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Chelsea and guest Kelsey McKinney dive into crazy real-life money stories from the TFD audience.

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Hello, everyone, and welcome back to an all new episode of The Financial Confessions.

It's me, Chelsea Fagan, your founder and CEO of The Financial Diet, your host, your person who loves talking about money. And actually, as some of you probably know if you've watched or listened to the show before, person who loves to gossip.

Now, I know that a lot of us were probably raised saying that gossip is a bad thing. But I think it's fair to say that gossip rules. It's awesome.

It's cool. It's a good thing to do. It's good for the soul.

It's good for the mind. It's good for the body. OK, maybe it's not entirely.

Sometimes gossiping can be petty, and it can be overly negative, and it can be about externalizing our own insecurities and projecting on or calling out other people based on what we see in them. But gossip, in many ways, can also be a useful tool. It's how, for example, for many, many, many years and even today, women were able to communicate important information to each other, to warn each other about things, to make connections, to form networks, to form communities.

And while some of it, yes, can be totally petty, also, a lot of it enables us to understand human behavior better to understand how other people feel, to modify our own behavior, for example, if a friend tells you about something really unpleasant that another friend of theirs did to them. That might be a cue for you to not only not do the same thing in the future, but maybe to look inward and think to yourself, have I done that to someone else? My guest today is the host of a podcast called Normal Gossip, which takes just everyday stories of gossip that's happening between any two people, it could be couples, it could be friends, it could be coworkers, and dissects them.

Not just the story itself, but also what it says about us, what it says about our broader culture and the implications that we can all take away to hopefully not get negatively gossiped about ourselves in the future. These stories are not always about money, but money is often either a direct component or a background character because at the end of the day, most of our interpersonal relationships and dynamics have some sort of a financial element or a financial elephant in the room. So today, I wanted to talk to her about her story, about what she does, and about some of the actual real-life financial gossip stories that you guys shared with us and that we sourced online to get her take on.

My guest today, as mentioned, is the host of Normal Gossip. She is also the co-founder and writer at Defector Media. Her name is Kelsey McKinney.

Welcome to the show. Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

I'm thrilled to be here and do some gossip, talk about money, all my favorite things. And thank you to Splendid Spoon for supporting this episode of The Financial Confessions. Splendid Spoon sends delicious plant-based meals and snacks designed to fit into your busy schedule instead of taking time out of it.

Go to splendidspoon.com/tfc for $50 off your first box when you subscribe. OK. So you have this podcast that we talked about in the intro.

But I was reading about you, and I found out that your background and what, to be honest, dominates your Google results is that you are part of what we can call the exvangelical community and that having been raised in evangelical Christianity is a large part of what brought you to what you do today. Can you talk a little bit about that connection? Yeah, absolutely.

So I grew up-- I'm a Texan. I grew up in Texas in a massive evangelical nondenominational megachurch. And the prevailing argument in most evangelical churches is that gossip is bad, that it's a sin, and that doing it is like a slight against God.

As I've grown up, I've left the church, but I've also questioned that in a lot of ways in ways that I think a lot of women in the church are starting to question, which is that that conversation and the demonization of gossip is happening from the top down. So you have people with a lot of power and a lot of money and a lot of influence saying, don't talk to each other about things, which is inherently dangerous. It convinces people that you have to keep anything that isn't happy and good to yourself, which is how we end up in terrible communities that don't care about each other.

And so that is-- being exvangelical is part of just my personality because it's the entire culture I grew up with. I wrote a whole novel about it. But now that I'm doing gossip as my main day-to-day work, it's been kind of funny to realize that a lot of it is just light and fun, and it's storytelling.

And sure, there's a judgment aspect. Sure, you can use gossip for evil. But in the majority of cases, like you said, gossip is something we do to try and teach each other how to behave.

You know, it's funny that you should bring up the top down dynamic of stigmatizing gossip. And it's something that I feel like we all know intrinsically, but you never-- I never really have thought of it that way. But we actually have a new podcast coming out.

And the first two-part episode is about the world of evangelical Christianity and money, how they intertwine in America. And one of the two hosts is also former evangelical. But one of the big stories in the podcast in one of the interviews that we do is with the wife of a very, very high-ranking figure in an evangelical personal finance company whose husband was, for years, carrying on all kinds of affairs and inappropriate relationships with other women in the company and was let's just say not behaving in a way that I'm sure he wanted talked about.

And it all eventually came out, and we'll go into it in detail in the podcast. But it is really interesting to think about it through the framework of this is preventing people from talking about these things is really a way of avoiding accountability as much as possible for people who might be doing bad things. Yeah.

