my employee can’t manage her finances — should I say something?

A reader writes:

I have an employee, “Jane,” who is in her early 20s and working a professional job for the first time after grad school. Her job is entry-level with a strong emphasis on training, so the salary is fairly low (but definitely a living wage).

I’m concerned with the way she is managing her personal finances. In the six months she has been working here, she has mentioned several large purchases (for example, plane flights to visit friends), but has also made several comments to me about how she is barely scraping by. For example, she recently mentioned buying expensive concert tickets, and later that same day said she barely had gas money to get through the week. I don’t think it’s just hyperbole; she recently asked me to cover her $15 work lunch (that would have been reimbursed by our company) because she didn’t have enough money in her account.

I’m torn about whether or not to address this. On the one hand, I feel like her personal finances are her business. On the other hand, however, I feel a mentorship responsibility to her, and when she tells me about a new purchase I have to fight a powerful urge to tell her to just put some money aside for a rainy day. Also, the fact that she couldn’t cover a basic work expense concerns me; there will be plenty of other times that we’ll expect her to take on an expense and be reimbursed later.

What do you think? Should I bring it up to Jane? If so, how can I do it without seeming condescending or overstepping my bounds?

Nope, don’t do it.

It’s great that you feel a mentorship responsibility to her, but that mentorship should be about her career — not about her personal life or her finances. Those things are solidly in the category of not your business.

I do get that it’s weird to sit there when she talks about obviously bad choices and just say nothing … but it’s Jane’s life and Jane’s finances, and she’s an adult, and you’re her boss — all factors that point toward letting her figure this stuff out on her own.

You might feel like it sucks that you can’t be helpful to her by giving her some advice or perspective that might actually improve her life and her happiness … but that’s trumped by the problems that it could cause. If you violate that kind of boundary, now Jane has to worry that her boss has Opinions on things about her that aren’t relevant to her work. That means that if you have to, say, turn down a time off request, she might wonder whether it’s because you don’t think she should be going on the trip in the first place or if there are legitimate work-related reasons for it. She might feel really uncomfortable if she has to tell you she can’t afford to front a work-related expense before she gets reimbursed (and anyone should be able to say that to you without worrying you’ll judge them for it). And work might just generally be a less pleasant place for her if she feels like her boss is overstepping boundaries and meddling in her personal life. That part is true no matter how much you think Jane is okay with your advice — people often act like they’re okay with something from their boss that really feels like a boundary violation because of the power dynamics involved.

I’m sure that someone out there has a story about how a boss did talk to them about savings and how it really helped them … but those stories are the exception more than the rule.

Hopefully someone in Jane’s life will point out to her that she should save for life emergencies before spending on more discretionary stuff. But that someone shouldn’t be you.

{ 379 comments… read them below }

  1. Dee-Nice*

    Even if I were Jane’s friend, this is the sort of thing I would approach gingerly and mention only once, if at all. Some people just need to make their own mistakes and come to their own conclusions in their own time.

    1. STG*

      Yea…I’d hesitate to do this with a friend, let alone a coworker/subordinate unless they came to me asking for advice. People can get really weird about money and finances.

      1. Lumen*

        Money is really, really emotional. I used to do collections for my LastJob and you’d think most people could remember it’s just business, but… no. Money is emotional and we have a lot of cultural shame around it. I don’t address my friends’ finances unless they ask me specifically for help.

      2. Specialk9*

        See, I get what you mean, but I make a habit of talking with young people, 20s ish, about finances in a really general way. I start by saying I’m a big dork who reads a lot of personal finance blogs. I *briefly* share some of the money related things I felt were overwhelming when I first started, an early money mistake that had long term consequences, and mention that I’m happy to talk with them if they ever want to talk about 401ks or other money stuff. Most have at least asked about which of the 401k options to invest in, and several have started a series of conversations about their current money questions.

        So I think the trick is not to critique the person, at all, and offer broad knowledge transfer, with the clear message that you learned the hard way from screwing up and want to save people the years. It’s a humble helpful approach rather than a critical one.

        And lord knows money training isn’t available from anywhere else, usually.

        1. Specialk9*

          Reading through other comments, the supervisor-subordinate situation does make this problematic for OP to do directly. But there are lots of general interest financial seminars and courses you can set up for people. Most people can use some help on something money related.

      3. On Fire*

        I have a colleague who is going to have major surgery next year and will be out of work on partial-disability payments for two months. That will provide 80% of her salary. I personally would be putting money aside now to cover expenses. She’s planning three vacations between now and the surgery, and spent a few thousand dollars (i.e., 2-3 months’ pay) on Christmas gifts and decor. I think those are terrible decisions, but it’s not my business, so I keep my mouth shut and respond with a lot of “hmm” when she talks about her plans.

        1. Anne (with an "e")*

          The thing is, you absolutely never know what is going on with someone else’s finances. Your coworker could have an income source that you are completely unaware of. Perhaps she is anticipating an inheritance. Perhaps she has investments that you don’t know about. Perhaps a family member does or will assist her. You just never know. This is true for the coworker of the OP as well. For all the OP knows, the young employee could suddenly have access to a large amount of money when she reaches a certain age. Other people’s finances are not anyone else’s business. One thing that is certain is that you should never make assumptions.

          1. Almost Violet Miller*

            This! You never see the full picture and you are very likely to make false assumptions when filling in the gaps.
            People conform to a certain image they want to show at work. She might not be sharing all aspects to her finances. I wish I could say OP should talk to her because she might really be in need of some guidelines but the risks are too high to overstep boundaries. It’s not an easy situation to be in for the OP because it seems they just want to help but it’s really not their place.

        2. Carrie*

          Consider that she may feel less than confident that she’ll survive the surgery (that’s always a possibility, even with routine procedures). I’d surely be trying to check off a bunch of bucket-list stuff in her shoes.

    2. Sara*

      Also, in my experience, people that are bad with money are very defensive about it. It is likely she knows that the concert tickets are a bad idea but she’s in the ‘but I WANT them’ phase of her life. Pointing it out to her is likely just going to make her feel like you’re overstepping.
      I have a friend who is an accountant who attempted to help a friend with budgeting and he asked to put a line item in for tattoos when he could barely afford his rent. He did not appreciate being told that was not a good idea.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        also people’s purchases reflect their values! This guy may have 100% felt that whatever money he had, he wanted to put towards body art. That’s … unconventional but may reflect his priorities accurately, and you don’t really want to get into arguing with someone about whether their priorities are correct!

        1. LAI*

          Exactly! I remember a conversation with a good friend where she was shocked at how much I was spending on a dog walker, while I was simultaneously stunned at what she paid in monthly yoga studio fees. The amounts were about the same but they were just for the things that we each individually considered important. I think everyone has at least 1 or 2 things in their life that they are willing to spend more on than the average person would deem reasonable, even people who are barely scraping by.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            hehe I had a surreal conversation with a friend once in which I was bemoaning how much I was paying on rent and she was boasting about what a great deal she had. Turns out … we paid the exact same amount per month.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            I also knew and know a LOT of young people — around the age of entry-level jobs — who have a lower salary, and pay for a lot of their day-to-day things themselves with varying degrees of success, but have a parent (or similar) who takes up a lot of slack on bigger purchases like vacations, rent, vehicles, technology, and such. So, I wouldn’t assume that just because she’s not handling her day-to-day expenses well does not mean that she A) does not have anyone giving her advice and teaching her (whether she wants to learn is a different story), and B) is made or broken by those day-to-day expenses.

            It’s definitely best to mind your own store here.

          3. Anne (with an "e")*

            I know several people who just cannot seem to understand why I would pay to have my pug go to “Doggie Daycare” every single workday. They think it is an unnecessary, frivolous expense. I, on the other hand, cannot imagine not providing “Doggie Daycare” for my dog. For me it an obvious necessity, not a “want.” People do make life choices, value choices with their money.

          4. Julia*

            I once had a friend tell me that 30€ for a bra was way too expensive (I can’t buy bras in my size at H&M, and I need support), but she would often get coffee outside when I brewed my own tea.

      2. Tap Tap Jazz*

        I have an acquaintence who is a serial quitter–gets bored and leaves a job in less than a month, over and over. He specifically says that he gets tattoos because it’s a way to spend money that can’t be repossessed.

        1. Susanne*

          Wow. That’s really hitting the bottom of the barrel in terms of money management – spending money on tattoos because they can’t be repossessed. I mean sheesh, if you blow more than you should on a big screen TV or a designer handbag you at least could sell it on Craiglist and get *something.*

        2. nonegiven*

          Reminds me of the show where the woman cemented her laundry appliances to the floor, so it would be too much trouble to repossess.

    3. JokeyJules*

      even with friends, I’m not giving any input or advice to them unless they explicitly ask me what to do. They do the same for me.
      Money handling is just a lesson to learn, albeit a difficult one.

    4. Samata*

      I was Jane is my early 20s. We were really poor growing up and when i got my first job I never planned for the small day-to-day that came up and just looked at bigger picture and experiences and trying to do all the things my parents never “let” me.

      Not saying that’s Jane’s case, but I know for certain if anyone would have said something to me then I would have ignored and resented them. I put it into a category that most people need to learn on their own – though, as Alison said, there are some exceptions. I just wouldn’t count on it in any case involving money.

      1. MrsCHX*

        Or in between. I know many middle class people who just weren’t taught about money. Period. Things just happened. Things were just purchased or not. No clue.

        I grew up in a working poor family. I have weird money issues. On the one hand I have an *excellent* credit score, retirement funds, every bill is paid on time, in full, every month. On the other, I have a lot of “I make a lot of money and deserve these things”. And so I’m one of those Americans without savings. This year I resolved to get it together and have hit my $1,000 “Dave Ramsay” minimum goal. Now I’m excited about building my savings.

    5. Red 5*

      Agreed. I don’t bring it up with friends either except my BFF. Mostly because at least twice in my life people have outright said “I need help with financial stuff, it’s so confusing…” or “You seem to know what your doing, can you help?” and after I spent a significant amount of time writing out advice and pointers (again, not unsolicited, they specifically said yes please tell me something that will help) I not only didn’t get a thank you, but no response at all either time and the people continue to do the same terrible things to this day and then complain about how they just don’t know what to do.

      It’s depressing, but I don’t know anything you can do but shrug and look after yourself.

      1. Specialk9*

        Well, I’m going to push back gently. It sounds like you have a script in your head of how your help has to be repaid: with thanks and transformation. Which I get, but it’s a fairly me-focused approach to generosity. What would it be like to help, when asked, and then not hold any mental strings of obligation or resentment?

        From the other side, having been there, being overwhelmed and snowballing in debt does not leave to good decisions or being able to appreciate advice. And certainly not quickly! It was a long slow slog, full of hard self-castigating emotions, and I didn’t even start that far behind compared to some people.

        If you can reframe, think of it as handing someone a needed tool, showing them how it works, and walking away. They use it then, or in 10 years, or never, but that part is theirs to take up and run with, at their own pace.

        1. Hildegard Von Bingen*

          I get not expecting the person to whom you’ve given asked-for advice to necessarily take it. Changing spending and saving habits is darned hard.

          But saying thank you? That’s just common courtesy. I think Red5 has every reason to feel a miffed about not getting that. Thank you costs you nothing. It’s the decent thing to do, and it’s definitely not too much to expect in return for spending your time helping someone out.

          1. Specialk9*

            I totally get that feeling. But I think many people have BIG feelings that can make them just fold everything away.

    6. Optimistic Prime*

      Yeah, same. As a friend, I don’t think I would say anything at all unless Jane was repeatedly asking to borrow money from me. Some people need experiences to learn this type of thing.

  2. OrganizedHRChaos*

    I am HR in a commission based company and there is a high and slow season for travel sales. Some off my staff earn a lot in the high months and dont save for the slow months at the end of the year. My company decided to host a Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover series for anyone who wanted to participate. The company covered the training and hour per session paid to each participant. The employee purchased their workbook and if they completed the course, the company reimbursed them for the book. It went well and over the last two years we have heard so many stories from staff about how they are managing their finances better. We are going to do another session in 2018 for anyone who is new or didnt want to do it three first time. Its all voluntary and there is no recourse if you don’t do it and only a small $ amount for the book if they drop out. We did this because so many complained about not having money during the slow season.

    1. Lumen*

      I actually learned how to budget from a Dave Ramsey book. I no longer use that system and I think it’s gotten sort of ‘culty’, and it may not be the best option for non-religious groups. However… I can’t deny that I learned a lot, and it got me started off on a process that terrifies most people. This is a good way to do it, too.

      1. Lumen*

        PS I did not mean to imply that the ‘culty’ issue I have with it has anything to do with the religious overtones. At all. I meant more that I think budgeting and personal finance should be adaptive and flexible, and some die-hard fans of Dave Ramsey’s system can get a little intense and shame-y. Not all, obviously!

        Just wanted to clarify. I realized after posting that I could come across in a way I didn’t intend.

        1. Moose and Squirrel*

          This is really true. I unsubscribed from r/personalfinance because so many people there had the attitude of There Is One True Way To Manage Money and if you deviated you were WRONG. Not a very helpful approach for people who are overwhelmed or anxious about tackling financial issues.But I do like the idea of offering a seminar free to employees who are interested. That benefits everyone, not just the employee the boss is concerned about.

        2. Amber T*

          Yeah, followers of any sort of “system” tend to get culty. I learned a lot of my personal finance tricks from the Mr. Money Mustache forum and board, and I’ll give credit where credit is due, but damn a lot of those people get scary.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            A lot of people need the rigid, inflexible structure to follow. Either it helps them control the “I WANT” urge, or it’s having simple rules to follow because they really don’t understand the underlying principles.

            Doesn’t mean it works for everybody else, though.

          2. Specialk9*

            Yes. Having legitimate reason why X wouldn’t work was whiny complainypants. Which is a helpful viewpoint to don and check yourself (is this really not possible, or do I just want things to be convenient and easy?) But can get old. Still a viewpoint I seek out occasionally.

        3. justsomeone*

          Yeah, I see this in a lot of personal finance groups. The three I see the most are the cult of Dave Ramsey, the cult of YNAB and the Cult of Mr. Money Moustache. All of them have people who are flexible and people who just have no chill and will shame others for not following their lifestyle. It’s as bad as the diet people.

          1. Lumen*

            Those were the ones I thought of too. LOL. And I actually use YNAB – but I don’t really watch their videos, join their forums, or even follow their system to the letter. It’s a tool. My finances are personal and aren’t one-size fits all, how could any system be so perfect as to meet my every need? It ain’t!

            I think people just get excited about something that worked FOR THEM and start thinking that means it will work FOR EVERYONE. When: no.

            1. OrganizedHRChaos*

              I can see that in a lot of Facebook groups that I have seen on this topic. When we did it, it was mainly about learning to save and priorities. My husband and I did the program in 2011 when we got married but found actual envelopes too cumbersome so we adaptef to work for us but some zealous folks can take it too far I think. Lol

              1. Lumen*

                Exactly. The first month I tried taking out cash and putting it in literal envelopes and it was so immediately NOPE THIS WILL NOT WORK that I abandoned it. I thought that aspect was ridiculously old-fashioned and unrealistic: expenses change. You have to stay flexible.

                Well, *I* have to stay flexible. For some people I absolutely think that those hard lines really help them. But as we’re seeing in this whole comment thread: no one should be saying “the way I manage money is the way you should, or you are bad and you should feel bad”.

            2. Amber T*

              Yeah, it’s a shame because there are a lot of people (at least in the one group I was a part of for a while) that are helpful and are flexible, and if you say “that won’t work for me because X” they say, “ok, how about Y?” But then you get a few people who are like “well if you won’t take our advice THEN WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?!?!?!” and then begin the name calling. I’d like to think it’s a minority of a helpful group, but the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and ends up ruining it. I’ll occasionally visit the forums, click a few topics, then think “yep, I remembered why I don’t visit this site anymore.”

            3. Iris Eyes*

              Yep food and money, there are somethings that are just true (what you take in and what you put out make the difference between saving and losing) but they what and the how look a little different for everyone. But people don’t like that. They want to share what worked for them and believe “if I can do it then you can too.” People generally like hard and fast rules that require less thinking, and that offer the security of if you just follow the rules you will get the results.

              1. Specialk9*

                “People generally like hard and fast rules that require less thinking, and that offer the security of if you just follow the rules you will get the results.”

                This is so universal. You’ve really put your finger on it.

            4. Dan*

              TBH, I can’t stand most mass market financial advice. As you say, personal finance is just that. I suppose it helps that I’m good with numbers, so I can figure out quick what my decisions are costing me. For example, I’m carrying a significant amount of debt on 0% APR balance transfers. I have to pay a 4% BT fee every time I roll them over, but that 4% covers me for 18 months. My employer also has a significant 401k match — but I have to put in over 10% of my salary to get it. Instead of going with “rules of thumb”, I know how much it’s costing me to stretch out the debt repayment, and what i’m earning in 401k match + returns. For me, I can live with paying off the debt at a slow drip. I just don’t have a need to pay it off ASAP, despite the preachiness of the “all debt is bad” crowds.

              1. Susanne*

                Carrying no debt is the ultimate goal, though. It IS poorer money management to stretch out debt at a slow drip. You may not like it, and it may be unavoidable given other demands on your money that we don’t know about, but that doesn’t stop it from being sub-optimal money management.

                It’s kind of like having significant excess weight or smoking a pack a day – it’s not good for you. It may be something that’s extremely difficult to control, and it may be something that you’re not willing to give energy to given other life priorities in the moment, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t stop it from being sub-optimal for your health.

                1. Dan*

                  Carrying no debt is the ultimate goal for *some* people, it depends on what your value judgements are.

                  Let’s put it this way — in order to maximize my employer match, I had to increase my contributions by $500 per month. My employer matches that dollar for dollar. Over 18 months, that’s $9k I could have put towards my debt. However, by maxing out the employer match, I’ll have incurred about $360 in fees to get a match of $9k+stock market returns on the accumulated $18k. I don’t see anything sub optimal about that. It seems to me that forgoing the company match to follow the mass market advice of “pay off all debt ASAP” is penny wise and pound foolish.

                2. Specialk9*

                  Susanne, if Dan can get better returns with his money by leaving it in no interest debt so he can take advantage of a high return opportunity like 401k match, he’s winning. Personally, I’m not disciplined enough so no debt is my way. But just because you’re certain debt is bad doesn’t mean it’s a universal rule. Dan just proved that wrong with his example. But it absolutely is a very good rule for the vast majority of us.

                3. Nico m*

                  That’s simplistic . Debt isn’t bad, it’s the foundation of capitalism. Dan is clearly in a position where he can earn more for investing a $ than paying off a $ debt. Other people can be in similar situations.

