Tag Archives: friends

Find New Friends at 30: Like Dating, Only More Awkward

She glanced at me with a (possibly fake, get-out-of-my-car) smile in the dim light as I got out of her car and said goodbye. “Maybe call me some time if you see something you want to do and want someone to do it with,” I said, realizing how sad and pathetic that made me sound as I slammed the door shut and she sped away. The next day I stared at my phone and thought about the conversations we had about our families and lives. Was she waiting for me to text? Does she think I don’t like her? … do I?

This is not notes from a first date. Well, that’s to say, not a romantic date. I met her on a new friend making app that is similar to Tinder except for women only. The app sucks because I’ve ended up “swiping right” on just about everyone in order to get any sort of response. She responded and lives in the same town, so we discussed meeting up. We finally did.┬áDinner was tasty and the conversation was enjoyable – though at this point in my life it gets a bit tiring to tell someone my life story from the start (and to decide which parts to leave in and which to leave out.) I’m sure she felt the same, detailing her relationship with her mother and father and siblings. Continue reading Find New Friends at 30: Like Dating, Only More Awkward

How to Give Financial Advice to People Who Ask But Won’t Listen

Recently a friend of mine from childhood, who now lives in a different part of the state, was in town on a road trip and stopped to have dinner with me. While we grew up in the same middle class neighborhood, her family was definitely more “middle class” versus mine which was “upper middle class.” So when she asked me for some financial advice due to a potential windfall from a recent family death, I paused before sharing my typical spiel.

Said friend currently owns property with a mortgage (her parents helped her with the downpayment), but otherwise lives paycheck to paycheck. She makes $60k a year and to her that’s a lot (I did not mention that my income is north of $150k right now, but that’s neither here nor there because that’s a short-lived situation anyway.) She mentioned that she was considering investing in Primerica Financial Services, which I hadn’t heard of before, but sounded a bit like a god-awful pyramid scheme. She acknowledged that it sort of a pyramid scheme, but she was interested in it anyway. If you tell me that and ask for financial advice, I’m going to give it to you.

My advice was fairly simple. I asked her if she had any retirement savings and she said yes, she had invested in 401ks at other jobs before, up to the match (great) but then went on to tell me that she had no idea where any of these accounts were. “Is there one 401k account somewhere that I can just call up?” She asked. I tried to explain to her that she should call her old employers, locate where her accounts are, and ideally roll these over into a Vanguard IRA. In the meantime, if she were to get the small windfall, to invest this in a Roth IRA in order to continue saving for retirement. She wanted access to the money sooner than that, so I recommended a taxable Vanguard STAR fund, but to consider putting it into a Roth anyway and forgetting it ever happened.

When she was asking me about stocks, it became apparent that she understood practically nothing about personal finance. It also became apparent to me that I’ve learned quite a bit in the last 10 years of my life since starting this blog – not enough to be a CFP but enough to hold my own in advising on basic money moves. I enjoyed providing advice and helping her, but I have a feeling she isn’t going to take a bit of my advice. Oh well. At least I tried.

She Wanted to Be Married with Kids By Now, Instead She Makes $12/hr.

My friend, I’ll call her Jessica, graduated high school with a plan. Well, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do with her life, but she knew she wanted to get married to a man who could provide for her, live in a big house, have kids, be a mother, and have a job that let her spend a lot of time with her kids.

Jessica grew up in a household where her parents worked multiple jobs to afford their middle class lifestyle, and was often left alone when she was young, so her goals were clearly aligned with having a family where the mother could afford to stay home and be around for her children’s lives. Continue reading She Wanted to Be Married with Kids By Now, Instead She Makes $12/hr.

When a Friend is Deep in Debt

I’ve mentioned my friend Jessica* a few times before, often discussing her poor spending habits. Now, Jessica is a great girl with the best intentions. She’ll always put a friend or loved one’s needs before her own. I don’t have that kind of patience or selflessness, and I admire that trait in her. However, I’m worried about her debt, even though it’s not my problem, and wish there was a way I could help her.

