‘Friends’: Did Phoebe Buffay Make A Lot More Money Than We Thought?

Phoebe Buffay was, by far, the most mysterious Friends character.  Think about it, sure she’s shared tidbits about her childhood and background, but a lot of critical points change depending on the situation. It’s also assumed that her rough and tumble early life has led to a less-than-stable financial situation. While that is often the case, it doesn’t look like its true for Phoebe. While she alleges in Season 1 to be one of the “poor” friends, it seems like she might have been pulling in more money than she let on. Dare we say it, she might have even been able to afford her life in Manhattan.

What was Phoebe Buffay’s job?

Fans who are not well-versed in the world of Friends often think Phoebe was a struggling musician by trade. While the flighty blond enjoyed making up her own songs and sharing them with the captive audience of a coffee shop, it wasn’t a paying gig. Instead, Phoebe was a massage therapist. At the start of the series, she worked for a significant spa chain, earning a pretty decent salary.

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay
Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Bustle notes that Phoebe was consistently employed during the entirety of the series, something that the other Friends characters can’t claim. She even landed a job at a high-end spa towards the end of the series, which assured she was making plenty of money to get by.  

How much would Phoebe have made as a masseuse?

The writers for Friends originally called Phoebe a masseuse, while the term was acceptable a couple of decades ago, professionals in the industry now prefer to be called massage therapist, and they are exceptionally well-trained in New York. In New York, a massage therapist must complete the proper schooling and pass a licensing test to work in a spa or therapy office. They must also keep their license active to continue to practice in the state.

For their dedication to their profession, the average massage therapist is paid $20 per hour up to $45 per hour according to ZipRecruiter. Therapists also have the chance to double their salary with tips. If you assume Phoebe made the national average and worked roughly 40 hours a week, it’s safe to say she made about $38,000 per year before tips. With tips, it is likely Phoebe earned around $50,000 per year by the time the series ended. Today, she’d likely pull in a salary of approximately $70,000 a year.

Could she afford her Manhattan lifestyle?

So, the real question is whether or not Phoebe could make her salary work in a city like Manhattan. Phoebe’s expenses were substantially lower than her friends’ expenses. One can assume that she wasn’t paying rent while she was living with her grandmother, and when she was living with Monica, prior to when the series began, she was splitting a rent-controlled apartment.

Phoebe also despised anything mass-produced, and her quirky style was mainly procured at thrift stores and second-hand shops. She didn’t have a penchant for expensive shoes or boots, and she was completely okay with just hanging out at Monica’s most nights. Basically, besides food and a MetroCard, her expenses were basically nothing. Overall, Phoebe likely could have survived in Manhattan on her salary because of her creative, free spirit. She may not have earned the most out of her friends, that distinction goes to Ross Geller, but she surely would have done okay.