Rich Friends, Poor Friends, Can You be Their BFF?

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by Ryan

Are your friends about as well off as you? Are they more poor or more rich? Does this interfere with your friendship? At this point, I’m about equal with my friends, maybe actually more on the poor side because of my choices, but I can’t help but shake the thought that “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” Does that mean if I hang out with 5 millionaires all day, I will also become a millionaire? If your friends get significantly richer or significantly poorer than you, will you still be best friends forever?

Whether you agree or disagree, it may be interesting to consider your friends and family in relation to money. Obviously there are a lot of different styles of relationships and we can’t generalize about human interaction and psychology in a blog post, but we can still ponder it and share our experiences.

In a way this reminds me of the housing market. As a Realtor it was common knowledge that if you built a house, you didn’t want to be the most expensive one on the street because it had a negative affect on the value of your home. However if you were on the lower end of the neighborhood it would positively increase your value since there was a tendency to gravitate to the mean. So does the same thing happen with your friends?

Being Friends with Someone Much Richer Than You

They drive a mercedes, have a 10,000 sq ft house, and take vacations to the Carribbean every 2 months.  You drive a 6 year old kia, rent an apartment, and take a road trip to the next state over maybe once a year. Could you be friends? I think they made a movie about this… Envy…

The problem I see with this type of relationship is envy, jealousy, and an inability to relate to each other since you have different experiences. Maybe this just cultivates a completely different type of relationship where you’re friends based around a certain activitiy, but when the friend starts talking about the Carribbean… you won’t be able to relate.  Friendships are largely based around how other people make you feel, so if your rich friend rubs in that he/she is rich, it’s likely to be a short lived friendship.  However if it isn’t brought up much and you participate in activities that are similar without having a feeling that you’re missing out, it probably wouldn’t hurt the friendship.

Being Friends with Someone Much Poorer Than You

If you’re friends with someone much poorer than you who’s struggling, are you a bad friend if you don’t help them out? This might become a burden since your friend can’t do a lot of the things you want to do. Want to go kayaking in Colorado?  Not going to happen if your friend is too poor to do it.  I suppose it depends more on lifestyle associated with how you use your money more than it does with how much money you have.  Kinda like the folks in the millionaire next door who lead simple lives that don’t require a lot of money, but in fact they were very wealthy.

Having poor friends will limit the hobbies and activities you participate in, but doesn’t remove their ability to be there for you and be a true friend.  You may however, have to be okay with cooking in with them, maybe footing the bill, and limiting your hobbies.

Jerry’s Ryan’s Final Thoughts

All I know is that friends are usually people we can relate to and who we share experiences and memories with. They’re people who understand us and treat us with respect which then builds trust and a sense of inclusion. The thing I wonder though, is if money becomes so much of a part of who we are that we can no longer relate to people who are much richer or much poorer than ourselves because it directly affects our lifestyle… well at least for most of us.

In turn, maybe we stay in our current situation so we don’t have to suffer the burden of finding new friends based on the social inpact it has of either going up or down the money ladder.  Maybe people purposely stay middle class to avoid jealousy and envy from the friendships they have that matter more to them than money.  Maybe your bff’s are only people who are in the same financial bracket as you over the years.

What do you think?  Do you have any friends who are significantly richer/poorer than you?

If so, does it affect your relationship with them?  Does it bug you in any way?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Most of my friends and family are in the same classification financially as I am. Therefore I can’t personally speak about the difficulty of relating to a different class financially, but I can imagine that it has it’s challenges.

It makes sense that a poor and a rich friend both going on vacation together can be challenging from a financial standpoint. When I go on vacation, I like for my focus to be in the moment, relaxation, traveling, and having fun times, not on my finances or the finances of those around me.

This really makes me think and it humbles me because helps me to answer what is the driving force behind my relationships with my bff’s. I think that whether we say it or not, somewhere deep in the back of our minds is that thought of “our best friend or loved one is much richer or poorer than I am… ”

Great post keep up the great work!!

oilandgarlic March 21, 2010 at 7:10 am

I just stumbled upon your blog and I have to say this is a good post with great comments and insights. I have been mullling over a post about a similar topic — this inspires me to get cracking! Plus it’s inspired me to start wroking on another more personal post.

