E27: The cost of friendship with Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo, Niaz Azad and Brooke Day

The Pension Confident Podcast

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28 Apr 2024 /  

The faces are the host, Philippa Lamb, and three guests: Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo, Niaz Azad and Brooke Day.

The following is a transcript of our monthly podcast, The Pension Confident Podcast. Listen to episode 27, watch on YouTube, or scroll on to read the conversation.

PHILIPPA: Hello and welcome back to The Pension Confident Podcast. I’m Philippa Lamb, this month, we’re diving into the cost of friendship. Because friendship is priceless, right? But navigating social groups where some people are a lot better off than others can be a real minefield. Truth is, it’s not easy to talk about money, especially during social gatherings. We’ve all been there - you’re having a great night out with friends, then the bill arrives. Suddenly it’s that decision between saying “yes” to just going Dutch, or reminding everyone you didn’t have a starter. So here’s our question for today; how can you nurture your friendships and show up for your loved ones when your bank accounts don’t match? And what’s the best way to talk about money with friends?

Well, our guests are here to help with that. Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo, she’s a Psychologist and Associate Fellow of The British Psychological Society. She’s also Co-Director of the Conversation Starter Project - a grassroots project supporting people to manage their emotional health, loneliness and isolation. Hello Tara.

TARA: Hi. Thanks for having me.

PHILIPPA: Niaz Azad is Co-Founder of Millennial Money UK - an online platform that’s reshaping the conversation around money for young people. Welcome Niaz.

NIAZ: Hi. Thank you for having me.

PHILIPPA: And lastly, PensionBee’s own Head of Brand and Communications, Brooke Day. Welcome back to the podcast, Brooke.

BROOKE: Hello.

PHILIPPA: The usual disclaimer before we start, please remember that anything discussed on this podcast shouldn’t be regarded as financial advice or legal advice. And when investing, your capital is at risk.

How to discuss money fairly

PHILIPPA: Now look, everyone, I want to kick this off by asking you a question. What’s the most you have each spent celebrating friends? And did you regret it afterwards when you saw your bank statement?

BROOKE: For me, I was thinking about it, and I actually think it’s in the thousands. Which I know is...

PHILIPPA: No, really?

BROOKE: ...Yeah. But let me caveat that with it was a wedding abroad. There was a hen do. So I’m getting a holiday out of it, too. But actually, when you think the purpose of that trip and experience is for a friend, yeah it racks up. I had a great time and definitely no regrets.

PHILIPPA: Where was it?

BROOKE: In Ibiza.

PHILIPPA: OK, I can see how that can be really expensive! Tara, have you ever been there? Or are you too rational to overspend for friends?

TARA: No. Actually I have a really recent example as well. So I celebrated a friend’s birthday just a month ago, actually. And when you pay with your phone, it’s like Monopoly money. So the next day, after lots and lots of rounds of drinks, you kind of see the total and kind of go ‘ouch’. It’s a sting, but a nice sting.

PHILIPPA: That’s the thing. You do have the hangover as well, don’t you?

TARA: Yes, but I’m not admitting that!


NIAZ: I think mine’s the same as yours. It’s in the thousands and it’s destination weddings again. So I’ve had a couple of those. And we’re just, I think, starting out the season of weddings, so it’s very excitable. I don’t regret it, but - it was fun, it does get really expensive.

PHILIPPA: It’s a lot, and it’s always more than you think, isn’t it? These trips, you budget, you think, particularly if you’re going abroad, you think, “yeah, I know roughly what that’s going to be”. And weirdly, it’s never less, is it?

BROOKE: It goes out the window because not only is it a holiday where all expenses go out the window, it’s a wedding and a holiday. So you’re like, well, I want to do everything. I want to celebrate with everyone. I want to make sure it’s the best time for my friends and also for me. When you’re there, you sort of forget...

TARA: And you let go, don’t you?


TARA: And alcohol is this inhibitor. So we don’t think things through as clearly when we drink alcohol as well. So it’s almost the perfect storm.