I think even if we look at the root of the word gossip, comes from it's old English. The word is god sibb, something similar to that. And it comes from women talking to each other in birthing rooms.

That's what the word initially meant was women's conversations together in places where there was no "supervision," quote unquote, by the male figures of their community. And when I think about that, it really just emphasizes the fact of what you're saying, which is that people in power, men in power in particular, do not want you to be having these conversations. They don't want you to talk to each other because it doesn't benefit them.

It can only hurt them. And as it pertains to money, I think-- and this is a dynamic that we see in some of these stories we have here to talk about that I definitely have experienced a lot in my own life, and I'm sure everyone has, is the extent to which being silent about money regarding talking about money as a social taboo and as a form of gossip, in a lot of cases, is ultimately usually, I think, perpetuated and most enjoyed by people who have money, especially if they have it from sources that they may not be disclosing. Or they may have more of it than they want people to know.

To be quiet about money only just continues to perpetuate really imbalanced power dynamics. Yeah. I mean, sharing your salary is gossip.

Talking to other people about what you make and what they make is a form of gossip. And it's something that bosses generally do not like because they don't want you to have equal pay or because they don't want you to be talking to each other and creating unions or something. And so I think you're right.

Yeah, money is at the heart of almost everything that we do in general, but it's especially prominent when we talk about gossip. You have something that you-- a term that you used, that you use in your show from time to time, secret parent money. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I'd love to. So I grew up in Texas, as I've said. My parents were lower middle class.

My mom worked a part-time job my whole childhood. And when I moved to the Northeast, I knew that people had money. I knew that there was money that existed in the world that I didn't have.

But what I didn't know is that there were people who pretended not to have money. And when I moved to the North-- I moved to DC immediately after college, and I started meeting these people who claimed to do all the same things as me, claimed to have all the same problems with rent as me, we're saying, oh, yeah, it's so hard to make it as a writer. It's so hard to do art as my job.

And only two, three, four years later would I find out that they had immense amount of parental financial backing. And the reason that I think it comes up often on the podcast is that especially in creative careers, that kind of financial backing is a huge leg up on everyone else, which that's not their fault. But concealing the financial backing that you have makes it seem like the steps you are ahead of other people is due to your own brilliance and not due to some kind of cushion.

So while many people are working second jobs to make ends meet and to make their art go further, these people don't have to. And I think it's always a red flag to me if you're hiding how much money you make, how much money you come from, what your status is in the world. It's fine to have those things, but to keep it quiet is a real red flag for me.

Absolutely. It's also I think one thing that a lot of people, myself formerly included-- I was like you. I had a very, very similar trajectory.

I actually lived in DC at one point too and came from a very working class background and was really not aware of the extent to which we were not all having the same experience my first couple years in these bigger cosmopolitan cities. But I think a lot of people don't even realize how prevalent this is in media in general, the cultural figures that are shaping our narratives, the people who are writing articles in the biggest newspapers about money, about policy, about class, the people who are creating television shows. It's like, we did a video a little while ago about why the working class is always so terribly represented on television.

It's because none of those [BLEEP] in that writing room grew up working class. They don't even know what it's like. And a friend of mine, someone familiar to TFD viewers, actually for a long time worked for let's just say a very prominent figure on television who I think always has gone out of her way to show a very relatable kind of persona in her work and in her personality.

And it wasn't until my friend worked for her for several years to be that close to the situation that he found out that her parents were paying her New York City rent until she was almost 40 years old. Oh my god. So this person-- but and it's not just the aspect, like you said, that we're assuming it's more due to brilliance than it is to advantage, which I think is the biggest issue.

But another underrated issue is that it completely distorts our perception of how much any of these things actually pay, what people are making, because this is a person who, while they were appearing on television, on late night talk shows and stuff, wasn't making enough money to pay New York City rent. Yeah. Right.

And that's the problem is that when you have that kind of benefit, not only are you broadcasting that these jobs pay more than they actually do, but you're also unable to have conversations with your peers. If you have a financial cushion going into any kind of artistic career, you can take a lower paying job than other people. You can work for less money per word or less money per hour.

And that drives down the cost of those services overall. So it's like you have to be open about that kind of stuff. But I absolutely think it's way more common than people think it is.

Totally. So as promised, we have some real-life money gossip stories for us to just react to, have some fun with. But one that I-- I'm going to amalgamate these stories because I don't think any of you guys are watching, but listen, these are real people in my real life, so I'm going to get real vague here and maybe combine some stories.