                4. Optimistic Prime*

                  Carrying no debt is not my ultimate goal, though. Carrying a reasonable amount of debt that allows me to meet my other financial and personal priorities is my goal. For many people – most middle-class folks, in fact – having no debt is not a realistic goal.

              2. Specialk9*

                Dan, people like you are exactly who Dave Ransey is terrible for. You look at the debt snowball and think, ‘wtf I’m paying down the 3% small debt before the 19% big debt?! No sirree Bob.’ On the other hand, people with your mindset, in my scientifically inaccurate observation… Don’t tend to get so deep in the hole without a rope. (Deep in the hole with student or medical debt, but not helpless.) Ramsey is great for us emotional folks, but not so great for clinical analyzers.

          2. Mary (in PA)*

            I had to quit the Money Mustache forums about two years ago. No amount of positive thinking is going to make me any less disabled, you jerks.

            1. Veronica*

              Oh man, yes. I’ve gotten a lot from the Money Mustache forums, but they do include a lot of “I exercise a lot, therefore I will never become sick or disabled” thinking.

            2. Frugal Bagel*

              Really good point about Mr. Money Mustache! I was alienated just by people on the forums saying to keep your house at 62 degrees. Cold makes me sluggish and unable to think straight – I’ll gladly pay the extra on the utility bill! But if you say that you’re a fatcat.

              1. Red 5*

                Oh man, that is the problem with this kind of advice in a nutshell.

                Everybody has one or two line items that they’ll just look at and go “you know what, I want to spend that and that’s okay” and that’s *gasp* okay. The trick is to find a way to get people to not make that rationalization for everything or to abuse it.

                Like, the people that say always buy generic brand foods and stuff because it’s cheaper. Listen, I hate the generic fruit cups, they taste funny, and they’ll end up going bad if I buy those instead because I don’t like them.

                There are just a few things in life where you don’t buy the generic fruit cup. If you don’t give people that, then your financial advice is going to fail them eventually.

                1. nonegiven*

                  The peas, corn and pain killers, generic is ok. I’ll never get over the amount of stems in the generic green beans, f that.

              2. Specialk9*

                It’s so annoying that people do that, because that’s exactly what MMM is always talking about – spending money in line with your priorities! He has a fancy house and quality food and drink – his priorities – and scrimps on things he doesn’t care about – like having other people fix things or cook for him, and driving a fancy car. People have a hard time looking past the specifics to the general rules of thumb. So if you need higher heat as one of your priorities, then that’s where you spend money. If you can’t do the bicycle-only-no-clown-car thing because you need a wheelchair van (or whatever), then that’s one of your priorities. It’s about the inspiration to look at each expense with a gimlet eye and figure if you really need it or are just used to it or think it’s what’s done.

                The fault is in the dogmatic, not in you! Sometimes people confuse slavish adherence for inspiration.

            3. Linguist Curmudgeon*

              The rampant ablism is also what drove me away from MMM. Guess I’m just a complainypants for having a child with a de novo genetic disorder, sorry!

          3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

            Yes. This. I realized that MMM wasn’t for me anymore when I realized that I no longer needed to hand wash my clothes in the sink and air dry them to save the $2.50 per load. There was a time when I really needed that $2.50 more than I needed machine washed laundry, but thankfully that time is now behind me.

            I still bike commute, but I also have a 2016 Honda Fit that I financed. And I’m fine with that. I was over driving my diesel Mercedes from 1977. I refuse to be shamed about it.

              1. Optimistic Prime*

                This has always been my gripe with most of the financial security/budgeting sites and plans that I’ve seen. Dave Ramsay is the one I’ve read the most of, but I’ve read a bit of MMM’s, too, and they often advocate extreme cutting and scrimping so you can save vast amounts of money really quickly. What it seems to neglect is that for a lot of people, that level of austerity may make them more likely to fall off the wagon since it seems like they’re not having any fun or enjoyment out of their work!

                Different strokes for different folks, but I have yet to see a really good, popular budgeting site that advocating a balanced view towards saving that made space for fun and a few frivolous expenses.

                1. bohtie*

                  Yuuuup. I was a huge fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade for a long time (I don’t have to budget quite as bad as I used to so I don’t pay as much attention to personal finance sites etc. anymore) because she always encourages people to hang onto at least a little bit of frivolous spending, especially for entertainment purposes, because if you don’t, you’ll get so burned-out and frustrated that you’ll just give up.

            1. Former Employee*

              Suze Orman has one what? I liked her and was sorry to see her end her cable TV show.

              I didn’t always agree with her, but she would adjust her thinking if circumstances changed, so she seemed less rigid than some of the others.

              Once criticism of her that made me laugh was that Suze told people to invest one way while she was investing her own money in a different way. She was advising people to invest in things like the S&P 500 when they were young and looking to accumulate money for retirement. At that point, Suze was already middle aged and was looking to preserve her wealth, so she tended to invest her money in muni bonds. Duh!

              That was one of the biggest take aways from her show – that your financial planning needs to be tailored to you and your needs and should not be based on one size fits all.

      2. Specialk9*

        I love Dave Ramsey for budget beginners. It is, analytically, NOT the best system; but it is a good-enough system that is buttressed by emotional support and encouragement and hope. Those are the things that encourage one to keep pinching pennies today to have financial freedom tomorrow.

        I agree about the religion being a bit much sometimes, as a non Christian, though I can see the power in harnessing spiritual themes to this end. I generally recommend Dave Ramsey though!

      3. Kelsi*

        Haha I was so worried a few years back when my dad ordered ten copies of Dave Ramsey’s book and started handing them out to everyone he knew. He’s always been a fan but that definitely made me nervous he was crossing to the culty side.

        Apparently he was just REALLY excited about that book, though. He wasn’t offended that not everyone wanted one, he just wanted to share with anyone who wanted a copy and hadn’t bought it already. Still, I’ve been keeping an eye on him.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I posted something similar, then the entire post disappeared. Oh well. One of our employee resource groups sponsored a financial wellness series where a woman who is in the mutual fund business came in over lunch for 6 weeks and presented on various financial topics, and anyone from the company was welcome to attend. Obviously, the presenter was looking for mutual fund clients, but the information was really good and the people who attended said it was helpful and not salesy. We’ve had other employees who did not attend request that we do it again next year. Could be an alternative to Dave Ramsey.

      1. Specialk9*

        My company does this. The women finance leaders take turns presenting on financial topics from A to Z. Free to all, and available on Webinar.

    3. Jadelyn*

      My org has just launched a financial coaching benefit – but again, it’s run through a third party (your boss will never know what you talk about with the financial counselor), it’s voluntary, it’s free, it’s just something that we hope employees will feel they get value from, not something we’re imposing on anyone. That’s about as hands-on as I feel any company should ever get with their employees’ finances.

      1. Red 5*

        I really love this idea, I wish my company would do it. I feel like I’ve gotten what I’m going to get out of seminar-style financial advice and I really would love some very tailored and personal questions answered but I’ve got absolutely no access to that kind of stuff because I not only can’t afford to pay for it, but most of the personal financial counseling I’ve found is for people who are ready to start some serious investing and I’m not there yet.

    4. Paquita*

      This year my company added a benefit. All employees get free access to Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar (or maybe SmartDollar, I forget) budgeting tool. All voluntary and confidential.

  3. accidental manager*

    I agree with AAM that the power differential makes it fraught or problematic to let your employee know that you’re paying attention and have opinions about her personal financial choices. Maybe she would benefit from more prudent examples or advice, but it can’t come from you.

    If there’s a situation where it’s going to affect her productivity or how your company looks to clients or other outsiders who matter, I think it’s okay to give her a little heads-up. (Like, “you should come to this off-site meeting tomorrow. And you will be reimbursed for your lunch with the next paycheque but they usually go to fancy places so you should bring about $30 for your share.” And if she confides in you that it would be a problem, you can either suggest how to solve it (“go to admin and ask for a petty cash advance”) or just say “well, shall we leave you out of the meeting? Please let me know by COB so I can adjust the attendance list.” Keep it businesslike and free of judgement. If she’s picked up on why it was a problem last time, then she might have already figured out alternative strategies, and after one hint you can drop it.

    I’ve been the grad student whose credit card balance wouldn’t permit me to buy the plane ticket to the conference and wait for university reimbursement. I did borrow money from my advisor, he was snarky about my money management, and it sucked big time. Later I found out that the university did provide cash advances for such situations, and I thought that a more empathetic advisor would have been aware that many grad students would have struggled to pay for a plane ticket without advance planning and would have made sure I knew how to get an advance.

    1. Reba*

      The heads up about anticipated expenses would be great, especially in the context of an entry-level job where norms and procedures around business expenses are still being learned.

      But I’d never want to suggest to someone that they could be punished at work–removal from a relevant meeting could definitely look that way–for being poor.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Well, a better solution is for the company not to expect staff to front expenses like this. This particular employee apparently does have discretionary income, but not everyone does.

      1. aebhel*

        Agreed. I was always pretty responsible with my money, but I’ve definitely had times in my life when even a small unexpected expense would wreck my week. Like, $15 could easily have been half of my weekly grocery budget, and now I have to live on ramen until my next paycheck.

        Don’t leave people out of important meetings because they can’t come up with money to cover lunch at a fancy place, either. It’s a business expense, it should be paid by the business. If they don’t have a system for dealing with situations where someone can’t front their employer an interest-free loan (which is what this is, even if it is a small amount of money), then it’s high time they get one, especially if they have a lot of people working for low salaries who are expected to do this kind of business entertaining.

      2. Moose and Squirrel*

        That would be helpful. There are numerous reasons why an employee may not have the $15-20 for a business lunch. Concert tickets, emergency car repair, slow sales month, bailing out a friend, needing gas and groceries and it’s right before pay day. Stuff happens and sometimes you just don’t have the money. If it’s a business expense don’t put the employee in this position.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Plus they probably put the concert tickets on a credit card so they may know they will have the money in a week or two but don’t have it at the moment.

        2. Globe Trotter*

          Seriously. How embarrassing to put employees on the spot for something that would be reimbursed anyway.

        3. Amber O.*

          Not to mention that most people won’t think to budget extra cash for business expenses, especially not when you’re young and new to the professional world. She could easily be paying all her monthly bills and then deciding to spend her extra income on something fun (as she has every right to do), not thinking “oh, but maybe I’ll need to pay for something at work instead.” I know that thought would never cross my mind! I’m lucky that our expense policy is that if it’s covered by the business, it goes on a business AMEX- not out of your own pocket- or else I would have been in the very same position numerous times.

      3. Ramona Flowers*

        I refuse to front expenses for my employer. I’m on a tight budget and I just don’t want to have to pay for things and claim them back. It’s never been an issue – I just apply for cash advances and submit receipts afterwards.

        Asking the first time was nerve wracking. I was very relieved when my manager said yes, no problem, and then the next time she actively reminded me to put the request in.

      4. Susanne*

        Victoria Nonprofit is exactly right. There is zero excuse for a company expecting people to front plane tickets, hotel rooms, conference costs, etc. Time for companies to act like grown-ups and pay for things they want/ need their employees to do. This “pay for it and get reimbursement” is for the birds.

    3. Graciosa*

      All large companies I’ve worked for have had a policy that the highest ranking person at such an event must pay the full bill on a corporate card and submit for reimbursement.

      There are other finance/control reasons for this (if a junior person submitted to the highest ranking, it could cover a boondoggle) but it makes it much simpler to manage and alleviates pressure on junior staff members.

      1. Adlib*

        This has been my experience. Usually the senior staff/manager has a higher limit on their cards as well.

    4. irritable vowel*

      Hear, hear. OP, instead of worrying about your employee’s finances, put that energy towards advocating for change in your company’s policy on asking employees to front things that they’ll be reimbursed for. At the very least, there should be an option to put things like business lunches and business-related travel on a company credit card. If that doesn’t seam feasible, then your company needs to stop having lunches they can’t manage to pay for up front. You may think this employee is a spendthrift and be judging her for it, but there are probably also other employees who would be grateful for not having to front their company’s business expenses.

      1. Anion*

        God, yes. My husband’s last job paid a decent wage but our expenses were high, thanks to a situation with HM’s Tax Office (it was their mistake, but we paid for it, grr). We *never* spent extra money. We literally had McDonald’s 2-3 times a year, and that was the only dining out we did, ever. Our socks had holes in them. We scraped by every month, and were able to handle birthdays and holidays thanks to luck and very careful planning (although there was one year when my husband and I had one small under-£10-gift each and that was it, because it was more important for the girls to have as many presents as possible), but for his company to ask us to front even an extra £10-15 would have been a hardship, especially in the last week of the month (he was paid monthly, on a set date), especially in one of the months where the “month” translated to “five weeks.”

        There were months where that £10-15 was all I had left for the last four or five days, and I was making a big pot of beef barley soup that we were going to eat–in different ways–every night until payday. (Incidentally, if anyone is looking for advice on stretching those groceries…I am your girl.)

        It would have been very easy for his work to look at him and say, “But we pay him a good salary!” and judge. But they didn’t know that HM’s Tax Office had made a mistake and overpaid us despite being given the correct information from us, and that we were now on the hook to the tune of almost £600 per month to pay it back–and they refused to work with us no matter how many times we tried. (This was/is actually a fairly common situation in the UK, btw.) It was hard enough without having people judge us for it or act like we were irresponsible, when actually, we managed our money extremely carefully. (We mentioned once to his mom that we were broke. Her response was to ask, in this “Well, dummies,” sort of voice, “How many times a week do you go to McDonald’s?” Uh…none? Never? That’s a “Mother’s Day and my birthday only,” treat? The fact that she thought it *must* be our irresponsibility rather than the sudden loss of over 1/4 of our monthly income, even though she knew the tax situation, was just…ugh. To get that kind of thing from his work would have been awful.)

        Being broke is not always due to poor money management or spendthrift ways. Sometimes people get hit with bad luck, and that’s life.

        1. Paquita*

          Not to derail the thread but, Beef Barley Soup recipe please!! Please post on the weekend open thread.

        2. MsSolo*

          HMRC are one of the worst creditors – they don’t play by the rules, have the powers well beyond a normal debt, and are really, really bad about admitting when they’re in the wrong. And bonus points to having a fee charging helpline with hour plus long waits on it, so even if you were wrong and you want to pay up you get stung just trying to set up the payment.

          If you’ve got HMRC problems, always trying a get an appointment with a debt charity; they may be in a position to circumvent some of the most egregious elements of the set up to make sure you’re paying what you owe, not what they want.

    5. Dan*

      My company does expense reimbursements *fast*. They also let us submit prepaid expenses immediately upon incurrence, which is super nice.

      The amusing thing about this whole conversation is that I’m of the opinion that one shouldn’t have thousands of dollars sitting in a checking account earning no (or extremely low) interest. Keep a grand in the account, and throw the rest into laddered CD’s. And no, the one off work trip is not a reason to forgo or lose interest on a laddered CD, thankyouverymuch.

  4. Reya*

    This actually doesn’t sound all that unusual to me, nor that big a deal. If Jane was spending money she didn’t have on expensive designer clothing, or had a gambling habit, or was getting into debt, those things might be cause for concern. But concert tickets and flights to see friends…that sounds like someone who isn’t earning a lot, but is prioritising things that she thinks will bring her joy and is willing to cut back on other things to do so. She at least seems to be monitoring her finances and is aware of what she’s spending, which is a good sign.

    You might not agree with her choices, but she’s young, and if she wants to spend her money like that this is a good time to do so, before all the other financial commitments that come with getting older kick in. It won’t do her much harm in the long run to live a little before reality sets in.

    1. caryatis*

      Someone who doesn’t have even $15 saved for unexpected expenses is going to get into debt quite soon, if she hasn’t already.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Maybe. But that’s her choice to make, even if you think it’s a bad one.

        People have different values. She values maintaining relationships with friends and family more than she values financial stability/avoiding debt/etc. It’s different from what you (and the OP) value, but it’s not inherently wrong.

        1. Kate 2*

          But it is wrong if you end up on the street because of it! Without ANY savings, just one little thing has to go awry for you to be in huge financial trouble.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            That’s still your values at play, though. Perhaps she’s fine with the possibility of having to couch surf, or move back home, or whatever her solution would be to losing her apartment. I know it’s hard (for all of us) to see past our own values — but we all make choices that other people think are absurdly foolish or wrong.

            (I choose to commute by car, which is worse in almost every way than taking transit to work — it wastes shared resources, costs me a lot of money, is far more dangerous, etc. — because I value convenience, and time at home, and the flexibility to pop out in the middle of the day, etc.)

            1. STG*

              Yep. Even a thrifty saver can end up homeless when a sudden emergency or major debt comes up. It’s not a guarantee.

            2. Kate 2*

              Sorry, but if you can’t or can barely pay your rent and have no savings, blowing a few hundred bucks on a concert is a *bad* choice. Period. And no, having your fallback to those bad choices be “mooch off of friends” and “move back in with mom and dad” is not responsible or okay.

              Life happens, savings can be spent really quickly in disasters, health issues rear their ugly heads, etc, I get *that*. Heck, I’ve literally been there. But to intentionally spend all your money on fun stuff when you’re barely able to pay rent and buy groceries, planning on using better prepared people who went without fun stuff as a safety net is a really crappy thing to do.

              1. Foxtrot*

                I’m with Kate 2 on this. Once you start pulling other people into your financial plan, they’re allowed to have a say and an opinion. In addition to not being responsible, it’s getting into self-centered territory. Maybe your parents were looking forward to being empty nesters? Maybe you’re friends want their space back?

                1. Linguist Curmudgeon*

                  Good point re: pulling other people in.

                  Boss got asked to cover lunch? Boss is now allowed one sentence worth of opinion on the subject.

              2. Reya*

                We have no idea that she can barely pay her rent. You’re entirely speculating here, and in unfair ways – she might even still be living at home, for all anyone here knows. No one here has any idea of what fallback she might or might not have.

                Example: as soon as I get paid, my rent money gets transferred straight away to another account, along with some contingency money for emergencies. It comes out of there when the rent is due. That money doesn’t get touched until then, under any circumstances. If I’m ever complaining about being out of money, I’m complaining about being out of *disposable income*. Rent, bills, savings etc are not a part of that.

                The OP mentioned her coworker paying for flights and concert tickets, and from there people are accusing her of all sorts of things, from being in debt to not being able to pay for rent to *not being someone who can be trusted with a company credit card*. That seems absurd to me. There’s a wide, wide spectrum between “spends her money in ways I would personally choose not to” and “is a financial disaster”, and I think a lot of people are falling on the wrong side of that here, with a serious lack of evidence to support their position.