PHILIPPA: Tara, what’s the psychology at play here? Why is it hard to talk about money with friends? Because we could all have said “I can’t afford to go on that trip. It’s too much for me right now” - but we don’t, do we?

TARA: It’s really hard. I was thinking about this on two levels to help people think through for themselves. So A, I think in British culture, we’re notoriously rubbish at having conversations, difficult conversations. But also when you think about friendship, there are so many values there. So you value that person, you value their wellbeing, their enjoyment. So you’re more likely to say “yes” to things and maybe put them first rather than yourself. And that’s maybe sometimes where we cause ourselves some issues.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, because we saw a survey that said most people would rather talk to their friends about sex than money.

TARA: So interesting. Yeah.

PHILIPPA: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because that’s supposed to be a bit of a taboo subject. But anything rather than talking about it “I can’t afford to do that”.

TARA: Sex doesn’t usually cause conflict, whereas money can cause conflict. It can fracture relationships. And innately human beings are social animals. We don’t like to be outside of the herd. So talking about money can mean that sometimes you might be excluded. So we’ll do whatever we can to avoid that, even if it means that we’re at risk with our bank balance.

PHILIPPA: It starts really early, doesn’t it, school? Even then, kids are aware of this stuff, aren’t they?

NIAZ: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s the status on the playground based on clothes and non-uniform days. And you’re like, OK, it starts quite early on and you have this sense of missing out.

PHILIPPA: There’s that pressure to keep up, isn’t there? It’s fear of missing out, whether it’s you or your kids, if you have kids. Or, almost worse, appearing mean.

BROOKE: Yeah, it could be that you’re saving for a house or investing your money, all those other things that people don’t realise that you’re doing with money. Outwardly, they may think, “but you’ve got the money to do that. Why don’t you want to do it?”. And you’re like, “I just don’t want to”. But I don’t want to feel like I have to explain the why.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, because another survey, Credit Karma survey, nearly half of millennials say they overspend to keep up with their friends. 80% of them who went into debt, kept their debt a secret from their friends, because there’s a lot of shame around that, isn’t there? But it’s easy to get into debt if you’re trying to keep up, isn’t it?

NIAZ: I think a lot of people don’t realise that they’re doing it. You know you earn a decent salary or you have a regular income and you might not have the cash now, but you’ve got a credit card, which gives you this line of financing and you’re spending money, you’re going out with the forethought that “I’m going to just pay this off at the end of the month”, not realising you’re in a cycle of just financing your lifestyle by doing so. A lot of people don’t actually realise it until they overstretch just that little bit one month, and then it goes into [debt], and that’s how they get you in the consumer credit industry, right?

PHILIPPA: But you don’t see the jeopardy?

NIAZ: Exactly.

PHILIPPA: If you’re in a job, you’re thinking, “it’s fine, I can manage this”.

PHILIPPA: Hey, it’s me, Philippa, just interrupting briefly to remind you to click on that subscribe button so you never miss an episode of The Pension Confident Podcast. Remember to share, rate, and review, too. Now I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of this month’s conversation. Happy listening.

PHILIPPA: Should we talk a bit about how to handle situations? Because it feels OK-ish to be ‘hard up’, maybe when you’re at school or are a student. Certainly there’s this acceptable thing around being ‘hard up’. But when you start working full-time, it just becomes a lot clearer, doesn’t it, about how much people have got different levels of income, whatever job you’re doing. You’re working in the city, you’re earning a lot more than if you’re in teacher training or whatever it might be. And then you get different attitudes to spending, don’t you? We talked about it a bit, either you’re not bothered, it’s fine, I’ll catch up sometime, or you’re a saver. So even if you’re earning quite well, excuse me, you don’t necessarily want to spend it all on your social life. So how do we navigate that? How do you meet in the middle with your friends?

BROOKE: A few things I’ve done. So whenever I’ve gone on big group trips, we’ll use an app called Splitwise, and I’m sure there’s many others.

PHILIPPA: Oh, yeah.

