Money Matters (More Than You Think)

money1.jpgBy Tom Scarcella

“Wake up, you need to make money!” For many of us, post-college life means coming to terms with the financial burdens of adulthood, whether it’s little by little or diving right out of the nest. While stressing out about these new challenges is a near-universal feeling for young adults, the specifics of what we face are far from homogenous.

In this transitional phase, we’re becoming acutely aware of the evolving economic differences amongst people our age. Previously, many of our peers were on the same page, supported by their parents and government loans. After graduation, however, these same peers can be living vastly different lives. One of your friends might be moving into their own apartment, totally independent. Another could be living at home, struggling to turn their degree into a job. Some are starting families and others taking time to figure things out — the variety is tremendous, and it’s something we’re not quite used to.

While we all know that adulthood transforms each other’s personal lives, we’re still tackling how it affects our social lives. Our unfolding contrasts can create miscommunication and faulty assumptions that strain our relationships. We all want to go out and have a great time, making the most of our youth — but despite that youth, we are also adults, and everybody’s got their own limitations and challenges. It’s too easy to make grand plans that just won’t work out for somebody who’s struggling to stay afloat or just trying to save their money. And I’m sure this may sound familiar: “I wish we didn’t go out to bars every weekend. It just gets too expensive.” Beyond matters of planning, our increasing life differences can also complicate our conversations. I once jumped the gun and assumed that a friend’s parents were taking care of her student loans, and I made some silly comment that I’ve since made myself forget. Needless to say, I felt pretty damn stupid when she got confused and corrected me.

These kinds of issues will always come up, but at this stage where people live such radically varying lives — which are no longer in the contained universe of college where everybody’s focused on similar goals — there’s an especial risk of tension and not seeing eye-to-eye. So, what can we do about it? Really, I think that a little extra consideration can go a long way. Following the basic tenets of logic and sympathy can help yield the best answers for any given scenario. But as food for thought, here are five things to keep an eye out for:

  • Don’t assume you can split checks evenly when out in a group. Sure it’s convenient, and fine if all parties agree, but when people are tight on a budget they shouldn’t have to be funding somebody else’s third martini when they’ve only had water.
  • Think twice about abrupt, expensive plan changes. A spur-of-the-moment movie or midnight pizza might seem like great ideas, but ask yourself if there’s anyone in the group who might not have budgeted for it. Speak up, and someone just might be thanking you later (even if everybody else thinks you’re lame).
  • Always be careful when talking about money. It’s easy to assume inaccurate things about what people are and aren’t dealing with (and you know what they say about assuming…). Be especially careful when discussing things like benefits and pay — anybody would be super proud of finally getting a job that gives the full nine yards, but it could sound boastful or condescending when you’re talking to people who don’t have that.
  • Treating people and gift-giving are done with good intentions, but laden with pitfalls. You want to seem generous by offering to buy lunch or getting a very thoughtful (i.e., expensive) gift, but the generosity is lacking if it makes the receiver uncomfortable.
  • It’s not all just about money, either. Sometimes you must consider other factors, such as family and relationships and jobs. For example, it’s understandable to be upset that you haven’t heard from a college buddy in awhile, but that person could very well just be busy as all hell.

The list could go on, but as long as you’re being aware, you can navigate complex social scenarios with ease. Even something as simple as asking “Hey, is everybody cool with this?” is a subtle way of assuring your plans aren’t putting unnecessary pressure on anybody. It’s all about taking that extra step with added consideration or communication. And communication is a two-way street: don’t be afraid to say something if you just aren’t down for that weekend trip to Atlantic City. It’s hard to talk about these things, especially since we’re still figuring out just how to approach it. But keeping our differences in mind can help us to better celebrate our similarities, and keep feeling like we’re ultimately on the same page — just like the good old days.

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