As for friendships, while money is a factor, I agree that attitude is key. While most of my friends are smart, that is not a defining factor. Sometimes you just click, or you don’t. Plus if someone were to overhear our conversations, we probably wouldn’t seem to be the most intellectual types anyway! Depending on the day, 70% of the conversation could be about shoes and 30% on personal and/or NPR sanctioned topics.
.-= oilandgarlic´s last blog ..Overpriced Food And Priceless Views =-.

scottbarrononline March 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

My step father and Uncle are self made millionaires. I believe a self made millionaire differs from the born rich folks because they know and remember their family’s poor life. Each of them has succeeded in bringing their families out of poverty. Both were able to retire their parents and support them. They also employed their friends, helping to bring them to a financial level equal to themselves.

It’s not that rich people only associate amongst their class, but they know how to get people into their class. A prime example is when Oprah wrote her friend Gayle a check for 1 million dollars. She wanted Gayle to be a millionaire also, and share in her wealth.

It’s true; we are in life where we are, because of our 5 best friends. It is each or our responsibility to guarantee the success of those around us. Would Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have TV shows today if not for Oprah? (She is the best example of giving).

Give your friends the start they need – We can be rich or poor together!
.-= scottbarrononline´s last blog ..ONE campaign =-.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 9:33 am

Actually, I don’t have any friends who are richer than me; instead all of them are poorer than me. It’s not that I seek them out to make myself feel better; I just have more money than most.

It doesn’t really hinder my relationship with them. We usually hang out at my house, and if they can’t afford to eat out, for example, I’ll just pay it for them. Since we have common interests, we’re able to get along, and money doesn’t really come up.

At least for me, it isn’t a problem. I have no way of knowing whether my friends are jealous of me. They probably partly are, but certainly not enough to really impact our friendship.

Because it happens so often, I don’t think of it, and am able to make it work. However, if someone is used to being poorer than everyone else, for example, and than is richer than a friend, it could become a problem, but if the friendship is good enough, it shouldn’t.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 9:41 am

Money can become a big problem in families. If you watch The Suze Orman Show, it’s amazing how many problems there are with family and money.

I know this isn’t the kind of family relationship you’re talking about, but money is the biggest reason couples get divorced.

No one who I know really has the same views about money as I do, as well. I believe in putting 25% of your take home into savings, 25% into retirement, always having a 6-8 month emergency fund, paying for things outright, not getting into credit card debt (seems like a no-brainer, but the average American has over $10,000 of credit card debt) and so on and so forth.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 9:45 am

I agree; I also feel more comfortable talking about this with strangers online than people I’ve always known. It may be because money is thought of as something that shouldn’t be talked about for many people, and it is pretty uncomfortable talking about money in “real” life.

I think expressing opinion is just a lot easier online because there is no social criticism. Sure, people can criticize you, but you don’t even see their face, and it’s just much less intimidating than in an actual social interaction.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

My personal experience disagrees with this rule completely: I have more money than all of my five closest friends. However, that is probably just because I’m wealthy. It makes sense that it would work.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 9:55 am

I agree. My friends are all smart. I can’t stand people who aren’t very bright. That, I think, is the main factor of whether people can be friends or not. I am friends with people who I don’t really have any shared interests with, but because we’re both fairly intellectual, we are still able to have a lot of fun together.

Daniel Johnston March 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

I agree; friends should be able to separate the money and lifestyle differences. If they can’t, then you shouldn’t be friends with them.

James April 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

I have similar interest with a wealthy person and I truely enjoy spending time with him. However, from time to time, issues will come up in our conversations that show how totally opposite our opinions are. I’m a very stubborn person that does not back down easily. So, I started intentionally staying away from certain “Hot” topics (aka: Politics), but other things seem to keep compounding and causing strife. I am finding myself irratated about smaller issues. I.E.: if I buy a new backpack he has to go out and buy a better back pack & explain to me why his is better (this has happened several times on items ranging from cameras to motorcycles), I recently paved my own driveway (saved a ton of cash) and after a hard winter’s freeze & thaw, he dropped buy to drink some beer and said, “Well, looks like your handy work held up better than you thought it would”… WTH?!?! I never doubted my “handy work”. Anyways, I find him making Freudian slips like this all the time. I was raised very poor and I do not have the big paying job, or the wealthy family to fall back on, like he does. I am very proud to have my home and property paid for before the age of 40, even if it is a shack compared to his spread. I don’t feel like he sees value in that accomplishment. What it come down to is this, while we may have mutual friends, enjoy riding motorcycles, hiking, & running marathons together, our life experiences “as youths” were so different that I am finding it harder & harder to spend time with him.
Am I being too sensitive, or is he just a spoiled little rich kid that needs a playmate?