            3. Optimistic Prime*

              And the other thing is that if her salary is low enough, saving a little every month may not be enough to prevent her from losing her housing anyway. When I was in my early 20s making a low salary in a high-cost city, the amount I could afford to save after satisfying my needs was small enough that it would take me around a year of absolutely nothing happening to save enough money to cover ONE month’s expenses.

          2. Reya*

            How do you know she doesn’t have any savings, though? Isn’t it just as likely that she is putting money aside for savings, and is simply unable/unwilling to dip into that money to pay for a company lunch?

        2. fposte*

          And we don’t even know that she doesn’t have the $15–it’s $15 she was owed by her company, and she just wanted the company to pay it ASAP. Hell, that may be so she *would* have $15 for an actual emergency.

          1. Amber O.*

            This! There are often times that between paychecks (like right now, during the holidays), my husband and I won’t have much extra in our checking or savings account. While our bills are all paid and our expenses are covered, we treat what little money we have as if we don’t have it- I’ve been asked to purchase things in advance by family and friends with the intention that they’ll pay me back, but I’m always up front about them that I don’t have the money to risk losing in case of an emergency, even if its just temporarily.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Agree, when you use this framework it’s kind of weird that OP wants her to value … fronting the company money for business expenses … over the things that bring her job.

          2. LAI*

            This is an excellent point. When she said she didn’t have the money in her account, maybe she meant that she didn’t have an EXTRA $15 because she already had plans for all of the money in her account. There have been plenty of times when I’ve said I didn’t have the money for something when what I really meant was, I don’t choose to spend that amount of money on that particular thing because I’d rather spend it on something else.

      2. Safetykats*

        I don’t know that we have enough information to conclude that is the case. I had an intern who was notoriously cash-poor, and also had no credit card. I had to front him money for unexpected work lunches on a couple of occasions (and once for gas, when we had to drive more miles than expected for work commitments). He always paid me back promptly. And while I’m sure I could have been judgemental about how he spent his discretionary income, now – 10 years later – he and his wife have paid off all their student loans and own their house and cars free and clear. Turns out he was a Dave Ramsey guy. Turns out when he said he didn’t have money, it was because most of the money I didn’t see being spent was going into savings – which to him meant he didn’t have that money. Turns out he is apparently a way better money manager than the interns that always had cash for a cappuccino. Turns out I’m glad I minded my own business.

      3. Jam Today*

        Maybe she has it, just not handy cash. When I was in my 20s I got into a habit of moving my savings to an online-only bank that takes two business days when transferring back to my checking account. So I “had” money I just didn’t have cash that I could spend on unplanned things.

        I was sell-your-possessions poor for a while in my 20s, but I also splurged on concert tickets because live music was and is one of my greatest joys. I *really* enjoyed those years, and saw a lot of fantastic shows, some of which are brag-worthy now. I don’t regret it.

      4. Globe Trotter*

        A business that puts employees on the spot over a $15 business expense is going to be out of business quite soon, if they’re not already,

      5. Shop Girl*

        You don’t know that. Maybe she budgets to the dollar and $15 before payday just wasn’t there.
        In 2017 United States most people, especially younger adults, live paycheck to paycheck. Salaries have not kept up with expenses and it will only get worse with the new tax legislation.
        Actually as a 60 year old my advice would be: go to the concert, visit your friends, buy the shoes. Life is short.

    2. Amber T*

      Yeah, this. This definitely sounds like a very general complain-about-other-generation’s-priorities letter. Concert tickets and airfare wouldn’t be what you would spend our money on? Cool. We’ve read enough letters how it’s unfair that businesses make their employees put businesses expenses on their personal cards – $15 could be a lunch budget for an entire week or longer if you know how to shop and budget. And I was just complaining to my coworkers that between all of the holiday shopping, driving around, and everything else this season, I’m about to go broke (in reality, no I’m not, but how close/far away I am to that I really am – they have no idea).

      Unless she starts asking for an advance on her paycheck or starts asking you/other employees for loans, chalk it up to a quirk and let it go.

    3. pope suburban*

      I’m inclined to agree. I worked with someone at my last job who was always trying to figure out a side hustle out of concern for her student debt. She lived at home and didn’t have to pay rent, so she spent her money on nice clothes and trips overseas. Which was fine, really, given her situation. She was right out of school and she didn’t have to worry about rent and bills yet. Sure, it was sometimes a little bizarre to hear her fret about being broke after a two-week trip to Japan, but she wasn’t begging anyone for money or trying to do anything unethical with company finances. She was just prioritizing differently than some (most?) people might.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Shortly after I started a former job there was a day I skipped the morning coffee order. I told my coworker I was out of cash, so I was skipping today. She later handed me $40 and asked if that was enough to get me through to pay day.
        It was sweet, but I explained I wasn’t broke, just out of cash. But if I needed some I could go to the bank.

          1. pope suburban*

            Seriously, so generous! Sounds like someone who remembers the way that being an entry-level employee can often be difficult.

            1. Master Bean Counter*

              It was really sweet, but I was above her on the org chart. Which made it a bit bizarre as well. And also made me wonder about how my predecessor acted in the office.

    4. Breda*

      And maybe she’s talking about it a lot because it’s her one indulgence for the month and she’s really excited. Maybe she’s skipped a couple happy hours or nights out with friends to afford the concert, but she’s not telling you that because why would she?

    5. Alton*

      I agree. It may very well be that the employee isn’t managing her money well, and if she doesn’t have a spare $15, it sounds like she’s definitely struggling. But it can also be hard for outsiders to have an accurate perspective on what will and won’t make a substantial difference. Once your basic needs are met, it’s easy to fall into a zone where the money you’d save from cutting out certain things wouldn’t be enough to make a big difference in your day-to-day life. For example, if I got rid of my cellphone plan, it wouldn’t add enough money to my budget to be able to comfortably afford a decent apartment on my own, so downgrading my phone isn’t really necessary.

      The OP may very well be right, but that doesn’t mean they can see the whole picture, either.

    6. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

      I completely agree! I made the same choices when I was in my early 20’s, and honestly I miss being able to have this attitude and freedom. During this time I had really low-paying jobs and pretty much zero disposable income, but I also had no debt, no stress and no worries. I can’t overemphasize how not her boss’s business this is!

    7. Susanne*

      “You might not agree with her choices, but she’s young, and if she wants to spend her money like that this is a good time to do so, before all the other financial commitments that come with getting older kick in. It won’t do her much harm in the long run to live a little before reality sets in.”

      I think you’ve got it all wrong with respect to the time value of money. No one is saying she should never go visit friends, but the time value of money means that now — before she has a house, children, whatever — is precisely the time she should be saving for the future. It’s those who don’t understand money who think that it’s “ok to wait til tomorrow to save.” At least do your company match in a 401K – don’t turn down free money!

      1. Frugal Bagel*

        You just as easily say it’s those who don’t understand the time commitments of young kids, the unpredictability of disability, and mortality who think it’s “ok to wait til tomorrow to travel.”

      2. Reya*

        You’ve no idea that she’s not doing that though, have you? She could be paying into a company pension scheme, putting money aside into a savings account AND spending money on flights/concert tickets. “I don’t have any more money this week” doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s spent it all – just that it’s budgeted elsewhere.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          As others have said, there are all sorts of reasons Jane might not have $15 for a business lunch. Maybe the lunch came up at the last minute, after she got a bill for something she thought her health insurance would cover. Or the hat got passed around for Lucetta, who’s in the hospital. Or the price of a transit pass went up.

  5. caryatis*

    I think the boss should be able to address it when it comes to the job-related need for Jane to incur business expenses that will later be reimbursed. We’re not talking about paying for a $1000 business trip–she needs to ensure that she has enough funds to pay for the little stuff like a lunch without begging for money from colleagues or clients.

      1. Antilles*

        First off, given that the employee has shown she can’t manage her own finances, OP would be a bad manager to give this employee a company credit card on an open-ended basis. Plenty of people treat other people’s money better than their own so it’s possible this isn’t an issue…but enough bad-with-money people are equally careless with other people’s money (or even more so!) that it’d be a really iffy thing for OP to do.
        Secondly, you shouldn’t need to borrow a company credit card or beg for money to pay for a small $15 charge. There are just way too many random situations where such a small amount can come up to be able to pre-plan for all of them. What if you’re at a client meeting in the morning and it runs late and the client suggests lunch? What if you’re at a job site and realize that you’re short on some minor supplies? What if the client’s office is downtown and you have to park in the paid lot next door? And so on.

        1. High Score!*

          But it’s not an employees obligation to pay for business expenses so something should be worked out so she doesn’t have to. Employees loaning employers money for business expenses had always seemed wrong to me.

          1. H.C.*

            I don’t know about always; what about driving to work-related events? It would seem silly to have to calculate every trip ahead of time & get your mileage reimbursement before even hitting the road (and heaven forbid your trip gets detoured because of traffic/closures/etc.)

            1. Doreen*

              I have an agency card, and there are plenty of expenses where it just isn’t practical to use a card. When I travel to one office, I take Amtrak and then a cab. The cabs don’t take credit cards, and although I assume they have Uber or Lyft in that city, I would then have to wait for the ride to get there when there are 15 or 20 cabs already there waiting for the train. Or the parking lot near another office that costs $7 to park for the day, but doesn’t take credit cards. Maybe I could get a cash advance for those things, but I can guarantee it would be twice as much paperwork – I’d have to do one set to get the $7 advance and still do the travel voucher to account for it.

            2. KellyK*

              That’s a little different, because you’d be putting gas in your car anyway. If it’s a long enough trip, it might affect when you fill up, but there’s not really a specific purchase that’s work-related.

              And, if it’s a long enough trip to empty your gas tank, it actually would be reasonable to ask for at least a partial advance.

        2. pope suburban*

          I’m gonna push back on this a little bit. The employee is young and figuring out money management. We know that. But they haven’t given any indication that they could not be trusted with company money, either. I would absolutely make clear to someone, on receipt of a company card, what is and is not okay to be purchased, but I would do that for anyone, on the strength of many letters I’ve read at this very blog, where people genuinely did not know the limits and made missteps. I would not immediately suspect lower-paid employees of being more prone to abuse company finances. I was paid In-N-Out burger money to be a bookkeeper for three years, and I assure you, not once was I even tempted to use company finances for myself. Not even when my boss was expecting me to cover expenses and get reimbursed (Which I would absolutely not do if it was over maybe $20, on a number of principles). I don’t feel that I’m that far out of the norm, either, though of course one can never know. This just feels like a leap, especially since the letter does not mention this employee showing problems with professional boundaries, or ethical behavior around finances.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yep, I was terrible with my money when I was young in that I spent money without being careful or budgeting and was often close to $0 in my bank account near payday, but I would have never ever ever spent company money on something personal, and I would have been careful in spending the company’s money even on company stuff–no dining at a fancy restaurant for a business lunch or upgrading my room at a hotel for work travel.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          There’s actually no indication that she “can’t manage” her finances. She’s just making choices that the OP doesn’t like.

          And it’s really not your business whether an employee “should” need to use a credit card or company card.

          That being said, it’s reasonable that not all employees should have a company card. But petty cash can solve the same problem.

          1. JM60*

            “There’s actually no indication that she “can’t manage” her finances.”

            While we may not have enough information to definitively say that she’s mismanaging her finances, the OP says that “She barely had gas money to get through the week.” That’s a strong, although not definitive, indication that she’s probably mismanaging her finances. Regardless, employees shouldn’t have to front their employers money, and I agree with most here that the OP should refrain from trying to confront the employee about her management of her finances.

        4. Gaia*

          Okay no. I am good with money but I don’t pay for business lunches and then get reimbursed. Because my company is also good with money. At Old Job I didn’t have a company card so we had petty cash and if I was taking a client out to lunch I got petty cash, petty cash went in my account and I took the client out (or if it was last minute, I paid with cash).

          Employees should not have to shoulder business expenses even for a short period of time. Especially low earning employees as is this one.

        5. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

          The employee hasn’t shown she can’t manage her finances. The only seeming example of this OP gave was this:

          “…she recently asked me to cover her $15 work lunch (that would have been reimbursed by our company) because she didn’t have enough money in her account.”

          WORK lunch. Not some take out she couldn’t afford. This was something work required of her, not something frivolous she was throwing money away on.

          To all your other claims: She’s in her early 20’s, fresh out of grad school, and works a job OP admits pays really poorly. It’s perfectly reasonable she wouldn’t be able to sporadically spend $15 or more on work-related functions. Even now, in my 30’s, I would NEVER spend more than $10 on lunch during the work week. That’s insane!

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            And honestly, the “I don’t have enough money in my account” could have been a misdirection or a white lie because she didn’t want to pay for a work lunch out of her pocket and wait for a reimbursement. Or it could be that she had money but it was all already earmarked for other things. My parents – especially my mom – used to say “I don’t have any money” a lot when really what she meant was “All the money I currently have is earmarked for other stuff.”

        6. Amy S*

          I think that could be solved with a simple training on “here’s what the company card gets used for.” As others have said, employee shouldn’t have to front expenses. If they cant get a card, use petty cash. I’ve used my bosses card for things and brought receipts. Manager would be a bad manager for judging employee on this.

        7. Louise*

          Wow, this is really judgemental. It’s not up to us what constitutes a “small” charge for anyone else, and not being able to afford a $15 lunch is not a moral failing on behalf of the employee. Penalizing someone professionally (eg. not giving them access to a company card) because you don’t agree with how they’re spending their personal money (because let’s be honest, the ONLY way for us to truly know if this employee is bad with money would be if we had her bank statements) is really classist. We shouldn’t hold people back from job opportunities because they’re struggling financially or because they have different financial priorities.

      2. SarahKay*

        Definitely! My money is mine to budget with. It’s not reasonable for my business to expect me to pay for a business lunch with my own money, regardless of whether that lunch is £3, £30, or £300.

        I’m actually very grateful to AAM for similar discussions, as it’s given me the background information and confidence to tell other people in the leadership team here that “No, it’s not acceptable to ask someone if they mind paying up front and claiming it back. We don’t know what they may *need* to spend their money on, let alone what they may want to spend it on – and it’s none of our business either.” Get them a company credit card, or arrange for someone who already has a company card to pay.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      If she consistently chooses to ask colleagues for money, that’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t sound like that’s developed as a pattern, though, as it’s only happened once.

      I don’t think it’s reasonable for the OP to have this conversation when it isn’t currently having any impact on the employee’s work. If she asks for help, or makes a pattern out of asking for money, that’s an inroad to the conversation. Otherwise, it’s the employee’s prerogative to spend money however she chooses.

      1. SarahKay*

        It’s worth noting that the one time she asked her colleagues for money, she was asking her manager, and it was to cover a work expense.
        I would say if OP wants to help, then develop a policy of cash advances and/or company credit cards for all employees. Why on earth should an employee have to loan a business money? Effectively that’s what the employee was being asked to do, and I’m very grateful that I’ve never worked in a company that would expect it of me.

        1. Hildegard Von Bingen*

          Totally agree. My employer pays ME. I do not pay THEM. That’s how it’s supposed to work. You, the employer, want me to attend a fee-based business event? Fine. You pay for it. What is it with some employers, expecting their employees to front them money? That’s outrageous. (And, yes, I know it’s not that uncommon. But it’s still outrageous.)

    2. LAI*

      Why should she need to ensure she has enough funds to pay for work expenses? Isn’t that the company’s job? I am very financially conservative and have a strict monthly budget, but my budget doesn’t account at all for needing to pay for work expenses.

  6. Lumen*

    Hi OP! I love personal finance. I also love boundaries! I think Alison’s answer was on point, so I won’t reiterate any of that here, but I did want to bring up two thoughts I had.

    It’s possible that some of Jane’s apparent overspending is being covered in part of full by family, significant others, etc. Maybe a large portion of her take-home pay is going to debt repayment, which makes her ‘living wage’ less livable. From what you describe it does sound like some of the problem is that Jane just hasn’t learned to manage her money yet, but there are so many variables that she might not be bringing up in casual conversation. It’s all the more reason to keep it in the Not Your Business box.

    However, speaking of learning to manage one’s money: that really is a LEARNED skill. I was lucky enough to take at least a couple of personal finance seminars in college, and I was the primary breadwinner and budgeter right out of college. A zillion years later and I am still learning, because a lot about finance is mysterious and arcane…until you understand it. I am still learning. My friend who makes 5 times what I do is still learning.

    This depends on your resources and company size, but would it be possible to arrange for your employees (as a group, and voluntarily) to access a personal finance webinar, or have someone come in to give a presentation and answer questions? I did not emerge fully formed as the type of person who knows where literally every penny of her money is on a twice-weekly basis – I was the kid who couldn’t save up enough allowance to do more than buy some gum or a pretty notebook. If your company offers a 401k, does the company who manages the funds offer such educational resources? My company’s fund management firm does.

    You might be able to offer something like this widely, but then it would be more appropriate from a mentorship standpoint to encourage Jane to join in, especially because you know that so many new grads and grad students are burdened with student loan debt while they are trying to establish themselves financially. Maybe you could provide the opportunity for her to learn about personal finance (and the ever-important Saving For Retirement) without directly addressing HER personal finances.

    1. Ms Mad Scientist*

      I came here to say what was in the second paragraph: maybe some of Jane’s big purchases are being paid for in part by someone else (parents or SO).

      There’s also the possibility she’s helping out her family. If a parent has been unemployed for a while or has racked up some debt, maybe she wants to give them a hand.

      1. Lumen*

        Exactly. And because Money Is Emotional, it’s not necessarily something people want to bring up at work.

      2. K.*

        I was thinking the same thing re: parents possibly subsidizing her. My dad paid for me to go to an out-of-state family wedding when I was in my early 20s – I made enough to live on but didn’t have much for luxuries, and the plane ticket and hotel were a stretch for me. He was going to the wedding too, so he paid for my ticket. I didn’t see that money – he bought my ticket when he bought his, so it didn’t change what my bank account looked like at all.

    2. myswtghst*

      This is pretty much everything I was thinking! It can be easy to pass judgement from the outside and assume someone is managing their money poorly without ever realizing you don’t have the full picture. Your second paragraph gives some great examples of why it’s important for LW not to butt in, and to try to curb some of those assumptions so they don’t color LW’s perceptions of and interactions with Jane.

      I really like the idea of encouraging financial wellness initiatives for the whole organization, if it’s something the LW can reasonably do. Whether or not Jane is poorly managing her money, it’s something loads of young people (and not-so-young people, honestly) struggle with, and could be really beneficial for everyone. Plus, it’s a lot easier as a mentor to say “hey, this workshop sounds great, will you attend with me?” than to try to directly address something as touchy as personal finances.

    3. AKchic*

      Finance is such a learned skill, but you are completely correct that boundaries are also a big thing. I think boundaries are going to be a bigger “thing” than teaching your coworker financial management. She has other people in her life and other resources to lean on for financial management and skills learning. She only has you and a few selected others for coworkers and learning appropriate workplace boundaries right now. I think that is more important for you to model right now, not financial planning education.

