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The Moneyist: ‘I’m nobody’s ATM’: I’m 27, successful, and always pay for my friends. How do I stop without making them angry?


With apologies to Matthew Perry. Quentin Fottrell, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Aniston.


MarketWatch photo illustration/NBC

Dear Moneyist,

I recently decided to leave my job and start my own business. The success of that business propelled me to go into a new one with a partner, and we are both doing very well financially.

My issue lies within my friend group. I’m 27 years old and my friends make nowhere near the kind of money I do. Before making this type of money I was always a generous friend. I would treat them when we went out for drinks or dinner and, if a friend ever needed extra cash, I always had money to spare to help them out.

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Now that I’m a business owner and learning more about money management, I haven’t been willing to do as much lavish spending or compensate my friends anymore.

This has made some of them angry. These are long-term friends, and I don’t want to lose them. But at the end of day I’m nobody’s bank or ATM, and they shouldn’t always depend on me.

Is there a way of going about this without offending them or losing these friendships?

The Friend with Money

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

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Dear Friend,

Changing your profligate ways now has a twofold effect for these unhappy friends. Some friends will fall into the first category, some into the second, others into both.

Allow me to use some barroom and restaurant allusions to make my point. Firstly, it reveals the inequity in the friendship and the transactional nature of spending time with you, and that leaves them naked for at least a moment. It’s an adjustment and, for those who may have coasted on your generosity against their better judgment, a humiliating one. It’s the equivalent of ordering the Emperor’s New Cocktail: Tap water straight up, with a slice of ice.

Secondly, the gravy train without warning now runs express and missed their stop. Your friends have also willingly enjoyed your largesse without a care in the world. It may come as an unwelcome surprise that they won’t be able to leave their wallet at home when they have a night out with their old buddy. They are forced to give up the lifestyle to which they would like to become accustomed. They have to spend their own money? Where’s the fun in that?

You have revealed their hubris and your own. You commercialized your friendships. The good news is you will not lose any friends. Those who walk away were never friends to begin with.

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