If you want to be rich, hang around rich people. I don’t know who said that, but they were really onto something. One of the prevailing principles in all my books and podcasts about financial freedom is the need to foster quality relationships. When we were young, we all had that one friend our parents didn’t want us hanging around. They knew something we didn’t, you become who you hang around.
Charlie Jones said, “You will be the same person in five years that you are today except for the people you know and the books you read.” The Bible hammers this in very hard, “Stop fooling yourselves! Evil companions will corrupt good morals and character.” We are adults and yet we lie to ourselves about the effects our friends have on our lives: our health, quality of relationships and money.
The thing about clichés is that they are true. Show me your friends and I will show you who you are. Birds of a feather flock together. We’ve spoken about black tax and purchased affections associated with family and partners and how they affect our financial aspirations but we often don’t pay close attention to the company we keep.
I read an article on the Forbes websites on this topic and it cautioned on the costly friendships to watch out for:
• They go out every weekend and want you to go out too: Social spending pressure among young people is rife and if we don’t set boundaries in respect of our financial goals we will continue to “live for payday.” Be honest with your friends about what you can afford and find ways to spend time together that won’t compromise your financial plans.
• They sell products or own businesses and expect you to always buy from them: supporting your friends business is important but ensure you are, again, honest about what you can afford and that what they want you to purchase is of good quality.
• The Moochers: the friend who always expects you to pay because they believe that you make more than them. I learnt a very valuable tip from a colleague, he always gets a separate bill when he is part of a group. If you have ever stayed behind with the waiter calculating the bill, this one is for you.
• The friend who borrows money with no intention of returning it: just like family, if you are going to lend money, see it as a gift but if you cannot afford to not give it away, be very clear about the expectation to be refunded. Many friendships have disintegrated as a result of one not paying back what they owe.
• They mock the efforts you make to improve your life: we all make mistakes, it is important that your friends encourage your efforts of self-improvement and do not remind you of your failures.
Dr Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist advises that we be as intentional with our friendships and love as we are about our careers, by consciously choosing who and what we want as opposed to making it work or killing time with whomever happens to be choosing you. She discourages huddling together in our little “cliques” because we limit who and what we know. Getting your financial act together is an entire life change, and it can be very lonely. What I have found to be the greatest encouragement is surrounding myself with people who live the principles I want to adopt and are never afraid to tell me the truth when I err. I have a friend who has no debt, saves and invests nearly half her salary and travels the world, she is my spirit animal. Whenever she is in town, we have coffee, on her of course.
Many of us are slaves of time served in relationships despite the negative impact they have on our overall quality of life. I am an advocate for friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation however these cannot occur if we do not look beyond the surface and assess the foundations of our friendships. In order for any relationship to flourish there must be mutual respect, shared values, honesty and effective communication.
I want to leave you with this thought that was a standing joke in my varsity days, “When I die I want the people I did group assignments to lower me into my grave so that they can let me down one last time.” I believe your life is your assignment, choose wisely.
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.