      1. Lumen*

        That is a REALLY good point and one I hadn’t thought of. Workplace appropriate boundaries are also a learned skill, and one that people struggle to learn even more than personal finance (there are fewer easily-accessible resources for learning how to navigate workplaces).

    4. Red 5*

      “Maybe a large portion of her take-home pay is going to debt repayment, which makes her ‘living wage’ less livable.”

      One of my first jobs out of college, when I was paying off my student loans, I made a comment about being broke or not being able to buy something and my supervisor said “no offense, but how are you broke? I know how much you get paid…”

      I was one of the highest paid employees at my level, but that was because of my education which was why I was drowning in student loan payments and couldn’t afford groceries or my heating bill. Well, that and the credit card debt I had racked up from stupid spending habits in college. But on paper I didn’t just make a living wage, for where I lived I was making good money. Almost none of that stayed in my bank account.

      And yes, because I was young, I was also still spending stupidly. I sorted myself out eventually.

      More or less.

  7. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    I’m just curious about how to approach the work related expense for reimbursement later – if it means she cannot fulfill a work related function, surely that warrants some intervention, but it isn’t really performance based feedback? Or am I missing something?

    Personally, I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable asking my boss for funds out of their personal account, even if the company was paying them back later.

    1. Ashley*

      I always offer to employees that are doing something out of the norm and may need to cover something for the day. A co-worker has a different approach and an employee almost quit when they wouldn’t help them cover a $100 weekly expense. (The remimbursemebt would be done weekly but then you are out $100 for a month or more because it was reoccurring.)

      I like the idea of lunch and learns on financial topics as a way to help all employees who may be struggling with budgets.

    2. Amy*

      How many roles really require the employee having cash on hand to front for the organization’s costs and get reimbursed later? I’ve mostly seen this come up in travel heavy roles, and in those cases, the company usually offers some way to work around this scenario–e.g. a company card (with clear rules on what can/cannot be put on it), or making travel advances available upon request. Those mechanisms could easily be applied to non-travel roles that regularly need to spend money that will later be reimbursed to fulfill job requirements.

      If the ‘need’ is too infrequent to be worth setting up that kind of alternative, I would argue that perhaps it’s not actually a normal part of that employee’s job duties, and therefore maybe they shouldn’t be expected to prepare for it. It would be weird to expect employees to prepare for a possibility that the employer themselves decided wasn’t worth preparing anything for.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        This. This is a far better way of wording my question. I couldn’t quite follow why OP had to lend money for a work expense, since surely the company would’ve had the necessary policies in place already. Especially for an entry-level position?

    3. Globe Trotter*

      I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting employees on the spot over $15. Why is it ok to ask rank-and-file employees to give their employer a free loan, but the idea of asking a superior to cover the (again, work-related) expense is somehow unacceptable?

    4. Louise*

      I think the idea that an employee should be penalized because they can’t afford to pay for a business expense (even if it will be reimbursed) is pretty classist and unfair, and I’m surprised it’s so pervasive. What people have in their personal accounts in none of their employer’s business. If an employee is making a lot of purchases for the business, they should have access to a company card.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I didn’t say penalise. I particularly mentioned intervention – I have been involved in discussions with/about trainees who were having personal problems that were affecting their work. I would put financial issues into the same category as personal problems – if it interfers with your ability to do the job you are being paid to do, it is the company’s business. If it has no impact on your work, then I agree the company should butt out.

        1. Louise*

          I just don’t think that fronting money for your employer should be part of someone’s role, unless you’re literally an investor. And debt and money have such a weird moral connotation (if you’re poor, it’s because you’ve done something Bad and Wrong and should Feel Bad About It) that I think any sort of conversation would come across as judgmental and out of place. I think the only appropriate intervention would be to get the employee a company credit card so that she’s not put in the position of fronting a business expense that she can’t afford.

        2. Amy*

          Sometimes there’s not really a good way for intervention to happen without penalizing the employee, though.

          I mean, maybe she’s spending all her cash on frivolities and it would be easy to cut back if someone just pointed it out. (I don’t think a person’s employer should generally have a say in how they manage their personal finances, but other people have discussed that side of things, so I won’t say more on it here.)

          But what about if the employee here were spending her money on e.g. student loans? Medical debt or other health-related costs? A plane ticket to see a friend…because they had surgery and needed a hand to function while they recovered? Child support? A messy divorce? A lot of reasons people have financial issues are much more difficult to fix than just choosing to spend less, and many are personal enough that people may not be comfortable discussing them with their bosses (and nor are the details of why they’re having financial difficulties really any of their bosses’ business).

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘intervention’ here, but I can’t think of any way a boss could say “Shape up your finances, you need to have money accessible for our business use at all times” and have it not be a potential penalty for the employee. That’s just….not a feasible thing for a lot of people to do, and it’s also not part of most people’s job description. Companies should be prepared to pay their own business expenses, and create policies that make it feasible for business expenses to be handled regardless of any employee’s personal finances. That’s just part of doing business.

  8. Anlyn*

    Even if you were family and/or a friend and tried to talk to Jane about her finances, she may not listen. It took me getting into 10K worth of debt and paying off consolidation loans before I finally got a handle on mine. As her boss, it definitely won’t go over well.

    Though I would get tired of hearing her talk about it; not because of her priorities, but because it simply gets tiring hearing the same thing over and over. I’m not sure what you can do about that other than walk away or change the subject.

    1. Lumen*

      Same. While reading this I thought about LastJob and my coworkers who I KNEW were not making a reasonable wage, and yet they were flying off to Thailand and Berlin for vacations. I could not even take a once-a-year trip to see my family without incurring credit card debt, and I was both baffled by their choices and kind of resentful. It took a lot of energy for me to remind myself that it was NONE OF MY BUSINESS and that I didn’t know the whole story.

      Sidebar: Glad to hear your finances are more on track. I’m finally paying down my own five-figure debts. It feels great, but you’re right: there are points in a person’s life when they won’t or can’t hear it.

      1. Anlyn*

        Thanks! I still struggle with savings–that yarn ain’t going to buy itself, you know–but I’ve gotten much better over time, and recently was able to make some major improvements on my house. Good luck on paying down your debts!

        1. Red 5*

          Yarn is my new weakness, so I feel you so much on that one. I resisted going to the yarn store today though, even though I was driving right past it!

          Whenever I hear people talking about the things they are buying/doing that I can’t do because of finances, I just remember that their financial picture probably isn’t as rosy as they’re acting like it is. There are a lot of people who are in a lot more debt than you’d know from the way they’re still spending money.

  9. anon24*

    I’ve worked for a business that had financial counseling as part of the EAP. In a case like that, were the employee to complain about not having funds, would it be out of line for the boss to say, “you know, you complain about that a lot. Did you know we offer financial counseling as part of our EAP” and then don’t mention it again???

    1. ggg*

      I think anything in the context of taking advantage of what the company offers (expense reimbursement, EAP, 401K or similar, health savings plans) is fair game to mention once.

    2. Katelyn*

      I was scanning the comments to see if this was mentioned. I have taken advantage of my company’s EAP for a few things, one of which was financial counseling and I found it super helpful in getting back on top of things at a time where I didn’t seem to have control over many aspects of my life (family illnesses).

    3. Struck By Lightning*

      I was coming to say the same thing…

      I got around a similar situation at work by doing a presentation on EVERYTHING our EAP program offers at an all employee meeting. Ours is really very good…it has everything from mental health counseling to financial planning and even legal aid. I emphasized that it was completely confidential…no one in the agency would know you had called even HR…and that up to 8 sessions for each employee were paid for each year so there was no point letting them go to waste.

      I know a few people went ahead and utilized it for things they had been casually thinking about finding for themselves and didn’t know EAP included. I’m sure others did as well but didn’t tell me (no need…some people did just to thank me for doing the presentation).

      It was a good way to not single anyone out or indicate that I thought someone in particular could really use some therapy to help deal with some family stress!

    4. Gaia*

      I wouldn’t use those words because it sounds….judgy? I might (might might might might) say

      “You know, if you’re interested in learning some new tools for financial management we have finance counseling through our EAP”

      And then never mention it again. Ever.

      1. Amy*

        I like this phrasing a lot better. The emphasis on ‘this is available’ rather than ‘you have a problem’ is good, especially around a sensitive topic like personal finance.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Mention confidentiality, too. Jane may be more willing to use EAP services because her anonymity will be protected.

    5. Detached Elemental*


      Our EAP offers a range of services like financial counselling, legal advice, and nutrition advice.

      If the OP’s program is similar, I think it’s reasonable for her to make a one off suggestion so that the employee is aware.

  10. Guitar Hero*

    If your organization always has a group of first-professional-gig workers, maybe a few optional “life skills” workshops over the course of the year would be welcome–a talk on basic budgeting could go hand in hand with an overview of retirement/investment options that the company offers or something like that. When I was starting out, I had a day of “etiquette” training through my job. Granted it was a very conservative industry so we learned dress code staples and went out to a fancy restaurant to learn about forks.

    Although, I often see credit card debt/being broke glamorized on social media so maybe it’s just the thing to do these days. Some lessons are only learned the hard way.

    1. Antilles*

      This is a good idea and I was thinking the same thing. This lets you try to get the message across without it coming off like any sort of reprimand or complaint.
      Although, I often see credit card debt/being broke glamorized on social media so maybe it’s just the thing to do these days.
      Nah, that’s not a social media thing, that’s a *human* thing. Being proud of spending beyond your means dates back millennia…probably all the way back to a foolish caveman trading his day’s kill for a shiny stone and then not having food the next day.

      1. Lumen*

        And sadly, some ‘finance gurus’ have ADVOCATED for going into massive credit card debt early in one’s career with this silly, baseless assumption that you’ll make it all back! It’ll be fine! Like recessions and layoffs and economic crashes don’t happen…

        1. Antilles*

          Wow. Even if you want to say you’re in a career where recessions/layoffs/furloughs/crashes would never be an issue*, it’s STILL bad advice because when you’re young is the best time to save due to the power of compound interest. Also, early in your career is usually when you have the most disposable income due to the lack of kids, mortgage, major health problems, etc.
          *If so, please let the rest of us know know what this career is and how to enter that field.

    2. e*

      I work in finance, and at my first job, the head of our organization gave a casual personal finance seminar that basically changed my life. Most places would probably want to go about it a little differently (not all C-level executives have a passion for personal finance education), but setting up a lunch and learn or something similar could be extremely valuable for a number of new hires. No one taught me this stuff in school!

    3. Tap Tap Jazz*

      I would kind of love a work seminar about forks. I would be more inclined to call them dinglehoppers and start combing my hair.

    4. Kate 2*

      Yeah, I honestly can’t believe some of the comments here normalizing bad choices. Sorry, but if you can’t or can barely pay your rent and have no savings, blowing a few hundred bucks on a concert is a *bad* choice. Period. And no, having your fallback to those bad choices be “mooch off of friends” and “move back in with mom and dad” is not responsible or okay.

      Life happens, savings can be spent really quickly in disasters, health issues rear their ugly heads, etc, I get *that*. Heck, I’ve literally been there. But to intentionally spend all your money on fun stuff when you’re barely able to pay rent and buy groceries, planning on using better prepared people who went without fun stuff as a safety net is a really crappy thing to do.

  11. aebhel*

    All of this, OP. Even if you weren’t Jane’s boss, giving unsolicited financial advice to someone you’re not extremely close to (and even people you are) is generally a bad idea. The boss/mentor relationship just adds an extra level of nope.

    (Also, you should probably rethink expecting very low-wage entry-level employees to front business expenses as a matter of course. Even people who are responsible with their money may not have $15 to spare on a given day).

  12. Phoenix Programmer*

    Ugh my mother in law is like this. Constantly complains about being broke and stiffs get some and me when we go out to eat together. Yet is constantly shopping, going to concerts, and purchasing huge expensive trips.

    I would just ignore her complaining honestly.

  13. mf*

    I would not offer her advice or discuss her personal finances, but I would mention this to her next time she talks about struggling to make ends meet: “there will be plenty of other times that we’ll expect her to take on an expense and be reimbursed later.”

    Don’t make it about her personal finances, and be clear that you really don’t care how she spends her money. You just want her to know that this is normal in your field/place of business so she’s prepared in the future.

    1. Naruto*

      It shouldn’t be, though. The company should have in place procedures enabling it to pay for business expenses at the outset, rather than expense reimbursements to employees who have to front the costs. If you want to help the employee, OP, talk to the company about that.

  14. CatCat*

    I’d only address the work-related aspects if there are norms/”how things are done” there that are problematic and otherwise refer her to an EAP, if you have one, just like you might for anything else someone was struggling with and might benefit from the EAP.

    It sounds like to me that Jane is asking Boss to pay her out of Boss’ pocket. Am I misreading that? That wouldn’t fly anywhere I’ve worked.

    “Jane, at Company, you’re expected to be able to cover [expense] and get reimbursed. [Exceptions for asking for an advance if that is available, like for large travel expenses]. I won’t be able to cover those expenses out of my pocket going forward. I will, of course, approve appropriate expense claims quickly. You’ve mentioned a couple times about some financial challenges. The company employee assistance program can help you with navigating that kind of thing. Do you have information about the EAP?” And if she doesn’t, give her the info on how to access the benefit.

    I agree with others that you don’t want to tell her how to manage her money, but pointing out the EAP seems appropriate.

    1. LAI*

      Why is it reasonable to expect Jane to be able to cover work expenses out of pocket, but it’s not reasonable to expect her boss to be able to cover those exact same work expenses out of pocket?

      1. CatCat*

        Huh? I am talking about norms. If it is not normal at this company to ask your boss to cover your reimbursable lunches (and I have never worked anywhere where that would be normal) then Jane needs to be educated about the norms or it will keep happening and it will not reflect well on Jane or her boss.

        Whether the whole system of reimbursement is reasonable is a separate issue from what the workplace norms are here. If OP is in a position to push back on how the company handles reimbursements (hey, how about company credit cards for client lunches), that’s certainly admirable, but that doesn’t mean OP has to create a new system of reimbursing employees from her own wallet.

        I’d be hard-pressed to say that Jane being able to cover a $15 reimbursable expense on her own is “unreasonable” as described in OP’s letter. But even if you don’t think it’s reasonable (and I am sure people can argue all day about what is and is not reasonable), if it’s normal, the boss should educate Jane about the workplace norms and direct her to appropriate resources.

        1. Amy*

          Everywhere I’ve worked that had business meals as a thing, it was very normal for one person to cover it for the group. If the manager was there, they would usually do so by default. If they weren’t, someone who had space on their credit card and wanted the points would cover it. Either way, the person who covered it would get reimbursed for the whole group.

          Maybe this is an industry thing or a company culture thing, but I definitely don’t think that having someone cover business meals for the group is against average workplace norms.

  15. ManagerOfMany*

    “there will be plenty of other times that we’ll expect her to take on an expense and be reimbursed later.”

    Companies should stop doing this is not something that can’t be fixed. My last employer insured everyone had a company credit card and even sponsored it for those who may have questionable credit. There was no need to use your own cash or credit card to make company purchases.

    1. aebhel*

      This. My spouse had a job where he was expected to use his own money for company purchases all the time, and it would always take forever for his employer to get around to paying him back. $15 here, $25 there doesn’t seem like a lot, but when it was constant, we ended up with his employer always owing us $100-$200 dollars, which was not money we could afford to spare. All because his employer couldn’t be bothered to set up purchase cards.

    2. FD*

      Yeah, I’m kind of with you here. While I personally don’t mind floating things on my credit card within reason (I get rewards), I don’t think it’s reasonable for companies to expect their employees to float them short-term loans. Get company credit cards or issue petty cash in advance, if this is coming up.

    3. Mints*

      Yep, petty cash or put it on whoever has a company card. Floating the company lunches shouldn’t be a work requirement

    4. rawr*

      something I always remind myself of is, I can’t change other peoples actions, but I can change my own. OP can not and should not get involved in her ee’s actions. But! She can put lunches on a company card, she can cash advance from business petty cash, heck she can give more heads up about lunches (not a total solution, but it may help in the interim). If there are no credit card/cash advance options op, maybe ask yourself why and talk to the people who can help make a change.

  16. Master Bean Counter*

    Jane is just doing what 20-somethings do. I remember those days when I could barely buy a full tank of gas, but I could always scrape together the money for concert tickets. Learning to budget is something that you can’t force on people. She’ll figure it out eventually.

    1. Gen*

      I once had to speak to someone who used payday loans to cover the cost of payday loans that he’d taken out to cover the cost of OTHER payday loans. I think it went four or five companies deep at least. We only found out about this when we gave him his first pay check and he asked for an advance on the next one in the same breath so he could afford a monthly train ticket. His manager gave him one and he came in the next day without a train ticket but with a life sized light-up plastic sheep. That was the point that ‘complaining that can be ignored’ turned into monumental lack of judgement. In the end it turned out he hadn’t revealed the debts in his security checks because he didn’t think a loan was a debt. He had to be let go and the manager had to reclaim the advance… well they tried to, pridictably he didn’t have the funds

      1. Big Fat Meanie*

        “His manager gave him one and he came in the next day without a train ticket but with a life sized light-up plastic sheep”

        Jesus, I had to re-read that sentence to make sure I was reading it right! I’ve made some silly purchases in my day, but doing it after getting an advance you supposedly needed for a train ticket, right in front of the person who helped you out? That’s bold, man. Bold and obnoxious.

        1. Gen*

          Having googled around I think it was originally part of a nativity and either he got ripped off or the rest of his money vanished somewhere else cos they’re surprising cheap. Anyway , yeah after that “I can’t afford £15 for a business expense because I spent my wages on myself” is so tame I probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, mostly because I never want to get involved in wierd drama again!

  17. HS Teacher*

    It’s a shame we have moved away from teaching personal finance as part of the regular school curriculum. I teach a class in it as my seminar, and it’s wildly popular with the students. When I first proposed teaching it, I was told the students wouldn’t be interested. I’m glad I insisted on doing it. My students tell me no one talks to them about credit, and banking, and insurance, and stocks, etc.

    We do young people a disservice by sending them out into the world without any financial education. That being said, OP should not address this with the employee, but I would ask the employee to stop sharing her personal financial information with me if I were the OP. I also would not have fronted her the lunch money because I don’t loan money to coworkers as a rule.

    1. TeacherNerd*

      Indeed. It’s part of my high school’s regular curriculum, but I don’t know how widespread the class is in my part of the country.

      1. HS Teacher*

        I don’t think it’s very widespread at all. At my school, it’s being offered as an elective. I think it should be required as part of the curriculum, so good on your school for doing that.

