Thursday, January 24, 2008


I've frequently heard that your income will rarely vary more than 10% from that of your 5 closest friends. This doesn't terribly surprise me because people tend to hang out with other people of similar income levels, but I recently realized there may be more to it than that. I was talking last night to Amanda about churches and she was repining that so many of our fellow congregants complain vocally about their financial woes and how they are struggling to live paycheck to paycheck, but don't consider selling their leased SUV, dropping cable TV, pulling their kids out of expensive childcare, or having their husbands brown bag it to work. This affects her because she finds herself wishing she could have the luxuries that they have, but also seeing the problems it causes them. I commented that we could never find a community that coincided perfectly with our beliefs and values and her response to that was "I know there's no grown up WCF (our college ministry) out there."

That wasn't what I meant, but it's a fascinating retort because it is so close to what I meant. My 5 closest friends are all people I met in college. I think our incomes probably differ a bit more than 10%, but it's the similarity of our philosophy and habits that I find so interesting. That we agree on things we dealt with in college is somewhat unsurprising, but so many of the things that we didn't are similar as well.

I'm not going to claim that my friends all agree on everything. One couple likes buying new cars, which I think is a generally bad financial decision, but none of them finance cars. Only 10% of the general population buys their cars outright. One couple has significant investment debt on real estate, but none of us have any consumer debt. We disagree on some aspects of home schooling, but we all, along with 2% of the population, plan on doing it.

What is it that brought us together that causes us 10 years later in a totally different stage of life with entirely different problems to still follow such similar paths? We are all Christian, but I've met many Christians I don't have the same philosophy as I do. We are mainly engineering type people, but again I've met other computer people who differ from me.


gwyneth said...

Possibly what brought us together is not as much the issue as what common influencing factors we all had at that time. High school students don't often have much in the way of set financial philosophies, so one would assume that those were fairly formative years for all of us and by talking it out and being led by people like Mike and Cliff, we all took away a similar philosophy. It was also the first time many of us had incomes and expenses, so topics like debt, tithing and saving came up frequently.

Amanda said...

Interesting (in response to Gwyneth's comment)..I don't remember talking about finances at all in college. In fact, I was miles away in financial ways than I am now. I was in consumer debt of $500-$1000 at any given point in college. I graduated from college and almost immediately got a car loan on a brand new car. I was going to have 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, and a cat. Never did I think I would end up with 4 kids (or so the theory goes) and would be home schooling them. These are all recent ideas. I don't remember talking about homeschooling either except I assumed that the Andrews would. And the only person I knew that wanted more than 2 kids and said so was Gwyneth. But my common influencing factor is LT and he is the one that has come up with all these responsibility, home schooling, 4 kids. So maybe your idea still holds water. I just took a little longer to agree with all of you. :)

Christopher said...

I have to agree with Amanda. I talked with Cliff a bit while I roomed with him, but certainly not enough to think that was what put me in my current financial position. I've actually never carried consumer debt in my life except those two car loans, both of which were almost physically painful to me (unfortunately I didn't do the smart thing and keep saving the amount of a car loan after I had them paid off).

It's not just on financial matters that we agree either, as I mentioned most WCFers in our circle plan to homeschool, which I don't really see as financial. Amanda just noted that most of our friends don't really go in for Santa, either.

My argument to Amanda is that it's a deeper character issue. Maybe the fact that we were to a large degree a collection of people who for the most part didn't really fit in caused us to be more deeply suspicious of societal norms. Maybe it's the fact that most WCF people tended fairly heavily toward I/T on a Myers-Briggs scale. Maybe you're right and it's just group reinforcement. Regardless, I found the whole thing interesting.