Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Maybe we should keep our big mouths shut?

I don’t know if I’ve blogged about this goal here, but one of my dreams for years was to be able to afford to buy 2 sets of subscription tickets to the Melbourne Theatre Company, then take a different person with me each time to see a play. We’d meet in the city, have dinner and catch up, then see the play and talk about it afterwards. I thought it would be great!

For the last two years, ever since I did the whole Geoarbitrage thing, I’ve been able to do it. Those tickets don’t come cheap, at around $90/seat, but for years I was starved of seeing live theatre and now I can finally share it. My kids, my sister, my niece, my parents and various friends have all come with me and it’s been lovely having one-on-one time with the people I like and care about.

I have a friend who I’ve known for 20 years. His name is Leo and we met when I was newly out on the dating scene after leaving my marriage. We dated briefly, but that was over a decade ago and we agreed we’d be better off as friends. We see each other every few months for lunch or dinner and it’s good for both of us to be able to talk about what’s happening in our lives and get another perspective from someone not actively involved.

We talk about everything, including finances. Coincidentally, as I was embroiled with the property-developing and geoarbitrage thing, he was also investing in a property venture… but unfortunately his didn’t turn out as well as mine did. He’s now looking at retiring overseas in a few years in a low cost of living country like Thailand or Cambodia, or maybe Bali, where the Age Pension can go a lot further. Anyway, last week it was his turn to come and see a play with me.

He had to leave work later than I did, so I grabbed a table in the restaurant next to the theatre and sent a photo of the menu so he could decide what he wanted to have. He selected the lamb, then a few minutes later he sent another text: “U paying?? Add winter veggies.”


I don’t mind admitting that I was rocked back on my heels a little. I don’t mind paying for my own meal if money’s tight for him, but considering I’d already paid for his theatre ticket… Wow.

As it turned out, he paid for both our dinners, which was nice of him, but by the time we reached this point in the evening, there was more.

Twice during dinner he made a remark about how much money I must have now, which was weird and made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t in a complimentary, “Look how far you’ve come, Frogdancer, that’s fantastic!” way. It was more of a ‘what would you know? You’re made of money’ sort of tone. I inwardly raised my eyebrows but let the comments slide.

The last remark he made, though… that one made me mad.

We were in the queue at the theatre to get in and I gave him his ticket. He said, “You must’ve seen a lot of plays lately. How many have you been to this year?”

I said, “I’ve been to a couple of plays with my Theatre kids, plus Harry Potter and I think this subscription is for 7 plays.”

He glanced at his ticket, which has the price ($91.00) on it, whistled and said in a sardonic tone, “Gee. What does it feel like to be rich?”

I was gobsmacked.

At the end of the night, after I dropped him home, he thanked me and said, “If you’ve got any more theatre tickets I’ll be happy to come with you. I love these things.”

As it happens, I have one play that I haven’t asked anyone to come with me yet, but he won’t be getting it. The main reason is that the whole idea of this is to share the love around and catch up with a range of people, but the other reason that I won’t be asking him is that I drove home feeling sad that my good fortune has changed the dynamic between us.

Well, I say ‘good fortune’ but the reality is that he could have been in a similar position to me, but his life has been all about the wine, women and song, whereas mine has been pretty different. Bringing up 4 kids on your own necessitates a more frugal, stay-at-home-more-often way of living.

I’m left wishing that we didn’t have those conversations when we were both making our moves in the property market.

I don’t want to be made to feel guilty or to apologise for my deal working out. It could so easily have gone the other way and, knowing this, I lived on a knife-edge of stress for over eighteen months while the whole thing played out. I took a calculated risk and it paid off. Leo knows all of this – after all, he was around during the days when I could barely keep food on the table and the bills paid, back when the kids were little. I guess the reason why I’m left with a nasty taste in my mouth is that this snide, envious attitude is coming out of left field when they are coming from my old friend.

Sometimes I see people in the FI world saying, “We should talk more about finances. We should make discussions about money more normal and open.” Well, maybe we should.

But on the other hand, maybe it’s better if we keep our big mouths shut?


  1. Girt

    Yes that’s interesting and a bit sad he couldn’t exhibit more manners or perspective. I see a lot of people around me who have a huge sense of entitlement to restaurant eating, elite property, unrationed healthcare or whatever. Very rarely is there recognition of the opportunity costs. It’s a key filter for my choosing of friends.

    That said, as we get older and my filters for friendship have got higher … it gets harder to find new connections and if we’re also losing older relationships it kinda sucks.

    Personally I now routinely pretend I still have a mortgage after a few awkward exchanges when I became mortgage free. Stealth wealth is the name of the game.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Yes. I had no idea this would happen. Stealth wealth isn’t a bad idea.

      • Chris

        ‘Live quietly among the masses’ is sage advice

  2. Bev

    Tactless, ungrateful twat!!! At least he bought the dinner. I hope you ordered the most expensive dish!