Guy G. April 12, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Hey Ryan,
I’m didn’t see it in your post, but I may have missed it.
Have you ever heard that a person’s income is often the overage of that of their closest 6 friends. Or the 6 people they associate with most?

So, my follow up question to your post is …
Rich Friends, Poor Friends, Do you WANT to be their BFF?

I’d say that as much as I love my poorer friends, I don’t hang around them too much anymore because their poverty mentality drags me down.
I’d also admit that I don’t have any rich friends per say, but I associate with some wealthy individuals who are always great at lending their expertise, tips on budgeting, and any other info I seem to require about success.


Thanks for the post. Very thought provoking
.-= Guy G.´s last blog ..How to Save Money – Tips on Budgeting =-.

Monevator April 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I think you naturally gravitate towards people who are roughly the same as you, although it’s better if you can to try to hang around with people you aspire to be like (so if you want to be rich, get some rich friends).

The difference is childhood/college friends. True friends from those eras seem to be immune to the income / money thing (well, so far anyway – I’m in my mid-30s and it makes no difference who is rich or poor or whatever really. But with newer friends, however much it shouldn’t, I think it probably does for some of them and maybe me).
.-= Monevator´s last blog ..Video: John Maynard Keynes versus Friedrich von Hayek =-.

Simone April 17, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I have some friends that are richer than me. The problem is they have changed over the years, and have become a lot more materialistic. So everything is about designer labels, million dollar mansions etc. I don’t really connect with that sort of talk, I mean it’s great to have the money and the ability to spend it, but if that’s all you talk about…well it wares thin.

On top of that they never seem to be happy, with what they have. Sad really. If I ever had that sort of money, I certainly would enjoy it, but I really hope I wouldn’t talk about it day and night.
.-= Simone´s last blog ..What I learnt from starting an online business that I was not passionate about. =-.

Noah Rainey May 14, 2010 at 1:27 pm

My friends are rich and poor. In my opinion I don’t think having rich or poor friends really matters. What matters is the relationship between each other.
.-= Noah Rainey´s last blog ..25 Ways on How to Make Money Online =-.

Kharim May 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Nice post Ryan. For me I like making friends and it doesn’t matter if that friend is rich or poor.
.-= Kharim´s last blog ..5 Common Mistakes New Bloggers Make =-.

Dee May 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

I think some of you got it really right! It doesn’t matter how rich or poor your friend is. it doesn’t matter how smart he or she is . It matters if you love each other undertand each other. If you love and care about someone you really wouldn’t care about how smart or poor they might be. It just that you see something special in them

Financial Agent June 20, 2010 at 1:41 am

I have one friend with rich family background. But this never a gap for our friendship as we have the same interest which doesn’t involve money such as playing football together and he doesn’t adopt rich kind of lifestyle. We treasure the friendship and we respect each other without any rich or poor label upon us.
.-= Financial Agent´s last blog ..BLR vs BFR Rate Difference =-.

Ary July 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Friends will always be friends, that’s why they are called friends in the first place. In addition friends should accept themselves even if they are poor or rich. Of course, if the friends are in the same ‘ money ‘ classification, then they will get along better, because they are able to do the same things, having the same possibilities. But what about help? Why wouldn’t rich friends help the poor ones?
.-= Ary´s last blog ..Money- Like a cake =-.

Moneyedup July 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I agree with Ary, if your friends are true friends, they will stick by you no matter what. Thinking back to an episode of Friends where half the group wanted to go out to a fancy restaurant and the other half could only afford to buy crackers at said restaurant, they worked things out by making it clear that some people in the group have financial limitations and going out of their spending range makes them feel uncomfortable.
.-= Moneyedup´s last blog ..5 Things You Should Never Say About Money =-.

