Finding Richer Friends Isn’t the Key to Life

richer friendsI was at a conference for financial bloggers recently and one of the keynote speakers on the last day of the conference said something that caught the attention of a lot of people as good advice:

"Your income equals the average income of your five best friends."

I'm not buying it.

While those may not be his exact words, that's the gist of what he said. His point — and he made it often — was that being rich is great and if you want to be rich too, like he is, then go find some millionaires to spend more time with and surround yourself with richer friends.

I think some of his speech was tongue-in-cheek, but for the most part I think he was serious and was proud of his bank statements and income. I don't think being wealthy is anything to be ashamed of, and I applaud him for it.

Who doesn't want richer friends?

But what threw me, and what wasn't questioned at his talk to close the conference, was his advice to start finding and introducing yourself to richer people so that you can somehow glean the behaviors that help make them rich.

Really? Stop spending as much time with the top five people I know now and go look for five rich people to hang with? If dropping five friends for people with higher incomes is a path to financial success, count me out. And even if the speaker wasn't saying that those original five should be dropped, then spending a lot less time with them while pursuing richer friends sounds like a poor life choice.

His cliche doesn't ring true, which is kind of what makes a cliche a cliche — old advice that has been said over and over so much that it's worthless.

The quote has largely been attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rohn (not the speaker I heard at FinCon), though often modified from what Rohn said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

Environment affects us more than we think. Surrounding yourself with good people who are happy, ambitious and have other traits you want to emulate is a good idea.

I don't think there's anything wrong with letting go of friends who don't support you or whose negativity get you down.

But dropping people from your life because they're not rich and then seeking out richer friends doesn't sound like a reasonable thing to do.

The FinCon keynote speaker, Noah Kagan, was also a bit sexist and proud of his sexual accomplishments. He's also fond of other cliches:

And failing at a keynote is a bad plan.

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18 thoughts on “Finding Richer Friends Isn’t the Key to Life

  1. I was in and out of the room during this talk while preparing for other events, and didn't get a chance to hear anything more than, "Everyone gets $50!" But your response is similar to comments I heard afterwards from people while they were walking out of the room (many before the talk had concluded).

    1. Post author

      I stayed for the entire talk and the rest of the speakers, and overall found them to be interesting. I'll be writing next week at CashSmarter.com on another speaker that didn't resonate fully with me.

      I liked Noah's $50 plan — though I didn't get the money, but was happy to see how happy others were to get it. I just didn't think he made his point as well as he could have.

  2. I've been thinking the exact same thing since this quote blew up on Twitter! I'd rather keep my soul (and friends) than be rich. Really messed up and shows the power of herd mentality.
    You should join #feministfincon on Twitter. We need more supportive men.

  3. Thanks Aaron.

    1- Totally agree not dropping your friends. Most of my friends I've had for 10 years. Just encouraging people to think about how their environment / friends affect getting what they want in life.

    2- I wish had sexual stories to share. It's the desert life for me.

    Would have liked a bit more feedback / suggestions how to make my keynote better.

    Easy to sit in the stands and critique / write a blog post. Another thing to stand in front of 500+ hoping to make their lives significantly better.

    1. Post author

      Thanks for responding, Noah. I appreciate your thoughts about how friends can affect what you want in life, and I think dropping friends or activities that don't add to life is a smart move.

      As I tried to point out in the post, I did like some of your keynote, especially the $50 idea. I also agree that talking about $ is important and hopefully people can become more comfortable with it through the PF blogs in the FinCon community and elsewhere.

      And yes, writing from the bleachers is a lot easier than standing in front of a huge crowd and trying to inspire them. But that's what I do sometimes as a writer, with 20-20 hindsight. Maybe that's not fair, so I'm especially glad you commented here. I'm open to having you write a guest post in response if you'd like.

    2. As I think back on your talk a couple things stand out. First I regret staying for most of it, that's an hour + of my life I will never get back. But that's on me. Second as the father of three successful, high achieving millennials I pray that they never end up to be the cold-empty shell of a person that you appear to be. While I was one who was offended by the sexual references, as I reflect on what you said I pity you. Success in business and being a "mensch" are not mutually exclusive.

  4. I completely agree. And it's logistically wrong because in that group of 5 people, someone has to be richer than someone else unless they all make the same. I choose my friends based on who is there for me, good times and bad, and I'm there for them. I make more but who the hell cares?

    1. Post author

      I get his overall point of changing the people around you if they're not helping you, but my main point was that he didn't do it in such a good way by focusing on money only. Money is the last thing I'm looking for in friends, and if that's holding me back, so be it.

  5. Nice point Aaron. I'd like to be surrounded by friends who are goal-oriented, positive, and determined. I think environment factors can affect us somehow, but it's totally up to us, how determined we are to be rich or to reach our financial goals.

    1. Post author

      Agreed. I think part of Noah's overall message was to surround yourself with goal-oriented people, which I think is a great idea.

  6. A lot of my friends were friends before we even started making money, so I'm not sure how this applies to be honest. But I guess it's a theory and one that probably holds interest in a talk, so OK, I guess.

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  9. Sounds pretty horrible to me. I'd say that my natural tendency is to avoid "richer" people because they tend to spend more money on what I perceive as meaningless junk. It can be frustrating when your friends are in different financial spots (not being able to travel with you or not wanting to do X activity because they or you can't afford it), but at the end of day, I'd prefer to just not pay attention to money stats when evaluating friendships.

    If anything, I'd say that frequent conversing with those who live on less has encouraged me to reign in my spending.

    1. Post author

      That sounds like a better plan, TJ. Talking more with people who live on less would probably help you learn to live on less too. Rich or poor, the more good friends we can have, the better.

  10. Nice quote. This is the reason I always plan everything I do from meals and list of things to do, and doing these makes me feel better and accomplish many things than usual. "Failing to plan is planning to fail"

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