This month, she revealed to me that she is $12k in debt. While that isn’t terrible, what is painful to watch is that this girl, with all her talent and skills, could easily obtain a job (even a minimum wage job) and pay off her debt within a year or two. But, being selfless as she is, she refuses to leave her administrative position with the family’s business, which has suffered greatly with the economic collapse.

Jessica consolidated a few of her credit card balances and has managed to pay off $3k of her debt, bringing it down to the current $12k total she owes. She works a few small jobs here and there, but what the small jobs do is make it impossible for her to obtain steady work. Without a college degree, I know it would be hard for her to find a decent job, but isn’t it worth working a job you dislike for a little while to pay off your debt and build an emergency savings fund?

It hurts me as a friend to watch her constantly worried about her debt, her bills, and how she’s going to afford the next month. She lives in a house owned by her parents so luckily doesn’t have to pay rent, but it sounds like there have been months when the parent’s house has been close to going into foreclosure. The whole family is so nice and I just wish I was rich enough to buy them all out of debt, but then I also wish I could buy the whole country out of debt and teach everyone to live within their means. Too bad no one would listen.

Today, I asked Jessica what games we’d be playing on New Years at her party night and she said she might buy a new game with her Christmas money. I just wanted to write back and say don’t buy a game, however much money you got, put that into savings. Pay down your debt. Don’t buy a game with it. But I can’t do that. I can’t help at all.

What would you do?

My friend and her boyfriend, I’ll call them Jessica and Dave, belong to a vacation club where they get a certain amount of points per year. They can either bank the points and roll them over to the next year, or cash them out in gift cards to use at hotels. Jessica is rolling in debt, but the whole vacation club is paid for by her boyfriend (which later turned out to be a big problem.)

I invited Jessica to go to a party with me in the city one evening earlier this month. She mentioned that she had all these gift cards left that were going to expire soon, so she decided to book us a hotel for the night so we could really have fun at the party. Personally, I thought it was kind of silly to book a hotel room for the evening when we live about 45 minutes away (I’ve done the sober up and drive home later in the night thing plenty of times) but she insisted that we might as well, since she had over $1500 in gift cards left that expire in February. So I said sure, why not.

She drove us to the city and wanted to get valet at the hotel for her car. That was $50 for the night. I suggested we put the car in a cheaper garage and she said it was no big deal because she would just pay for it with her points, so I said fine.

When we arrived to check in, I stood next to her and found out that she couldn’t use her gift card at check in because they need a credit card in case there are any damages to the room or other expenses that go beyond the gift card amount. So she gave them her credit card but it was denied. So I offered to put the room on my card for the time being. My friend assured me my card wouldn’t be charged and that she could use the gift card when she checked out. She had used the cards before with no problem at other hotels.

We went to the party and had a pretty good time. Drank a lot so it was nice to have a hotel room in the city. We didn’t stay at just any hotel, we stayed at the swanky hotel where the party was with a room that cost $270 a night after tax. But it was all going to be covered by Jessica’s gift card that she had to use up anyway. Or so I thought.

The next morning when we tried to check out, there was a problem. Because Jessica’s boyfriend’s name was on the gift cards, the woman at the front desk wouldn’t let us use the card. My friend begged and pleaded to no avail. Apparently she used the card without Dave around before and at another hotel they accepted it. But here, they wouldn’t. So after too long standing there and hoping the card would be accepted, we gave up. And the $330 charge went on my credit card.