Roman Soluk August 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I don’t have such friends, but still I think that nowadays such a friendship is almost impossible.

sandrachestnut August 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

My oldest and dearest friend is poverty stricken. When we go anywhere, I pay and I am by no means “well off”. This friend is a joy to be with and I speak with this friend on the phone more frequently than I see him/her. I have another friend who is fabulously wealthy. I have lost contact with this other friend because of his/her wealth. I relate better to the poor friend. He/she is more available to me. “When I was deep in poverty, you taught me how to give…..” BD

friendly with money September 7, 2010 at 9:55 pm

For me when you are friends with somebody it doesn’t really matter if he is rich or poor. I’m a poor person now but I have experienced how it is to be rich before my mother died. I have had all sorts of friends due to my life’s ups and downs. You see when I was sort of well-off myself; I had this friend who was richer than me. He drives his own car, has a complete set of musical instruments in his room but he never bragged about his family’s wealth. We were good friends because I listened to him and he listened to me. We still don’t talk about money matters or when our next vacations will be, we simply hang out. I also have a friend poorer than me but she accepts that she is poor and even makes jokes about it. I think the most important thing to remember is not to be envious about your friend’s financial state or brag to your poor friend that you are wealthier than them. You don’t make friends with people because they are wealthy or they are poor. What matters most to me is a friends ability to be there for you when you are down and vice versa.

K September 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I definitely have to agree that differences in wealth can strain relationships. During college I was roommates with a friend who would constantly complain about not having money…but while I was working 40 hours a week at near-minimum wage to make rent and buy school supplies her parents would send her $1,000 a month, enough for rent and an extra couple hundred for school supplies. If it was the money issue alone that wouldn’t have been an issue – some people have more, some people have less, but her complaining that she didn’t have money was what got to me. She didn’t even earn the money she got each month, and for her to be out of it meant she must have squandered it remarkably.

If anything it did teach me a lesson – I’m not very uncomfortable around the few friends who make less than me partially because I don’t complain like my friend did. I also hope that my other friends realize how hard I’ve worked to be making the money I make and that it’s not like someone handed it to me…..and what with student loans the money in my pocket at the end of the week is still near minimum wage 😛

Todd Dowell October 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm

To me it does matter because if im to get to where i want to be…. then i must surround myself with fri ends that are already in the direction i want to be. Don’t get me wrong…. i love my poor friends, but i have learned that it is very important to watch my exposure with them.

You are what you eat…. in other words what im exposed to the most will reflect on my actions, mindset, etc…

Thanks for sharing in this post my friend

Todd Dowell

M November 18, 2010 at 5:20 am

First off, I just want to apologize, as this comment is quite lengthy….

I grew up in a family that wasn’t necessarily poor, but unbalanced in a way. We had a big house, took frequent vacations, had a pool… but these things came at the expense of things like plentiful quality food, good clothing (we often shopped at Good Will), and working vehicles (we always were buying crappy used cars that constantly broke down). So it was kind of like… as long as our house was big and looked good, and we were able to “afford” yearly vacations… we probably had the appearance of being better off than we really were. The truth was my parents were always struggling with debt and fighting over money. Looking back, I would have gladly given up a lot of things in exchange for working cars and food and parents who weren’t always on the verge of divorce.

That being said, today I am grown and married and we own a house, both my husband and I having college degrees… it took a lot of college loans for me to get through.. my parents didn’t have a penny for college. My husband and I both worked after college, and my husband has moved through a number of different jobs. Currently, he works at a great job, so great in fact, that he keeps moving up the ladder and making more. Two years ago, it was enough that there was really no point in me working, and me, having always been attracted to the traditional wife stuff, was more than happy about this.. feeling that my dream of being a caretaker somehow had come true… despite my belief in college, and what I was told, insisting that the days of being a housewife were over… and that I had better accept the fact that women should work full time.

I have found however, that having money also has its challenges. Having grown up living paycheck to paycheck, and using credit cards, to, as my mother once said… “pay for things you can’t afford right now, but don’t mind paying for slowly over time,” – having enough money to cover everything and still having some left over is a very odd feeling for me.