BROOKE: And so then it takes away the awkwardness of, I guess sometimes you feel like if you’re owed £10 by the end, you don’t really want to ask for it. When everyone’s putting all of the different expenses on there and who bought things or shared things with, it rounds it all up and at the end, it splits it. So everyone gets what they put in. So some of my friends will like to go away with no cash, but they know, “oh, it’ll all be figured out towards the end”. Whereas I think I’m a bit more like, I like to know what I’m going with. But then equally, I’m going to get some back later on. So win-win from the situation.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, I’ve used those apps. I really like them. I’m thinking about also picking venues because talking about normalisation again, if you’re in a high earning job in your late 20s, early 30s, whatever it is, where you go is where your colleagues and your mates from your work circle go. But there’s an awkwardness around suggesting somewhere that’s obviously cheaper sometimes, isn’t there, though?

TARA: I bring that in, status. It’s a thing, isn’t it? Depending on where you work and how you work, you can get sucked into new circles. So friendships change, you may have your friends from school, you may have friends you’ve met at other forums, and then you may have friends that are more related to your work. And then you might then have to balance that across all those groups. It could be hard. You can easily get caught up. I guess a good friend might also be able to ground you and help you have those conversations, what we call the “tricky, cringey”, you know, “sweaty hand conversations”.

BROOKE: It’s interesting, though. There’s still those nostalgic places where you like to go back to, like a Pizza Express or a Nando’s where actually, even though you know they’re cheaper than some other places and not as nice, if you suggest it or someone else suggests it, you’re like, “oh, yeah, that really takes me back to being a child doing these things”. The nostalgic feelings.

NIAZ: It’s so true. Some of the most high-profile dinners I’ve had recently have been in Nando’s.


NIAZ: Genuinely with exited founders, with multimillionaires. And they’ve suggested, “why don’t we just catch up at Nando’s?”.

TARA: I wonder what the psychology of that is. Is there something about just being able to let go of all of that stuff and kudos and all of that and just connecting with people? Because you made a really good point about values that I always think as human beings, we get really stuck on goals, these measurable, attainable things, and it’s a bit of a vicious cycle. And actually, if you can come to what I call the layer underneath, which is our values, the who, what, when, where that really matters. That actually for you and your friends, what do you value about them and their time? Is it about the venue or what you get from them?

PHILIPPA: So thinking about that lovely phrase you used, “the sweaty palm conversation”.

TARA: It’s my favourite line. I use it every day in clinic.

PHILIPPA: I want to ask all of you if you’ve had one of those?

TARA: Every day.


TARA: Probably every day. To me, I always - so as a psychologist it’s really important. Think about your own footprint, so how your body and your mind responds when you’re under stress. So that can be stress around money, gifting, going away for the weekend. If you recognise how it shows up, that will help you to know when there’s a problem and then help you think what you’re going to do about it. So for me, sweaty hands is my number one thing that I notice when I’m under stress. If my hands are sweating, if I get an invite to something or I’m worried about money, it’s a sign that I need to take some time and think it through. Take a moment. Is sweaty hands your guys’ thing? I don’t know. Or what is your footprint for...

BROOKE: That’s really interesting.

TARA: ...feeling awkward or stressed?

BROOKE: I used to feel like that a lot about saying “no” to my friends, interestingly. I feel like I’m naturally a bit of a people pleaser. I used to find that really, especially in my 20s, I’d feel like if I say “no” to this, I’m not going to be invited again. They’re never going to speak to me again. They’re going to think I’m the worst person.

PHILIPPA: I think everyone feels that when they’re really young.

BROOKE: Yeah, I had to really work on it. Sometimes I now find that especially, I guess, if I’m tired and stressed, I just want the conversation done. I have a tendency to just say “yes”. But I really tried to practise because otherwise, I know what you mean, I do notice that I start to experience the physical effects of not actually doing the thing that was true to me.

NIAZ: I’m the same. It’s actually a big development point for me to lean into more difficult conversations.

TARA: My favourite phrase, too.

NIAZ: Because I’m quite conflict avoiding as well. But I’ve tried to think about how to better communicate in those instances, which, again, I’m probably not the best at yet. But like you, I’ll probably just be like, “yeah, OK, fine, whatever”. I’ll just put myself through some pain.

