I just read this article over at MSN Money, and, for the first time, I really started thinking about money and friendships. Well, specifically, money and my friendships. Before I go on, I should probably reveal something pretty shocking, given my age and profession:
I make significantly more money than most of my friends
As I turned over some of the points of the article in my mind – particularly when the author discusses “relative income” – I came to the very surprising realization that, relatively speaking, I’m one of the highest earners in my circle of friends. Now, there are a lot of mitigating factors at play here. For one, a lot of my friends are still full-time students, so obviously my income would be higher than theirs. If you weed out the full-time students, those that remain are teachers also, so our incomes are pretty similar. If you take all these factors together, it’s not surprising that I never realized that I’m [read with heavy sarcasm] the Rockefeller of the bunch.
But the article also made me consider the role that money may play in the future of my relationships with my friends. My very best friend, S, for example, is a full-time student now, but in a few short years will be Dr. S, a clinical psychologist in private practice. Her income will surpass mine several times over. Other friends are becoming lawyers, and my sister will have her MBA within the next five years. By the time I hit thirty, I will definitely not be the highest earner in my social circle, and may even be towards the bottom. How will this affect me, really?How will I really cope with living in a smaller home, taking fewer vacations, driving more modest cars than most of the people I’m close to. And the answer is: I really don’t know. Of course I want to think I’ll take it all in stride, celebrating their successes while staying content in the “noble” profession I’ve chosen. But we all know that not all transitions are smooth, and people always compare themselves with others. The thought of becoming resentful of my friends’ buying power makes me sick to my stomach, but I’m realistic to realize it very well might happen.
How do you negotiate money situations with friends? Are you high or low on the income scale in your circle, and how do you cope with that position? Are you even aware of it? And how do you think I should start preparing for my declining “relative” income?