But one-- The normal gossip rule is change location, change-- Yes. --name, change one identifying feature, so if that helps you. Unfortunately, this [BLEEP] was so cheap in this story, that I don't know that I'm going to be able to obscure it enough. But no.

So this was like I truly nearly had a hernia when my friend told me about this story. She was like, I'm going to-- she was like, I know I'm going to tell Chelsea about this, and she's never going to forget it because of my personal investment in talking about money, which is very true. But so the basic dynamic-- and this is something that I think-- and I recently did a video on this-- is becoming more common is the billing of friends over social activities, which I think before the age of Venmo would have just been you're treating someone or you're hosting someone or you're having someone over.

This isn't something that you're necessarily supposed to bill them for. But this was just a rather extreme example where someone in my life was going to travel to Europe where this person lived. And the person on the other-- who lived there, who has been in this person's life for years, close, all these things, other aspects of closeness we won't get into, but suffice to say someone that you would think would definitely be a good friend was like, oh, well, stay with me.

I'll have you over. That way, you don't have to worry about it. OK, great.

Why not? Very shortly before departure, sent a very sizeable bill for renting out, essentially, the guest room. Wait, for the guest room?

Not even for food? The guest room. Basically, a nightly fee, essentially.

And on top of it, ended up that there were other-- there were the people living in the house for most of it. So it's not even like you were subletting the place. It was essentially a house guest.

And I, of course, had a breakdown listening to that story. I was like, I can't believe it. How could you?

But on a broader level, I was like, it really speaks to our cultural moment that that would even be considered normal. I feel like boomers get a lot wrong, but I feel like if two boomers did that to each other, it would be war. Yeah.

Yeah, we've gotten a couple-- so the podcast Normal Gossip, we have an inbox and a voicemail, so we get a lot of stories from people. And we've gotten a few that are in this vein, of people throwing a dinner party for someone and then charging them for attending the dinner party. And it just feels like-- it is unfathomable to me.

I think about my old Alabama grandmother just rolling in her grave at the idea of me having someone over to my house and then charging them for it. 100%. And I also feel like-- and again, obscuring, obscuring, but let's just say no one in this story is hurting. Let's just put it that way.

And I really have developed a working theory-- and there is some data on this-- that actually, it is the people who have the least who are going to be the most generous and who will literally make you a fancy meal before they even feed themselves. I was just reading a study, I can't remember who had published it, but a study about community engagement and how the lower the income of a community, the higher the community engagement is, the more willingness that people in that neighborhood have to help each other with chores, help each other get groceries because there's a knowingness of we're all in this together. I help you, and then you help me later.

If I get a big paycheck, we go to dinner. And I think it's also kind of unfathomable to me because for years, I was like, when I know, I will know that I have reached where I want to be in my career when we don't have to split the check at dinner by type of meal chosen, when I'm not like, I had a martini and this, and so I owe $17, when we can just split it even. And so I don't understand this concept of having money and then being stingy, which is perhaps why I am not a millionaire.

What do people generally do after these sort of interactions? Is the friendship done? Do you have a conversation about it?

Do you refuse to pay? What happens? Yeah, I think we've gotten-- I think I've personally gotten two or three.

I've gone through them. There are several people that go through the stories at this point. And in almost all of them, the person who is being charged has not had the financial capital for this to not be a big deal for them, which makes sense.

If you're emailing it to us, then it was some kind of dramatic moment in your life and not just an annoyance. But almost all of them have paid it and then killed the friendship. So I will pay you this, but we will not be speaking again, which is a drastic move, but one that I respect because it's like, well, if you're going to be this way, then I don't know that I want to interact with you, which is fascinating to me that we have this-- it's a lack of communication.

It's the same thing we were talking about earlier is that if you told your friend, do you want to come to my house for this dinner party, I'm going to go all out and get a guy who shucks oysters by himself and it's going to be $100 a person, then your friend can opt into that payment or not. But if you don't give them that option and then you just Venmo them for the oyster shucking man, then they're going to be furious with you. Yeah.

It's very difficult for me to relate to the mental process of that because I feel like-- and for me, my love language has always been gift giving, hosting, spoiling others, which I know is not everyone's. But also, we were raised-- again, I did not have a lot growing up. But my mother was the kind of person that I was describing, where we were barely making ends meet.

But if we had someone over, we were going to create a ni-- have a nice meal for them and give them a nice place to stay. And don't you dare take out your wallet. Don't you dare clean, all of those things.

And what's so unbelievable to me on the part of people who are charging like that, even if you're cheap, which fine, some people are cheap, is they're not a self-preservation, anxiety, embarrassment aspect of this person is going to hate me for doing this. Right. Well, and this is something that I often have trouble distinguishing between, whether something is a truly rare behavior or whether it just does not happen in the circle of friends that I am in.