      2. STG*

        I wish it was offered in my high school! Coming from a background in poverty and zero concept of budgeting, credit or savings allowed me to get myself into quite a bit of debt once I hit 18.

        It was a tough lesson to learn and I’m better for having lived through it. I’d much rather have learned some of the basics before then though.

    2. Globe Trotter*

      You’re making employees share their personal financial info by forcing them to cover business expenses from their personal finances and provide their employer with an interest-free loan.

    3. Drama Mama*

      It is a requirement at my kid’s school. But it’s a lousy, crappy class that does NOTHING to help them.
      My dd is taking it online, and her most recent assignment was a worksheet on how to write checks at the grocery store. She had to fill out ten checks. That was the entire unit on checking accounts. How to use/keep track of debit cards? Not addressed at all. What happens if you have insufficient funds? Not addressed. Choosing the best account for you? Nope.
      Looking at the syllabus, they don’t even TOUCH online banking, loan terms, avoiding identity theft, or credit scores.
      It’s not enough to have a financial literacy class, it has to be a USEFUL, not stuck in the 1980s class!

      1. Foxtrot*

        I had a checking account/budgeting class way back in 5th grade. We earned income each week, paid rent for our desks, and then could write checks for things we wanted throughout the semester. There was candy, little toys, and so on, but the main prize was an all-you-can eat pizza and ice cream party on the last day of school. The key was that it was impossible to get into the pizza party without saving a little each week. The prices of everything were posted in class since day 1 so everyone knew what to expect and what to budget.
        There was one poor kid who spent all his money on candy throughout the year and realized in like the 2nd to last week he couldn’t go to the pizza party. When he went to the teacher, she basically looked at him in front of the whole class and said “how’s that my problem?” In retrospect, it was kind of a brutal thing to do to a 10 year old. He really didn’t get to go to the pizza party. But I guess it’s better to learn the lesson in a low stakes ice cream party than not make rent one month and get evicted?
        I’m still not good at picking accounts and I cry at the thought of knowing how to invest money. But every kid from my 5th grade class is really good at least at spending less than they earn.

    4. Big Fat Meanie*

      Truth, I only know about that stuff because my mom used to work at a big financial services company so she knew a lot about it. I still go to her with questions about that stuff!

    5. Katie the Fed*

      I take all of my new hires and explain to them our retirement system and encourage them to contribute enough to get at least the government match. I figure it might be the only time someone’s talked to them about it.

    6. MsSolo*

      My friend is a maths teacher, and when he students found out he was buying a house they derailed the lesson because they wanted to know how that worked. They’d studied compound interest relatively recently, but actually explaining how it worked in a real life example and deposits and surveying and the rest of it meant they actually understood why they’d been taught it.

  18. Lizard*

    I think the only possible approach would be to do something like organizing a workshop on financial planning for all the entry-level folks, or for strategically mentioning resources if the topic comes up, like “Oh, yeah, when I was getting started I really liked Steve Martin’s book ‘Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford,’ it really helped me, plus it’s only one page long.” (But, you know, with actual books or websites).

    One of the doctors I work with had kind of a Come-To-Jesus experience with Dave Ramsay and got copies of Total Money Makeover for the whole office staff, which I felt was riiight on the border of acceptable, but everyone seemed to feel that it was basically okay since 1) she gave copies to everyone and 2) she was open about how it helped her get a better handle on her money.

    1. KC without the sunshine band*

      Yep. I have done the Dave Ramsey class and it was revolutionary. I encourage everyone I know to take it including the people I work for and who work for me. It’s called Financial Peace University. Check it out online and finda class near you.

      Anytime someone fusses about their car payment or not having any money, I’ll say, “Yeah, I used to feel that way. Until I learned what they don’t teach you in school. And here’s where I learned it.” The fact that I haven’t had a car payment in at least 10 years boggles people’s minds.

      I am constantly singing the praises of Financial Peace… and StitchFix. :-)

      1. Frugal Bagel*

        I think someone mentioned upthread that Dave Ramsey can mix finance with religion (there is scripture quoted in his books, etc.), so most secular companies might want to go with a different “brand.” But yeah, it would be cool if an optional work benefit was a good PF class or software.

  19. k.k*

    I would be very not happy if a boss tried to talk to me about my personal finances. The conversation would make me really edgy and sour the working relationship. Will boss judge me if I wear a new top to work? Should I avoid mentioning my weekend plans in cases judgey-pants thinks they’re too much? Am I not getting a bonus because boss thinks I’ll waste the money?

    1. Grapey*

      Yes but I assume you’re not the type of person that would be complaining about money in front of your boss, either.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      I remember when I was a young woman, I could not leave my apartment without older people giving me a lecture on what I needed to do differently. In hindsight, it was ridiculous. But I had never known it any different, and assumed everyone gets condescended to day and night, and other people are just better at shutting it down. (Good news, young ladies: it drops off as you get older.) It got to a point where I didn’t want to leave my apartment or interact with anyone, because they were all so judgmental.

      “You should buy the bigger/smaller box of cereal.” “You don’t want a cat, you’d be better off with a dog.” “You need to come out of your shell.” (OMG SO MUCH OF THIS.) “Don’t waste your time on workout regime X, do more Y instead.” One time, I admittedly procrastinated sending a birthday gift to my nephew. Then I wanted it express-shipped, and the employee nearly refused to do it, because he felt he knew better than I did whether it was “worth it” to express-ship presents to a young child. “They don’t even know what day it is! It’s not worth it!” I had to really get in his face that “it’s my money, and obviously it’s worth it to me. So can you do it or not?”

      Anyway, I would stay away from giving young women unsolicited advice. They get so, so, so much of it already. She’ll figure it out on her own, or she won’t, or she was smarter than you thought all along.

  20. 5 Leaf Clover*

    When I was Jane’s age, I saved assiduously. A certain chunk of every (small) paycheck went into savings, no matter what. As a result, I frequently didn’t have $15 dollars for lunch, because my spending budget was so small. It would have been totally normal for me to worry about making gas payments. And yes, I sometimes treated myself to something important to me, like plane or concert tickets. That’s the whole point of the meager budget! Anyway just offering my personal experience as an example of how something that looks like this can actually mean the person is budgeting responsibly.

    1. santa baby*

      er, but you wouldn’t borrow money from your boss in this situation, would you?

      for me, the thing that makes this sound bad is the fact that jane had to ask her boss for $15– no matter what kind of extenuating circumstances or differing priorities she has, that’s bad news bears. (not that there’s much OP can do about it, of course)

      1. Havarti*

        That’s where I’m getting a bit hung up. Like ok, don’t talk to her about money management but make sure you don’t become her personal ATM either. It was a one-time thing? Awesome. Just make sure it doesn’t become a pattern where OP keeps bailing the employee out.

        1. Wut*

          But that’s not what’s going on. She’s not borrowing money for a personal expense. She was asked to front the company money for a work-related lunch, to be reimbursed by the company. The fact that she didn’t have the $15 to float the company doesn’t mean she’s bad a money management, it just means she didn’t have it, for whatever reason.

          I don’t mind doing it for my company when I need to, but companies shouldn’t expect employees — *especially* those lower on the payscale — to have cash or CCs to front business expenses, particularly when it can take awhile to be reimbursed. If this is a thing that’s going to come up more than once, that’s what petty cash or company CCs are for.

          1. Mints*

            Yeah, I think it’s likely she had the money hypothetically if she needed to dip into her savings but that’s not really justified in the scenario.

            Also, she could be annoyed by the constant floating company lunches and thought “Oh I can’t afford that, could you expense it?” was a good workaround. We’d probably advise her differently if the OP was flipped, but it’s not outrageous imo

          2. Havarti*

            I know that’s not what’s going on. But if OP wishes they could help Jane and talking about money isn’t an option, they may accidentally do something else that in the long run will be equally unhelpful. That’s all I’m saying. In a perfect world, she’s have a cc, I agree.

            1. Wut*

              I understand your point, but I bristled of the characterization of her “bailing her out” or being a “personal ATM.” She’s not really becoming a personal ATM — she’s picking up the tab for a low-level employee because of an obligation the company created on the low-level employee. To push back a bit on the comment above yours, that’s not bad news bears and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nor is it a sign of bad money management. She could be also paying down debt or very carefully budgeting (the LW only knows what this employee says publicly & doesn’t know the full picture) and it might just mean she doesn’t have $15. This idea that she didn’t have $15 for lunch is this terrible sign is well, odd. Lots of people budget carefully but don’t make enough to have that available and I think it’s far more common than people realize.

              The LW didn’t say whether petty cash is an option, but the fact that they didn’t is part of why I think a lot of people are bringing it up–to point out that *should* be the solution to this. If the LW is worried about doing something unhelpful, getting the employee set up with petty cash options is the solution. If the company can’t do that, it to me actually says much more about company practices than the employee. And if that’s still not an option b/c the company says no — and I was her manager — I would just cover work lunches and similar stuff and do the reimbursements myself.

              1. Wut*

                I guess what I’m really saying is yeah, if the company won’t do CCs or petty cash, then the LW should be an ATM and pick up the tab and handle reimbursements herself. I’m assuming here, but the LW can probably swing that more than the entry-level employee, and if not, all the more reason to push back on bad company practices that have employees fronting their costs.

                1. Havarti*

                  I apologize. I really meant for expenses not work-related. I completely agree that the business lunch (and any other business-related expense) should either be paid by the boss or with a company card. What I’m trying to articulate (and clearly failing) is that the OP shouldn’t take on parenting the Janes of the world with their perceived money problems by offering to pay for things because they feel bad for them.

                2. Marthooh*

                  @Havarti – This particular Jane-of-the-world isn’t asking the LW to cover any personal expenses, and the LW hasn’t offered to, so your comments on the subject seem unnecessary.

      2. 5 Leaf Clover*

        For a work lunch? I absolutely would – and did; in fact in my early career I had a company card for exactly this purpose.

      3. Queen Anon*

        Well, the $15 was a work expense, so Jane shouldn’t have been expected to front the money to the company in the first place. I agree with the majority of commenters here regarding this issue: businesses should not expect their employees to make short term loans for them in any amount. Especially entry-level employees! If it’s a necessary business expense, the business should cover it up front, either with cash or by company credit card. (I know that these expenses will be reimbused, but that usually takes a month. $15 several times a month quickly adds up.)

      4. k.k*

        I totally would for a work expense. I have money in savings, but it’s not in my pocket or linked to the debit card I carry. If I wasn’t expecting that work expense, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t have it on me in the moment.

      5. aebhel*

        If my boss expected me to front the company a short-term loan that I couldn’t afford, yes, I would. That’s a bad policy. This isn’t bus fare of gas money; it’s a business expense, and the business should be paying it up front.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      This was me! I saved about a third of my paycheck every month. It was my travel money. Sometimes things were tight right before payday, but it was anathema for me to touch my savings except in an emergency or for travel.

  21. KDat*

    These aren’t necessarily “obviously bad choices”. We don’t know enough about her situation to actually make that call (at least not from this letter). There may be more to the story- for example that expensive concert might be a reunion with friends or family members she rarely sees, the ticket could be a gift, the flight more than just for a “fun time” visit. And, clearly, she values these things a lot. She may even need them (and we are not privy to the gritty details of her life, health, or non-work stress to really make that call for her).

    Money is personal. There is a large gray area for what’s right or wrong (and what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another).

    Stick to work.

    1. MakesThings*

      Yes- pretty much. I feel like people often don’t understand that you can buy plane tickets for points, or get help from relatives who want to see you. Getting on a plane is not a sign of an extravagant lifestyle or of living beyond one’s means.

      1. Big Fat Meanie*

        Or they just fly really cheaply. Red-eye flights and airlines like Spirit aren’t exactly convenient or comfortable, but they get you there! Not to mention Jetblue has some pretty awesome sales, for those willing/able to wait for them.

  22. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    Honestly, not enough about finances is taught in school. I would have loved access to a free “life skills” class. Maybe offer that to everyone through the company? Not required. Just available. If you have the means to do so.

    1. Lumen*

      It should be taught from early childhood. What money is, how it works, that it is finite, how to manage it. There’s a way to do this that imparts shame and scarcity and stress to children, which is Not Great. But there’s also a way to do this that teaches empowerment, independence, and self-discipline, which is Wonderful.

      But at very least it needs to be taught to teenagers, many of whom are already working jobs. And it needs to be more than “you’d better start saving for retirement now”.

      1. Guitar Hero*

        There’s a great little thing called MoonJar. It’s a piggy bank with three sections for spend, save, and share, and comes with a book that’s a kid’s guide to money.

  23. KDat*

    And if the boss makes significantly more, that’s even more reason to butt out.

    There is a lot of social science that looks at spending patterns and the psychology of it all and how it’s basically really crappy for people making more money to judge those making less.

    1. k.k*

      This is a huge point. We don’t know the pay-scale at OP’s company, but it’s safe to assume that the boss is making more than the entry-level (and when you’re pay is low, even a small salary difference can seem much more significant).

  24. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    Yeah, at best I think you could wait until she mentions being short again and say something along the lines of, “I hear there are some good books about managing your finances when you’re just starting out. Maybe one of those could help you get some breathing room in your budget?” No specifics, don’t offer any titles, just plant the seed that there’s advice out there if she wants to seek it out.

    1. No gifts*

      Ugh no that would come off a SUPER condescending from a better-paid BOSS asking me to cover a WORK expense.

  25. anon66*

    I work in finance and have had a few employees come to me for advice on their personal budgets, in most cases i was able to help, forms to fill out for lower taxes since her husband had lost his job and was ill, or eays to reduce debt i would give them the name of – or 2 financial planners i know (free service here) so that they could get professional help

    They appreciated the help, especially the referals, no one wants to talk personal expenses with their boss. I don’t mind helping when asked but i would not offer to get involved as even when asked it can get very awkward for both parties

  26. Professor Marvel*

    There are a some work places where this is more than just personal. Financial issues can prevent people from getting security clearances or the company from receiving contracts. I have a friend who could not get a job as an admin assistant with a major aeronautics company due to his financial history. While the LW doesn’t indicate that this is an issue in this work place, it could be a way to address the general concept.

    1. I'd Rather not Say*

      That was the first thing I thought of, as far as it affecting her in future job openings. For example, if a credit check was run and it showed problems, she may miss out on an opportunity, so maybe just a subtle heads up on that front. Otherwise, I like the suggestion of the company offering some kind of general financial skills workshop.

  27. Librarygeek*

    There’s a national Money Smart Week in April that the Federal Reserve sponsors. Local groups put on informational talks and lectures about money management in everything from car maintenance to retirement planning. It might be a good idea to suggest that your business host a brown-bag lunch event or two. There is likely a local group and event planning in progress that you could contact.

  28. Sarah*

    I haven’t done this on purpose, but several times when I’ve had a book on my desk about finance, management, or leadership, my employees have asked me about it. In fact, several of my staff have read Dave Ramsey’s book because they saw it on my desk and made some changes to their personal finances based on it. So you could try just finding a personal finance book you like and setting it on your desk where she will see it regularly.

  29. clow*

    OP – I would hesitate with giving financial advice to a friend, and I have wanted to..I don’t think its a great idea. I do like the ideas here for budgeting classes etc. One thing that rubs me the wrong way is companies saying they will reimburse an employee later (of course, I understand this is not the OP’s fault). It would be wrong of the employee to ask for an advance on their salary, but not for a company to say “pay this and i will pay you back later”? both are equally not ok, and yet one is deemed acceptable and the other is not. Asking an employee to wait for who knows how long, even if its just the next pay period, to be reimbursed for company expenses needs to stop.

  30. FD*

    I understand the impulse–I’ve never made a huge amount but I’ve always been an excellent saver and I have been very lucky not to run into major medical bills or other ongoing, uncontrollable expenses. Sometimes, I look at people who constantly complain about not making ends meet despite making triple the money I do, and I want to hit them over the head with a book about budgeting.

    That said, remember something.

    I’m going to assume–for the purpose of this–that you’re right, and she makes poor financial decisions. It’s unlikely that she doesn’t know she should save, right? She just isn’t doing it. It’s akin to a person who smokes–it’s not like they don’t know it’s unhealthy. She’s not going to change until she finds the desire within herself to make that change.

    Now, if she came to you asking for advice, then you may be able to help her find a method that works for her, but until/unless she does, your best bet is to smile and bite your tongue.

    1. Bea*

      I think the biggest “bingo” here is it’s like any other human problem, you have to want to change and view it as a problem. Others can’t do that for you.

      My brother is horrendous with money. Yet our parents are financially stable and frugal. My dad took care of us, a family of four, my mom was able to be a stay at home mom, on a laborers wage.

  31. Lisa Red*

    I make a more-than-livable wage by many standards, but my student loan payments are so high that I can’t live on what’s left over, and I have to do freelance work in addition to my full-time job. I don’t really think it’s for you to say whether her wage is “livable.” Just something to keep in mind.

    1. krysb*

      For me, every time I’m getting somewhere, I get thrown back. Get a huge raise? Awesome, time to buy a house. Loan and everything’s together? Bam! Emergency surgery 3 weeks before health insurance kicks in. That’s $10K out of pocket. This year, I had everything set and planned, then my health again went haywire, and I have a high deductible. Damn. Back a few places on the board.

  32. Bea*

    Jumping in here with some insight into her spending and your feelings towards them. At her age, I didn’t care and spent my money exactly like Jane. I’m fixing my debt that was created by it in my older wiser years.

    She needs you to mentor her as a young professional. Your urge to speak about personal choices still alienate her like you’re trying to be a parental figure. I say this as a woman who’s career is built on fantastic bosses who were like parents but without stepping into that territory because they knew me as an adult and knew I would learn one way or another.

    When she grows professionally, she hopefully will grow financially independent. You have to have faith in that.

  33. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

    You know, I lost my job back in July, about a week before I was set to go on vacation with a friend. I went on the vacation. What a lot of people DON’T know, is that my mom paid for a LOT of it. Like, I already had my plane tickets, but that was basically it. She offered to give me a decent amount because she wanted me to go on my trip. I really did worry that people would think I was being irresponsible all things considered, but a lot of people don’t know all sides of the story.

    That being said, even if she IS being irresponsible, it’s not anyone’s business unless she’s hitting coworkers up for loans or something equally egregious. You don’t know everything that’s going on. Something could have come up after purchasing concert tickets that limited her funds for the rest of the month. With the lunch thing, who knows? I’ve known people who have a month or two that’s pretty lean, but are okay most of the time. Hell, had I not had a credit card with a decent limit on it, I’d have been in trouble at the tail-end of my unemployment. I perhaps could have been a bit more careful with money, but I also had to keep up with some medical stuff among other things.

