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Why Chandler Wouldn't Be Able To Afford The Friends Apartment

Even if you've never been to New York City, you know that the apartments the characters on "Friends" live in are not realistic. They're spacious, well-lit places in a highly desirable Manhattan neighborhood that the characters would never be able to afford. Monica (Courteney Cox) and Rachel's (Jennifer Aniston) place would be too expensive for the chef and the waitress — even with the rent control discount they get. And Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey's (Matt LeBlanc) place is even less realistic. A market-rate two-bedroom of that size in the wealthy West Village is completely out of reach for a "transponster" and a struggling actor, especially if only one person is paying the rent, as Chandler was. We have the data to back up that assertion.

Before we get into crunching the numbers, though, we have to figure out what Chandler's job was. It was a running joke on the sitcom that no one really knew what Chandler did. Understanding his job isn't important to understanding Chandler's character, but it is important for understanding whether he could afford that apartment. And eventually, the show did kind of explain his job after he quit it in Season 9 when Monica said he worked in "statistical analysis and data reconfiguration," as noted by Bustle. With that information, we can prove that Chandler's rent payment would be unmanageable for him.

Chandler would be severely rent burdened

Chandler did well in his job as a data analyst, but not well enough. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a data analyst in New York City in 2021 is $84,892. Which is not bad at all. But Chandler lived beyond his means. We'll adjust his salary using an inflation calculator to 1997 dollars, because that was the year a "Friends" fan used as the baseline in a detailed calculation of how much money Joey owed Chandler, per BuzzFeed. In 1997, Chandler would have made $50,614, using a simple 1:1 dollar comparison. 

According to BuzzFeed, Chandler and Joey's rent was $3500, and for at least three years, Chandler paid it all. That's $42,000 a year. On a salary of about $50,000 (before taxes, mind), that's impossible to afford. Many landlords require that tenants make 40x the monthly rent, as explained by StreetEasy. To afford that requirement at $3500, Chandler would have had to make $140,000 a year. 

HUD categorizes renters as having a "severe rent burden" if more than 50% of their income goes to rent payments. Chandler would have been paying somewhere around 84%. And after he switched careers and became a junior copywriter, forget it. According to Glassdoor, a junior copywriter in 2021 makes about $56,000. In 1997, that would have been about $33,000.

In real life, Chandler wouldn't even be able to support himself the way he lived on the show, let alone support Joey, too. The only way he could have afforded his lifestyle is if his rich mom, Nora Bing, was paying for a lot of it — or at least serving as his guarantor. Which would actually make him a very realistic depiction of a young person in New York City.