Take some time to think about the most significant relationships in your life. Do these relationships maintain a level of equality, or is the balance tipped in one direction – not when it comes to intelligence, humor, social standing, or anything like that, but from good old-fashioned dollars and cents.
Are you in a rich friend, poor friend relationship?
If one person in a relationship has a drastically different financial situation, tension can be a natural side effect of the disparity. Even if both parties are comfortable with the division on paper, you cannot ignore the fundamentals of core human behavior.
Being rich may give you more money for toys, but it isn’t necessarily easier. Neither having more money or less money dictates which half of the relationship has things most difficult.
If you’re friends with someone with a lot more money than you, they will probably be enjoying many activities that you rarely, if ever have the opportunity to indulge in. Even if you love your friend and wish them nothing but well, you’re human, which means you might someday find yourself staring into the eyes of creeping envy.
And even if you never become envious, there will be a divide between you, simply based on the different ways you relate to the world around you. It doesn’t matter how high-minded you might be, or how humble your rich friend is, because you inhabit slightly different worlds, whether you want to admit it or not.
If you’re the one in the relationship with the money, you might harbor feelings of guilt. Even if you don’t want to feel guilty, or feel any responsibility for your friend’s station, you are human too, and their presence is a reminder of what you have that they don’t.
A large divide in income will also lead to a divide in hobbies, social circles, and interests in general, which makes it more difficult to thread that friendship through the rest of your life.
One of the reasons you don’t see much intermingling between billionaires and non-billionaires is that people tend to hang out in their same social circles. It’s been said that people are a blend of the five people they hang out with most.
This doesn’t mean you can never become a millionaire if you don’t hang out with millionaires, or that you will become a millionaire by association. It simply means you’ll rarely see a massive range of incomes between friends because that would make most people uncomfortable, and people don’t like to be uncomfortable when they can help it.
When buying a house, you don’t want to own the biggest and most overbuilt property in the neighborhood, nor do you want to buy the tiniest plot of land. You also don’t want to be the smartest person in any group because then you will have nothing to learn. The other end of the spectrum is true too, because you’ll have no respect.
Relationships are the same when it comes to money. You don’t want to have the most or the least. Like Goldilocks, you want to be just right.
But remember that there are no rules. Anyone can be friends with anyone else, but no matter which side of the financial fence you stand on, you will always have better relationships when you keep other people’s perspective in mind.
David’s Note: Sure, a billionaire friend may not be able to relate when I talk about missing my connecting flight because he has his own private jet, but he could still be interested in how most of the world travels. We might not be hanging out at a friend’s house playing board games, but we can still share our love for golf. We may not be playing together every day because he is part of an exclusive invite-only country club that I can’t buy in even if I win the lottery, but he will still occasionally ask me to enjoy a good round with him. I might not be treating him to his usual USDA prime medium rare bone-in rib-eye steak with an expensive bottle of wine, but he will still appreciate my wife’s home cooked meal.
The key to a balance relationship is how comfortable both parties are about their own wealth when they are around each other. If the two of you are perfectly fine with the disparity and can openly discuss financial situations anyway, then it really makes no difference.
The first step in making an unbalance relationship work lies within.