Would the Friends cast be able to afford their lifestyles today?

The cost of living crisis has not been kind to the Friends gang

Courteney Cox Arquette as Monica Geller & Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani & Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay & David Schwimmer as Ross Geller & Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing & Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green
(Image credit: © 2012 NBCUniversal, Inc)

This September, Friends, the show that introduced us to a bunch of twenty-somethings struggling to make their way in the world, or at least New York, will turn thirty. Like many Millennials, I grew up watching Friends - first as a treat on a Friday night (in real time, no less) and later as a lonely student longing for the cosy sisterliness of Monica and Rachel. Despite recent backlash around the show’s lack of diversity, Friends is celebrated for its pioneering attitudes towards friends as family (although many have since said it set them up for unrealistic expectations of twenty-something friendship, to which I’ll have to reluctantly agree), and normalisation of not having your shit together.

Perhaps as I get older, what I long for more than the enmeshed friendships (I’ve resigned myself to never living opposite my best mates) is the apartments. Sure, it was always woven into the story that Monica had nabbed a relative’s rent-controlled place, but still. I turn to Friends when I need familiarity and comfort (read: hungover) and find myself instead stewing at characters who are now younger than I am, luxuriating in sprawling city apartments, dressing in designer garb (Rachel’s Ralph Lauren discount couldn’t have been that good), and holidaying in Barbados.

So when I saw that a new study has revealed whether the Friends characters could realistically afford their lifestyles today, I had to dig in. Using data from Glassdoor and Expatistan, the study analysed how much the characters’ lifestyles would cost today compared to the show’s premiere in 1994. If you thought you’d find light relief here, I’m sorry to inform you that living costs have jumped up a depressing 108% since the show aired. Mood deflated. Cost inflated. Read on to see which of your favourite characters would live on the breadline in 2024. Friends, they really are just like us!

Ross Geller

Ross Geller

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Up first is Ross Geller, AKA “gel boy”. Palaeontologist and on-again-off-again boyfriend to Rachel (sidenote: sleeping with someone mere hours after going on a break is not a chill move, and I will never forgive him).

Ross’s New York lifestyle would cost him $66,440.64 (approx. £53k) in 2024. His main expense was rent, which made him the biggest spender of the group (shout out to my Londoners nodding aggressively in agreement and shaking a fist at the sky). Unlike most Friends, Ross lived alone in a two-bedroom apartment (luxe!), which would set him back by $57,672 (£46k) annually today. His daily coffee trips today would cost $2,096.64 (£1.7k) a year.

Despite these indulgences, the study estimates Ross could afford his expensive lifestyle in 2024. His profession might be an endless source of amusement for the gang, but it’d give him an average salary of $280,625 (£224k), leaving him with $214,184.36 (£171k) spare, making Ross the wealthiest (and worst, imo) member of the group.

Verdict: Yes

Joey Tribbiani

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To the surprise of literally no one, Joey has the second-most expensive lifestyle of the main Friends cast, costing him $44,428.64 (£36k) yearly in 2024 - most of which goes on dates and food, which to be honest, fair.

Come to think of it, have we ever seen Joey cook? He goes out about five times a week, which today would cost a prohibitive $9,035 (7k). The other two nights, he’s ordering in pizza, which would add $2,600 (£2k) yearly.

As an aspiring actor, Joey’s average salary in 2024 would be a paltry $25,738 (£21k), which basically means his lifestyle would put him in debt of about $12,647.61 (£10k).

Verdict: No

Rachel Green  

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She might’ve cut up Daddy Green’s credit card, but that didn’t stop our Rach from splurging at Saks. According to the study, Rachel’s social life and rent would cost her $39,514.64 (£32k) in 2024, plus $28,836 (£23k) on rent and $884 (£706) in cabs.

By the end of the series, Rachel’s achieved her dream of becoming an executive in the fashion industry, earning her an average salary of $164,957 (£132K) in 2024 and making me wonder if anyone in fashion in the UK is earning this kind of money, because if they are, I don’t know them. According to these stats, Rachel would be left with $125,442.36 (£100k) spare, thought she’d likely be paying an average debt of $19,299.64 (15k) from her waitressing years.

All of which is to say, if the show was set today, Rachel could not live without financial help in season one. Calling Dr Green.

Verdict: No

Monica Geller

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As a head chef in a New York restuarant, Monica Geller would earn an average salary of $84,449 (£67k) in 2024. However, her lifestyle would set her back by $39,514.64 (£32k).

Pre-Chandler, Monica dated a lot, racking up a rough $5,421 (£4.3k) annually. Monica’s big boon was (illegally) subletting her Grandma’s rent-controlled apartment, which if it wasn’t rent-controlled would cost $28,836 (23k) a year in 2024.

However, she’d still be left with $44,934.36 (£36k) spare, although her brief stint as a rollerskating waitress would’ve spelled financial trouble.

Verdict: Maybe

Phoebe Buffay

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Credit given where credit’s due, Phoebe Buffay was an early adopter of the side hustle; she busked, she massaged, she dreamt up improbable business ventures. All of which would give her an average salary of $21,715 (17k) in 2024. But this would not be enough to cover her lifestyle.

One of Phoebe’s main expenses was rent, which would cost $28,836 (£23k) annually if she was splitting the cost with her roommate, Denise, of haunting artwork fame.

Sadly, Phoebes probably couldn’t afford to live in New York in 2024 as her debt would total $17,799.64 (14k). In 1994, Phoebe’s lifestyle would’ve cost her $18,901.32 (£15k) on a salary of around $10,387.09 (£8k), making her life in New York financially unattainable both at the time and now.

Verdict: No

Chandler Bing

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Famously, no one can remember Chandler’s job—not even his best mates—but who among us remembers Chandler’s mid-thirties career change to an interning advertising copywriter? Despite the role being lower paid (and requiring him to sell roller skates) , he’d still apparently earn an average salary of $79,436 (£63k) in 2024. Let me tell you that this was not my experience as an intern in the 2010s.

Chandler’s lifestyle would cost approximately, $39,372.64 (£31k), plus $1,768 (1.3k) on smoking, and anothe $1,704 (1.3k) on that ill-fated gym membership.

Despite this, he’d comfortably afford his lifestyle. In 1994, Chandler’s lifestyle would’ve cost him $18,833.40 (£15k) but his job as—drum roll, please—a statistical analysis and data reconfiguration worker would’ve earned him an average salary of $63,273.00 (£51k), making him one of the wealthiest characters in Friends.

Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.