A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

One luxury of being wealthy is the ability to afford professional services rather than relying on a friend or family member. For example, you can hire a sitter to give Grandma a break, or bring in an experienced landscaper instead of using your teenage son and a push mower.

Researchers have found that wealthier people tend to pay for certain things that less affluent people rely on their networks to attain.1 There are positives and negatives to outsourcing the items on your to-do list. When you remove money from the equation, there’s no need to bother a family member when you can hire a professional resource. On the other hand, there’s an old proverb that says, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Once a favor is given, you can usually count on that favor being returned — and therefore you’ve made a friend of sorts.

Among higher socioeconomic classes, these types of favors may come from a wide network of friends and colleagues and take the form of job referrals and college recommendations for children. Among poorer parts of the population, families may take on a greater role of providing favors, so there’s a constant give and take that reinforces the familial relationships. These tasks aren’t considered favors so much as just family being there for one another.

A recent study in the journal “Social Psychological and Personality Science” revealed that, as a result, the affluent spend more of their free time alone. When they do engage with other people, they spend more time with friends than family — which is the direct opposite of those with lower incomes.

In addition, wealthier people may not be as engaged in their neighborhoods, choosing instead to spend their time with “self-selected” communities such as private schools and political organizations.2 By the same token, since they likely contribute money to these organizations, it gives them a greater sense of power and influence. Among family, money doesn’t always speak the loudest. Usually the loudest speak the loudest.

Grandparents often welcome any excuse to see their grandchildren, but it’s typically best to find some balance between hiring help and asking relatives to chip in all the time. Keep in mind, research shows a constant reliance on family can put a strain on those relationships. Consequently, people with lower incomes may have less fulfilling relationships with those they spend more time with, while the wealthier establish more meaningful relationships because they are based on choice, not dependence.3

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1Cari Romm. The Science of Us. May 11, 2016. “The Rich Spend More Time With Friends, the Poor Spend More Time With Family.” Accessed May 11, 2016.

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