My friend told me that she’d ask her boyfriend for the money and that he’d pay me back. The really awful part was that she couldn’t use the card to reimburse us because you have to use it at a hotel. I told her that it would be worth calling the vacation club right away and say the card was denied. She doesn’t have to tell them why, but if she can get her boyfriend on the phone maybe they would reimburse her. I kind of felt like an asshole trying to get her to do this since I also stayed in the hotel room for the night, but I didn’t think her boyfriend should have to pay an extra $330 for something he didn’t even get to experience. I know my friend Jessica isn’t the best with money and is so much in debt that she can’t afford the room either, so I offered to split the charge with her. So $175 down the drain for a night at a hotel that I didn’t need.

That was last week. I keep asking my friend to call the vacation club company but she hasn’t yet. Or she says she tries but they are busy. I don’t think she’s really trying. I’m sure her boyfriend will give her money for her half of the hotel room and eventually I’ll get that back, but I’m a little peeved.

Question is, do I have a right to be peeved? I accepted the hotel room offer even though I knew it would be expensive, as my friend said she needed to use up her vacation points and this was a small percentage of the ones she had left. She didn’t purposefully get the hotel and have the points not work, she didn’t realize that her boyfriend had to be there for the cards to be valid. On the other hand, why didn’t she realize that? And shouldn’t she make an effort to call her vacation card company right away to see if they would be willing to reimburse her from her gift card? What would you do?

The Diverse Financial Life of Everyone I Know

My friends, roommates, and boyfriend all share one thing in common — none are in as good of a place financially as I am.

My roommates are around my age. One is a middle school teacher. Her salary is slightly less than mine, but she does not do additional freelance work so ultimately I make a bit more than her looking at the full year. My other roommates is in a PhD program for psychology, which means 5 years of loans and living on the cheap. I’m not sure how much her parents are helping her out and how much is loans. She’s surviving, but will have a lot of loans to pay back and will be stuck in her career for a while in order to pay that back.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, quit his job a few months ago. He still works a few hours a week, but he never really pushed for much of a raise. He wants to go to grad school. It sounds like either his mom will pay for his entire grad school program (she’s beyond a frugalista, and hasn’t spent much her entire life… saving about $100k for her son’s education) or not pay for any of it, depending what he decides to go to grad school for. He doesn’t have a retirement savings at all, and at 27 that kind of concerns me, esp if we’re going to get married one day. My retirement income won’t be enough for both of us.

Then there’s my good friend, who is knee deep in debt yet still sending $30 a month to a child in Africa. She doesn’t spend tons of money, she lives in a house owned by her parents, but still she spends more than she has. Her emergency savings account at any time is maximum $100 in a checking account that fast disappears. Checks bounce left and right. Working for her parents business — which has suffered a lot due to the recession — she barely ever gets paid. But she won’t quit her parent’s company because she says they need her. She works side jobs here and there, usually making ends meet. But month after month she worries if she’ll have enough to pay off the minimum amount on her bills. I gently urge her to at least try to get a full time job for a while so she can pay off her bills, but she doesn’t want to. But without income from her parent’s business, she is always struggling. But she’s comfortable with her current financial situation, and doesn’t seem to want to do a lot to change it.

Meanwhile, my friend from high school is in a really bad state. She’s not only in debt, but she’s in bad medical debt, and is a prescription drug addict on top of that. She got into a car accident a while ago so says she has chronic pain. She has no insurance and can’t afford her doctor’s visits. They give her prescription pills which she goes on to snort. She lives at home and it sounds like she has no support from her family. Which, sadly, makes sense because she’s really stuck, and they can’t do anything about it but put up with her. She can’t work because she’s really messed up. She needs rehab, but who can afford rehab (or be convinced to go) when no one has the money to send you there?

Another friend, my age, is a full time student and was a full time employee until she got let go during the recession. Her finance and her bought a house which she can’t contribute at all to at the moment. Luckily her finance is an engineer and is able to afford it. But even they had to cut corners to afford their new home-owner lifestyle.