BROOKE: Just to get it done.

NIAZ: Just to get it done.

TARA: That, for me, is such an important point that sometimes as human beings, we get stuck on those goals. “I need to be able to have this perfect conversation about money and put these perfect boundaries in”. It never works out that way. So even if you can get to the point to go, “I find this really hard”. What can I do even with this anxiety? Can I even just start to maybe draft a text about the money situation? I might not send it for a day. Can I think about what the conversation would look like even if I don’t do it? Just those little baby steps which help you make room for that stress or that anxiety, and then you get used to it and it’s less of a threat.

How friendship expenses can snowball

PHILIPPA: We should move on, but I want to ask for examples, really, because I’ll tell you right now I’ve got one. Probably the worst one I’ve ever had around money was a friend I lent money to.

TARA: Yeah, interesting.

PHILIPPA: We’ll talk about this more later. But yeah, I had to have that conversation where I had to ask for it back.

TARA: Yeah, that’s hard.

PHILIPPA: And yeah, that was a really sweaty palm conversation because it’s so hard. You really feel you shouldn’t. Yeah, it was grim. Yeah, has anyone else?

NIAZ: Again, it’s probably not the best way to approach it, but I approach lending money now, assuming it’s money that I could afford not to get back.


NIAZ: That’s probably self-preservation as well, because I don’t want to have that conversation.

PHILIPPA: No, is it avoidance?

NIAZ: Yeah.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, it probably is.

NIAZ: Yeah, because even when I think back to when I have had that conversation, I don’t really like how it went. I don’t even like how I communicated in that because I cringe [at] myself for having that conversation, but it’s an important one to have. So I guess my new philosophy with lending money is on the working assumption that I could afford not to have it back.

PHILIPPA: We talked a bit about weddings earlier. I’d quite like to get down to the nitty gritty of weddings. Because there’s quite a lot of detail around navigating wedding trips, isn’t there? I mean, we’ve all been on them, right? I don’t know. I mean, is it worse? There’s hen parties, of course, aren’t there? And stags as well.

TARA: I think they’ve really changed. So since I got married, 17 years ago, the whole culture around hens and stag dos has changed dramatically. To me, sometimes they’re almost more dominant than the wedding.

PHILIPPA: So if you’re going to go on one of these trips, ways to keep the cost down? Sharing accommodation is one that comes into my mind.

BROOKE: Yeah, I’ve done that on quite a few trips. I think, I’m single and lots of my friends are married or in long-term relationships, and I think they often forget that suddenly when you don’t have two incomes paying for these things, the costs spiral even more. So whilst it might be, “oh, it’s only £300 between two”, when that’s £300 on your own, plus the outfit, the cabs, the gift, that’s suddenly £600. It’s not that you don’t want to do it, but for them, that’s £300 each, and they could do 12 that summer. But when you want to go to all 12 and you’re like, “oh, wow, that’s £600 a time”, without even realising.

PHILIPPA: Gifting is a vexed subject, isn’t it? Because it’s the transparency, I think. If there’s lists, then everyone pretty much sees and they all know what you’re spending. And that can be a thing when you’ve got people who are saying, “OK, I’ll buy all the glassware”. And you’re thinking, “I’ll just buy a saucepan then”, or whatever it is. And the ones where you have to give cash. And obviously culturally, in some cultures, that’s a long tradition. It’s quite new, I’d say, to the white British tradition, giving cash at weddings.

BROOKE: I went to a Greek wedding the other summer and we pinned the money on the bride and that was a really fun experience. But you knew that was culturally what you should be doing.

PHILIPPA: In envelopes or in cash?

BROOKE: No, in cash. There’s the people that want the colours that are more expensive in rows and you see the rows and stuff. But also I think it’s fun. It made us feel a part of their culture on the day.

PHILIPPA: I’ve been to weddings where it’s much more of an envelope tradition.

