Money Lessons from "Friends" That You Didn't Know Existed
The new year is a time of change and fresh perspectives...and, for those of us obsessed with Netflix, it’s a time of new shows available for instant streaming. I see me making this obsession a little bit healthier by spotting practical lessons from my favorite shows, but how do you “C.U.” applying them to your everyday world?
It’s been 20 years since Friends first premiered on television, and although much has changed since then, the classic sitcom includes many money lessons we can all benefit from.
1. Be honest with yourself, and your friends, about money. Do you remember the one where Rachel, Joey and Phoebe couldn’t afford to keep up financially with Ross, Monica and Chandler? It can be awkward to have that conversation with yourself, and even more uncomfortable to discuss it with others, but you can’t reach financial freedom by trying to keep up with those in a different place financially. Your friends will understand. Start the conversation and commit to a better plan.
2. Safeguard your identity. If your identity is stolen, you probably won’t feel as though it changes your life for the better, and you certainly won’t visit that person in prison. Monica didn’t have the luxury of online banking when her identity was compromised, so if you’re not enrolled in online or mobile access, consider adding it to your account. It’s free, and in the time it takes for Netflix to count down to the next episode, you can grab your smartphone and check your account for suspicious activity.
3. Expect the unexpected. When you’re young, it’s easy to get caught in a career that you’re not completely passionate about, especially if the pay and benefits are good. Chandler found himself in an excellent position financially, but later discovered that he hated his career and needed to make a change from analyzing WENUS reports. Plot twist: He started as an unpaid intern. This is a reality for many; don’t let financial instability stand in the way of following your dreams.
4. Live within your means. Admit it-we were all proud of Joey when he landed his first major acting gig as Dr. Drake Ramoray on Days of Our Lives. But, he overestimated his financial stability when he leased a new apartment and decked it out with new furnishings. Joey ended up selling the expensive items he bought and moving out. After getting a bump in pay, consider increasing your savings and maintaining your current lifestyle. Splurge every once in a while, just not all at once. (And maybe max out your 401K-did somebody say ‘company match?’)
5. Have financial conversations with your partner. Friends wouldn't be the same if Rachel hadn't left Barry at the altar, but in real life, it’s best to have money conversations with your loved ones and really consider your future with your partner before planning an expensive wedding. (Also, marrying just for money is not the best idea, either).
6. Cut your cards cold turkey. After Rachel left Barry, she had no job, no money and no experience managing her spending. She honorably made a commitment to downsizing her lifestyle and refused to live off her parents money, but knew she couldn’t control her spending if she had all of her credit cards. If you find yourself in a similar situation, either cut the cards completely or find a credit card with rewards points and a low interest rate. If you still have cards to pay off, consider a balance transfer credit card with a better interest rate as well.
7. Use your talents to create a side hustle. If Phoebe Buffay can earn money as a musician, you can certainly find a creative way to use your talents to earn some extra cash. *Sings “Smelly Cat” in head*
8. Don’t neglect your taxes when budgeting. We've all had a “Rachel” moment when we received our first paycheck. First comes denial: “Why does FICA get all of my money?!” Once the astonishment, depression and bargaining subside, you finally accept this is the way it is. Many experts suggest having additional taxes withheld from your paycheck to maximize your tax return. This comes with pros and cons-the biggest pro being that it will help keep monthly spending down, but the biggest con being that you might be tempted to spend your entire return.
9. Be wary of advice from friends. Everyone means well, especially those closest to us, but when it comes to financial management, not everyone is an expert. Don’t take money advice from your friends verbatim. Turn to your local credit union’s financial management service, or check out resources it provides (like this blog!)
10. Remember, your true friends will always be there for you. Life rarely turns out the way we plan, but your true friends will always cheer you on. One relationship worth cultivating is your relationship with your financial institution. Make sure that your bank or credit union is truly your BFF-your best financial friend. If your hard earned money is paying for stockholder dividends and derivatives instead of investing locally, it might be time to make the switch to a member-owned credit union. We’ll be there for you when you need us.
Have you learned any money lessons from your favorite sitcom? Tell us below for the chance to be featured in a future post!