Money means different things to different people and can be a sensitive subject for some. Money topics considered acceptable in certain cultures may be looked upon as downright rude or taboo in others.
When living in a multicultural country such as the UAE, people have to give extra thought and consideration when talking about money. Keep in mind that everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to how they discuss their finances.
A 2019 survey by UK-based debt service agency The Debt Adviser found 25 per cent of 2,000 adults believe conversations about personal finances are a no go as it makes them feel “anxious” and “nervous”.
“People find talking about money tacky or uncomfortable, yet we cannot deny the fact that money is an important factor in people's lives,” says Soniyaa Punjabi, founder of well-being platform Illuminations. “Healthy conversations around money that are informative can inspire people to learn about how to create more money, manage their money and invest it better.”
However, money conversations can get nosy and intrusive “when we start to define, compare or judge people based on their net worth”, she says. For example, trying to assess how much someone earns or spends as a benchmark for befriending them can be intrusive, Ms Punjabi adds.
We asked personal finance experts to round up the top 10 rude money habits people need to break.
1. Asking someone how much they are paid
Salary is an uncomfortable topic of conversation, according to Sophia Bhatti, a partner at financial advisory Hoxton Capital Management.
“Many people are embarrassed to discuss their salary. If an individual is paid highly, they fear people will view them differently and expect them to pay or cover a large bulk of a bill. If paid lowly, they fear people will treat them as charity,” she says.
However, a 2018 Bankrate survey found that 58 per cent of millennials shared their salary details with friends, while only 33 per cent of baby boomers did.
2. Not offering to pay for a meal for someone you invited
If you choose to invite a friend out to dinner or lunch, you should offer to pick up the bill, says Dean Kemble, managing partner of wealth management firm GSB Capital.
Conversely, when you are invited to join friends who will be covering the bill for a meal, it is considered rude to order the most expensive item(s) on the menu, he adds.
“If someone else is paying the bill, be sensible and respectful with your choices,” he says.
3. Leaving your wallet at home
If you are absent-minded and do genuinely leave the house without your wallet from time to time, it is recommended to carry emergency funds or a credit card and your ID in your phone case, Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial, suggests.
“You’ll always be ready for spontaneous outings and will not be guilty of this rude money habit,” he warns.
While some people may forget to bring their wallet or purse as a one-off event, it is completely different when it’s a habit that is repeated often, Mr Kemble says.
“In today’s technology-driven world where we have chip and pin, touch payments and the ability to pay via a phone or watch, these embarrassing situations should be a thing of the past,” he adds.
4. Not tipping at a restaurant
Hospitality is an extremely demanding industry. Waitresses and waiters work hard to keep diners happy and it can be disheartening to them when guests leave nothing as a tip, Ms Bhatti says.
“If you feel the service wasn’t great, then lower the tip but remember there might be several factors as to why you didn’t get the best service,” she adds.
About 75 per cent of customers in the US who eat at sit-down restaurants in 2021 always leave a tip and about 5 per cent never do, according to a July survey on CreditCards.com. The number of people who always tip is down two points from 77 per cent in 2019, the survey found. The number of people who tip their delivery drivers also fell about four points to 59 per cent, the poll found.
Similarly, when everyone orders similar priced items from the menu, it is fine to evenly split the bill, according to Mr Kemble. However, it is not OK to do so if there is a dramatic difference in the price of items ordered.
“So if someone didn’t order starter or dessert, it’s unfair to ask them to split the bill evenly,” he adds.
5. Judging others on their spending habits
There’s no point in harshly judging others on how and why they spend their money. People have varying relationships with money and just because you may decide to act differently, it doesn’t mean what they’re doing is wrong, says Rupert Connor, a partner at Abacus Financial Consultants.
It’s judgemental and extremely rude to question someone’s spending habits, according to Ms Bhatti.
“If you want to help others with their finances, be supportive and only help if they ask for it unless you feel they are being scammed or if you can see that it is a really terrible money decision,” Mr Connor says.
“You may want to tout the benefits of investing on a regular basis or saving into an emergency fund, but it’s better to bite your lip or risk coming off as intrusive, leading to ill feelings of resentment.”
6. Asking to borrow money
Some avoid borrowing money from friends and family as it can potentially create tension or, at worst, destroy close relationships.
If an individual is unable to lend you money, they fear being judged for going out for a meal or buying themselves a treat, according to Ms Bhatti.
“Many casual loans between friends or family members end up turning into gifts as they don’t get repaid,” Mr Connor says.
Before agreeing to lend money, people must weigh up all circumstances involved – what are the borrower’s spending habits, how will the money be spent and will you get it back, Mr Connor says. Also, get the amount of the loan in writing, along with a schedule of repayment, he adds.
“Being in a position where there is no planned commitment or timeline to repay is a definite no-no. This applies to both small as well as large amounts,” Mr Kemble warns.
“If you do borrow from family and friends, being open and honest with a plan in place to repay will mitigate any issues. Alternatively, plan in advance and budget so you’ll reduce the need to borrow.”
7. Asking how much something costs
One of the rudest money habits is asking someone how much their shoes, car or diamond ring costs, Mr Valecha says. Plus, it feels intrusive, he adds.
“It is always best to wait for a prompt: 'You can never guess how much this cost', rather than asking them upfront,” Ms Bhatti suggests.
“Always read the person or the situation. Are you one-on-one with a close friend who wouldn’t mind answering or a work colleague who you don’t know very well that could make you appear nosy,” she says.
8. Brag about investment success
Don’t be an insensitive investor. There’s a time and place for everything, so restrict talk of investments to a business context and don’t turn into a dinner party bore, Mr Connor says.
“If you’ve made a killing on the stock market or cryptocurrency space, don’t brag about it. Acts of discreet generosity are a better way of celebrating success,” he says.
“Your friends and family may find your lecture on equities, derivatives and crypto excruciatingly boring. Discoursing on your portfolio is perilously close to bragging about your bank balance and many people will find revelations about your personal finances alarmingly intimate and somewhat vulgar.”
9. Carrying your money in a flashy way
There’s no reason to flash a big wad of cash while out with friends, Mr Valecha says.
This is not only out of good manners but also for your own safety. It is best to be modest when it comes to money. Enjoy what you have, but don’t try to make others feel bad by being pretentious, he adds.
10. Constantly complain about money
Some perfectly well-off people will always routinely complain about money, according to Mr Connor.
“If you call your friend’s bluff and say that you’re worried, they may become more conscious of the money whining and stop doing it,” he suggests.
Or, if they are genuinely in trouble, help them where possible in terms of budgeting but don’t get involved in their problems and do not lend them money, Mr Connor says.