NIAZ: Yeah, I’ve had both. I don’t know how it’s been for you, but there was one where between the group everyone had decided an amount and everyone was giving the same amount. But then there’s been others where it’s like, “OK, we’ll just give cash”. I’m like, “OK, how much? What are we meant to give, how do you calculate what you’re going to give?”.

PHILIPPA: Because the numbers can be really big. Really big.

BROOKE: Who initiates that conversation on deciding the how much?

NIAZ: Just one of the groomsmen, to be fair. Then I think everyone just fell in line.

PHILIPPA: What are you going to say at that point? “Actually, that’s a bit more than I had in mind”.

TARA: Yeah, I’ve had that from both perspectives. So my other half’s family are Italian, so we had that with the money pinned and some in envelopes. And I remember thinking at the time, that’s very new to me, it was a little bit cringe to be honest. Physically seeing tangible money. We’re not that used to it nowadays. But from the other perspective, I thought it may be awkward when you’re opening those envelopes after your wedding. And it really wasn’t, there genuinely was no “ooh, you’ve given this, you’ve given this”. It was just people have given us these gifts and we’re really lucky.

PHILIPPA: Just moving on, there’s one thing I don’t want to forget to ask you about, and that’s flat shares, because I think this, post-pandemic, has become even more of an issue with home working. That’s like just different incomes under the same roof. Tips for navigating this, because I’m thinking about utility bills, which have been crazy in the last year or two. If you’re working from home and your flatmate isn’t, are we still splitting the bills down the middle, or...? That’s a conversation, isn’t it?

BROOKE: I think often it’s about social contract. Before you get into these things, having the conversation about it, so whether that’s lending money or how bills are going to be split. I think from my experience, when I was at university, it was the first time I’ve ever rented and moved away from home and we got this house and I definitely had the subpar room, and we just split the cost of the house and the rental amongst [us all]. And now I think, “why did I?”. I think of two friends, they had double bedrooms with ensuites and I lived next to the kitchen by the dishwasher.

PHILIPPA: And paid the same?

BROOKE: And paid the same. And now I think, I wish I’d had the courage to say, “hey, maybe that’s not fair and we should split it a different way because you’re getting a far better deal from this than me”. But I think because I was a bit of a people pleaser, I just said, “oh, it’s fine”. That’s just what you do. But I guess [I’ll] live and learn. And second to that, we set up joint bank accounts to split bills, and I didn’t quite realise then that that could impact my credit score moving forward. And I wish I’d learnt that sooner, that actually, had I lived with people that racked up loads of debt, that would then be impacting me in the future. So I guess that’s something to consider.

PHILIPPA: Yeah, that’s really worth thinking about.

Overcoming envy

PHILIPPA: Just looping back to difficult emotions - envy. Because we’re human, aren’t we? We find ourselves in situations where cash is nothing for some people. We’re struggling. Even though we love them, they’re our friends. It’s there, isn’t it?

TARA: I always say some emotions get a rough ride compared to others because they’re associated with behaviours that are more negative, but it doesn’t make the emotion invalid. And I always think anger and envy are two of those emotions. If someone’s sad, you don’t tend to judge them in the same way, or anxious. But we do get envious, we get jealous. And I always say, if you can try and split the emotion from the behaviour, look at how you respond. It’s OK to feel envy. It’s absolutely OK. But if that then means that perhaps you behave in ways that don’t fit with your values, is that OK with you? How does that sit?

PHILIPPA: Yeah. And it’s worth remembering, obviously, feeling envy ourselves - we’ve all been that. I’m sure [at] one stage or another in our lives. But it’s a toxic, horrible, horrible feeling eating you up. But on the other side of it, not great being the target of envy either. So if you’re the person who has worked really hard and maybe is still working really hard and is earning and succeeding, nothing wrong with that, is there?

TARA: Absolutely.

PHILIPPA: It’s tough to feel the target of envy.

NIAZ: That’s why I really try to challenge envy in myself, especially, but then in some of my friends as well. I try to challenge if any envious symptoms are showing up, because there’s a working assumption that you know how much someone has to spend on things without any understanding of their responsibilities. I think the negative symptoms of envy is when people just expect everyone else to be able to have money to spend because they’re earning more.