Then there’s me. And after comparing myself to people my age I know, financially speaking anyway, I really look good. But it’s not ALL about money right now. I’m saving a lot, working most of the waking hours of the day, and I’m free to move about if needed. I don’t have to spend a lot per month. I moved from my $1200/month apartment to my current $600/month apartment 2 years ago. Bills are much cheaper now since I have roommates. Everything is cheaper. I’m doing fine. I just need to keep reminding myself that. I’m 25, and I’m on the right track. Maybe there are others my age who are founding companies and saving the world, but that’s not the norm. I’m doing pretty good for myself. And I need that reality check every once in a while. Because it’s so easy to feel like such a failure at this age.

What I’d Pay for Friends

I often fantasize about having a group of friends who I can go out and enjoy life with. Then I think about how much that group of friends would cost me, and I unthink that fantasy. Having a social life is expensive… at least dating my boyfriend is cheap, we barely ever go out. But friends… friends go to movies, go to clubs, go shopping, go to coffee, spend money…

It’s really bothering me that I can’t make friends around here. At least I’ve yet to figure out how to meet people who share my interests. I’d honestly love to find friends who like talking about investing and money… without looking down on me for now having a background in economics. But that’s tough to find amongst people my age. The type of friends I like are people who just love good conversation. And people who know how to be silly and laugh too. Do they exist?

My roommates are fun, but I can’t imagine having a lengthy conversation with them about investing strategies, or whether cash truly is king. So I write this blog, because I know out there in the PF blogosphere there are other people interested in this stuff. But where are they? Why can’t they be my friends in real life?

Or maybe I just don’t know how to be a friend. How does one find friends anyway..? In college it was a little easier. I was always shy, but at some point I got drunk and made some people laugh and they became my friends. Well, these days I don’t have any social contact outside of work and my performance stuff in the evenings.

Should I stop being so concerned about having a social life? I just feel like my life is so so great right now except I have no solid group of friends. And that depresses me. Quite a bit.

Loans Between Friends – Not Always a Good Idea

Have you ever lent money to a friend or relative? In times of economic hardship, more and more often our friends come to us with a request to borrow funds. Or maybe we are at a loss and need a few bucks to get by for the month, and we ask a friends to spot us the dough.

The New York Times reports that it’s best to stop and think before lending money to anyone, even a good friend. The article highlights a professional financial planner who ended up lending her manicurist(!!!) $3000. Her manicurist needed the money to avoid eviction, and tugged on the emotions of a woman who would otherwise advise clients not to lend money to personal acquaintances.

For me, I like to lend money to people in need, but not to my close friends. Instead, I use Prosper’s P2P lending system. At least I can do a credit check on the person before deciding to lend them money, and I can earn a decent amount of interest back in return. (Then again, it looks like it will be a while before I can lend on Prosper due to some legal trouble they’re in.) If I were every to lend money to a close friend, I’d have to think of it as a gift when I part with the funds. If I get it back, all the better.

Q & you A:

What’s the most you’ve ever lent a friend? Did you get that money back, or did it ruin your friendship?

Just Threw a $300 Dinner Party

When I exclaimed to my roommates “let’s have a dinner party!”… I certainly wasn’t thinking about cost. Last night, we had about 15 people over (including us) who we fed and entertained for the evening. It was a really lovely gathering, a holiday event dubbed the J-Food Dinner party were we served a mix of Jewish food and Japanese food (don’t ask.)

But the bill came out to be way more than I expected. Not that I thought that through when I decided to have a dinner party, or when my roommate and I invited enough people to have to feed a small country.

Problem with throwing dinner parties is that you’re never sure how many people are really going to make it. You need to invite a few extras just to make sure you’re not sitting alone with all the food you make.

So between all the dishes we made, it cost about $300. I ended up buying $50 worth of frozen blintz at the last minute because I ran out of time to cook, and sadly bought the ingredients to actually cook them fresh as well – but that was only a few extra eggs and a lot of creme cheese, like $10 worth.