And no one in my wealth bracket is doing this that I know of. So I'm wondering if the reason we're hearing these stories is because someone is accidentally seeping into a group of people where this is normal. There's another part to it where I wouldn't necessarily describe it as cheap, but I also think that it's very transactional.

Things are very, very-- there's an expectation of complete reciprocity and I'm doing something really nice for you. You better do something really nice for me. And that, I think, is more common.

Right. I mean, it's almost like a conflation. What you're talking about reminds me of networking.

It's a conflation of true friendship with a business transaction of-- Right. --oh, well, I've done this for you, and so you owe me this. Whereas an actual I think healthy view of friendship is to say, in some periods of time, I'm going to give more, and then in others, you're going to give more, and we're not going to keep a very close tally of who owes each other $40. Well, especially if both parties don't have the same amount of money because what blows my mind about the story I'm talking about and what you identified as a common occurrence that you've seen is that the person doing the unexpected and substantial charging has a lot more money than the person being charged.

And that, I think, is one thing that almost never gets-- we talk a lot I think about being equitable and fair and all of these things. But what is often not accounted for-- and this occurs in relationships too-- is it's like if both parties are not coming on equal financial footing, a 50/50 split isn't fair. Right.

It's the difference in fairness and equity-- Right. --which is do you want to be in a friendship where everyone pays the exact same amount of money for everything at all times and everyone does the exact same amount of emotional labor? Or do you want to be in a friendship where you are accommodating of each other? Exactly.

So to get into a couple of the other stories we have, so this one is anonymous, TF Dear. I'll assume a woman, based on our audience, but you never know. In college, I was lucky because my parents were paying for my tuition, but I still had to work in order to pay rent/eat, et cetera, et cetera and to not have to live at home.

I still had to ask for help from my parents sometimes, mostly to cover bigger purchases, like a plane or train ticket home, which my roommate would make fun of me for. My roommate said it was embarrassing for me to have to ask for money from my parents, and I kind of agreed. I didn't want to have to.

I just didn't know how else I would pay for certain things. But I also started to wonder how she paid for things. She spent several summers traveling to Europe or Southeast Asia.

But I realized she never appeared to have a job. When I asked her about it, she said that she was home on-- when she was home on breaks, her parents would hire her to cook for them. She would literally go home for winter break and make her parents dinner, who knows how many times, and then they would give her $10,000.

Oh my god. I also once asked her what her parents did for a living, and she said they lived off investments. So I just assume they inherited money and didn't really work.

Now she works in wine. What? I mean, incredible kicker.

Now she works in wine is just chef's kiss. Muah. Yeah, that tracks, I feel.

Yeah. I feel like I-- I had this situation in college. And if you're working a job in college, you absolutely do not have money to buy a plane ticket because one, rent in college towns is insane.

College tuition is monumentally expensive. And most part-time jobs pay nothing. So you are constantly in an uphill battle.

And I really-- I feel for this writer because you do think it's embarrassing. Having to ask for money feels bad. It always feels bad to have to ask for money from anyone.

And so it's like she preyed-- this roommate preyed on the exact thing that is haunting this girl. Whether you're planning a big summer trip or recovering from one, it's important to give your body the fuel it needs to feel best. And with Splendid Spoon, you can enjoy a clean, delicious, stress-free meal in just minutes.

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That's $50 off at splendidspoon.com/tfc. It is really interesting how you can spiral off one of two ways when you get confronted with what is not an uncommon situation, which is just really, really rich college roommates. That happens I think quite a lot to people who go to good schools.

I have a friend who tells this story that I tell all the time, so I apologize to her. But she went to an Ivy League school, and she, at some point, was in the apartment of some girl that was a friend of her friend. And she was wearing shoes that weren't appropriate for where they were going.

And so this girl was like, oh, you can just go borrow a pair of my shoes, go into my closet and get a pair of my shoes. And she went in, and there was shelves of shoes like in the movies, and they were all still in the shoe boxes with the price tag. And she was like, I stood there and all of these Jimmy Choo shoes, very expensive heels.

She was like, I added them up, and it was my college tuition. She was like, it was what I owed the bank. Oh my god.

Which is just, I think anyone who is part of this group of people that is actively upwardly mobile, but starting from a place that is not rich, is going to have experiences like this, where it's like you were just confronted with a massive amount of wealth. And yeah, you can choose to blend in. That's an option.

You can choose to make that who you are. But I don't think I ever had the stomach for that. Like this emailer, caller, I felt so embarrassed every time I didn't have the money to pay for something.