BROOKE: I’m with you, it’s perception. You might be earning a lot, or one may be earning a lot, but they could be also spending a lot. They may not have any savings for their retirement, for example, or investing. They could have racked up loads of debt. I guess to your point, you don’t know what people’s...

TARA: What’s hidden?

BROOKE: ...Yeah, it’s just how they’re presenting. But someone who’s earning a lot less could have far better financial wealth and wellbeing than someone who’s earning a lot more, but it’s perception.

TARA: That’s a really good point, actually. So I think something people may be able to take away from this then is that none of this is easy. There’s no formula, there’s no tick box for how we should navigate money, friendships. But we can learn and it takes time, and it takes practice. And sometimes it takes a bit of leaning into tricky stuff, but we can get there and it’s flexible, it’s mouldable.

As you and your friends get older

PHILIPPA: It’s a continuum, though, isn’t it? Because this isn’t a ‘job done’ situation. Because I was thinking as the decades tick by these financial gaps, they can get bigger, and more marked, can’t they? And the signifiers get really obvious, don’t they? Like better house, better car, kids at private schools, whatever it is that people spend their money on. And that, it seems to me, is a danger point for friendships that might have survived that far, because then it just gets to be a bridge too far. You’re living in different areas. You’re just living different lives. And friendships start to really fade because you don’t see each other, because you don’t see each other, because you’re living different lives. And then you can lose people, can’t you?

BROOKE: I think I keep seeing statistics around how millennials are about to experience the greatest transfer of wealth as their parents or relatives start to die. I think that it’ll be an interesting point to navigate when people are suddenly getting an inheritance.

NIAZ: Like you said as well, I think it’s $100 trillion that’s going to transfer between generations...

TARA: Wow!

NIAZ: ...which is the largest ever intergenerational wealth transfer. That’s going to drastically change things for people over the next 10 years, or 10-20 years definitely, and it’s going to be noticeable.

I’ve witnessed the positive side of our friendship group being quite competitive. We studied together, and I think it’s definitely helped everyone in our group progress in their careers to a certain extent. We’ve seen the competitive side and I think everyone’s doing quite well because they’ve been nudged by their friends. But it’s a double-edged sword, right? Because you can also see the forks in the road with drastically different wealth down the line.

TARA: Do you think it changes people? Does it change friends, how they are, their outlook?

NIAZ: I think it depends. Sorry.

BROOKE: No, go for it.

NIAZ: I was going to say, I think it depends on the friendship you have with people. One of the things that I found is, I’ve been reconnecting with friends from my childhood.

TARA: Wow.

NIAZ: That’s a pre-status, pre-wealth bond that you have and none of us care what we’re doing.

PHILIPPA: Is that right? You still feel connected?

NIAZ: It was actually in the last two years, I’ve connected with three or four friends I knew from more than 15 years ago. Immensely successful friends, actually, some of them public figures, and we spoke nothing about that. It was like, we just go back to our childhood. So I think it depends on the kind of friendships you have, whereas friendships you make at a certain stage in your life, which are, I don’t know, the context of those friendships are the wealth that you have, the status that you have. I think those are much more likely to change based on wealth because as you climb or descend, I don’t know.

TARA: That default conversation, isn’t it? Default conversation might be more around work if that’s the sphere that you’re...

PHILIPPA: It might be, but you know where they’re at, don’t you? Before you reconnect, because we live in a connected social media world. Would you feel, do you think, equally relaxed with early friends who are just living very, very ordinary lives, very different to your own?

NIAZ: I think so because of the nature of those friendships. We went back to a random café, for example, when we were in school that we used to go to, and it was the nostalgia, right? Then we’d laugh about certain things. I think there’s a craving. I think as humans, you know the science behind this better than me. There’s a craving for nostalgia and innocence and that, especially when you’re in careers which are quite demanding and...

TARA: Quite grounding sometimes, isn’t it?