My boyfriend also decided to cook up this mushroom tart that we learned how to cook at my work’s holiday party the day before. It was a Whole Foods cooking party, which was awesome, but of course they used expensive ingredients and in order to recreate our delicious tart he had to buy all these things… pastry shells, wild mushrooms, Camembert cheese, sherry… all of that added up.

And then there was the hummus and baba ganosh for an appetizer and bread, and the two bottles of wine (not to mention the other two bottles we already had) that got served. And a few bottles of martenelli’s cider for the non alcohol drinkers. And all the latke ingredients, which my roommate bought, that I owe her for… about $60 worth (that’s included in the $300 total).

Ultimately $300 for a party of 15 people isn’t that bad, I guess. But it’s still… $300. The same $300 I’m not making this month because my uncle’s marketing firm had to cut back on its freelance budget. Yea, exactly $300.

Well, at least I’ve made $75 thus far in my posts for that tech blog I’m writing for about twice a week. I’m going to have to really turn up the posting on that so I can make up for lost costs. My next paycheck is going to rent, paying my boyfriend back (I owe him about $900 now including the cost of food for this party, he charged it since my credit card is missing), bills, taxes, and that’s about it. I hope people don’t mind that this Christmas I’m going to be a bit short on gifts. At least I bought my one really good friend a dishwasher for her birthday earlier this year (split with my boyfriend as a gift for her new kitchen) but still – she can’t complain that i’m not getting her a gift. I should get my roommates something but… that might have to come with the next paycheck.

My “stable” job is still on the rocks. It’s looking ok… but I’m not sure. They’re letting go all the contractors besides me, which is really sad for those contractors and rather uncomfortable for me. My contract isn’t up until the end of Jan, so at that point they’ll have to decide how valuable I am to the team. I think I’ve proven my dedication – I’ve been there for over a year now, but in this economic climate anything is possible. And I’m a little worried. I’m hoping for a full time job with health benefits (!!!) but expecting the worst. And the worst case scenerio is that I can write up to 5 posts for this tech blog a week, making about $500 a month, which covers a large chunk of rent. Then I seek out other freelance positions… since the full time job market seems non-existent in my field at this point.

Probably not the best time to throw a $300 dinner party, huh?

"It’s None of My Business, But…"

My good friend has a problem with money. I want so desperately to help her get on the right path, but anything I say would come off as judgmental.

My friend, let’s call her Lisa, is an intelligent 20-something gal. She has a high school degree but dropped out of college because it wasn’t for her.

Her parents own two smallish houses in an area where real estate costs an arm, a leg, and a gold mine. She lives in one of them. She doesn’t pay anything for rent, etc.

Her parents also own a small business. She works for them part time. Since I’ve known her, the business has been struggling a bit. They’ve kept it going, but her paycheck of something like $1000 a month doesn’t always come in on time.

Lisa is knee deep in credit card debt.

Lisa owns a few pets. She recently bought a dog. She loves her dog. But the dog costs a lot of money. She’s already paying to take care of a cat and a bunny rabbit.

Recently, Lisa went on a trip with a friend who was auditioning for a show down in Los Angeles. While they didn’t stay in a luxury hotel, Lisa did pay for airfare and half of the rental car. According to her blog, her friend didn’t plan in advance, so she had to put the rental car on her credit card, which just happens to already be maxed out. Lisa took the trip just for her friend, and she’s only staying for two days, basically to wait for her friend to audition, and then return home.

It’s none of my business, but I just want to understand why someone so deep in credit card debt would buy a dog and take an unneeded trip. These purchases add up fast.

I guess some people live their lives just accepting credit card debt as the norm. But I don’t understand how they do this.

I want to help Lisa get out of credit card debt. The friend side of me wants to lend her money to pay of her credit card bills so she can not be taking on such high interest rates. But I couldn’t do that because the likelihood of that scenerio ending pretty is rather low.

Do any of you have friends who just spend, spend, spend without thinking about their credit card debt? Have you ever tried to step in and help?