What can we learn about the nature of success from Friends? And by friends, I’m referring to Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross, the characters in the TV series Friends. The sitcom, about a group of 20- and 30-somethings in Manhattan, remains a hit more than a quarter of a century later as it is one of the most popular shows on Netflix. The actors themselves have made out like bandits – the ensemble cast took the “friends” concept to heart, socializing together and even negotiating their contacts and salaries as a team. In the span of 10 seasons, their salaries rose from $20,00 per episode to $1 million in addition to profit sharing. Well done, friends.
So, can choosing the right friends do the same for you? In a word: yes.
Numerous studies show that friends influence us in many areas of life, including mental, emotional and physical health, career, and financial decision-making. For example, a
One 30-year study at
But the influence of friends works in both directions. For example, did you know that having a neighbour who has won the lottery is bad for your financial health? A
This is the classic case of “keeping up with the Joneses.” The soon-to-be bankrupt neighbours were more likely to purchase things that showed off their wealth, such as a new car, as opposed to less visible goods, such as new furniture. They were also
Other studies have confirmed that the financial choices of our colleagues influence our own decisions. In a
Of course, social media enlarges our reference group to the point where our social circle can include any or all celebrities. And, while watching reality TV is a guilty pleasure, trying to copy a celebrity’s lifestyle in real life can lead to financial ruin.
Much like we use financial capital to invest in our well-being, wisely investing in our social capital—our network of friends—can help us to reach our goals. Here’s how you can do it:
- Identify what your goals are. If you want to become an entrepreneur, seek out people who are doing what you want to do. Their attitudes and behaviours will begin to rub off on you.
- Instead of trying to change your friends, begin to create new habits yourself.
- Your reference group can include anyone, including historical figures, whom you admire and wish to emulate in some way.
- Find mentors. Most people will be flattered to be asked their advice. You, too, can be a mentor to someone to pay it forward.
- Choose your romantic partners carefully. A
University of Arizona studyfound that among young adults, the financial behaviours of their romantic partners had a strong impact on their well-being.
- Compare your financial behaviour to your actual peer group. A new website called Status Money matches people to an appropriate peer group based on factors such as age, income and geography. This allows you to
benchmark your financial habitsto your actual peer group which has been shown to reduce spending substantially.
Rita Silvan, CIM™, is personal finance and investment writer and editor. She is the former editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada magazine and is an award-winning journalist and tv media personality. Rita is the editor-in-chief of
Golden Girl Finance, an online magazine focusing on women’s financial success. When not writing about all things financial, Rita explores Toronto’s parks with her standard poodle.