    All that to say: what you’re seeing is only a part of the picture. She may be totally irresponsible (which isn’t really your business) or she could have had a string of weird months with unexpected expenses you know nothing about. (I mean, I was in eating disorder treatment last year that caused me to drain my savings and you can bet that the majority of my coworkers didn’t even know that’s what I was doing, much less what I was spending). There are SO many factors here, not just those that you’re privy to.

  34. Snark*

    I feel like one’s early twenties are to adulting the way being a toddler is to childhood – a frustrating time for all involved, with lots of crying, hard knocks, a few scars, and funny stories to tell. Every toddler does a header into the coffee table, and every 22-year-old impulse-buys plane tickets to see her college besties and then is left with naught but a dumb look on their face when they need a new car battery.

    1. Grapey*

      Eh, I didn’t. I guess having a dad that was over-judgemental to the point of abuse when it came to financial planning “helped”.

      1. Susanne*

        Eh, I don’t think so either. I just can’t understand thinking that the plane tickets for the college bestie are more important than the fund that covers the unexpected car battery or fridge repair. I don’t see how one can think so illogically and be a star employee, to be honest.

        1. Snark*

          Because it’s not illogical. It’s just aligned to a different set of values than you place on expenditures.

  35. nnn*

    Ugh, this reminds me of when I was young and new, and older colleagues who found out that I lived in a rental apartment would lecture me on how they thought I was “throwing away” my money on rent, and I should either buy a house or live with my parents to save up money until I could buy a house.

    When I pointed out that my salary couldn’t pay for a house and my parents lived prohibitively far away, I’d then get lectures about how I should buy a cheap fixer-upper in a questionable part of town and illegally rent out the basement to cover my mortgage.

    This sounds excessive, but these colleagues of mine really truly believed that I was wasting money on something so irresponsible as renting an apartment in a decent neighbourhood, and really truly believed that they had a mentorship responsibility to guide me on how to prioritize my spending and lifestyle choices.

  36. Student*

    “She might feel really uncomfortable if she has to tell you she can’t afford to front a work-related expense before she gets reimbursed (and anyone should be able to say that to you without worrying you’ll judge them for it).”

    Partially disagree with AAM on this. If it’s very normal in your industry and workplace to expect employees to be able to handle things like this – and this was a $15 lunch, not a $2000 conference fee – and get reimbursed later, you’re doing her a favor to tell her this is a professional norm she’s breaking.

    That is not a blessing to get into her personal finances. That means you should say something like, “I can cover your lunch this time, Jane. I realize it might not have been clear before that you’d need to pay this. However, it’s normal for us to expect employees to front the costs of these business lunches and then get reimbursed later for them. Going forward, you’ll need to be prepared to cover them yourself.”

    Otherwise, you set her up to be “borrowing” lunch from her boss and colleagues. That will make her look unprofessional. It’s reasonable for anyone – OP included – to be uncomfortable lending Jane personal money in such a situation. Jane can figure out her own solution from there, whether it’s keeping some cash on-hand for business lunches, buying something cheaper at lunch, etc.

    1. Globe Trotter*

      I think it’s unprofessional to make employees pay their own way at a business lunch, even if it’s reimbursed. And I say this as someone that is routinely expected to lay out thousands of dollars of my own money on my employer’s behalf to be reimbursed later. It’s not a good look, and frankly, it’s a worse look for the company than the individual.

      1. SarahKay*

        Globe Trotter, I couldn’t agree more.

        Student, it may be a company norm – but a norm is just something you’re used to, not necessarily something that’s right. What I’d like to see is OP saying “This is a bad norm, and this is how I’m going to try and change it” – whether through company credit cards, better availability of petty cash, whatever works for that company.

      2. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

        Absolutely agree! This is something that happens at my workplace, and it is NOT because it’s a company/industry norm – it’s because my workplace is bad with money, and our department has one company credit card that gets shared between everyone, and very few people physically have access to it. If they’re not around, you don’t get the card, even if you need to make a critical work-related purchase. It’s nonsense, and a bad practice.

    2. STG*

      Eh, I’m not a fan of using personal money for business expenses whether it’s $5 or 500. It’s basically an interest free loan that I could be investing myself. I still do it when it’s necessary but it still makes me cringe.

    3. Mints*

      I don’t consider this to be borrowing money from coworkers. The company would be paying for it anyway, and if the burden of submitting expense reports gets shifted onto a few people who have company cards, I think it makes sense. Even if nobody gets company credit cards, it should default to the most senior person to float it

    4. Queen Anon*

      Just because something is normal doesn’t make it right. It used to be normal for women to need a male co-signer to get a credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage (in my lifetime, though not in my adulthood). It was never right, though. This isn’t right, either, and needs to change.

    5. Perse's Mom*

      Basically agreeing with you on this one. Lots and lots of commenters (and even Alison) encouraging the OP to work to change the company policy (which is great! I agree that it should be very very rare for an employee to pay out of pocket for a business expense*)… but kind of ignoring that this system is still the CURRENT company policy for the OP. The OP can only work with what she has, and we have no way to know if OP’s company is willing to change the policy, so this feels like a lot of OP-chastising for something that isn’t her fault and she may not be able to do anything at all about!

      *I do think there are some situations where employees paying out of pocket is hard to predict, much less accurately gauge cost in advance, and I don’t know how feasible it is for every single employee who might possibly incur a business expense to be given access to a company card.

      1. Student*

        Yeah, that’s my problem with it in a nutshell.

        I have no reason to think the OP can change policy enough that this is no longer an issue. In my industry, this is widespread and totally normal. This is normal for the US federal government, in particular, so good luck getting a legal change on it. It’s an obnoxious temporary business loan – yes – and I don’t like it on a personal level. On one memorable occasion, I had to spend more than 10% of my ANNUAL income on business expenses and wait >3 months for reimbursement on it – I know vividly what kind of hardship this can be on people, even people with good finances and solid savings.

        However, if an employee in my place of business had issues temporarily covering $15 for lunch until the business expense was reimbursed, and decided to deal with that by asking other employees to cover her, it would make that employee look very bad. It would also potentially violate/complicate company reimbursement policies – I cannot get reimbursed for buying lunch for a fellow employee unless it’s approved in advance, for example, but we can all get reimbursed for our own expenses easily within company policy without pre-approvals.

        If this is what’s expected of her, it’s really best to make that clear to her, along with realistic expectations of how frequently it’ll happen and how much it may cost. It’s not good for her to expect others to handle it for her, and she needs to be clear on why that is. She can work around it herself in a number of ways, including not eating lunch, requesting not to have duties where she has to pay these upfront expenses, setting aside money or getting a specific credit card to cover the expenses, or quitting and finding a job where this is not the norm. Her boss probably can’t handle this for her, either by always paying her share or by swiftly changing corporate policy.

        1. Marthooh*

          “If this is what’s expected of her, it’s really best to make that clear to her, along with realistic expectations of how frequently it’ll happen and how much it may cost.”

          Fair enough. This is good advice for the LW. But the rest of your comment amounts to preaching at the employee, when we don’t know her actual circumstances and expectations. Maybe she’s already figured out that twenty refundable bucks for lunch is a necessity.

          1. Student*

            I think you’re seeing this through your own lens. I very specifically did not advocate the boss getting involved in the employee’s finances. I’m advocating making the company expectations clear to her, because obviously they aren’t clear. We don’t know that this is the only circumstance this will come up in.

            In the employee’s shoes, which would YOU prefer:
            (1) My solution – brief, awkward conversation where boss tells you how much and how often you’ll have to front business costs to be reimbursed later. Maybe the only expense you ever need to front is the one you’ve already figured out, and this conversation isn’t necessary, so the worst cost is wasting a few minutes of one day unnecessarily and a minor professional embarrassment. Upside – you get a chance to inquire about other possible workarounds – like pre-authorized expenses with advances to cover them, work credit cards, or not taking part in such activities.

            (2) No further discussion with the boss. You risk hurting your professional reputation with another group of employees/bosses/clients when a similar-but-not-exactly-the-same issue comes up later and you’re short on money again – say, you are asked on short notice to cover a larger tab to take some clients out to lunch. Or you’re asked to front the costs to attend a professional conference or business travel expenses. Worst cost is medium-to-significant professional embarrassment and possibly missing work-related duties and travel. Upside – you avoid that mildly embarrassing 10-minute conversation with your boss.

  37. GriefBacon*

    Oof. Definitely don’t address it. If you’re concerned about her being able to cover work expenses that will be reimbursed, make sure those expenses are made clear in advance. It’s not clear how far in advance the $15 work lunch in the letter was shared with Jane, but anything that has to come out of a personal account should not be last minute, regardless of the amount. (I find it absurd that something like that isn’t covered by a company card, but that’s a whole different issue). It’s entirely unfair to expect employees to budget for work expenses that they aren’t expecting.

    But more importantly…you don’t know Jane’s life. You have no idea how long she’s been planning/saving for plane tickets or concert tickets. You have no idea if those were celebrations (perhaps to celebrate finishing grad school?) or special circumstances or anything else. You have no idea how much of her take home she’s spending on student loans, or healthcare, or retirement savings, or perhaps supporting her family. Or, maybe she’s aggressively saving in an account she can’t easily get to. You don’t get to decide what she spends her money on, and more importantly, you don’t get to tell her that she can’t have nice things because she’s an entry-level employee. There’s no indication that Jane is in debt or living beyond her means — except when she’s asked to spend money on work (which, again, ridiculous) — so if her choice is to eat ramen all month so she can take a trip, so be it.

    1. myswtghst*

      If you’re concerned about her being able to cover work expenses that will be reimbursed, make sure those expenses are made clear in advance.

      This is a good point. While I’m in agreement that an arrangement should be made so employees don’t have to front business expenses, if that’s not possible right now, it’s imperative that OP make sure Jane knows expenses are coming in time to prepare for them.

      1. aebhel*

        Right. I think when a $15 unexpected expense isn’t a problem, it can be easy to forget that for some people it’s a big deal and would have to actually be budgeted for, not just assumed.

  38. Globe Trotter*

    Maybe Jane has a boatload of student loan debt and is attempting to live some semblance of a normal life while effectively being an indentured servant. I am fortunate to not have any student loan debt, but my husband does…would be a pretty sad life if we never spent money on anything that could be deemed ‘frivolous’ given how much money goes toward loan payments every month.

  39. animaniactoo*

    No, you can’t talk to her about her finances. What you can do is give her the head’s up that there will be future instances where she will be expected to pay up front on short notice and be re-imbursed later. That will allow her to make choices about what she chooses to spend on, and how much she has in her “just in case” account.

    If she continues to fall short and need to hit up other people for it, you can address that as an overall issue “Jane, this has become a pattern. I need you to fix this so that you aren’t asking other people to front you the money. They have it because they’ve set some aside for these kinds of situations and you’re expected to as well. Is there a reason that would be an issue for you?”

    On the other hand – before you get to that second portion – why aren’t these kinds of small expenses coming out of petty cash and with receipts required for tracking purposes? That was always what I thought petty cash was *for*.

  40. nnn*

    There’s a small part of this that is OP’s business: the company’s policy of having employees pay for business lunches upfront and be reimbursed later is sometimes unworkable for entry-level employees. As a person responsible for managing entry-level employees, OP could use whatever influence they have to encourage the company towards something more inclusive.

    1. nnn*

      Expanding upon this: even if the employer doesn’t want to change the policy from having employees front the money and then be reimbursed, it would be eminently reasonable to study the question of whether exceptions should be made for employees at the beginning of their career and, if so, where the threshold should be.

      (For example, when my employer switched to a policy where employees front travel expenses, push-back from established employees led them to make an exception for the costs of travelling to head office for initial training, because many new graduates simply don’t have the credit limit to pay for two weeks in a hotel upfront.)

      A way to study this would be to compare a new hire’s salary with a new graduate’s student loan payments, the cost of housing and other living expenses in your area, a new professional’s start-up costs like setting up one’s own household and buying a business wardrobe, etc. etc., and see when they would start to expect to have some financial leeway.

      And, since this policy change is *about* new employees, it would be perfectly appropriate to have new employees (including Jane) involved in the working group that studies it. That way, they could also raise any considerations that their older and more experienced colleagues might have forgotten or might be unaware of.

      This would make the employer aware if its policies are posing an undue burden and, as an added bonus, would make Jane aware if her inability to front the cost of her lunch is unreasonable for someone in her situation.

  41. Jam Today*

    Work lunches should be covered by the senior staff person. Ordinary people should not be expected to pay up front for a work requirement, and wait a month or whatever for reimbursement, while the company sits on money in the bank collecting interest and the employee loses out on the same.

    1. Globe Trotter*

      YES. I’ve literally waited until the following QUARTER to get reimbursed, and the amount I spent was waaaay more than $15.

      1. Snark*

        That’s bonkers. I had no idea how good I have it – I get reimbursed by the end of the pay period, if I submit by Wednesday.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          We get ours back…at some point. When everyone who needs to sign the paperwork has been in the office. Do you…need it?

          Yes, Finance Manager. I need it. I know it’s £5.40, but it is the PRINCIPLE of the thing.

          (Her boss heard about this, blinked, and instituted ‘we reimburse ALL expenses every two weeks’, though this does not solve the guy who saves them up for months and then presents them in a lump.)

  42. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

    I think the only thing you can do is model good personal money habits in a subtle way or focus on good budget habits as it relates to the business.

    So a subtle way would be mentioning that you’d like to do x fun thing, but you had to prioritize some expenses over it if it ever comes up in conversation. Mentioning that you are excited for the new 401K options. Basically innocuous, non specific things that seem like general conversation. It’s weird, we (in the global sense) are fine with telling others that we’re broke and make bad decisions, but we never talk about the good things we do*.

    The business centered message can be clearer. Talk about specific budget expenses, how it affects the overall health of the company, what happens when things go over budget or how you plan ahead for ‘unexpected’** expenses.

    I don’t see you as coming off as judgy, it sounds like you are concerned and care for the well being of your reports. I don’t think you will be able to be specific with this employee over her finances unless it starts affecting her work directly. And even then you’d have to limit it to the work problem and not necessarily the cause.

    *Not in a bragging way (ala Mr and Mrs. Thurston Howell III), but we’re afraid to say, I was reading an article on budgeting this weekend and I’m trying it out or Wow, I was super happy to find out I met a savings goal.

    **This is a good lesson that many ‘unexpected’ expenses can be planned for. Maybe it’s that you budget to replace 1 laptop a year for the team, because you typically have a failure that necessitates a new one to be purchased. (then make a joke like yeah, I started doing this at home too… it seems that I have to budget to replace one appliance a year, I never know which one is going to break, but there’s a good chance one of them will. It’s never fun to put that money away, but it beats scrambling when I need it.)

    1. Breda*

      Ooh, I would be really put off if my boss were talking about how she couldn’t afford some fun thing. That’s not a good look when you make substantially more money than the person you’re talking to.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        :) It’s not that she can’t afford them, it’s that she’s prioritizing not so fun thing over the fun thing. There’s nothing shameful in prioritizing! Especially when someone who appears or should be making more than you.

        It’s also not a conversation that comes up out of the blue. But instead if someone is talking about their upcoming vacation there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I’m always happy to hear about other peoples vacations. Especially since this year we decided to cut back because we know the roof probably only has a year or two before it needs to be replaced and we want to set the money aside before we save for fun stuff. Or… we decided not to go on vacation this year we thought we’d save money for a year to plan something special next year.
        Or… if someone’s talking about the Christmas car comercials and the boss says, jeez, would love to be one of those people who could go buy a car on a whim, alas I have to save like the rest of the world.

        1. Bea*

          It’s still outputting and not a good look for someone making so much more than an entry level person to speak like that. It’s never going to be an organic conversation with a boss. I would still be thinking “cool that you have money to save to fix a house you’re buying while my rent is killing me and real estate here is nearly impossible for a 20 something to even dare dream about.” It’s incredibly out of touch.

          I say this as someone steadily increasing my income and seniority. Yet I know the crippling debt of others. I only just got put in a place to set money into retirement thanks to former employers never offering healthcare coverage and a faulty gallbladder killing my old retirement fund that had to be used to pay for it. Despite my self funded insurance plan because lol high deductible.

        2. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox*

          Honestly, while I know you’re heart’s in the right place here, this sounds like it could come off as condescending or judgmental. Like, you said, it’s about priorities. Different people prioritize different things. Some MAY have long-term ramifications that are less-than-ideal, but it’s seriously no one’s business unless 1. They’re being personally impacted by the spender’s choices or 2. They have been asked for advice.

          I know modeling good spending habits can seem super tempting, but it’s seriously not the OPs business. Not to mention that said modeling is completely ignoring personal situations. OP doesn’t know every part of their employee’s life. I mentioned above that I went ahead on a vacation after being laid off because my mother offered to pay for a large portion of it. If I was telling someone about my vacation plans and they somewhat knowingly started talking about how THEY are prioritizing savings when I was fully aware that they didn’t know about my mom contributing, it would SORT of seem like they either thought they were better than me because of their choices or that they were judging me when they only knew half the situation.

          Just my two cents.

          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            This is why I made my first comment. If a person is talking about how they are doing something bad we’re not supposed to judge. But if a person is talking about positives they get judged. You can’t win :)

            But I don’t think that means you have to never say a positive thing about finances. The thing about modeling good finance habits is that it has nothing to do with anyone else. I’ve had many bosses who made it very clear that they watched the stock market. They would ‘woohoo, c’mon 401K!’ when there were market milestone closes. I didn’t sit there and think they were silently judging me for my savings habits. I did know that saving was important to them. It could be as innocuous as bringing your lunch instead going out to lunch, or turning down the office lottery pool. There is nothing implied or preachy about it. Having a conversation with someone about your vacations and different plans is not preaching at them.

            1. LAI*

              Of course the OP is allowed to talk about their own life. I think what people are taking issue with here is the idea that the OP should specifically make a point of talking about their financial decisions, with the goal of influencing their employee. And to be honest, I think those attempts would come off as pretty transparent and the employee is just going to be justifiably annoyed.

              It’s one thing to eat healthy yourself and of course you can talk about it in the course of normal conversation. It’s another thing to constantly be telling the overweight person why healthy eating is important.

              1. KellyK*

                Yes, this. If they happen to talk about finance because it naturally comes up in conversation, that’s very different from making a point to model “good” behavior. It can often be really forced and really obvious.

        3. aebhel*

          Yeah, don’t do this. Especially to someone who makes significantly less money than you; it doesn’t look like modeling good habits, it looks clueless and braggy.

        4. Breda*

          Yeah, it’s still…if this happens to come at a time when I’m deciding whether to prioritize groceries or new socks that don’t have holes in them, hearing my boss talk about prioritizing her new roof over a vacation would be really irritating. I share an apartment with people I met on Craigslist! My last vacation was with my parents! I wouldn’t see it as “modeling good behavior,” I would take it to mean she was completely out of touch with the realities of my life – which, given her role in my salary, might make me bitter.