    • FrogdancerJones

      We ordered the same dish. The waiter talked him out of ordering the winter vegetables.

  3. Jamie

    An old friend of ours won lotto last weekend. Something like $1.4 million. She’s been a single mum for years and years (her daughter is now grown). She is nearing retirement age and has worked as a hospital cook and cleaner for longer than I’ve known her (perhaps most/all of her working life).

    I’m happy to be able to say that I feel only complete joy when I think “OMG! I can’t believe X is a millionaire!”

    But I do worry that now the word is out that her relationship with some people will change. She lives in a small town and it sounds like everyone there knows the news. I also saw it reported on the lotto Facebook page, mentioning her small town and where she worked. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure it out.

    I sincerely wish her all the best and hope we can catch up with her when we are in the area early next year. I’d love to go back to the country pub where we all used to go for dinner on a Friday night and hear what she is up to these days and what things the money has made easier for her. And to pay our own way for dinner, just like we always did.

    • FrogdancerJones

      How wonderful for her.
      Such irresponsible reporting though, particularly considering she’s a single female on her own.
      I hope everyone in her small town is happy for her.

  4. Raina

    As always, your articles are so easy to read and I enjoy them but I’m sad about the subject matter in this one.
    There’s no doubt success or money change relationships. But it doesn’t make it any less surprising and unsettling when it does.
    Sorry you had that experience with an old friend. Kudos to you for achieving a long time goal of you there ticket subscription!

  5. Leanne

    I hate the assumption that because someone travels, buys tickets to the theater or other show, or heck even treats themselves to a shopping spree, they must have money. Money doesn’t just fall into the laps of the majority of people. We work hard and save. If someone wants to splurge a bit, by all means, they should.

    My husband and I both work and have no kids. Because of this, we’re fortunate enough to travel and enjoy other luxuries. People tend to think we have unlimited funds because we’re often out and about.

    I think it’s awesome that you bring a friend or family member to the show with you. It’s a great way to reconnect and share the experience.

  6. Chris

    The subject of this post is something that rattles through my head constantly… I lost a lifetime friend because of his snide comments when I started dating a medical student. We’re married now and she’s a GP, but he started saying things like “if you play your cards right you’ll never have to work again”.

    It just seems really crass to converse about finances with certain people. I’m now firmly in the “keep my mouth shut” camp as a result.

  7. Tom

    Happy to use the spare ticket if still available? Would be more than happy to pay for it in exchange of great conversation over dinner prior to show 🙂

  8. Caroline at Costa Rica FIRE

    So sorry that your friend treated you badly during what should be a nice night out! i agree with the previous comment that you can’t make assumptions about people’s income even if they’re going to the theatre or traveling or doing whatever things some people associate with being rich. Sometimes people just earmark their money for specific priorities. Or sometimes people are just rich. Whatever the case, your friend should be appreciate of the ticket (and your company!) and not make you feel guilty about how you got it. I live in NYC which is a high cost of living city but where very rich live alongside everyday folks, so I don’t see as much comparing going on — though I’m sure it happens everywhere.

  9. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Wow, rude fellow! Maybe he was just having a bad/off day — I hope that’s all it was — but to ask to see another play after acting like that… Audacious to say the least!

    I’m so sorry that he’s only remembering your good fortune and none of the struggles it took you to get there. I guess he’s a little bitter about his own lack of good luck — not that it’s only good luck, of course, it sounds like you worked hard — but it’s a shame he had to take it out on you.

    I’m careful how much I reveal to my friends about my income because I’m pretty sure I make more than all but one of them. I tipsily revealed my income to my best friend at one point, and still feel a little weird about it to this day. She’s never said word one, but I worry nonetheless. So I plan to be more careful in the future.

  10. Kristen

    I’m sorry to hear that about your friend, especially with all the history there. I had a similar experience after reading “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin. One of the exercises is making a wall chart of income vs. expenses that’s updated monthly and displaying it somewhere prominently in the house to motivate the family to earn more and spend less. It might even motivate your friends and family to start saving more too! Nope. I discovered this didn’t work for us when various people would come over and see it then automatically assume it was my family’s responsibility to pay for things, even things we had no association with. I’m all for being generous and hospitable within reason, but I couldn’t believe how others felt completely entitled to the fruits of our hard work. The chart came down after only a few months.

  11. Snarking to Freedom

    First of all, thank you sooo much for supporting the arts!

    Second, I am sorry you had to deal with that kind of passive aggressive bs. I find that men do this more often when the person who has reached a monetary goal is a women, as if our success somehow comes at their expense.

    You are awesome and deserve all the good that has come to you through hard work 😊

  12. Bethany D

    It’s painful when circumstances reveal an unpleasant side of a hitherto trusted friend. 🙁 It’s strange feeling like suddenly you almost don’t recognize someone, and you’re left wondering whether they actually changed or whether you just never noticed that streak in their personality before.

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