And I never want to make someone feel like that in my entire life. No. It's a huge fear.

Although I will say, I have experienced what I think is the most extreme example of this, where it becomes almost like a King Midas dynamic. And you're like, I actually feel sorry for you. There's no way for me to obscure this, but there's no way he's listening so six of one half, dozen of the other.

But basically, a guy that I was in a social circle with a while ago and still have on social media-- God bless that social media. When I talk about a wealthy person, let's just say his father is one of the wealthiest people in the world. And that [BLEEP] was trying to pretend, oh, isn't it so hard to pay rent here?

Truly deranged levels of gaslighting and pretending that you don't-- Secret family money. Secret family money, but secret family money on the level of a small nation. But I will say, this guy-- and again, this shows you who's working in media because he's managed to buy his way into every film festival despite never selling a ticket to any movie.

And I remember, when I was very much exposed to this person socially, at the time, I was very much struggling in my media career. It was painful. And this guy had-- his father had just like purchased him expansive state-of-the-art facilities and offices and all of these things in one of the more expensive neighborhoods in the city and just-- but I will tell you.

On the King Midas tip, I was like, I think there's a certain point at which you're like-- I don't know if you watch Succession, but you're just going to be a Kendall Roy figure. You're never going to be fulfilled. You're never going to be truly accomplished.

And I do think that there is a certain point at which it's on such a different plane, that you're like, yeah, now actually it's circled back, and I kind of feel bad again. Yeah, I mean, it's hard for me because I do think a lot of rich people are really miserable. I also think that being rich is a choice.

No one is forcing you to keep immense amounts of money. You can always give money away. And-- That's true. --it is very hard for me to feel a lot of sympathy for people who only give money away for tax breaks when they are saying that they feel sad.

I'm like, well, the middle class is available to you. Simply donate all of your money. Yeah, also, I mean, no one's stopping you from taking a shift at Starbucks.

Exactly. You don't have to just do your vanity projects 24/7 and launch failed political careers and whatever ultra-rich fail children do. OK.

Another one. I found out that someone I went to college with got hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal coronavirus relief money to cover payroll for his gin distillery-- alcohol figures in again-- with 80 employees, only apparently that the gin distillery didn't even really exist. You guys have some God tier gossip.

When the FBI found out that his business had never sold any gin or incurred any pandemic losses, he was ordered to return the money. Only he dug himself deeper into the fraud scheme. He literally impersonated a bank officer and falsified bank statements to make him appear richer than he was and got an investment company to give him a $15 million loan while he was sorting things out with the government, which they did.

He started giving the money away immediately, both to family and friends, and donated to the college where he worked. Of course, he was a found out-- he was found out and eventually sentenced to a few years in prison in order to pay the money back. The full story is actually written about here with a link.

So I don't even know if this is gossip at this point. That's incredible. That is incredible.

What's your take? I mean, my take is that you shouldn't steal money. That's bad.

I guess also, the real takeaway I have from this is that liquor and perhaps restaurants has the same problem that media has, which is it's a fun job to do. And so people with a ton of money want to be there. Also, unlike just sitting in an apartment writing articles, there's a huge amount of startup cost.

Yes. Need any of these giant barrels? No.

Expensive. Man, that's so funny that I actually know someone who's going to-- who they both quit their day jobs-- you can assume not hurting for money-- to go make a gin distillery literally. And I'm just like, this is such a weird chapter two for wealthy 30-somethings.

OK. This person is I at 26, female, just got married to my husband, 30, male. I have a rocky relationship with most of my family on my mother's side.

Regardless, I chose to invite some of my family from my mother's side to attend my wedding. It was small and very intimate, so I wanted the important family to be there. My mother was not invited for a number of reasons.

She's known to steal the spotlight and to cause problems, plus she has openly shot down and berated my husband to family members despite never meeting him on the basis that he is an artist and that's how he makes a living. Yikes. Anyway, after sending invitations, word of course gets out that that side of the-- on that side of the family that I'm getting married.

I get a call from my cousin about three weeks before the wedding. She wanted to warn me that my mother had decided, for whatever twisted reasons in her mind, to get married to her fiance of a couple of years on the exact same date. Keep in mind that my wedding was planned eight months in advance.

A week before my wedding, I get a call from one of my aunts on that side explaining that she will be unable to attend due to a family matter that has arisen. Codeword for my mother's wedding, of course. As soon as I got that first call, I sent out a mass email to everyone explaining that anyone who cancels last minute who has already RSVP'd will be charged $70 due to the catering and venue fees that would be wasted on them not being present.

