Personally, I don’t care what someone’s income or wealth is when I develop a friendship with the person. It doesn’t factor into the equation directly, as it’s more about other things to me. Such as, do I laugh and have fun around the person, and do I find him or her trustworthy and of good character.
Nevertheless, sometimes money differences can come into play. For me, while I don’t think about the person’s finances when forming friendships, money can impact things later. Let me explain below.
I have a friend who I’ve known for a long time, for over 20 years actually. We both were once kids coming from the same kind of middle-class background, and ultimately obtained similar levels of education. We had a lot in common, and enjoyed a lot of the same activities. Fast forward to today. Now, life is busier, with families and other aspects of life keeping us busy. So naturally, there is less time to hang out due to other priorities. Not to mention we have each have our own set of friends who we spend time with as well. Just a part of getting older, really.
However, even with the limited time I have, I don’t see this friend as much anymore. Some of it, frankly, is that he has earned a significantly greater amount of money than I have. Not that I’ve done poorly, but he’s really seen his career skyrocket – along with his wife’s career, in particular. They’re collectively doing very well and have made some great investments too. He’s a straight shooter, so there is very little chance that he’s exaggerating anything.
They take – along with their kids – exotic trips to different parts of the globe. They’re taking beach vacations and skiing trips too. Private sports lessons for their kids. The house and neighborhood in which they live is very nice, and it’s probably not a stretch for them either. In short, they live a sweet life because they can truly afford it.
Now, in my household, we do things much more frugally. Part of this is my nature, but it’s mostly due to the need to focus on actual needs first. You know, household expenses, retirement, college, etc.
To be clear, I don’t begrudge any friends for succeeding and I truly wish for the best success for each and every person with whom I’m close. It makes me happy to see others successful and happy. That being said, it does give us less in common. For example, while I’ve traveled a fair amount (47 of 50 states), I simply can’t travel much at all today due to family needs and being smarter about allocating resources. My home is not at the level as theirs.
This gives us a few less things to talk about, and a different perspective on money now. We were talking about someone he knew who got an inheritance of around $200,000 and was happy about it. He then commented that $200,000 was “chicken feed” and wasn’t a game changer for anyone.
Now, I think that for many people that’s a pretty decent amount of money to add to one’s net worth. There are a shocking number of people with very little saved, and one article I saw recently noted that well over half of workers have less than $50,000 saved. But this guy thinks $200,000 is nothing. He never would have said that a decade ago.
When you start having different tastes due to money, different activities due to resource considerations, it can mean you start to have less in common.
Here are 3 ways to avoid letting wealth or income differences get in the way of friendships:
1) Focus on what you do have in common
While some things may have changed with a growing gap in financial means between friends, there must have been some things in common that brought you together in the first place. Maybe it was a favorite sports team, memories from school, or something similar that just hasn’t changed.
2) Accept that different people have different worldviews
The way we look at things can evolve over time. Because someone views something different from how we do doesn’t automatically make them wrong. Maybe we can broaden our horizons and learn something new?
3) Be happy for their success, or be empathetic toward their struggles
If your long-time friend is now achieving some incredible financial success, be happy for him or her! No need to get jealous, at least not too much 🙂 If your friend is struggling, please try not to dismiss them or lose interest. Rather, have empathy for their situation and realize that money doesn’t matter more than people.
My Questions for You
Do you have any friends whose finances are quite different from yours?
Has this been a longtime difference, or is it a difference that has evolved over time?
How do you manage things with friends who have different means?