What's one of the easiest ways to end a friendship? Loan your friend a significant amount of money. According to a recent survey from Bank of America, money was the fourth greatest cause of stress in a friendship, behind jealousy, gossip, and disagreements. We would rather talk to our friends about family drama, weight, or even love lives than discuss money matters.
Other survey results make it clear why money concerns end friendships. More than half of survey respondents (53%) have seen a friendship end due to money owed, and one-third of respondents are personally fearful of losing a friendship because of a debt.
Those respondents are wise to be fearful, because 43% of Americans are willing to end a friendship over not paying back a debt. Within that group, 74% have their breaking point on debt of $500 or less – and 38% would end the friendship for an unpaid debt of $100 or less.
By more than a 6:1 margin, respondents believe that it's worse to owe money to friends than to have friends owe money to them. Perhaps because of their experiences coming of age in a recession, millennials are especially sensitive to owing money to friends. When they owe money to pals, 38% of millennials report feeling stressed and 37% report being anxious, compared to 29% and 24% of total respondents respectively.
Predictably, this anxiety results in avoidance. Approximately 40% of respondents have been avoided by a friend who owes them money, while 20% of respondents admitted to avoiding a friend to whom they owe money.
Avoiders are creative and thorough in their methods. Over half (56%) ignored texts or phone calls from their friend, 30% have skipped parties or gatherings, 22% have lied about where they are, 21% made eye contact but pretended not to see their friend, 15% have faked an illness, and 11% went so far as to block their friend on social media.
Bank of America sees mobile payments as a way to defuse potential friendship-ending monetary situations. Mobile payment systems allow friends to remind each other of payments and send those payments without awkward face-to-face confrontations.
The survey results back up their claims, especially among debt-sensitive millennials. While 19% of all respondents say that sending money via mobile payment methods would improve their relationship with friends, 41% of millennials believe that statement.
Advantages of mobile payments include the ability to have money appear in their accounts right away (cited by 42% of respondents), holding debtors accountable for what they owe (33%), and eliminating awkward face-to-face meetings (30%).
Do you remember "Pay Back a Friend Day"? Neither do we. Bank of America declared October 17 to be that holiday as a marketing ploy to entice people to download their mobile payment app and put it to use – but that doesn't mean that the message is wrong or misguided. Few people would disagree with the premise that debt between friends causes strain in a friendship. If Bank of America is at the forefront of suggesting a solution to this problem, more power to them.
In an introduction to the Friends Again Report outlining the survey results, Meredith Verdone, Chief Marketing Officer for Bank of America, wrote, "We want to take the awkwardness out of relationships and money, and remind people that no matter how long it's been or how little is owed, friendships are greater than any debt." It will be interesting to see if they release any data about how much money changed hands between friends that day, or if we will be celebrating the "holiday" next year.
In the meantime, ask yourself – do you owe money to any of your friends? If so, have you just forgotten to pay them back or have you been avoiding them? Have you heard from them lately? Whether or not you choose to download Bank of America's mobile payment app, consider taking their advice and reach out. Pay off your debt and potentially save a friendship. Don't wait until the next October 17 to do so.
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