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05 Jul 20:01

How to make friends as a grown up: stop being a victim, start making plans

by Ariel

I got into a huge conversation recently with an old friend of mine. He's in his mid-30s, self-employed, and works from his home in the burbs. He recently broke up with his girlfriend, and is newly single and realizing he just doesn't have the group of friends that he did in his 20s. I've had the same conversation with other friends in their late 20s and 30s (and 40s)… how the fuck do you make friends as a grown up? I was reminded of a question we got recently from a reader asking about making friends, saying, "I'm not cool like Ariel so I can't just meet people out dancing."

Uh, thank you for that adorably vintage impression of my life, sweet reader… but my social life hasn't revolved around going out dancing in over a decade. When I think of the friends I've made in the last 5 years, they're people who've come to me via parenting groups and book clubs. They're people who moved in next door, or who my mom introduced me to. This is not the way I made friends in my early 20s, when it was all pills and back-rubs and speaker-stack hugs. Those people are still my friends too, but these days I make friends like anyone else: through mutual interests, people, or groups. It took effort to make these connections — and continues to take an ongoing commitment to stay connected.

Look: I don't want to dictate that anyone needs to make friends. I've got mad love for the introverts, and serious sympathy for those who wrestle with social anxiety disorders — but for the rest of us who are just dealing with run-of-the-mill social apathy? Here are my common sense tips for grown-up friend-making:

Stop thinking friendships "just happen" (or fall into place for everyone but you)

Maybe friendships "just happen" in your early 20s, when more folks are in a state of joyfully stumbling around exploring who they are and what they like and what they want, but in your 30s and older, friendships take serious commitment and time. Lots of folks are busy with stuff (work, housekeeping, general "being a grownup keeping your crap together" bullshit), and so you have to seriously invest time in finding, nourishing, and maintaining your friendships. Don't let yourself get into a pity loop about how other people have friends just fall into their lives — for most of us, real friendships take real time and real commitment.

Be forward and direct

When I meet someone who I feel like I might click with, I get crazy forward. I have honestly said these exact words: "You seem really cool! Let's try to be friends!" It's like kindergarten: HI I LIKE YOU. PLEASE LET'S TRY TO BE FRIENDS NOW. Making friends as an adult is not a time to be coy or play hard-to-get. You have to be direct and forward. This is notoriously difficult in my hometown of Seattle, known for passive aggressiveness and "The Seattle Freeze" … but I think it's also just endemic of our tech-focused era. (As another Seattleite said, "Apps this good, who's got time to make friends?") So yeah: it's hard to break out of your iPhone bubble and be forward with people you want to be friends with… but it's worth it.

Don't talk about making plans; MAKE PLANS

It's so easy to get into endless loop around "We should get together" and "Yeah we totally should" and "Yeah totally we should maybe do that some time." If you want to be someone's friend, contact them with a pitch: "I'm thinking of going to an author reading at the bookstore this Thursday. Wanna go with me and grab a drink after?" If they can't, then say, "Well, I'd really like to hang out — is there a time that works for you?" Avoid the dreaded "checking calendars" and endless texting back and forth about maybes and bla bla. Pick up the fucking phone, and make fucking plans.

Keep trying, over and over again

My general rule is to try to make plans with someone FIVE times before giving up. (And if I'm trying to make plans with a parent, it's seriously like 10 times!) In my 20s, if a friendship didn't easily click into place, I'd bail. Here in my 30s I've learned that we're all busy and you have to commit to getting over your butthurt when people can't hang out. Try again. Then try again. Obviously, be sensitive to cues that someone isn't interested in being your friend (dude, it happens!), but ditch the self-pitying narrative about how no one wants to hang out with you. Friendships take time. Friendships take effort. This is what effort looks like.

When you want to go check facebook, directly contact a friend instead

This is something HUGE that I've been trying to work this year: Instead of pacifying my loneliness with passive social media consumption (which gives the sensation of socializing, but without actually CONNECTING to anyone)… when I feel lonely, I contact a friend directly. One on one. Even if it's just to say "Hey, you popped into my mind! I hope you're having an awesome day," it's a REAL connection that goes much farther towards maintaining true friendships than passive social media consumption. Everyone likes to feel remembered, and if you want to make real life friends, lurking on social media isn't getting you there.

Consider organized groups or even churches

This is one of those things that I thought was fucking weak when I was younger, but now I really see the value. When you work alone and aren't close with your neighbors, you need to find groups of people who share your interests. I'm so happy to have a book club, even when I don't like everyone in it or hate the book we're reading… because it feels so good to come together and share an experience with people. Do you like taking pictures? Join a local photo walk! Interested in philosophy? Look for a Unitarian Church and go get your agnostic philosophy on! Have a dog? Look for a meet-up!

Remember: most people only have 2-3 close friends

I think many of us have gotten the warped impression that everyone but us as these huge groups of close friends, and it's just not true. Again, it's easy to get into a looping victim narrative — and that time spent feeling sorry about not having enough friends is time you could be dedicating to cultivating a couple close friendships.

These are the things that have worked for me, but I'm super curious — how do you guys make friends? Is it really basically just like dating, but without the sex?