NIAZ: ...Yeah, and as a society that’s so status-driven, I think there’s a yearning for something much simpler, which I found. I don’t know. That’s been my experience.

BROOKE: I agree. Those summers where you’re at school, you’ve got six weeks [off], you have no money, but you’re having the time of your life.

When life throws you curveballs

PHILIPPA: OK, I’ve got one that I’ve been interested in for a long time. What happens if your circumstances change radically? We can talk about planning, how we think our career and life trajectory is going to be. You get into these tribes effectively, don’t you? And whether you choose it or not, it happens. And then sometimes stuff happens. It might be a divorce, it might be illness, death, or it might be a massive inheritance if you’re really fortunate. Suddenly, everything is different for you. And I’m wondering how you fare in your tribe. Can you stay in a tribe where, for example, you can’t afford to do the stuff you used to do with those people, or the other way around? Suddenly, you’re just way better off. What do we feel? Have you ever experienced that? Has anyone?

BROOKE: I’ve had friends who have been married and already got divorced, and I guess they were much further ahead in their view, and then they came back to square one. But from our side, we didn’t treat them any differently because I think for me, the connection is beyond how much money we all have. It’s like, “I love and care for you, and I want you to be involved in the things that we’re doing”. So if that means that we’re funding a bit of that for a time. I’ve definitely been in occasions where we’ve really wanted some friends to come. One of my friends had a child much earlier than everyone else, and we wanted her to still be involved. I remember us making a group decision; “let’s just pay because we wanted her to come irrespective”.

PHILIPPA: How did that go? Was she OK with that?

BROOKE: Yeah, she was fine.

PHILIPPA: It wasn’t weird?

BROOKE: No, we asked her. It wasn’t like, “oh we’ve just paid for it. You’re coming”. We were like, “we’re all happy to”. She was like, “do you mean that?”. I think if you’re good enough friends with people, they’re not going to offer if they don’t truly mean it.

TARA: It comes down to values, really, doesn’t it? What are the core values of the group that you’re in? Or you can have different groups, but also you can have subgroups. You don’t have to - if there’s a group of you that do everything together all the time. Sometimes we can get a bit stuck in rules, rule-bound behaviour. But actually, it may be that “a few of you are going to do that thing, and I’ll join you later, or I’ll dip out of this and catch up with you another time”. Sometimes we lose that flexibility of thought, don’t we?

BROOKE: I guess to your point, Tara, about when you got married, you didn’t know how you’d feel receiving the money. I guess if you’re that person in that, you might be the one getting divorced or receiving an inheritance or experiencing grief. I guess that could be the challenge, where as friends...

PHILIPPA: Oh, yeah, because you’re already raw, aren’t you?

BROOKE: ...you feel like you’re supporting and you’re helping them navigate it, but they may have very different feelings showing up for them.

PHILIPPA: I think so, because I think if people are going through those really traumatic experiences, they’re already feeling raw all over. So they’re possibly inclined to be even oversensitive to the difficulty because you know it’s like “everything’s falling apart. And now I need to just absent myself from all the stuff I did before because everything is different for me”. So there’s the role there, isn’t there, for friendship in making them feel reassured. That’s just not happening, and it’s not about the money. But it’s delicate ground, isn’t it? That sort of conversation.

TARA: I always love to ask people that. Sometimes we avoid conversations because our brain is brilliant at trying to protect us and say, “don’t say this. This is what’s going to happen”. It’ll fast forward to the future at a rate of knots. But have you ever had a conversation with someone where you’ve opened up and you’ve been really raw and regretted it? Because most people don’t. And usually you might find people go, “oh, I’m so glad you said that because that’s me too”. And it begins to just lift that pressure.

Lending money to friends

PHILIPPA: I’ve got my eye on the clock, and I’m going to ask, actually, this is a good point to ask - lending money. We touched on it earlier. I’ve done it myself, twice. It went really, really badly on one occasion and has gone swimmingly on another. Just no impact on our friendship at all. I’m delighted I did it on both occasions, but it was hard. But of course, you don’t have to, do you?

