Talking to People Who Are Different from You about PF

Last week, I promoted one of my blog posts on my personal Facebook profile.  (I know that’s crazy to anonymous PF bloggers, but I’m completely open about my blog IRL!)  It was the review of the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, and you can see I was pushing it a bit.  (We just signed up for our second one last night!  Woohoo!)  I knew that some of my FB friends would see that and consider signing up for the card (this was my target audience), some would dismiss it because they aren’t looking for another card, and some might be put off because they are anti-credit.  For that last group, I immediately commented with a link to my recent post about not promoting but not being defensive either about credit card usage.


One of my cousins challenged my decision to link to this post promoting a credit card.


FB convo on credit


You can see that at first I mistook her comments for reproach regarding my use of credit, but with her second comment I understood that her concern was for my FB friends who might see my recommendation of this card and be tempted to use it irresponsibly.


Based off just that short exchange, we could have a discussion about personal responsibility, or how FB encourages jealousy and consumerism, or about 1 Corinthians 8:9.  But I’d like to go straight at what my cousin’s point was – did I think about my entire audience when I made this post?


In fact, I did not think of the possibility that any of my FB friends would see that post and want to use that or any other credit card irresponsibly.  (The secondary audience I was focused on was those who were against credit on principle.)  I write about credit cards and preach responsible use so often here on EPF that it didn’t seem like a big difference to speak that way on FB.  Yet, my cousin is absolutely right that the people who read EPF are a quite different group than potentially anyone I’m FB friends with.  They are at least slightly interested in reading what I have to say on PF, whereas perhaps someone in my FB friends list who avoids credit card offers because they are too tempted to overspend would be blindsided by my status.


Why didn’t I think that any of my FB friends would find my status potentially detrimental?  It’s because I think they’re all like me – and I have very little evidence to the contrary, at least about credit card usage.  I suspect that some of my family members are Dave Ramsey followers – the same branch of the family that this cousin is from – but I have only talked with a couple of them about their views on PF.  It was that group of people that I had in mind when I preemptively put up my post about how I shouldn’t have to be defensive about using credit cards.


Thinking of all my other FB friends, there is only one among them that I know has struggled with credit card debt (and that is secondhand information).  So one explanation is that none of them have had credit card debt, and the other is that I don’t talk with people enough about personal finance to know that they have had credit card debt.  I think the truth lies somewhere in between.


I actually do talk with people in real life about PF quite a bit.  This blog is my main hobby so it tends to come up in conversation, and I’ve become somewhat of a go-to person for my friends with PF questions.  And the people who I talk with are to a great extent very similar to me.  They want to live within their means.  They don’t have consumer debt, except for maybe a car loan.  They think saving for retirement while young is a good idea, even if they’re not doing it at the moment.  They are open to budgeting and tracking.  Why are the people I’m talking with so similar to me?  Two explanations again, with the truth between – I have awesome, responsible friends or I tend to only talk at length with people who already agree with me.


The tendency to only talk with people who already agree with us extends to a bunch of subject areas, unless you really love fighting.  If you start a conversation on a subject and find that the other person has a different viewpoint, if the subject is touchy at all I think we tend to drop it pretty fast.  Add to that normal feeling the probability that there is shame associated with revealing your financial life, particularly if you, for instance, have credit card debt or have made other kinds blunders.  I try to be un-intimidating by often leading with the revelation that Kyle and I have a low income (but I have to be careful with that because we actually earn more than the median household income in our city).  But still, I seem to only get into PF conversations with people who are looking to start saving for retirement, or have a bunch of savings they want to commit somewhere, or who aren’t overspending but want help with budgeting.


So this is my explanation as to why the possibility of any of my FB friends being tempted into irresponsible credit card usage by my status did not occur to me: I’ve had lots of confirmation that they are like me and little to none that they aren’t!  Yet, I’m sure this is not the case.  I don’t know what the solution is except for people to come out of the financial closet, so to speak, and talk about what’s going on in their lives more openly.  I love talking about this stuff and I want to help, not judge.  I’ve learned a lot from my peers that I couldn’t learn on the internet or from books – it’s so useful to have local examples of budgeting and implementations of frugality, and people can teach concepts verbally so much faster than it takes to learn them from reading books or the internet.


I have been pushing my boundaries and gaining exposure to people who aren’t so like me from two sources: the PF blogosphere and FPU.  Both of those communities put me in conversations with people who have different opinions about how to manage their money and who are in different places in life, from tons of debt to tons of savings.  But I still associate both of those groups with my life on/as EPF, not with my personal friends, so again I didn’t think that my FB friends might be more like my blogger/commenter friends or FPU students than like me.