Logically, I wasn't actually planning on enforcing this. It was more of just an I know what you all are doing, and I'm really mad about it move. What say us?

Truly, every day, I'm surprised by the level of just messiness that exists in the world on every level. I think one, you shouldn't have invited anyone to your wedding on that side to begin with since clearly, it's not working. But I also think that charging is a weird move.

Tell me more. I mean, weddings are extremely expensive, and I very much understand that. And I understand the need for revenge on your family for leaving.

But I don't know. It's just giving them ammo to shoot back at you. I agree with that.

I think it's hard to know without the actual numbers. But I'm assuming a very small, very intimate wedding. Not many people.

You're charging them $70. So of the already small number of people attending, the amount of people who may actually apply-- who are going to apply to this, maybe a couple hundred bucks at the end of the day, which is probably on the scale of the wedding. It's not nothing.

Of course, I don't to downplay that. But probably not too much. And one thing I think is an underrated dynamic when it comes to money as it pertains to interpersonal strife is trying to be a little bit more judicious about how much money is actually worth the trouble because it's not just you now becoming-- now you a little bit losing the moral high ground.

It's also you have to coordinate with these people to get the money, and you have to interact with them to charge them. And you have to have all this other unpleasantness and logistical hassle. Is it worth it?

Yeah, and it seems like, in this situation, it's not even about the money. It's just you want to get a punch in. And I don't know.

I think about that a lot too, how much money is worth the effort, the idea of how much money can you spend without checking your bank account being a moniker of wealth. And in this situation, no wedding is $70 really going to recoup anything for based on the price of weddings. So this is just a vindictive thing.

Also, it feels like the person just wants to punish their mother. And it's like, well, you ain't getting to her. So you're just-- I guess the second best option is charging some of her loved ones $70.

But I will say, as a last note on that, we had an interview at the very beginning of this interminable season with Jeanette McCurdy, who had a very, very abusive mother and wrote a memoir recently about being happy that her mother died 10 years ago. And I don't think they ever went no contact while she was alive. I can't remember that detail.

But suffice to say, when we talked to her and when we talked to a therapist in a subsequent interview about a similar topic, this is why no contact and often no contact with other people in the immediate surrounding circle is so important and so key to mental health because as you can see, even just a little bit of peripheral contact with people who are this way, it's only going to be a net negative. You're only going to get sucked into their bull-bull-[BLEEP].. Right.

And I think it's so hard to go no contact. I do understand that that is a really difficult thing to do. But I also think that if you are listening to this and you're planning a wedding, it's important to remember that a lot of the things they tell you you should do for weddings, assume that you have a very good relationship with your family.

So I can-- Totally. --understand the impulse to be like, oh, I need to invite these people that I kind of like from my mom's side because all of this wedding literature is about how you have to invite your family. And you don't. You can just do whatever you want. 1000%.

I had 27 people at my wedding. There were several people that didn't get invited that either they were pissed off, or my family was pissed off, and I have never regretted it once because I invited the people who I really wanted to be there. And I'm sorry.

I have a million [BLEEP] aunts and uncles and cousins. I'm not inviting them all. Also, that's a them problem.

Yes. I don't know. If my best friend called me right now and was like, I eloped secretly, I would be like, I'm so happy for you.

Where are we sending gifts? Yes. Yes.

Because if it is truly about the other person and you care about them and the wedding is a good thing, then you should be happy for them. Weddings aren't about you. And also, no offense, but weddings are not necessarily forever.

We've been included in a 10-person wedding where it was ultra, ultra intimate, and they're divorced now. So I mean-- and then we get another wedding, and maybe you'll get invited to the second one, I think. My grandparents own a big old cabin where every generation after them have enjoyed annual family vacations.

Due to the cabin's age, there is constant maintenance that needs to be done. Every time we've replaced, fixed, or repaired something, there is another thing that needs fixing. We also started slowly renovating the cabin, as the interior has become quite dated.

These costs have become too much for my grandparents to handle by themselves, especially since their age means they can't do much of the work themselves, and they need to hire professionals instead. This has caused them to implement a fee system. The rule is as follows.

Every person from the age of 20 years onwards needs to pay an annual fee to be allowed to stay at the cabin. The size of the fee varies, as it is calculated according to how many people plan on using the cabin and how big the upkeep costs were the previous year. I've happily paid this fee ever since the rule was implemented and so have my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Every summer, my whole family goes to the cabin for a weekend. I decided to invite my girlfriend along because I want to introduce her to this tradition, as she's someone I imagine spending many future summers at the cabin with. She was ecstatic about the idea of meeting my extended family and going to the cabin, and she's very curious about it after hearing me talk about it a lot.