NIAZ: No, no you don’t.

PHILIPPA: Just to throw that around, just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to, does it? That’s a difficult conversation.

TARA: It’s OK to say “no”.

PHILIPPA: Well, you say that? But how do you say it?

TARA: It’s the hardest thing in the world, isn’t it? I guess, coming back to, you might have a baseline as to if someone’s saying, “oh, I’d really love to come in this night out, could you lend me money?” That might not fit with your values. But if you have someone who’s in perhaps a more risky situation, “I’m going to lose my tenancy” or “I’ve got a bill I can’t pay”, you may feel differently about that. So there can be different levels of decision making... I think that’s quite nice...

PHILIPPA: How do you say “no”, Tara?

TARA: I just say “no”. Psychologists do it right every time. No, I don’t, I’m awful.

NIAZ: It seems so easy.

TARA: I always think it’s really refreshing when mental health professionals will say we’re humans and we can be really rubbish at it. Sometimes I’ll just ignore [it], bury my head in the sand.

PHILIPPA: Well, that’s the thing is, like Brooke mentioned earlier, just because you’re earning big doesn’t mean you necessarily have a lot of disposable cash.

TARA: Absolutely.

PHILIPPA: We’ve touched on it all around and maybe you’re saving, maybe you’re saving for your pension. We’re a pensions podcast, we like it when people save for their pensions. And that can be significant sums of money. You might have all sorts of stuff going on that no one knows about, caring responsibilities, whatever it is, putting siblings through college, whatever. They’re all valid reasons, aren’t they? For saying, “actually, no, I really don’t want to do that. I need that money. I’ve got a pot where that money is going”.

BROOKE: Yeah. And I think it’s assessing your own financial resilience before you do that, which may also change during the course of the lending. I guess we’ve all [been] living through this cost of living crisis, inflation rate has gone up, interest rate - you may think you have more money spare to lend before than you actually do in the reality, when people are dipping into their reserves. I think it’s assessing truly your financial resilience before lending, but also not feeling obligated to explain the “no”.

NIAZ: I think it’s the exploitation thing that you mentioned earlier. I think when you feel like you’re being exploited, that’s when you can start to have a sweaty palm conversation.

Knowing when to let go

PHILIPPA: There’s a thought in my mind as well that not all friendships have to last forever, do they? I don’t want to be negative about this.

TARA: Absolutely. 100% agree.

PHILIPPA: We all know people we used to know that have faded from our lives for one reason or another. And that’s kind of OK, isn’t it? If it’s for good reason.

TARA: I completely subscribe to that. So I’ve written about this quite a lot, actually, that during the pandemic, a lot of people realised who checked in, who were the ones to initiate contact when we couldn’t see each other. And I think [that] the most healthy thing you could do for yourself is to do a little refresh of your friendships. And sometimes we can get really caught up in, “but we’ve been friends for so long”. You can still have compassion for the past and the relationship as it was, but it’s OK if it doesn’t work for you now. It’s absolutely fine. But again, it’s a bit cringey. I think sometimes then we can get stuck with friends that perhaps are toxic and not good for us because we feel we should do, we must do.

PHILIPPA: Known them for years.

TARA: Yes. You can still have love and fondness for that history and that memory, but it doesn’t mean it has to work now.

PHILIPPA: And new friends.


PHILIPPA: Let’s not forget.

TARA: That’s OK, too.

PHILIPPA: There are always new friends. That seems a good place to wrap this up, I think, doesn’t it? Thank you all very much indeed.

TARA: You’re welcome.

PHILIPPA: Thank you all very much. It was so thought-provoking yet another way that money plays a central role in all our lives. If you enjoyed this episode, please do rate and review. We always love to hear what you think. Don’t forget, you can watch us on YouTube. And if you’re a PensionBee customer, you can listen to all the episodes in the PensionBee app. Just before we go, just a last reminder, anything discussed in the podcast shouldn’t be regarded as financial or legal advice. And when investing, your capital is at risk. Thank you for being with us.

Risk warning

As always with investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice.

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