It does affect family and friendships and I find we are constantly trying to “hide” how much we make. My father always told me growing up that “rich people were bad people, greedy, and didn’t know the value of hard work.” I wonder if he would say the same thing about me if he knew our finances now. We want to maintain our old friendships, but sometimes it becomes clear that our friends and family are uncomfortable. We buy new cars now, which seems to bother some of our friends and family.. who have made comments to us about not having bought used. Even though it is unsaid, it seems clear that the area and type of house we are planning on moving to is making our friends and family uncomfortable. Some of the comments have been less than positive. One comment being, “why would you want to move there… snobby people live there.

So I think it is hard. Even politics and the media have a lot of fun with wealthy people… often painting people with money in a negative light. I think this sometimes bleeds over onto my friends and family. I don’t know how they would feel about us if they really knew how much we made. Would they realize that not all wealthy people are bad, greedy, lazy? Or would they just assume the same about us, too, even though they’ve seen us struggle to get to the point we are at now? It seems like friends and family love to see you struggle to make it to the top, and offer endless encouragement to get there… but it almost seems as if they weren’t prepared for you to really make it, and were much more comfortable with the thought of you constantly struggling rather than finally being successful. Sometimes it’s almost like a survivors’ guilt. Sometimes I feel guilty, even though I know we only got here through struggle, sacrifice, and hard work.

Joseph December 6, 2010 at 6:49 am

I come from a wealthy family. there is no way to hide or deny it. My parents did extremely well in the mid to late 90’s and early in this decade to where they didn’t have to work anymore and neither did their kids or grandkids.

Not to say that we don’t work, I have a masters from Harvard and spend my time busy, but it involves charity work and other non paid volunteer type activities or reviewing investments.

I have many friends and none of them are rich. I admit there are times when I hold my tongue about where I was on vacation, what I drive or things like that because I know people won’t be able to share in the experiences. I try to be cognizant of that fact.

A big issue for me is when it comes to vacations. I love to travel but none of my friends can afford to go or find the time. I usually help out my friends by covering the hotels rooms and maybe will transfer them some frequent flyer miles to help with the flight. I admit alot of this is just because I don’t want to travel alone.

Meeting new friends is the trickiest part. I try not to bring people over to my house when I first meet them because it can be a little much. It can feel like the Eddie Murphy character on Coming to America where I am trying to downplay it a little. I have seen the reaction and how people’s attitude can change when they think you are just like them to thinking you are some multi-millioniare. I tried living more plainly but I don’t think I should change my comfort level to acquiesce to those around me.

Mitchell January 18, 2012 at 4:28 am

Wow Joseph- thats very impressive, I grew up from a childrens home in kenya and worked my arse off to pay for my flight to come to england and aquire new opportunities- when you have lived in poverty and seen your freinds die because their parents could not afford to buy medication or food or their house was washed down by the terentialas rain you start to anaylise your future and the possibility that you could be next, the drive and survival instinct keeks in and all you think about is what you can do to make the best out yourself and to give back to this beautiful planet- the thing is I am now an ambassodor for the childrens home I used to live in, over the years i worked my hardest paid for college, got married and had my kids- at the age of 35 i feel as though i have accomplished alot- now faced with new resposibilities i was at home most days looking after my children- when I was growing up my freinds in kenya were true to me, we never compared or talked about money, houses freinship was based just chilling out playing sports outside, and laughing alot despite the poverty- I now live in the UK a small village which i adore- the problem is I am still grounded with my routes-I am very charming, loyal, attractive and very freindly person am always smiling even when things are tough- I tottaly get what joseph was trying to say about being embarrasssed taking freinds his house- I am now caught in the middle- sorrounded by rich freinds who pretend not to be rich and cant be themselves around me-and poor freinds who i left behind as a result of working my way up! in all honesty I have not changed who I am- sky is the limit for me and I believe if they are your true freinds it shouldnt be based on money-jealousy stems from the person- it reflects on whats important to them so in some ways its good because hopefully that will inspire them to get what you have- when I visit freinds who are multimillionaires in my neighbour hood I find ways where I can improve my life to be better and succesful-money for me is good because I can support my mum my brothers and sisters in kenya and the orphanage I grew up in, as well as enjoy the best things in life. so if you are poor- the only way you can make it is by finding something enjoy and having a real go at pursuing that as a career and if you are rich find ways to connect with yourself and be true to yourself despite the success you have accumulated-people will love you for you and will accept you for who you are and not your what you have accumulated. stop making excuses about your wealth- you are blessed.

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