With financial viability seldom considered by the writers of beloved US sitcoms, we thought we’d delve into the wallets of our favourite Friends ourselves. Let’s take some guesses at the financial truth behind the New York lives of Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey, and explore some of the impressions the crew may have left on our understanding of money.
Ross was always coined (pun intended) as one of the more financially comfortable characters, seen offering to lend his sister Monica money and never struggling with bills or rent. We low-key reckon Ross would’ve been a PocketSmith user in another life. He appeared to fill his apartment with considerable paleontological knick-knacks like dinosaur eggs and old bones (we bet he’s fun at parties), and displays a pretty savvy approach to money – particularly once he was given tenure at the University. That said, what we never hear of is any childcare support payments for his son, Ben, or a whisper of alimony from his many divorces.
Oh, Rachel. We see Rachel transform from being reliant on Daddy’s credit card to living fully self-sufficiently in New York on a waitress’ salary in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Her shopping habits and questionable knowledge of taxes on her first paycheck from Central Perk (feels, Rach) are something many of us can relate to, although the storyline seemed to forget many of her financial woes once she started working in fashion. Always immaculately dressed and bouncing between three Manhattan apartments, it’s no wonder we grew up with an unrealistic idea of what an entry level salary can provide in terms of lifestyle value.
When he wasn’t cracking jokes, the chan-chan man was busy stashing cash earned at his day job doing statistical factoring and data reconfiguration (if you know, you know). Chandler reveals his savings total to the girls during a wedding planning discussion, and although we don’t learn the amount, Monica, Phoebe and Rachel are all very impressed. Thankfully, it’s 2020 and Reddit is a thing, so we went down the rabbit hole of Friends devotees guessing how much Chandler had stashed. The general consensus is the total was around $50-$100K USD. Impressive.
Monica was pretty anal about most things, so there’s a good chance she was pretty organised with money. In the earlier seasons we see her struggling with being fired and battling the low wages that come with the early days of being a chef in NYC, but she seems to find her feet rather quickly. In an episode where Joey, Phoebe and Rachel all struggle to pay for a fancy dinner, Monica, Ross and Chandler are dubbed the ‘rich’ members of the group, indicating Monica’s broke days were behind her. The drool-worthy rent controlled apartment – revealed to have cost just $200 per month! – probably helped her keep on top of her finances, too. We do see Monica dabbling with the stock market in an early season, when she invests her last $100 in a stock called M.E.G, which matched her initials. We can’t say it was the most solid investment strategy of all time, but good on her for giving it a crack.
Phoebe had a rough upbringing and so her life in Manhattan funded by cash-in-hand massage therapist work and unpaid singing gigs (all together, smelly caaat, smelly cat…) was no mean feat. What we do learn is that she doesn’t pay taxes, likely through not declaring her cash income, and that she holds some wholesome values when it comes to corporate America, which we love. Phoebe was able to maintain steady employment throughout the entirety of the series – unlike all the other Friends, who were all fired at some point. She also scored a job at a high end spa chain, which boasted a tidy salary and even a 401K (pronounced four-oh-wonk, by Phoebe!).
The bumbling actor had his fair share of money problems, though was often propped up by his corporate-earning pal, Chandler. What we do learn from the Italian stallion is that lifestyle inflation during a period of high earnings can be catastrophic for your long-term financial position. His stint on Days of Our Lives saw him prematurely move into a flashy apartment and splurge on high-end furnishings, before his character was killed off – taking his new found wealth with him.
Emma Edwards is a finance copywriter and blogger, on a mission to humanize the financial services industry by creating meaningful content that’s accessible and empowering. You’ll find her penning money tips at her blog, The Broke Generation, sharing financial insights on Instagram, or injecting life into content for her business clients.