if I would look at their monthly financial plan and let them know what I thought. Well….I let them know, but tried to be blunt, yet compassionate and understanding at the same time. I’m waiting for their response. 🙂

    • I once heard of an acronym called NICE…Nothing, Inside Me, Cares, Enough…the meaning of it being that by speaking up honestly, we let people know how much we care about them and that they are making the wrong decisions.

  5. I gave up on some of my friends a long time ago. They’re still great people, but nothing I could ever say would help them stop living paycheck to paycheck and struggling. It has to come from within, and they aren’t willing to make any changes right now.

    • “… has to come from within…” I agree Holly. Unless they have the desire to change nothing we could say will matter.

  6. I always like leading with my experiences, including mistakes and successes. This always seems to help soften the message I’m about to delivery. I don’t think I would ever call anyone “stupid” or describe their actions as “stupid” that was asking for my advice.

  7. Because my friends know that I am a financial advisor, it can make it easier for some to talk to me and others won’t because they are embarrassed. It’s hard to stand by and not offer an opinion or give unsolicited advice because I want to help them. Sometimes they absolutely need to hear hard truths. Before I offer it, I always ask first if they are ready for some tough love. If not, that’s okay and we can talk about something else. But if they are ready, than I will be direct but as you said – frame it in a way that doesn’t make them feel attacked because when people get defensive, they stop listening.

    • “…I always ask first if they are ready for some tough love.” That’s a brilliant move Shannon! Set the expectation in advance that what they are about to hear they may not like. I can see how that would help take some of the tension out of the room.

  8. Telling another adult, especially your friend, any of these things is never going to be easy. But if you truly are their friend, then you’ll tell them what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear.

  9. I’m not sure if I would say, “That’s stupid” because it might just lead to them shutting me out or say “You’re stupid.” But I guess I would maybe use it as a last resort. First I would try to talk to them in a reasonable way without being confrontational or calling them or their ways stupid.

    • “…use it as a last resort.” That’s why I put it last on the list. And I still think it can be effective if you immediately talk about how stupid you’ve been and what that taught you.

  10. I definitely think there is a difference between pointing to a behavior and pointing to a person. However, I’m not exactly sure that all of my friends recognize that difference, so if I were to say any of these things to certain friends I think there’s a strong chance of offending. Well, that and the fact that I usually try to be diplomatic and relatively non-confrontational means that super blunt statements would possibly be perceived as even more rude by certain friends. I agree that sometimes being blunt is best, but I think that other methods can be effective as well. Unless there were something especially egregious going on, I think I’d probably choose a more diplomatic approach when confronting certain friends about money issues. But that’s just me. 🙂

    • “…try to be diplomatic and relatively non-confrontational…” I’m right there with you Dee. That would be my first approach as well. I wouldn’t lead with these statements because the person might react positively with comments that were a little less drastic. I’d save these in reserve for the worst case scenarios. Guess I should have explained that a little better. 🙂

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