Most of us hit a financial snag at one point or another. Unfortunately, it’s a part of life. Roughly 57% of respondents in a Pew study said they are not prepared for a financial emergency. Furthermore, about 56% of respondents said they worry about their finances. Short-term bills and retirement are just two of the areas Americans are most concerned about. What’s even scarier is that more than half (55%) said they are just breaking even or spending more than they earn each month. Some also said they had no savings at all (33%).
If someone you know is facing a financially challenging time, do your best not to add to their stress by saying something insensitive. Here are 10 things you should never say to someone having money problems.
1. I heard you lost your job.
When not to say it: at a big family dinner.
Big dinners with extended family are a great time to catch up. You learn who’s getting married or divorced, who died, who’s having a baby, and all the other interesting or surprising family happenings. If one of your family members recently lost a job, don’t use this information as a topic for dinner conversation. He or she is likely embarrassed and may not want to discuss employment woes in front of a large group, even if it is family. Try to put yourself in that person’s shoes for a moment. Would you want everyone to know you can’t hold down a job? We didn’t think so. Keep quiet and eat your dinner.
2. I make more money than you.
When not to say it: at work.
Most people feel insecure when it comes to salaries. This is especially true when a new hire is made. One of your first thoughts is usually about whether your new co-worker makes more than you. If you happen to work in a position where you have access to other people’s salaries, whatever you do, don’t broadcast whether you make more than certain people. This might make you feel good for a brief moment, but it’s rude. It’s also a violation of your co-worker’s privacy.
3. What a cheap gift!
When not to say it: during the holidays.
The holidays are a stressful time as it is, but when you’re having financial difficulty, it’s twice as stressful. During this time of year, be sensitive to those who don’t make much money. If your friends, family, or co-workers are strapped for cash, they may not be able to buy trendy gifts. Some may not even be able to purchase gifts at all. The worst thing you can do is put them down for buying a low-end gift and saying that the gift — or the giver — is cheap. Keep your dissatisfaction to yourself. You can always re-gift or donate.
4. You look terrible. When’s the last time you bought new clothes?
When not to say it: ever.
When you’re on a tight budget, one of the first things that’s usually cut from the budget is new clothes (if you’re smart, that is). While your friend may not look as fashionable as usual, there’s no need to point that out. Just carry on, and ignore the fact that your friend is wearing last season’s outfit. We know it hurts, but your feigned ignorance just might save your friendship.
5. Are you having money problems?
When not to say it: on a date.
When you meet a new love, the focus shouldn’t be on salaries. If you notice your date takes you to a low-end restaurant but still seems to be having trouble paying the bill, it might be pretty clear that he or she is having some financial difficulties. Don’t state the obvious and make him or her feel even worse. Besides, most people wouldn’t want to discuss the state of their finances with a stranger in public. Your date could be going through a temporary rough patch or he or she could just be terrible with money. Either way, if it’s still early in your relationship, it’s best to keep quiet on the matter until you’ve gotten to know each other a little better. Once you have more information, you can decide from there whether you want to proceed with the relationship.
6. This is temporary, right?
When not to say it: after someone downgrades to a smaller home.
Instead of passing judgment, simply congratulate the person on finding a new place. No one needs your opinion on better neighborhoods or where to put the couch. Are you going to pay their mortgage or pay for an interior decorator? Didn’t think so. Hand over your house-warming gift and zip it.
7. I saw this coming a mile away.
When not to say it: after someone files for bankruptcy.
Even if the person was financially reckless, don’t rub salt in the wound. Refrain from saying, “I told you so.” He or she already knows that some terrible money choices were made, and now it’s time to reap what they’ve sown. Save the finger-pointing for yourself. If you saw the situation coming a mile away, perhaps you should have said something earlier.
8. How much do you have in your bank account?
When not to say it: at the ATM.
It’s really none of your business. If you know someone close to you is having money trouble, he or she is not going to want to share banking details. Even if this person wasn’t having money trouble, it’s still none of your business. So stop trying to steal a look at the ATM monitor.
9. I feel so bad for you.
When not to say it: after someone admits to being broke.
Offer support, not pity. Instead of saying how bad you feel, investigate how you can be of assistance. Offer to brainstorm with the person so he or she can find solutions. Unless you can help in some way, don’t say anything that will make the person feel even worse about the situation.
10. Do you want to borrow some money?
When not to say it: when your friend looks stressed about paying the restaurant bill.
A better response would be to offer to pay for the meal. Depending on the situation, you may want to wait to offer financial help unless you’re asked (provided that you’re able to help). Just because someone has fallen on hard times doesn’t mean you should immediately present yourself as a financial savior. Lending money to friends and family can be risky, so think long and hard before making that decision. Chances are, you won’t get your money back.
More from Money and Career Cheat Sheet:
- Money Lessons You Can Learn from Your Broke Friends
- 5 Things to Know Before You Lend Money to Friends and Family
- The Best (and Worst) Ways to Teach Children About Money