My conclusion is that I’m not regretful of putting that status on FB, but I am also glad that my cousin pointed out to me that I need to be mindful of my audience.  I hope that I can get to know some people in my real life who do struggle with credit card usage so that I can empathize with them and perhaps even help them.  But I can’t do that until they “out” themselves!


Have you ever confused one audience for another?  Do you think your lifestyle or what you put on FB could cause problems for your friends, even if it doesn’t for you?  Do you talk about finances with people who in very different places from you?  How do you think we can encourage people to open up about their financial challenges?


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35 Responses to "Talking to People Who Are Different from You about PF"

  1. I can really, really relate you about posting on FB just now I deleted one of my daughter’s picture post about eating in a fast food chain. I posted it earlier, we had our lunch in there and one of my friends commented that it’s not healthy to bring my daughter to a fast food chain always so I replied “It’s just once a week”. But when my mother in-law reacted too and she was on my friend’s side so I decided to delete the picture, I don’t want to argue anymore I know they have a point but I have a point too. 🙂
    Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Side hustle series: Make money with weddings

    1. Emily says:

      Yikes. Had your friend and MIL talked with your in person about their attitude about fast food or did that come out of the blue?

  2. I don’t think you should’ve done anything differently. I don’t talk about money in much detail – except to say that I have none thanks to school! It can be such a sensitive subject that it seems safer to sidestep.
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..6 Days in London: A Recap of My Scone-Filled Adventure

    1. Emily says:

      I think there is real opportunity if we are willing to talk about money, but I agree that it is easier to sidestep if people are showing sensitivity.

  3. I certainly don’t see a problem with posting that on your FB. Its just a pointer for one and your audience are under no obligation to acquire the card…simply put they can make their own responsible decisions.
    Unless someone brings personal finances as a topic…I usually avoid discussing mine…we can only discuss in generalities 🙂
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted..Motif Investing Review – Exclusive Motif Review

    1. Emily says:

      Why do you not like to discuss your finances? A specific reason about them or just shyness about the topic?

  4. Cash Rebel says:

    I think your cousin’s comment was a little weird. You’re probably the most responsible credit card user I know, and you’d already linked to a post about the pros and cons. Even if you do have a few FB friends that are struggling with credit card debt, it’s not your fault for promoting one you think is great. It’s not like the rest of the internet is free from credit card advertisements. If you go to any financial website, they’ll probably try to sell you their credit card in the ads, and it may not even be a good one. I think your post was entirely reasonable for your audience.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Work like we’re in a recession

    1. Emily says:

      My cousin isn’t afraid to say when she disagrees with something and I really like that about her! We disagree about a few topics so she keeps me on my toes. 🙂

      Thanks for saying that we’re responsible cc users! We’ve put so many systems and rules in place and it does seem to be paying off. But I don’t think that’s what she was questioning.

      Overall I think that this card is really so out of the ordinary that I’m glad I pointed it out to my FB friends, many of whom are grad students and might have the same low-spending ‘problem’ that Kyle and I do. I don’t want to make a habit of it on FB, though.

  5. E 2 says:

    I think if anyone you know on FB has so much of a problem that seeing a post on the internet about a specific credit card would tempt them into signing up and spending irresponsibly…well, good luck surviving the internet and physical mail delivery. Those both deliver ads and offers DIRECTLY to potential customers on a pretty much daily basis. We live in such a credit and advertising-saturated world that I think your post can’t be more than drop in the bucket.

    I know what you mean about only talking to people in similar situations, though. I think it’s somewhat inevitable that money is such an emotionally charged topic that it’s hard to talk about with people in much different situations. At some level, money is the access ticket to choice and security for everyone, even though it varies a lot for different people, and it’s often equated with value to society in the US. Talking about it can feel like making value judgments about your life choices, from major career choices to daily habits, and since a lot of people don’t feel like they have a shot at long term security right now, anger and envy are pretty common emotions. I don’t think this taboo is going to go away until we stop associating poverty with bad character and riches with good, then discussing how to steward what you do have responsibly will be less scary and emotional. (wow, that ended up being long and political. whew.)

    1. Emily says:

      I kind of forgot about all those direct mail advertisements for credit cards! We get so many we don’t even look at them – they go straight into the trash. But good point that the advertisements are everywhere online as well.