Recent Comments

  • mlr: This is so interesting! I was actually recently wondering if hairstylists want to be friends with the people whose hair ... [Link]
  • Ariel: Post and 100+ comments about friendship break-ups right over here: [Link]
  • Kat: What about friendship breakups? Have any of you ended a friendship (by choice or consequence) or been the dumpee? [Link]
  • Liset: OBH!!! This is why I love you so! I just sent out three very specific invitations to hang out with ... [Link]
  • Robyn: I love this post. I'm due to move back to the city I went to university in soon. I've been ... [Link]

+ 109 more! Join the discussion

02 Jul 20:50

Getting Enough.. and Then Some

by Mr. Money Mustache
View last week from the top of the town waterslide - Longmont, CO

View last week from the top of the old-town waterslide – Longmont, CO

On the long list of Imaginary Reasons Why Early Retirement Wouldn’t Work, many of the concerns are variations on the theme of “I won’t be able to retire early myself, because I wouldn’t have enough money to do X”.

The “X” can be anything. Often it is something family-related like raising a large number of children, funding one or more university educations, or taking care of elderly parents. Other times it is lifestyle choices that happen to cost more, like planning to retire in San Francisco or New York, or regular international travel and sightseeing. In certain dark cases, it may even be the desire to continue to regularly purchase brand new four-wheel-drive luxury trucks and drive them around town instead of riding a bike.

Everyone has a different picture in their mind of what expenditures are necessary and life-enriching to make. Even here in the supposedly-frugal Mustache family, about half of our $25,000 annual spending is on optional luxuries like living in an expensive house, eating a low-carb mostly organic diet, owning two barely-needed cars, and traveling for three months every year. The point is that every expense profile is unique, and every person will eventually need to find a way to make expenses and income match when retirement comes – whether retiring at 25 or 85.

That’s all obvious. But these bleak projections of future poverty are often missing something that is not always obvious to the beginner student of financial independence. And that is this graph:


See, what the graph shows is that the longer you work at saving, the faster your saving becomes. While initially you might be saying “Duh, thanks for the refresher in compound interest”, consider the implications on funding those niceties you were mentioning earlier.

To put some numbers to the graph, imagine a family with a 50% savings rate. They are earning a $75k take-home pay and spending $37,500. Their retirement savings will look like this, assuming a 5% after-inflation return:

End of Year Amount Increase in Wealth Passive Income Percent of What you Need
1 $37500 $37500 $1875 5%
2 $76875 $39375 $3844 10%
3 $118219 $41344 $5911 16%
4 $161630 $43411 $8081 22%
5 $207211 $45581 $10361 28%
6 $255072 $47861 $12754 34%
7 $305325 $50254 $15266 41%
8 $358092 $52766 $17905 48%
9 $413496 $55405 $20675 55%
10 $471671 $58175 $23584 63%
11 $532755 $61084 $26638 71%
12 $596892 $64138 $29845 80%
13 $664237 $67345 $33212 89%
14 $734949 $70712 $36747 98%
15 $809196 $74247 $40460 108%

In this example, our savers start from scratch and end up financially independent (passive income at least 100% of expenses) in just over 14 years. But look at the difference in wealth accumulation:

  • in Year 1, $37,500 was saved, which started to generate $1875 of annual passive income (5% of their spending)
  • in Year 14, over $70,000 was saved, boosting passive income by about $3500 (almost 10% of spending)

In other words, as you approach financial independence, your savings rate goes off-the-hook. Very short periods of earning additional money result in very large boosts to your permanent passive income. One extra year of work would boost your income by 10% ($3500, or enough to pay for a friend-in-need’s grocery bills forever, or take an extra plane trip around the world each year) – permanently.

Another way to marvel at this effect is to just look at the quantity of extra wealth. One year generates $70,000 of savings, enough to pay for a complete four-year university education in most places. The next year adds a further $74,000.

This effect isn’t just for 50% savers, either. Lower savings rates result in even bigger changes in saving power over the course of a working lifetime. It takes longer to get to independence, but at that point you will be even more amazed at the boost you are receiving by surfing on the front of the money wave.

So while I’ll agree that the financial newbie has a few years of ass-busting ahead of him to buy his freedom, I think he is in for some positive surprises when it comes to ‘stashing enough to fund any niceties that might need to be added.

This exponential nature of wealth accumulation leads to a surprising feeling of confidence, which you could call “Having Enough… and Then Some”. Not only are your bills covered, but you now have confidence that it would be easy to cover any additional expenses that might come up. Mr. Money Mustache is often accused of “cockiness” in this regard, when in fact the confidence is just the result of simple math. Income = Principal x Investment return rate.

You have an array of options open to you, that may never even be used in your lifetime. But just knowing they are there for you, opens up an airy new Dojo in your mind that allows you to do mental Kung Fu that would have been impossible before you were free. Those options boil down to just three concepts:

  1. You designed your retirement income to be at least slightly higher than your retirement spending. So there is a frequent feeling of surplus and safety.
  2. You always have the power to spend less, if you ever choose to do so.
  3. You always have the power to earn money, again at your own choosing. During the extended freedom of an early retiree, this is very likely to happen at least occasionally.

The last two are possible at any time, but neither is likely to be truly necessary. But any time #2 and #3 are practiced even if just for fun, it reinforces #1 even more, for the rest of your life.

This feeling of control gives you the “And Then Some”, to add to the feeling of “I have Enough”. And for truly joyful living, I recommend adding both feelings to your plate as part an early retirement diet.

That feeling of “And Then Some” is also referred to as “Abundance”, a concept often used on some financial blogs as an excuse to earn more in order to be able to spend more. But a truer form of Abundance is just knowing, right to your core, that you already have more than you need, and this condition will persist as long as you live.

Experience these feelings on a regular basis both before and after retirement, and you will be enjoying a truly rich life.