Naturally, I sat her down and told her about the rule and how she needed to pay, as everyone else paid, and that it was only fair for her to do so as well since she would be using the cabin when coming with me this year. This year's fee is around $200, $400 depending on how many people use the cabin due to a big roof leak and some pretty substantial water damage. The idea of paying this fee really upset her, and we had a big argument, where she concluded by saying she would make other plans without me this summer.

The rule is very simple and made completely fair on everyone. I don't understand why she thinks she'd be exempt from it. My brother told me I should just pay her fee for her, as my extended family would really like to meet her, but I don't think that's fair for me to pay double the fee when she's completely capable of paying it herself.

OK. All right. One, you invited her.

Right. She's your guest. Let's start there.

She's your guest. So it's interesting to me. This fee structure is interesting to me for a lot of reasons.

But all of that is now irrelevant because the question is, does your girlfriend have to pay the fee for visitors to the cabin? And the answer is no because one, you invited her, and two, you said, in the fee system structure that it is for future use of the cabin. Right.

Girlfriend is not guaranteed future use of the cabin. Right. Also, if I'm the girlfriend in this scenario and I'm paying $400, I'm like, I'm picking where I stay and not just going to this creaky [BLEEP] cabin full of your cousins.

Or if I'm the girlfriend and I'm paying $400, I'm going to be like, sick. Which weekend can I have for me and my friends? Yeah.

Exactly. Because it seems like I've paid to play. Yeah.

You're now a shareholder in this disgusting-sounding cabin. No. Also, rare to be like, you should listen to your brother, but truly, you should listen to your brother.

Pay for her. Although, I got to hit the brother with the right for the wrong reasons because he's like, you should just pay for it because we want to meet her. No, you should pay for it because she's your invited guest.

Yeah. This is so weird, in many ways. It's very weird to me, the idea of every adult over the age of 20 paying fees to go to this cabin.

It is. I have mixed feelings about it because my husband's family has-- throughout the family, it's big where he's from to have properties. That's where you hold your wealth.

So every family ends up with these big [BLEEP] properties that are not necessarily any place that everyone's clamoring to vacation at. It's not necessarily the big lake house. But there is-- and obviously, through things like estate planning, there are ways to pass things down and whatnot.

But I do think there's often, when it comes to property-- and we've seen this play out-- I think everyone's probably seen some version of this play out in their life. There's often a huge dynamic that emerges where some people just want to sell it and get the money. Some people actually want to use it.

Some people are using it all the time. Some people are never using it. And basically, there's very few ways to do it totally equitably based on what everyone actually wants.

So in a sense, treating it as, like you said, like a bit of a pay-to-play scenario. Well, at least maybe then that's based on how people are actually using it. Right.

And that makes sense to me. It does make sense to me the idea of, well, our family is going to use it for four weeks this year, so we're going to pay slightly more than the other families that are only using it for two. That seems fair to me.

But your girlfriend is going for one week or weekend. I can't remember what he said. So you're-- All weekend.

All weekend. So I assume the fee he's telling her is just the smallest fee that she could pay, which still doesn't make sense to me because the reason you're paying these fees is to maintain this property, one, because you like it, but two, because it's your inheritance. Right.

And eventually, you want to inherit like a nice place. Exactly. So you are paying these fees because you want to secure your future.

Your girlfriend doesn't get any of that. No. Let's get a prenup going that gives her part of the lake house, and then we'll start talking about charging here.

There it is. Yep. But also, minor quibble.

If $200 to $400 for a single weekend is the smallest amount, and we got, what, 25 people paying into this, and the larger amounts are in the thousands, is this the Four Seasons? How expensive could this be? I always wonder with this-- this is also something I learned about secret family money is that some people have these words that they think means something, but that's not actually what they mean.

So cabin is a perfect word for this, where they're like, it's our cabin. And then you show up, and it's 12 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms, and there's a pool. And I'm like, this is not a cabin.

This is an estate. No. And it seems like the word cabin here might be what's throwing me personally off because I'm like, how could you possibly need $200 from 25 people to maintain a cabin?

I don't even think you would need that annual-- yeah. I'm picturing a lean-to, a shack. No, and this is also-- this is one thing that I will say a lot of people-- now, this is obviously we're talking about a certain socioeconomic bracket here off the bat because many people can't afford to buy one property, let alone multiple.

But I do think that there is-- I live in New York City. Do you live in New York? I live in Philadelphia.

I love Philly. My parents lived there forever. I love it.