          Basically I don’t think this is something you can do intentionally. Your example with your boss and his enthusiasm for his 401K is a good example: it’s something he was genuinely interested in, not a lesson he was trying to teach. People can tell the difference.

          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            I think my intention is getting lost. I just used the vacation as an example, because it’s a thing that people at work talk about, they also talk about new cars, home repairs, and other things that go on in their lives.

            I didn’t suggest that the OP contrive situations to make teaching moments (outside of the business budget discussions, that could most definitely be deliberate) . That’s where the word subtle comes in; modeling a behavior is living it it’s not faking it to prove a point. Like another poster said, she had a personal finance book on her desk. That is an example of modeling a behavior.

            Look I get it, I’ve come up against some preachy and judgy people. But I don’t think that we have to make topics of conversation strictly verboten or hide who we are because some people take it too far*

            *There are obvious exclusions to this statement. There are some topics that should never be discussed at work.

            1. KellyK*

              Nobody’s arguing that whole topic of conversation should be verboten (although it is really insensitive to talk about budgeting with someone who makes a lot less than you do). But once you decide that you’re modeling “good” behavior *for someone else’s benefit* that’s innately contrived. If the book is on your desk because you’re reading it at lunch, or you keep it as a reference for when you’re dealing with your budget, that’s perfectly natural. But even just putting the book on your desk in the hopes that people will ask you about it or borrow it is forced. Any time you’re *performing* what you consider good behavior in the hopes that your audience will learn from your example, that’s very different from just going about your life. Once you’ve given thought to how to work your financial good example into a conversation, it’s already forced and contrived, and has the potential to be really transparent.

      2. ClownBaby*

        I did something similar before (with a friend, not an employee) and it yielded awful results. So I second that.

        I am much more financially responsible than my best friend and was a bit fed up with her complaints about money especially when I saw all of her frivolous spending (choosing to go on an international vacation instead of paying her rent, so when she returned from vacation, she had an eviction notice and is now back with her parents. Getting tattoos instead of paying her car insurance. Driving “buzzed” so she doesn’t have to pay for a cab …which cost her dearly as she got a DUI…a cab would have been a lot cheaper)…so I casually tried to give her budgeting advice. “I track everything I spend.” and “I allow one luxury thing per week/month” or “I put $20 of each pay check in this savings account”…

        She saw right through me and got offended by my “financial advice” because I, despite not making much more than her, don’t struggle and am completely debt free. I am a lot more careful about what I say around her now because I don’t want to seem like I am bragging. I once mentioned having a 401k and how I raise my contribution by at least 1% each year, and she almost broke down because she can’t imagine putting even just 1% of her paycheck toward retirement and how I, with no student debt, DUI, or dog, can understand what it’s like to be strapped for cash and that the tattoos, vacations, and nights out are her ways of staying sane.

        Obviously, in my friend’s case I think there is a lot more going on than just poor spending habits. I support her and encourage her to seek out professional help as much as I can living states apart, but after the outbursts, I am leaving all money talk to financial experts who she can seek out for advice when she is ready.

        1. Argh!*

          If she wants that kind of advice there’s no shortage of books, magazines, & blogs to tell her what to do, but none of those things can be a friend!

    2. AJHall*

      It strikes me as ironic that the OP is being advised to teach her report to model good money habits by talking about the company’s bugeting strategy, since this strategy appears to consist of “In order to improve cash-flow, use our employees as sources of short term, off-balance sheet interest-free funding.” Only it was when the report did model this behaviour that the OP was moved to write in.

    3. KDat*

      This comes across as fairly condescending and out of touch. I would be pretty peeved by someone who makes more than me talking about how they can’t afford fun and are prioritizing more important things. Don’t talk money and “what you can’t afford” around those that make substantially less. Seriously. Not a good look. I’ve seen it put in practice and it is a whole lot of yuck.

  43. Adlib*

    I get the temptation. I have friends I wish I could be this honest and open with who obviously make bad money decisions, but it’s just such a touchy subject without it being something you have to talk about at work. Alison brought up good points I wouldn’t have even thought of, for example, the time off request sounding like you don’t think she should be going anyway. Bad decisions will catch up with them at some point in their lives whether involving personal finances or otherwise.

  44. MiningAccountant*

    Agree with AAM – not your place to say anything. I had a direct report (who I was involved in salary negotiations with) who would almost daily lament to me that she was “broke” – yet she was leasing a brand new luxury car, bought a brand new house, spent her lunch hours shopping and always bought lunch and 2 coffees a day. Meanwhile, I was her manager who was driving around a 10 year old car, packing a lunch every day and drinking our horrible office coffee. If she was a friend (who I did not work with), I think I would gently say something, but I don’t think this conversation is work appropriate, particularly from a supervisor.

    I do think though in terms of the lunch thing the most senior person should be buying everyone’s lunch and then submitting it all on one expense report.

    1. the gold digger*

      I was her manager who was driving around a 10 year old car, packing a lunch every day and drinking our horrible office coffee.

      I will drive my 17 year old car, buy my jeans at Goodwill, pack a lunch every day, and get my books and DVDs from the library (which means I have to wait for a lot of the good stuff), but I have a line and that line is I will not drink the Horrible Office Coffee.

      We splurge on the Good Coffee.

  45. Nerdling*

    I’d start instead with looking at why your company is expecting line employees to front business expenses rather than discussing the possibility that your employee is bad at finances.

  46. Big Fat Meanie*

    I think it’s normal for young people to think these financial decisions are normal – doing fun, but expensive, stuff and then barely making ends meet when the bills are due. And it’s not uncommon, especially when you get your first job and you think “yay, I have money now!” I remember going shoe shopping after getting my first paycheck in my first full-time job, but I did still live with my parents. And I needed shoes. She may think what she’s talking about is super relateable instead of super annoying and cringey. But telling someone they need to spend less money and save more doesn’t usually go over well.

    1. Argh!*

      After years of living on a shoestring budget, getting a regular paycheck is quite an adjustment that can take time!

  47. Ruthie*

    The organization I work for promotes workplace wellness financial programs, in addition to other financial wellness initiatives. The reality is that an employee’s finances can impact an employer’s bottom line significantly. Financial stress impacts workers’ productivity; the time it takes stressing about and calculating finances at work costs employers several thousand dollars a year for the average employee.

    On the flip side, the workplace is the perfect place to encourage good financial habits because it’s often where people make the decision to save and how much they are going to save. It astounding to me that employers think that even though they often play a significant role in managing and contributing to their employees’ life savings (retirement accounts), they shouldn’t talk about money with them.

    While I agree it is inappropriate to address a specific employee’s troubling spending habits with them, employers ought to be broadly encouraging good financial and savings habits. And there are a lot of programs out there that make this easy. I’m most familiar with SunTrust’s program, and it’s free!

    1. Argh!*

      “It astounding to me that employers think that even though they often play a significant role in managing and contributing to their employees’ life savings (retirement accounts), they shouldn’t talk about money with them.”

      My response to my boss who expected me to pay $1500 out of pocket for a professional conference was yeah, easy for you to say. She makes twice what I do and doesn’t go to conferences. I would take her advice on my spending habits in the same spirit.

  48. Guacamole Bob*

    It’s interesting to me that so many commenters feel so strongly that being expected to occasionally cover work expenses and be reimbursed is totally unacceptable. I get it, but it’s also just not how things work in a lot of companies.

    Yes, if you’re going to be doing this a lot, you should get a company card. But cards have to be managed, and pose a financial risk to the company (remember the guy who put like $20k in personal expenses on his company card?). Expected expenses can be handled through petty cash, but you can’t always anticipate exactly how much things will cost.

    Employers expect lots of things that relate to how someone spends their money: to have reliable transportation, to dress in work-appropriate ways, etc. In low-wage jobs employers should be extra conscious of not imposing burdens on employees over work expenses, but is it really that outrageous to expect that middle and higher income employees be able to handle unexpected small expenses occasionally? If the cost of incidentals on a business trip is higher than planned, or if an event staffer needs to run to Staples for extra flip chart markers? I worked at a small nonprofit that did a lot of events and community meetings, and there were plenty of last-minute odds and ends that a staffer ended up paying for and then being reimbursed for over the years. Sending someone with a company card to the store would have taken them away from the higher level work at the event, and it was rare enough that it didn’t make sense for me to have a card of my own. A manager would have loaned me cash had I needed it and gotten reimbursed themselves, but that doesn’t really address commenters’ concerns because an employee is still fronting the cash.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Actually, I’m noticing that a lot of commenters are just objecting to the idea of an entry-level/non-management/early career person being expected to handle work expenses this way. But what’s the cutoff? How much does someone have to be making before it’s reasonable to expect them to be able to cover a $15 work lunch without prior notice?

      1. KellyK*

        I think the expectation becomes more reasonable for a mid-level position, or when it’s made clear up front that that’s part of the job. It also becomes more reasonable when employees get as much notice as possible, and it’s only the little things that come up at the last minute that are a surprise. That is, in a reasonable organization, you might have to go buy a few extra Sharpies, but no one’s going to ask you to max out your credit card on glossy brochures and handouts for 500.

        I don’t think there’s any one answer because it’s not just about how well the person is paid, but also about how well the organization plans and communicates, as well as whether they make a good-faith effort to avoid creating hardships for their employees. How prompt they are about reimbursement makes a difference too.

        That is, say Fergus at Company A explains to all his new hires how the reimbursement process works and what kind of expenses they’re expected to front. When a business lunch is coming up, he lets his employees know as soon as he knows, so they can plan. He also finds ways to work with them in emergencies. Wakeen at Company B doesn’t do any of that and just springs work expenses on people the day of. Even if the expenses are the same and the employees are making the same, Fergus is being a lot more reasonable as a boss.

      2. Amy*

        I would argue that it’s never reasonable to expect anyone to cover any amount without prior notice. That prior notice might not be an exact amount (it could be “we expect this to be in the $15-$30 range”, for example), but people should always have advance notice of a) the fact that they’re going to be expected to front money for this thing, and b) the general range that it might cost. That gives people who can’t afford that a chance to talk to their manager in advance and make a plan, or handle it in other ways (e.g. transfer some money from their savings account to their checking account).

        It’s generally considered less unreasonable with mid-career and management than with entry-level employees because generally speaking, those later on in their career have had more time to build up financial stability than those who are just starting out. They’ve probably paid off some of their student loans, they’ve had a chance to build up their credit history so they can access more credit, and they’re more likely to have savings to fall back on, so they often can absorb a little financial uncertainty better than those who are fresh out of school. However, plenty of people don’t have those things, whether through irresponsible spending or through things beyond their control like medical emergencies; in general, I think companies should set up policies such that expected costs like work lunches can be covered without their employees having to pay out of pocket for them.

    2. LAI*

      We know it is normal in a lot of companies to have to cover work expenses and then get reimbursed – I think most people are saying that it shouldn’t be normal though. You just don’t know what someone’s personal situation is. I once had to put over a $1000 on my personal credit card for a work conference in the same month that I was moving (so paying a moving company and putting a security deposit on my new apartment) and had an emergency unexpected vet bill that amounted to about 3 months salary. I did it but it caused me a lot of stress. And I know people will say $1000 is a lot different than $15 but again, it depends. Some people would say $15 is a lot, and some people would say $1000 is spare change.

      It just seems like companies can find another solution (many of which have already been mentioned). It’s a company expense, so the burden of figuring out how to pay for it should be 100% on the company.

      1. Argh!*

        Companies would rather reimburse an expense that’s been paid than to chase down an employee who got lunch money in advance and then called in sick and didn’t spend the money.

        1. Wut*

          Sure, but also don’t be surprised when some of them can’t afford to front money for company expenses, especially when you’re paying them an entry-level wage.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        I agree that it should be normal, but the majority of the comments around this topic seem to be ignoring OP’s company’s *existing* policy and any advice to her on how to manage that conversation with her employee in favor of chastising the OP for her company having this policy in the first place.

        1. Marthooh*

          Actually, plenty of people have said “Tell your employee to expect this situation to recur even though it sucks.” That conversation doesn’t really need to be managed. The conversation about personal finance shouldn’t happen at all.

    3. aebhel*

      I have a purchase card with a $500 dollar limit, so it’s not like I could just pay off my mortgage with it. It’s really, really easy to impose spending limits on purchase cards, and they’re usually adjustable. Petty cash is also a thing. I realize that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, but this sounds like it’s a regular, predictable thing for low-level employees to be expected to shell out their own money for business expenses. That’s not okay.

      Personally, I would not do it at all. I’ve been burned by employers who were really bad about reimbursing people for business expenses in a timely manner (my spouse’s employer, not mine, but when it affects our shared finances, it’s still my problem). I’m in a position now where I can afford it (up to a point), but I have an issue with the underlying principle that an employee should have cash available to loan their employer at any given time, and that it should affect their status in the workplace if they don’t. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it okay, and I think there’s value in pushing back on norms like that.

    4. a different Vicki*

      It’s not so much “the company should never ask for that,” but “the company shouldn’t expect it without asking” and especially “the OP should not treat an entry-level employee’s inability to front money for the company with no warning as a character flaw.”

      Suppose the OP instead approaches it from the viewpoint of “unfortunately, the company doesn’t do cash advances for business meals. I’ll give you as much advance notice as I can, but you may sometimes need to pay $20 or $30 and wait for reimbursement.” The practical message is still that this job requires all staff to have X amount of spare cash available at a moment’s notice for business expenses, but without the implication that there’s something wrong with the employee for not having that money available at all times.

      A lot more people are comfortable saying “You shouldn’t be spending your last dollar on a tattoo/concert ticket/new shirt and then expect me to pay for your train ticket” than “You shouldn’t be spending your last dollar on a tattoo/concert ticket/new shirt because it might be needed to pay for my</em train ticket." I can imagine circumstances where holding off on that purchase is a reasonable request–but it's still not the person who bought herself a concert ticket who is budgeting poorly, it's the one who assumes the concert-goer will buy her a train ticket, and doesn't even warn her that it might be necessary.

      1. Marthooh*

        …the OP should not treat an entry-level employee’s inability to front money for the company with no warning as a character flaw.


    5. KellyK*

      Expected expenses can be handled through petty cash, but you can’t always anticipate exactly how much things will cost.

      I wanted to highlight this, because it seems like an odd contrast—the company can’t be expected to predict what things will cost, but the employee should be able to predict the company’s expenses and include them in their budget? I would think the company would be in a better position to know that information.

  49. Argh!*

    She’s in her 20s, so she’s learning life lessons. She may have already resolved to keep $15 in her account for her next business lunch. Many of us learn our lessons the hard way, and anyway, those plane trips may have been real psychological boosts for her if she’s homesick for her college friends. Money management is about setting priorities, so passing judgment on spending is passing judgment on someone’s values. Just not cool.

      1. Argh!*

        Many employers will only reimburse expenses, not pay in advance. Employers also expect us to dress appropriately (and cleanly), have reliable transportation, and eat enough not to faint on the job.

  50. KellyK*

    Like a lot of people have said, the only place you really have any room to talk to your employee about her finances is the expectation that she’ll front the company money for work lunches. I think it’s a crappy expectation, so I really think you should point out to those above you that it’s causing a problem for your staff. But, maybe you’ve already complained about it and nothing has changed. Maybe it’s so pervasive in your industry that you already know you can’t change it. Or, even if it can be changed, you might have more work lunches coming up in the near future and you need to address it with her now.

    If this is something that you can’t change, or can’t change immediately, I would tell her that you aren’t able to cover her lunch, acknowledge that this expectation can be a hardship, but let her know it’s something you need her to be able to do for the foreseeable future. I would *also* make sure that you’re really clear about the specifics and make it as easy on her as possible. Does she need to budget for one lunch a month, or one a week? How much notice can she expect?

  51. Genny*

    I agree with what everyone else has been saying about not giving her advice about her personal finances. In regards to the complaining, treat her as you would any other person who was constantly complaining. If her complaints are affecting her coworkers, talk about that, but leave her personal decisions out of it.

  52. anon for this*

    Agree that all you can do is give her a heads-up that she needs to be able to front expenses if that truly is required for her role…. With the caveat that you must walk into that conversation super-clear about what the company does to facilitate that process for her. How often must she submit expenses? How quickly will they be approved? Once they are approved, when can she expect to receive the money?

    I’ve been the person struggling to get my financial house in order while working at a job that assumed “everyone” could and would expense things. Sometimes I would be reimbursed inside of a week, other times it took over a month. I (embarrassed, unspoken) relied on coworkers to cover team lunches, because the unpredictability of reimbursements didn’t work for me.

    If you want your employee to plan her finances better, your company must have practices she can count on.

    1. KellyK*

      If you want your employee to plan her finances better, your company must have practices she can count on.

      Yes, this! Be as clear as possible about how reimbursement works, and if there are kinks in the process or the timeline is inconsistent, do what you can to get those issues resolved.

  53. MindoverMoneyChick*

    Don’t do it. I had this boss. She was a great boss and mentor. But she had all kinds of Opinions on how I and all of her other employees should live their lives. She gave them liberally. Money wan’t my issue but it was for others. It was annoying for me, and worse than annoying for others.

    Another reason not to – now my job is to get people to manage the money better. I can tell you know one changes this kind of behavior unless they really want to. And even then it’s hard. You’re saying something will likely have no impact whatsoever unless she’s asked for advice.

  54. NonProphet*

    I agree with the advice that OP should not comment on her employee’s personal finances. It’s not her business and this is something that Jane needs to figure out on her own.

    I’m more conflicted, though, on some of the comments suggesting it’s a bad business practice or exploitive for employers to expect employees to occasionally pay for modest business expenses and then be reimbursed.

    I work for a small nonprofit. We pay very competitive salaries, but are able to do so partly because we keep our admin operations lean. Most people here do not have corporate credit cards because the cost of managing that would be prohibitive to our small organization (said as the person who spends 15-20% of her time managing the existing corporate cards). We pay all reimbusements the same week we receive the receipts to minimize the time that people are out of pocket. In some cases, we’ve done cash advances when waiting to be reimbursed would be a hardship. We’re open to that and encourage people to ask when they need it. However, most folks prefer to put expenses on their personal cc, because they get points and we pay them back before their bill is due. When we do a cash advance, it generally takes about 30-60 minutes of our Controller’s time to get the cash and create/reconcile the supporting documentation, whereas a reimbursement takes maybe 5-10 minutes of her time. It’s the right thing to do a cash advance when necessary, but I’m not sure folks realize the administrative burden.

