I’ll show you my salary if you’ll show me yours.Posted by Donna Freedman on Oct 10, 2010 | 26 comments
Over at CBS MoneyWatch, Stacey Bradford describes hearing a stranger boast that he has too much money and not enough time to spend it.
Anyone besides me want to smack that guy two or three times?
Startled by this casual braggadocio, Bradford consulted an etiquette expert and was told that no, you really shouldn’t talk about what you earn. Or about how much you spent on your car, earned on your home sale, lost/gained on your investment portfolio or shell out each year to the private schools your kids attend.
A couple of the commenters didn’t agree. One suggested that salary secretiveness could be considered “crass” and that the “level of detail you provide” should be based on the relationship you have with the listener.
Another reader said that if there is “a perception that you are doing well financially” and you don’t want to talk about money, “people think you’re rude or snobbish.”
Is there no such thing as privacy any longer? Are we required to tell everything?
Myself, I’d sooner talk about my sex life than my salary – and I believe that either one would be an overshare.
Generational, or just good manners?
Maybe it’s because I’m in my 50s and am thus of a different generation than our current tell-all culture. I was raised not to talk about money and certainly never to brag about what you have.
As for it being “rude or snobbish” not to talk about your success: That’s the listener’s issue, not mine. I’m supposed to divulge personal information to make someone else feel better? Sorry. I won’t do that.
I’m told that young people are increasingly open about sharing salary info. The theory is that you don’t know what you’re worth unless you hear what other people are earning.
The corollary, I suppose, is that when you find out what Joe two desks down is getting you may feel either (a) incredibly irritated or (b) emboldened enough to ask for a raise.
Quick aside: A site called Get Raised will tell you whether you’re being shortchanged. It uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, regionally specific job listings and other info to give you the answer for free. (It will also sell you a “custom raise request” for $20, with the promise to refund your money if you don’t get your salary hike within six months of asking.)
My net worth is MINE, not yours
More than a few people have asked how much I earn for writing the Living With Less column over at MSN Money. My response is a polite, “I don’t discuss my salary.”
Usually that takes care of it. Occasionally a clueless human will burble, “Why not?”
My reply is along the lines of “I earn it and pay taxes on it, so I’m the only person besides Uncle Sam who needs to know about it.”
No one has taken it beyond that point. If it ever happens, my reply might be “I won’t bore you with the details of my personal finances” or the old reliable “I’ll forgive you for asking that question if you’ll forgive me for not answering.”
And if the questioning continued? I might just have to say, “That is none of your business. Let’s talk about religion or politics.”
Yes, a lot of PF bloggers routinely post net worth statements. That doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.
Personal finance is exactly that: personal. No one needs to know what I earn or how much my 401(k) lost in the crash. It’s bad enough that people can Google my home address. I don’t want to give away any additional details of my private life.
That is, unless you’re willing to pay my taxes. At that point we can talk business.