It's my favorite. So anyway, but in New York, there's a huge culture of having a country home. That's a big thing that people have once you get a certain amount of money.

And usually, it'll be in upstate New York or Long Island or wherever, I guess the Jersey Shore for some, whatever it might be. And I feel like it's this default option that a lot of people look at doing. And I think a lot of people don't necessarily realize that when you're doing that, A, you are basically committing to every weekend, that's where you're going.

And you also have to figure out transportation. This is what leads to a lot of people getting cars in New York City, which is another albatross. But you basically are like, well, in order to make this financially viable, we're never going anywhere else.

We're just going up to this summer home. But then also, on top of it, you now have this massive property to deal with that becomes your entire family's-- essentially their burden if they want to inherit it someday and to eventually fight over. And I do feel a little bit confused as to why that's such a popular thing for people with the money to do it.

Yeah. My goal generally is for my friends to buy country homes because that will benefit me personally. I would like to go to the country home.

I would like to visit it. I would like to have a nice time there. But you're right.

It's so much money. It's so much time. It will take over your life.

And I think there's-- I understand. I mean, being from Texas, I understand the idea of I want to own property, I want to own land, because that is an American mindset is to just buy the property underneath you. And it is weird to be like, well, I spend all week in the city, and then I drive 200 miles to my country home, where perhaps a bear has entered.

Where perhaps a bear has entered, but also, we're not changing climates. We're not changing cuisines. We're not changing-- and also, I mean, listen.

I live in New York. Obviously, our friends are in their 30s. They're having kids.

We got some friends that live out in the suburbs. That's country enough for me. I'm going up to Connecticut to visit someone for a weekend.

That's the country. I'm in the country. You've got a yard.

That's the country, baby. So as a closing thought, from your vast experience listening to these gossip stories, again, many of them having some sort of financial element, do you feel that there are general rules of thumb, good pieces of advice that you've gotten from doing this work that you maybe didn't necessarily think about before going into it as it pertains to money? For general people and the way they use money?

Yeah, and for yourself as well. Yeah, the first thing generally is we got a-- we got an email a couple of days ago from a woman that was like, is it intentional that you often talk about rich people on this podcast? And I was like, well, it's not not intentional, but also, that's where most of our stories come from because a lot of the pettiness that exists in the world exists because people have too much money and don't know what to do with it.

So I think a general rule of thumb that I have learned is just do not enter that tax bracket. Like I have said, you can keep yourself out of it if you want to. But a lot of pettiness I think could be solved by taking a deep breath and saying, OK, like you said, is this amount of money worth it to me to cause this drama?

What is my end game here? And I think another thing I have learned and noticed is that people are often in relationships or friendships that they don't want to be in because they are financially beneficial to them. And that is a very dramatic choice to make and usually not one that benefits you.

Yeah, I think those are both really good pieces of advice. And I think another one that I would just add is that-- because you mentioned that when you're getting these stories, a lot of people end up paying the money and nuking the friendship, which I think is, in some ways, almost a worst of both worlds outcome because you paid, so it looks like you were OK with paying. And then you just nuke the friendship, so you just kind of seem like an [BLEEP] on top of it.

And now you're the bad guy. I would say having a script that feels comfortable to you or a few scripts when these money things come up-- like in the case of being unexpectedly charged for something you thought was a gift or a treat or where you were a guest, I think being able to say something like, hey, I really loved being able to do this. It was such a great time.

But I wasn't expecting for it to be a cost. And honestly, it's not something I really would have budgeted for if I had known. And having that conversation that states the boundary and in an empathetic way, assuming they're not just evil, in which case, why are they your friend?

But giving them the opportunity to understand that these financial whims to them have consequences for other people. Yeah, I think also there is-- if you do not talk about money openly with your friends, if you're in a kind of friendship group where that is not a topic, I think most people assume that other people make a similar amount of money to them. So there is a benefit to saying hi, I don't make as much money as you, and I can't afford to pay for this, and I thought it was a gift.

You're right. That is a good script to have. Yeah, because not only does not saying something not help you, it also potentially perpetuates the problem with other people in that person's life.

Yes. This has been such a joyful conversation, as I knew it would. So much fun.

Look how fun gossip is. We love it. We love to gossip.

It's a joy. We're just learning about drama. Who doesn't love the drama?

Where can people go to get more of this awesome content? Normal Gossip is on every streaming platform that exists, and we're also on every social media that exists. And I am on every social media at @McKinneyKelsey.

Perfect. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Kelsey, and thank you guys all for joining us.

And we will see you next Monday on an all new episode of The Financial Confessions. [MUSIC PLAYING]