    1. aebhel*

      To be honest, this seems to me a lot like trying to negotiate a raise by telling your employer that your rent is going up. It’s not the company’s problem, and it’s not likely to be treated as the company’s problem.

      The administrative overhead and business costs of cash advances aren’t the employee’s problem.

      1. NonProphet*

        Hmm…that’s an interesting perspective. See, from my perspective the cash advance creates an administrative burden that does not exist with our normal procedure (which is to reimburse same week we receive receipts or put on the corporate card, depending on the type of expense). We’re a nonprofit and most of our funding is cost-reimbursement, so the reimbursement model is our standard. So for us, doing a cash advance is an exception, not the norm. Employees might not be too concerned about the added administrative burden of a cash advamce, but our executive staff is focused on making sure we are using resources (including staff time) efficiently. Our auditors also don’t like to see cash advances since it requires a lot of reconciliation…but that’s a separate issue.

        1. aebhel*

          Of course, but my point is, this isn’t the employee’s problem. It’s a business problem. It’s certainly something that you can point out to employees, but if someone decides that they’re going to expect cash advances every time they need to make a purchase for the company, that shouldn’t reflect poorly on them. If your normal procedure is for employees to float you the money for business purchases, then, frankly, your normal procedure is not great. If it’s hard on the business, well, I hate to say it, but… tough. It’s hard on a lot of employees to put together a work-appropriate wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean they get to show up in ratty pajamas. Making sure that the money is available for business purchases is a business cost, and it shouldn’t be borne by employees just to make the administrative paperwork simpler.

      2. Amy*

        I agree with this. Nonprofits are a different case than for-profit organizations in many ways, and maybe this is one of those areas. But in general, if an organization can’t cover the costs of running its business without relying on temporary loans from employees, that makes me think there are bigger problems with how the organization runs their finances. (And let’s be real, if an employee has to spend their own money on your business costs and you pay them back later, that’s a short-term loan, even if there’s no interest or anything being paid.)

        It’s definitely the organization’s problem either way, and ‘fixing’ it by passing the problem onto the employees doesn’t seem right. Yeah, there’s an administrative burden involved, but it’s not like the burden goes away when the employee pays out of pocket–it just means that the individual employees have to spend their time juggling their own finances instead.

        It also doesn’t sound like your company is doing this badly, by the way. You mention that advances are available and encouraged if people prefer that route–that’s a valid solution, just as much as company cards would be valid. That’s what my last employer did for this kind of thing, and it worked well (I didn’t take advantage of it because I didn’t need to, but others did, either out of hardship or just because it worked better for their financial management preferences).

    2. Delphine*

      As long as you’re not relieving an administrative burden by creating a burden for your employees, you’re fine. And it seems like you give employees options for immediate reimbursement when it’s necessary.

    3. KellyK*

      You’re giving people the option when it’s a hardship, and you’re reimbursing promptly, so I don’t think it’s a problem. That’s very different from having surprise expenses crop up that you just expect employees to cover, with no option if they haven’t budgeted for that.

  55. Toadstool Sandwich*

    I’m inclined to agree that it is best not to say anything, unless it begins to affect her showing up for work. Years ago, I had an employee on my team who always had money problems and one day, she did not show up for work, did not call and was out for like 3 days. Finally, after pay day, she showed up and apologized to me, saying she had completely run out of money and was destitute- phone had been cut off, no money for food, no money for the bus, nothing. Completely broke until pay day. HR told me to tell her that, unfortunately, we could not have that happen again as it could be considered job abandonment. She needed to have found a way to contact us- be it borrowing a neighbor’s phone or using a neighbor’s computer to send an e-mail- anything. The HR rep met with her privately about getting her help, but she was embarrassed and declined, saying she would try her best to not let it happen again, but she continued to have money issues until she was eventually let go for performance issues and excessive absences.

  56. Rachel Green*

    Yeah, definitely none of your business. Everyone’s values and priorities are different, and it would be a huge overstep to say anything to her about how she chooses to spend her money. She’s obviously aware that her travel expenses are causing her to have to scrap by, because she brought it up. She’s probably just one of those people who would rather take that trip than buy gas that week. Just leave it, and worry about your own money.

  57. Manager-at-Large*

    I agree with many of the writers here about pushing the company to provide some training or seminars on financial management as a benefit (like EAP) especially if they have a large number of entry level positions or internships. This would be great for the employees. This would also be good for any agency working with young military families as they can get into trouble quickly as they can be vulnerable to ads for “pay day loans” and the like.

  58. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I spent 90% of my first paycheck on a cute pair of shoes. I was showing them to my friend and she asked me “What are you going to live on for the next two weeks?” I returned the shoes and I’ve never forgotten the sneer from the sales clerk who just the day before had been my best friend.

  59. ShutemDownOpenUpShop*

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! SAY NOTHING! Truth is, who knows if some of her luxury spending is actually her money, or maybe a gift from family and friends. Maybe it is something she has saved up for years and years and years. I saved for over a year in order to attend my high school reunion in Hawaii when I live on the mainland. It was super important to me and I had a goal in mind so I saved for JUST that. Sure, I could have used that money in more “practical” places in hindsight, but the experience of 1.) attending the event 2.) saving my hard earned cash for it makes the experience very special to me.

    Let’s say it is none of those things…well, she ultimately will feel embarrassed and watched by her colleagues at work. Which will not be good for staff relations

  60. Same*

    I have something similar with an employee. The problem is, it does affect my business how she spends her money. I’ll keep it short and sweet as I can. Single mother with three young children. ALWAYS “poor mouthing”. Going as far as saying she can’t afford shoes and school supplies for children. Office staff put together money and bought all school supplies and groceries with extra money.

    Fast forward a week and I smell heavy cigarette smoke on her (which is a pretty big offense in my medical office). She indeed is smoking “again”, according to her. Fast forward again, employee is very sick on a Saturday and text me about how bad she feels I suggest she go to Dr. Her response: “with what money”. Monday comes and around noon she says she has fever and needs to go. I let her go assuming she was leaving to go to a dr (I know drs are cheaper on weekdays than weekends). The FOLLOWING Monday, she sounds like death bc of an awful hacking cough (she works front desk), and I actually left patient to see if she was ok. She informed me she had not been to Dr bc couldn’t afford $20 copay, but still reeks of heavy smoke. So she had to leave work AGAIN, but this time she actually went to Dr.

    Side note: she is paid hourly and doesn’t accrue time off yet bc she just made a year. (I made an exception in her first year and paid her 5 days when she had a close death in family bc I knew she would struggle to make ends meet). So no workey-no money.

    I so badly want to draw her the circle of life. No money- spend what little money u have on cigarettes-get bronchitis-miss work-lose money-no money for Dr- money for cigarettes (repeat). Soon after miss work; lose job is going to follow. (And no she isn’t a star employee and this isn’t only issue—she has potential to be, but has a bad habit of self-sabotage).

    1. KellyK*

      While starting smoking again is obviously a bad choice, making people work a full year without accruing any time off, or firing them for being sick, is not okay.

      1. Same*

        To make my response shorter, I didn’t go into full details. After six months, they get one paid sick day/vacation to use as they would like. AND, during her first year, when she didn’t have PTO, I paid her five days she didn’t work, as I said above. After the first year, they accrue time each pay period, depending on the length of time they have been here (she JUST made a year). We are a privately owned small business and in a very rural area. The majority of employers here offer no PTO/401k, etc. I do. I would never fire someone for being sick, and I never have. Again, she has many other issues that I didn’t go into detail about, bc I was trying to keep it short and sweet. OP’s letter just brought to mind one of the things that frustrates me about her.

        1. fun fact*

          “After six months, they get one paid sick day/vacation to use as they would like.”

          Wow. Wooowwwww. Wow.

    2. aebhel*

      Frankly, you sound like a lousy boss. Your employee shouldn’t have to be there a year in order to have paid sick days, her smoking doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with her heath problems, and if you’re firing people for being out sick for a few days, you’re an ass, and you’re creating a toxic work environment where people will feel compelled to come in when they’re feeling poorly for fear of losing their jobs. Particularly if you’re running a medical office, that’s a pretty stupid long-term strategy.

      1. Same*

        You know nothing of the type of business, size, or demographic of where I am located. I just find it completely unnecessary to call someone a lousy boss and an ass when you have such little information. I was only airing one issue I have with this employee, because it pertains to the original letter. By most people’s accounts, I am a people pleasing boss who lets my employees get away with more than I should (which I am trying very hard to work on and taking tons of advice from Allison and comments by people who mean well). So, if it made you feel better to make a snap judgement and insult me, then kudos for you.

    3. Amy*

      So…you don’t give your employee PTO, and then you’re surprised that she comes into work sick? That doesn’t sound like an employee problem. That sounds like an employER problem. It’s the natural, predictable consequence of refusing to offer paid sick leave.

      That’s not to say that there can’t also be problems with the employee, but even if there are, that doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally stingy employment practices will force your employees to make less-than-optimal decisions. Why don’t you give your employees paid sick leave in their first year? Do you expect that they’re going to magically never be sick? Especially in a medical office, I’d think you’d want to incentivize them to stay home when they might have a bug.

      1. Same*

        They get one sick/vacation day after six months. After first year, they accrue it by pay period depending on time they have been with office. We are not a stingy office. We are small and rural, and frankly don’t have the finances, bc we accept all insurances which decreases our income greatly. We also don’t have extra employees lying around, so when one does miss, it really affects the rest of the office. I do not want anyone here when they are sick, and I am not upset that my employee is sick. I even offered to pay for her doctor’s visits. I’m only frustrated at what seems to be avoidable situations. Again, it is not just this situation that brings aggravation; I only brought this one to light because of the original post. BTW, this was my first real post, and will be my last for a while. I didn’t expect the negativity, name calling, and assumptions. I appreciate that at least your comment offered constructive criticism.

        1. Julia the Survivor*

          I work at a hospital and I began accruing PTO right away. I don’t remember if it was from day one or after the 3-month introductory period, but I didn’t have to wait a year.
          Every employer who doesn’t want to offer benefits or market salary poor-mouths “we don’t have the money”. Maybe you really don’t, but you should find a way to give sick pay anyway. When I was a waitress I went to work with a cold because I didn’t get sick pay. Your employees will do the same. Quite a confidence builder in a medical office!
          Also, your employee probably needs good long-term therapy to overcome the self-sabotage. Hope her benefits cover that…

  61. samgarden*

    My company can’t manage their finances, and expect low-level employees to loan them money for business expenses that are known in advance — should I say something?

  62. Anon for This*

    This question and response couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Recently my boss “mentored” me about an anonymous drop in to my work of a post I had made on social media that had been screencapped from a post that is over a month old (but the picture was taken within 2 hours of the post going up).

    It “was not a work matter” but suggested to my boss strongly that I be “mentored” by the CEO about being aware of what I put on there. So I was “mentored” as opposed to treated like an adult and given a “heads up”.

    I objected strenuously. My boss tells me that she objected (at which point I asked why we were having the conversation).

    For what it’s worth, the only reference to work in my post was that I had come across a hit and drive off of an animal I then had to rescue from the road on my way to said work. It was not soft, it was not polite, it contained profanity, but it was important to me to remind people to take care on the road and have compassion, not to leave animals incapacitated but alive on the road.

    I am bewildered and exceptionally offended by this entire situation, and this question and response from Alison has really helped crystalise for me why I felt so uncomfortable and why I feel it was such a huge boundary cross for my organisation.

  63. I heart Paul Buchman*

    I just wanted to comment about the view that it is ok for rich people to have luxuries but not poor people. I see this a lot and it bothers me. Someone might say ‘so and so is on welfare but I went over there and there was a can of coke and a chocolate bar in their fridge!’ or ‘she’s always broke but she’s got money to wear lipstick’. I grew up with a single mum on welfare and relatives would sneer about mum buying us ice-cream. The reality is though that for these people this may literally be the only luxury that they have in their life. If you are really scraping by you might be sitting in the dark on your own but at least you can have a quarter of a kit-kat after the kids are in bed! So your employee bought concert tickets – maybe she went without all sorts of things to get them that you take for granted (I don’t know – hot water/ate rice and beans for dinner for a month), who are you to make the judgement that wasn’t worthwhile? She likely isn’t suggesting that you drop coffee/cabs/getting your hair done to save the difference. It is mighty hard to shower in cold water/eat rice/walk to work with no concert to at least daydream about (even if that concert happened two years ago and you haven’t been out since).

    1. KellyK*

      Yes, I think this is a really good point. Everybody deserves to have some pleasure in their lives, and from the outside, you really can’t tell what things are worth to other people on an emotional level. It’s also a lot easier to save if you have some pleasures that you’ve budgeted for and prioritized. Just like being on a strict diet can make you want to eat everything in sight, never buying anything fun can really increase the temptation to splurge.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        20 years ago I discovered the one good thing in my life – swing dancing! I loved the music and had always wanted to swing dance. Being involved in swing led me to rockabilly, which helped me grow, which helped me become more involved, which improved my social/people skills, which led to a much better job as well as friendships with the best and nicest people I’ve ever known.
        I was willing to go into debt to take a cab home from the monthly music event because it was the only good thing in my life. No, I wasn’t good at budgeting or controlling my spending, but what I’m saying is, enjoying the music, dancing and friends was my top priority and is still high on my list!

  64. Almost Violet Miller*

    In my first job after college I ended up being owed over 1000 euros by my employer after the first 2-3 months for business expenses. (In my region that’s a good monthly salary, in my former bosses country around minimum wage.) Because of the carelessness of a colleague of mine I also didn’t have access to my salary since the very beginning. I was very fortunate because my family could help me out.
    This situation has repeated itself twice during my 2 years there (thankfully I could access my salary at leastso I had the funds) but I decided to stop all business travel until I got reimbursed. Cash advances were out of question. My bosses were so scared of the finance manager and didn’t comprehend why I found not being reimbursed within a month unacceptable that they just offered to lend me money.
    I know that my situation was completely different. Just saying this to show that some bosses are really unable to handle such situations. OP seems to be someone who wants to help and it’s good to know that there are bosses out there who care and want to address these issues. This doesn’t mean he should, many reasons are given by Allison and fellow commenters but bosses have to be sensitive.
    (In my current position I have a company credit card. Makes budgeting for myself so much easier. Business travel is still not a piece of cake, question might be coming up on the weekend work thread.)

  65. cncx*

    to be fair, i was in a cash flow situation at work where i couldn’t cover an expense- an almost 10k hotel bill for a training. i made other arrangements for that with my boss (putting it on someone’s company card rather than my personal, which didn’t even have a 10k limit). But this doesn’t sound like the amount Jane is being asked to cover as part of normal expense reporting.

    super late to the game on this 300 comments in and don’t know if someone has already mentioned it, but i would be careful if jane were in a position where she was handling company cards or petty cash. i’m not saying everyone with personal finance situations are not to be trusted with company funds (and like i have said, i have been there so i’m really not judging), i’ve just worked with two people who started dipping into the petty cash or using company cards to buy plane tickets, then got into situations they couldn’t get out of. In one case, the employee was fired for theft, and in another case there was additional oversight (double sign off) on the petty cash.

  66. Not The Maid!*

    Something can be said without directly pointing it out. For instance, The boss could listen to “Sonja” when she mentions her money problems and say something like “Oh, I remember those days when I was just starting out, I hated not having enough money. Luckily I picked up some financial disciplines along the way and those have been a real lifesaver. Its a liberating feeling”! Also, its important to note that many times when a company excrescences theft, it was done by an employee going through financial stress. Not saying this person will steal down the line, or will even be in the position to so so, but poor financial choices get more stressful as the years go by, so its important to note that when looking for a long term employee.

    1. Amy*

      I think this is often less subtle than the person saying it thinks it is. It’s not necessarily a bad approach–it can be gentler than directly blurting it out–but it’s generally clear what they’re doing, and if giving direct advice would be fundamentally inappropriate for the relationship, this doesn’t really resolve that.

  67. Belle*

    As a Jane, we KNOW that we’re making bad financial decisions, we know. It’s a very hard thing to fix and the only person who can make those changes is Jane. It really doesn’t help me when friends get on me for my bad spending habits, especially when I am actively trying to improve. I can’t imagine how angry I would be if my boss brought it up with me.

  68. Anna*

    It could be that her travel and things like that get paid for by others! And also….do you have a lot of people at work talking about travel? She could be telling you about travel to save face, although this may not be the case at all. Just a thought.

  69. Hildegard Von Bingen*

    It’s a free country, and for me at least, people are free to spend their money as they see fit. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My priorities probably aren’t yours. I won’t judge you for how you spend. That’s your business, not mine at all.

    Just don’t ask me for a loan, don’t ask to sleep at my house if you’re kicked out of yours, and, in short, don’t ask me to bear the burden of your financial decisions.

    You are free to spend as you like. I am free to say no to any requests for money, a place to live, food, or anything else you may need as a result of your spending decisions.

    I learned to budget via the school of hard knocks. When I was young I was so broke I pawned a few things to get by, and didn’t have a car for a while. One thing I never did was hit up friends for money or living space. Best lessons I ever learned. Screw up and pay the piper. It leaves quite an impression.

    Now I budget, save, and watch my spending. But it took some lean years, and and some stupid decisions for which I paid the price, to wise me up. I think that’s how people learn best. Via experience.

    Let the young colleague do as she wishes. Stay mum about it since it’s not your business. Let experience teach her, as it will.

  70. Julia the Survivor*

    I was bad with money and some of my friends did give me advice, but I didn’t listen. I also had read all the advice articles. I knew what to do but couldn’t (mostly couldn’t) do it.
    Some people are natural spenders, some are natural savers. I was/am a spender. I’ve worked on it for a long time and it’s much better. I wish I had made more effort when I was young – but on the other hand I didn’t think I’d live long, and wanted to enjoy life.
    I work at a large organization that occasionally offers financial workshops, usually for retirement planning. Maybe OP could set up one for personal finances? There are probably others in their organization who would come too. And one for retirement planning.

  71. jojo mcscroggles*

    she’s a kid. she has different priorities. it’s normal at that age to blow your cash on some things and eat ramen. probably doesn’t have the same expenses you do and what might be frivolous to you doesn’t apply because the opportunity cost isn’t the same.

    same as all this jazz about millenials not caring about home purchases and wanting “experiences”. it’s not the generation, it’s the age.

    it will be fine.

  72. LCK*

    When I started my career, I got yelled at by another colleague about how I need to make sure that I get my personal finances in check since I will be expected to travel and pay for it and being reimbursed afterwards. I was in my early 20s fresh out of college. I was so embarrassed and humiliated by this person. He was not my boss at all. I felt that it was not his business at all. He was over 10 years older than me so he was settled than me since I was single and no kids at that point. I left the company shortly after. Be careful about this since it could blow up in your face.

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