Dear D: Money Talk
Vantasia Correia, 15
Diva Payne, 17
Akilah Evans-Smith, 17
Mentor: Eve Ewing
Have you ever wanted to talk to your parents about money, but didn’t know how? Do you have friends who frequently expect to borrow money and don’t pay you back? Does your boyfriend or girlfriend try to control how you spend your money? Many teen girls face financial problems. If we had more knowledge and knew how to communicate better or how to talk about money, teen girls would be less likely to face a financial crisis. To further your knowledge, Dear D interviewed Anahit Tokatlyan of the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative. Ms. Tokatlyan is a financial coach who helps individuals and communities reach their financial goals. You sent us your questions, and we asked for her expert advice to help us give you advice!
My mom is currently unemployed and not getting any help from my dad. She relies on my stepdad to help with my sister and me. He has three other kids, and there is only one of him. My dad buys me expensive things like an iPad, but doesn’t help my mom out with basic things like food. How can I help out or handle it?
We all go through financial obstacles in our lives. It’s even worse when we feel like we’re facing them on our own! You may feel as if this adult role is not one you should play as a teenager. You may also feel as if your dad is trying to buy your love. However, your situation is complicated—you have to deal with one of your parents being unemployed, your biological dad not doing everything he could be doing, and your stepdad, who has other kids he has to support. We recommend that you can take the stress that you feel and turn it into a mature conversation.
If we were in your situation, we would sit all three of them down individually and explain to them clearly how you feel. Financial literacy expert Anahit Tokatlyan suggests beginning with the parent you think will be most open to hearing you. Ms. Tokatlyan says what’s most important is “being honest, and speaking with a parent who you know will be very open to what you want to talk about, getting advice from them at the beginning, and [then] maybe bringing it up again at a time when your family is together. That way, it's not just one-on-one with a parent who might not like what you're going to be talking about.” We hope this will bring a solution to your situation!
My friend’s birthday is coming up and another friend is planning a dinner out for her. When we were talking about where to take her, she really wanted to take her to one of most expensive restaurants in the city. I’m trying to be careful with my money, so I suggested a more reasonable restaurant, but she seemed angry. How can we find a compromise without just choosing one of the restaurants?
I always have a tough time making plans with my friends because if I pick a place that you need money for, such as the movies or inexpensive restaurants, most of them say, “I don’t have money right now,” or, “ No, I’m not paying that much.” I am completely open-minded about the fact that we all have different financial situations. But we are all high school graduates; it’s summer; and we should all have jobs. At this point, I feel like giving up because I don’t always want to go to the beach and free places that aren’t as much fun. What should I do or say without being inconsiderate of my friends’ money problems?
Dear Olivia and Serina,
Sometimes friends and money don’t really mesh, especially when your friends are at a different financial stage than you are.
Olivia, it seems like your friend is not being as thoughtful about this fact as she should be. Honesty is the best policy in a friendship. So, first things first: Talk to your friend, one-on-one, in a calm manner, about how you feel—it’s not good to hold in your feelings! If your friend really wants to go to an expensive restaurant, you might ask her to contribute for your portion. Be honest about your money situation. Sit your friends down and respectfully tell them how you feel.
Serina, you might help by giving your friends some suggestions for how to find a job. If they don’t want to get a job, they might be able to help their parents out and get paid some extra money for contributing to the household. Maybe you can all work together and pitch in money for a certain event.
With the way your friends respond to you, it also seems possible that they’re not interested in the activities you suggest. You might want to go out on your own and meet new friends who are interested in the same things. Every friendship is different! Maybe you can still go to the beach with your old friends once in a while and then go out and do other things with a new group of friends.
“If you’re someone who makes more money than your friends,” says Ms. Tokatlyan, “or doesn’t have any problems with money, remember to be considerate of friends who do have money problems. If you are aware of someone else’s situation and they’re a good friend of yours, don’t always make spending time about spending money.”
My boyfriend is always trying to get me to buy him things, especially now, because I have a job. I don’t really have a problem with buying him gifts, but lately he’s been very demanding (like asking for $200 sneakers), and it’s hurting me financially, especially now because I’m trying to save money for school. I don’t want to stop buying him gifts because he says I don’t care about him if I don’t. What should I do?
There are many ways to show love. However, buying things is not the best way. Sometimes in relationships, a partner may feel that using the word “love” will help them get their way and it becomes an excuse. But that’s not love, that’s manipulation! What’s happening here may even be a case of financial abuse, which is when a partner or friend tries to control you through your money.
This is a tough situation. Your boyfriend may be more in love with your money than with you. You need to let him know what you’re feeling. If he doesn’t agree with the things you’re trying to tell him, maybe you should rethink being with him. We’re not saying you should definitely break up with your man, but finances can play a big role in a relationship. He may not be the best fit for you because he wants material things, and now that you have a job, he’s expecting you to buy him stuff. You are trying to think about the big picture, and to save for your future.
You have a lot to think about. Most importantly, think about your feelings. If you feel like you need to move on, that’s what needs to be done. Don’t let him pressure you into thinking that his “love” is more important than your feelings or your future, and don’t put your feelings aside for his.
Talking about money can be easier than you think! Whether you’re talking to parents, friends, or lovers, the key is to be honest, confident, and in control. Communication is essential. It can be awkward to have money conversations, but clear communication is important to your relationships, not just to your wallet.
Your partner tries to manipulate you and control how you spend your money.
- Your partner tries to use gifts to control you, for example, “I gave you those earrings, so now you owe me.”
- Your partner tries to control your job or career choices, for example, “I don’t want you modeling, because I don’t want other people looking at you.”
- Your partner expects you to pay for everything, putting you in financiall trouble.
- Your partner demands that you ask permission to buy what you want.
If you think you’re in a financially abusive situation, Ms. Tokatlyan suggests you seek outside help. “Confronting the person might cause other types of altercations that you might not want to happen...Talk to a parent [or]...someone you really trust.”
- Americans teens typically spend an average of $18.50 per week.
- 65% percent of teens say that their parents talk to them about the cost of college; 46% of teens say their parents talk to them about smart money management.
- Only 18% of teens say that their generation has a greater ability to make money than their parents' or grandparents' generation.
- 76% of teens are saving money for college; 46% are saving for an emergency; and 43% are saving for a big purchase like an iPod or computer.
For More Info
Visit www.MassSaves.org, a website with helpful information and resources on financial topics.
For more information on signs of financial abuse, see www.loveisrespect.org
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