Few things will halt a lively dinner conversation like the question, "Should we split the check?"

In 2018, your table manners are a far less pressing matter of etiquette than how you pay for your meal. For some, dividing a check by individual order — down to the dollar — is both nit-picky and cheap. Others find it reckless and selfish to expect that your friends cover the cost of your food (and that second martini). Your waiter probably would prefer you all throw down cash, and leave your six separate credit cards out of it.

In the end, there is no right way to split the check.

Unless you run in a conveniently-sourced circle of socialites and pseudo-celebrities, odds are there's an income disparity amongst your friends. You earn different salaries, you pay different rent fees, you come from different families. And no matter how much you all enjoy the act of gathering around a table and consuming food together, that doesn't solve the looming problem of the bill.

To make matters worse, the anxiety derived from wealth gaps amongst friends doesn't end with dinner payment. According to a study in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, "How much you feel you earn in comparison to others is more important in determining self-esteem than what you actually earn" — which goes to say that the income diversity within your social circle may actually be taking a serious toll on your self-image.

Does this mean you should ditch your friends with mansions in the Hamptons in an effort to surround yourself with people exclusively within the same income bracket as you? Absolutely not.

There are, however, tactical steps that can be taken.

For starters, you should begin navigating this discrepancy with candid, open conversation. Don't let money be the elephant in the room. According to the Huffington Post, "Outings are about compromise, and any good plan will incorporate input from both parties." There will always be a middle ground in terms of which restaurant you select, or which AirBnB you choose. Starting a conversation means you can find that in-between space.

For the wealthier parties in this equation, navigating these disparities is just as awkward as it is for those with less "money to blow," so to speak. "It's a delicate dance so that you're not going overboard in showing how wealthy and comfortable you are," says etiquette coach Thomas Farley. "But also not going so far in the other direction, so that the person feels like, 'What? You don't think I'm good enough to go to a fancy restaurant?'"

He suggests that you try to make up for the difference without being over-charitable, by paying the tip on a split check, supplying the food for a weekend away, or covering a shared Uber.

On the other end of the spectrum, folks who are trying their absolute hardest to save a few pennies can rely on telling questions, without having to come right out and say "I sure as hell can't afford that." Town & Country recommends asking things like,"'Would it be weird if I just met you after the concert for a drink?' or 'Is there anyone else going to Nantucket that weekend who might want to share a hotel room?'"

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, be sure to keep in mind the fact that your friends are your friends for a reason and this likely has nothing to do with income. "You probably have more in common with your rich friends than you think; you did, after all, become friends in the first place," says Huffington Post.

So be honest about your finances, but don't let wealth become central to your relationships. Odds are, the people you surround yourself with have far better qualities than a six-figure salary.

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What do you do when financial hardship hits and you can't make your monthly mortgage payments? This is a question on many homeowner's minds as nearly 17.8 million Americans are reportedly unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

When homeowners face financial hardship, such as the loss of a job, they often look to obtain a forbearance agreement from their lender. A forbearance happens when your lender grants you a temporary pause or reduction in monthly payments on your mortgage. Forbearance is not the same as payment forgiveness, in that you still have to pay the entire amount back by an agreed-upon time.

Mortgage lending institutions differ on their mortgage relief policies and qualifications; however, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were signed into law in late March of this year to protect government-backed mortgages.

Federally backed mortgages include:

  • Fannie Mae
  • Freddie Mac
  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Under the CARES Act, homeowners with a federally backed loan who either directly or indirectly suffer financial hardship due to coronavirus automatically qualify for mortgage forbearance.

Even if your mortgage is not secured by one of these agencies, you still can call and see if you qualify, as many lenders will still offer the option in order to avoid foreclosures.

Under the CARES act, homeowners can claim mortgage forbearance due to financial hardship from COVID-19 for up to 12 months without requiring any documentation or verification. During the forbearance period, mortgage lenders cannot charge late fees or penalties.

Additionally, as long as your mortgage is current at the time you claim forbearance, the lender is required to keep reporting your mortgage as paid current throughout the entire period.

At the end of the forbearance, the CARES act protects consumers from having to make a lump sum payment. Instead, you will be given a repayment plan from your provider. Since repayment options vary, it's important you ask your provider about all of your repayment options.

Possible Repayment Options:

You may be eligible for a loan modification at the end of your forbearance. With modification, the mortgage terms are changed in order to add payments that were missed during the forbearance onto the end of the loan, extending the term.

Another option that may work for some is a reduced payment option. This allows you to keep paying monthly payments at a reduced amount. The amount missed is usually added back into the monthly payments at the end of the forbearance.

For example:

Regular payment: $1000 per month

Reduced payment: $500 per month

Payment after forbearance period: $1500 (until caught up)

Balloon payments, or lump sum payments at the end of the forbearance, are prohibited under the CARES Act. However, mortgage lenders may require homeowners who are not protected under the CARES Act to make a balloon payment at the end, so again it is best to check first with your provider.

Mortgage forbearance should only be considered in true financial hardship. In other words, just because of the pandemic, you should not take a forbearance on your mortgage if you can still afford your payments. Likewise, if you are able to start making payments before the forbearance period is up, it's best to do so as soon as possible.

The Next Steps:

Before you get in touch with your mortgage servicer, save time by gathering as much documentation about the mortgage as you can. Also, be ready to list your income and monthly expenses. Due to an influx in calls, financial institutions are experiencing extremely long wait times right now, and having your information at the ready will help.

Have questions ready to ask. Here are some questions you should be asking:

  • What fees are associated with the forbearance?
  • What are all the repayment options available to you at the end of the forbearance?
  • Will you be charged interest during the forbearance period?

If your forbearance is approved, make sure to keep all documentation pertaining to it. Make sure to cancel any automatic payments to the mortgage during the forbearance period, and keep tabs on your credit report to make sure your lender doesn't report the loan as unpaid.


For more information on forbearance, contact your lender and discuss your options. If you need more assistance with understanding your options, you can contact a local agent for the housing counseling agency, or call their hotline at 1-800-569-4287.