Several of my friends are multi-millionaires. On the flip side, several of my friends don’t have two dimes to rub together. I fall somewhere in between. Here are a few things I’ve learned about hanging out with the wealthy.

First of all, finding out that someone has money can do something to you in the inside. Sometimes, you imagine, “oh, I wonder what their house looks like.” Or you start to wonder, “do they have a boat?” or “maybe they’ll contribute money to a cause I’m working for…” or even, “are they going to judge me because I don’t have as much?”

That’s when you have to stop yourself mentally and focus in on the person. Are they a good person? Are they someone who shares the same values as me? Do I like hanging out with this person?

There are so many benefits to having rich friends. I’ve been invited to many fundraisers as a guest just to hang out. I’ve been invited to many private clubs and country clubs for lunches, dinners or events. I’ve ridden in private jets to NYC and have stayed in ritzy hotels with them. I’ve been given jobs by them and hung with them at their swanky parties that are glittered with celebrities. I’ve gotten to sit in the “owners box” at sporting events because of them, and I’ve gotten to even sit in the Directors’ box at some of the most prestigious cultural events in NY.

But the question is always: “how do you pay them back?” That’s the hard part. Because if you are a mooch, or someone who loves hanging with the wealthy just because they can GIVE you things, then that is the reputation that you’ll have and no one will want you around. My friend Suzy told me that in Naples there was a guy who hung out with all of the men just to GET stuff. He was ALWAYS around the family and finally she had to tell him this: “Charles, you don’t belong here. You don’t have a family. You’re not in OUR family. I don’t want you hanging out with my husband and I don’t want you hanging out with my kids. Go find someone else to hang out with, because you are not welcome in my family anymore.”

But even if it’s not that severe, there still has to be give and take in a relationship. Most of my wealthy friends have husbands who are wealthy and I’m good friends with both the husband and the wife. I am a friend, coach, and supporter to my friends, to their husbands, and in them raising a healthy family. I try not to focus on the wealth but what happens when it comes up?

I ignore it. I appreciate it. I thank them for it, and I pay my own way if I possibly can. On many occasions I’ve had to tell my friends that I couldn’t go out because I just couldn’t afford it, or that my husband had a growing business and I just cant’ “swing it” right now. Even going out for drinks with the girls is usually a $75 night and sometimes that just isn’t in the budget.

I take the time to spend with them, and getting to know them, and we share our struggles with each other and we support each other. We all have the same issues when you get past money… husbands, wives, children, school, work, etc. If you connect with a person on these levels then the bottom line is not to let the money change you, or your friendship.

Hanging with my friends with no money has other challenges. You don’t want to flaunt your money or trips or new clothes in front of them. You don’t want to criticize them shopping at Walmart instead of Macy’s. You encourage them and you share your successes, but it’s prudent to be sensitive.

As a person who has had money at certain times in my life, and other times has been strapped financially, I’ve learned a few things. As a person who has also done or said all of the wrong things, like telling someone that I’d NEVER shop at Walmart (which I do now all of the time), or I’d NEVER shop at thrift stores, (which I now love!), I’ve learned that we are all in stages in our lives. I’ve learned now that being able to go to the Good Will to pick up a few things is just as valuable to me as going to Tiffanys and getting my dream necklace. Being able to handle both with grace is the challenge, and that’s what I hope that I’m learning.

I have a gift that I’ve had at my house for about 6 months that I have to send to a very wealthy friend up north. When I told her that I picked it up at a store that it was “pure Lisa”, she was thrilled! She was completely blown away that I got her a gift and wondered what it could be since she always wonders WHAT people think of her.” To hear her say that she WONDERS what people think of HER.. when she practically owns the town she lives in, speaks volumes!

I’m going to send it this week and stop putting it off. I think my all of my friends deserve to know that they are special, in spite of having money… or NOT!