Friendship and Money: She's fired, you're not


Any major life change--including an unexpected job loss or other threat to economic security--can increase the risk of a once-close friendship falling apart. As such, the global recession is challenging untold numbers of female friendships. In the first of a two-part series, I interviewed journalist Emma Johnson, who covers money and finance topics for and other national publications, to find out her thoughts on this topic:


In the current economic climate, where job loss is rife, how can getting a pink slip or being furloughed challenge friendships?

Women can be very competitive with each other. Traditionally women have competed for male attention and loyalty. The species depended upon it. The more women's sexual partners were loyal to them, the better off the women and their children would be since men were the breadwinners and women had few economic opportunities.

But the game is different today. We compete in other areas of our lives, including professionally. Even if we aren't in direct professional competition with our girlfriends, that rivalry can still be there. Of course it isn't always the case, but it often is, and worst of all, most of the time we don't realize it.

So if two friends are engaged in even a friendly contest about who's ahead in her career, a layoff can give the other woman the edge in this unspoken game. That can create resentment from the unemployed party--who is already distraught about her new economic situation.


How can women minimize the risk of losing their friendships if one friend is spiraling downward economically?

I'm a big fan of talking it out, though all the psychology experts don't agree with that. If the employed friend can say, "I'm so sorry you are going through this. What can I do to be supportive?" Then, give her friend some time to think about what she needs; that can go a long way. Likewise, the unemployed friend might need to talk to her friend and say, "I'm really worried about money right now. Would you mind if we find some less expensive ways to spend time together until I get back on my feet?"

There are other things to think about. Unemployment and financial worries are top factors in stress, sleep loss and depression, which can take a big toll on one's overall well-being, including their relationships. If everyone is aware of the realities of the situation, tough times can strengthen friendships. But the working friend needs to be willing to be supportive, and sometimes the friend in the tough situation needs to allow themselves to be vulnerable and cared for.

To be continued...

Emma Johnson is a New York journalist who writes about business, finance and money topics for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and Psychology Today. Her series on MSN  Money, "Jump Start Your Life," explores money topics for people in their 20s and 30s. 

*A version of this post appears on The Huffington Post



Reader Q & A: Saying NO to the Queen of Favors


Dear Irene,


Someone please help. E-mail me a response. I have a friend that is about to be my sister-in-law; her wedding is in two weeks. She takes and takes and TAKES from me because I can’t say NO!

I’m fed up and don’t know how to tell her. She has me sending out invitations, baking and decorating her cupcakes and the groom’s cake for the wedding, helping her with the music and there’s no telling what else is yet to come. If I try to say NO, she twists it and keeps pressuring me until I give in. Oh, and I’m her maid of honor. We had to pay for our own dresses and my husband had to pay for his shirt---that’s over $100.00 already. I paid to give her a luau shower and I helped out with the bachelorette party.

The last straw was when my husband didn’t pay for his shirt because we spent over $50 (the price of the shirt) on necessities for the cakes...he just wanted to call it even. Now she is calling me, crying and upset trying to get me to pay for the shirt!!!

Signed Megan



Hi Megan:

This is just the beginning of your relationship with your once-friend who morphed into a sister-in-law---so you need to set realistic boundaries for the future about what you feel comfortable doing for her and what you don’t. For example, you shouldn’t feel like you have to spend more money on her than feels comfortable for you or that fits within your budget---no matter what she thinks she deserves or is entitled to. She may think that now that you are relatives, she can ask you for anything and everything.


As time passes, if you keep acquiescing to every favor the Queen of Favors asks of you, as you have seen, she will continue to ask for more. You may need to speak to your brother to give him a heads up and to ask for his help in giving the message to his bride-to-be that you are starting to feel like a patsy. You don’t want to blindside him and create conflict between the newlyweds by taking on his wife without letting him know.


That said, weddings are always times of great angst for brides and their families. I think that now isn't the time to begin to say NO for the first time or to try to change your sister-in-law-to-be. Be gracious until the wedding is over and let her enjoy her special day. Then stick to your guns.


Hope this is helpful.





Putting a price on friendship


A writer colleague, Victoria Clayton Alexander, sent me this picture. The tote bag was given to her friend on the occasion of the recent opening of a new Yoga studio in her neighborhood.


Serendipitously, an intriguing new study, forthcoming in the Journal of Socio-Economics, provides evidence that friends ARE more important than money when it comes to achieving happiness...

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