I love After-School Specials as much as the next guy. Where else can you learn such tidy life lessons intertwined with just the right amount of teen angst? Glee, you say? What’s that? Never mind. If my memory serves me, although it rarely does, most of the After-School Specials dealt with peer pressure. You know, that terrible thing that influences poor decision making? But, I love peer pressure. Why? Because it freakin’ works.
Use peer pressure. Not to pressure your peers, but to be used by your peers. This is starting to sound like some sort of freaky craigslist thing. Sorry. What I mean is that you should allow your peers to pressure you into making financial decisions. What’s the catch? It’s pretty simple: you can’t have schmuck friends.
I read once in some flaky (read: embarrassed but inspired) personal growth book that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. This means that you take on the characteristics and habits of those that you are around the most. That makes sense, right? Your 5 best friends have terrible potty-mouths? You probably do too, dammit. I believe that you are the financial average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Does this mean only hang out with people that have their shiz together? Well, not exactly. But kinda. These 5 people could be your coworkers, your neighbors, your family, or anyone else you spend a great deal of time with. It’s not necessarily the 5 people you like the most, it’s the 5 people who you spend the most time with.
Hanging out with some because they have money is utterly ridiculous. However, hanging out with someone that has the characteristics of someone who happens to have money isn’t ridiculous. It’s been my experience that people who make wise financial decisions, generally have money. I don’t want you to hang out with people that have money. I want you to hang out with people that make wise financial decisions. You know your buddy that blows his money on stupid crap? He is wearing you down. You will take on some of his financial sensibility if you hang out with him too much. I’m dead serious. Back in high school, hanging out with the wrong peeps ruined your rep, or possibly got you in trouble with the po, or worse, Daniel LaRusso. Nowadays, nerdowells could lead you to financial ruin. Did I mention that I’m dead serious?
Have you ever played in a pickup basketball game? I have. Several. There is a rule in pickup basketball that goes like this: never play in a pickup basketball game where you are the best player on the court. Why? Because you will never get better if you play with scrubs. My pickup basketball game strategy was always to play with people that were better than me. That, in itself, made me a better player. The same can be said for your friends now. How in the hell do you plan on getting better financially if your friends are always making terrible financial decisions right in front of your face?
I don’t want you to dump your friends over money, ever. However, I want you to associate with people that push you to be a better person. And as I mentioned before, this isn’t necessarily about friends, as much as it is about the people who you spend the majority of your time with. Do you go to lunch everyday with the same coworker who happens to be a financial disaster? It will start to rub off. I suggest switching up lunch partners.
So, how do you use peer pressure to better yourself financially? Associate with wise ambitious financially astute people. Does this mean that you need to hang out with your boss who drives a new Benz? Absolutely not. What does a Benz have to do with being financially astute? What it does mean is that you should consider finding a mentor in the professional world. Someone that has achieved the career success that you someday hope to have. What would be a better use of a pre-work coffee: coffee with a mentor or coffee with the same coworker that sneezes her bad habits on to you? Please understand that I’m not suggesting that your financial and career ambitions influence your friendships. But your friendships sure as hell will influence your financial and career ambitions.
Uncomfortable topic? Um, yeah. But it’s true. This isn’t about greed. This isn’t really even about money. This is about pushing yourself to be a better person. Some would argue that dumping your friends because they are slackers make you a bad person. I don’t have much of a comeback for that assertion. All I can tell you is that if you show me the 5 people that you spend the most time with, then I will tell you everything about you – without ever having met you.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.