      I enjoyed your long and political comment! You are so right that we stereotype each other, although I think some people have the reverse attitude that rich=evil and poor=virtuous. The way we use our money is so tightly tied in with our values, but I would think that its important would elevate it as a topic of discussion. But I guess that is just too intimate for us all, to expose our true selves and risk being judged or shamed, like you said.

  6. Matt Becker says:

    E2 right above has a great point. There’s already so much marketing out there that I’m not sure what your responsibility is in terms of hiding your own marketing. I guess it’s possible that your endorsement is more powerful, but I doubt that one facebook post is enough to send someone into a downward spiral.

    In a more general sense, I do think it’s important to understand your audience just because it will help everyone have a more productive conversation. It’s hard to learn from each other if you don’t know where the other person is coming from.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Why Net Worth is Misleading

    1. Emily says:

      I guess what I was concerned about was the power of the personal recommendation plus that this really is a crazy good signup bonus, both absolutely and for the minimum spend. I can see how it might be very tempting to someone who knows she shouldn’t use credit cards.

      How do we get to know one another, though? It seems the confident/successful are the only ones talking. Even in the PF blogosphere, the people ‘outing’ themselves as being in debt are the ones who are die-hard about getting out of it and therefore are succeeding. The few bloggers who are public about their screw-ups and don’t try to justify them get excoriated in comments and emails (so I’ve heard).

  7. I think it IS important to understand your audience, but I also think you can’t take it upon yourself to feel personally responsible for everyone who may be reading your blog. If you had created this site as a way to hock credit cards to unwitting consumers, then I’d say you should feel bad. But your site is educational and informative! It’s also multi-faceted, and by that I mean you cover a wide variety of topics on personal finance. Credit cards ARE a part of that conversation, and if you believe there is such a thing as responsible credit card use, I see no problem with you promoting that in whatever way you want – from posts about the importance of not carrying a balance to endorsing your favorite credit card.
    Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial recently posted..How to Have a Fun and Frugal Wedding: Part II

    1. Emily says:

      I feel comfortable talking about credit cards from time to time here on the blog, but it is a different game to put it on FB.

  8. Mrs PoP says:

    Yet another reason to dislike Facebook…

    We haven’t really encountered problems, but that’s probably because we’re pretty cognizant of who we’re addressing when we talk about financial issues. Our blog readers know a lot more about our finances and financial philosophies than most of our IRL friends do, but they come to our blog expecting that. Our friends don’t expect financial discussions when we catch up, so that’s not our lead. If it comes up, we’re happy to share, but otherwise we don’t. Feels a bit too much like proselytizing for our comfort level.
    Mrs PoP recently posted..Prepare For the Invasion

    1. Emily says:

      Proselytizing is a good way of putting it – that’s how I sometimes feel when talking with people who are less knowledgable about PF or disagree with me. But then again, I don’t care all that much if other people agree with me – I just want them to be successful.

  9. I am luckily not burdened with that dilemma as I have no personal Facebook page and the DB40 page has 3 total likes.

    I think it’s great that you’re being thoughtful of who might be signing up for credit cards. It’s a sticky wicket, one that I haven’t made a decision on with our blog yet.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Embracing Either/Or and Opportunity Costs

    1. Emily says:

      While I don’t like FB as much as I used to, I think it’s great for harnessing the power of loose connections and for that reason I won’t stop using it. And for hearing about engagements and pregnancies. 🙂

      So far I’m comfortable with promoting products we really use and like (hence the tab at the top) because I know they’re good. It would take a big change of policy for me to promote something we don’t use.

  10. There are just some people who really cannot open their mind or eyes to new perspective. I choose the people I talk to about personal finance.
    Marissa@Financetriggers recently posted..Saving Money on Gluten Free Products

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, I’m sure people think that about me from time to time!

  11. I wouldn’t worry about that post being on facebook. I would not recommend, however, posting anything political or religious. It’s just a recipe for disaster.

    1. Emily says:

      I also try to steer clear of sports rivalries!

  12. I would never put an advertisement on facebook (if I had an account, which I don’t). That just seems really crass. Credit cards or not. I don’t really see it as any different than inviting people to a Tupperware party, which I also think is crass.

    Blogs and professional facebook accounts are different because you know what you’re getting into when you read a blog or link to a company’s facebook page. When you hook up with friends and family on facebook you’re not expecting them to market credit cards or other items at you.
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Link love (at long last)

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. I guess I see this as a “sharing a deal” kind of link to one of my posts, but you’re right that it is an advertisement nonetheless, more so than the kind of posts I normally promote. I haven’t been invited to a Tupperware party, but I don’t think of that as crass – although I certainly would decline the invitation!

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