Yesterday’s New York Times style section featured an article by Jennie Yabroff entitled Money Changes Everything (NYT registration may be required).
If, as Samuel Butler said, friendships are like money, easier made than kept, economic differences can add yet another obstacle to maintaining them. More friends and acquaintances are now finding themselves at different points on the financial spectrum, scholars and sociologists say, thanks to broad social changes like meritocracy-based higher education, diversity in the workplace and a disparity of incomes among professions.
Yabroff explores the implications of money on social relationships. What happens when your friends make good, but life deals you a series of hard breaks? (Or you make some poor decisions.) How do peers interact when there’s a financial disparity between them?
My family was poor. I attended an expensive private liberal arts college on academic scholarship, and found myself mingling with kids who came from wealth. Suddenly I wanted to buy things and do things that I could not afford. I was able to fit in by going into debt with my newly-acquired credit cards.
I’m older now, and have both friends who are much wealthier than I am, and friends who are much poorer. Some friends are particularly sensitive to money issues, and feel uncomfortable in certain circumstances: dining in restaurants, shopping, etc. Mostly we avoid situations where money differences might arise.
Yabroff’s article is a fine introduction to some of these issues, but I’d love to read more about the subject. I’ll have to check the public library for possible books. (The recent film Friends With Money also explores money differences in relationships.)