Talk of money, especially as it relates to us personally, can really be a taboo topic. Whether it’s asking how much your friend’s new purse cost or telling your neighbor how much you bought your house for, we’re afraid to ask and we’re afraid to tell.
Are we worried about what others will think? Depending on who you’re talking to, the same sale or purchase could be too much or not enough.
Here’s a simple example:
Just the other day on social media, a friend posted a before and after of her house’s new paint job. Another friend who was looking to get his house painted, asked what company did the work and how much it cost if she didn’t mind sharing.
It’s that last part that caught my attention.
While it’s a completely normal and polite to be extra sensitive when asking such “personal” information as how much it costs to get your house painted, I wonder why it’s so personal?
Income: the taboo topic
There’s something about income that’s super personal, too. People are afraid to ask. People are afraid to tell.
The big question is why? Why are we so sensitive about people knowing our income?
Are we worried that it will make them feel bad for us because we don’t make “enough?”
Are we worried that others will feel bad about themselves because they don’t make “enough?”
Are we worried that if someone knows our income they will judge the way we budget our money?
Most people don’t make their personal finances public each month. We have put ourselves in a unique situation. I’m definitely not advocating that everyone go public with all of their numbers.
Honestly, I’m not necessarily advocating that you be completely open about your money, but I’m just curious about why it’s all overly hush-hushed.
Why is money-talk so personal?
What is it that makes us sheepish to talk about things that involve money?
Why is it more socially acceptable to ask about a newlywed couple’s plans for having children than to ask them what they are paying for rent?
These are real questions. I would love to hear your opinion. Feel free to share you feelings about disclosing income in the comments at the end.
In the meantime, I’m going to take a stab at it.
I would say that it’s because our income is so (wrongly) tied to our worth and value as a individuals.
Here’s a non-finance example to illustrate my point:
When my younger brother was taking college entrance exams back in high school, he was naturally really curious what others’ scores were on the test. Knowing that my husband is super smart, he was particularly interested in knowing what my husband’s scores were. His curiosity came through often in conversation, but he never came out and asked.
My husband, who is never one to brag, was not going to flash his nearly perfect score. However, had my brother come right out and asked, my husband would have had no problem revealing his score.
The same goes with income. If you were to ask about my husband’s income, he would tell you, even when it was quite low.
In my husband’s case, I think the reason why he doesn’t feel like income or test scores are taboo is that he doesn’t tie his self-worth to those numbers. On top of that, he is not worried about what others may think of him. By the same token, he is non-judgmental about others’ numbers too.
Perhaps we keep money, especially income, a taboo topic out of insecurity?
Is keeping quiet about finances a bad thing?
Our social media feeds are overflowing with overshares. We’re so inundated with TMI, that sometimes you wonder if people do keep anything private these days. Maybe keeping money as a taboo topic isn’t a bad thing. Perhaps keeping everyone’s income hush-hush helps us to see others as equals.
In some ways though, I think it’s unfortunate that money-talk is taboo. I think we can really learn a lot from one another about personal finance.
I think we do ourselves a disservice when we keep our debt a secret. We won’t get the support we need from family and friends if no one knows the struggle we’re going through.
Between student loans, car loans, and credit card debt, debt affects a huge group of people. Yet we all hide behind our smiles and pretend that finances are hunky dory, which isn’t helping anyone.
What do I propose?
If you thought I was building up to an initiative of social reform or of how I plan to change things from my little corner of the globe, don’t be disappointed. I’m not advocating that you write your salary on your forehead or start asking nosy financial questions.
Instead, I just want you to ask yourself why income and money-talk are or are not taboo for you. Then ask yourself if you like those reasons. If you do, then keep it up. If not, decide what you’ll change.
Just for the record, I do (usually) conform to these social norms and don’t ask or volunteer salary details right off the bat in real life (obviously this blog is a different story). I am, however, more open about finances in person than most people. By not being shy or apologetic about talking about money, others often open up too. And I daresay they find it refreshing to talk about money, even if society thinks it’s taboo.
How about you?
- Should talk of income or other money issues be taboo? Why or why not?
- What are the pros and cons of not shying away from money-talk?
I think one of the defining features of most of these comments is that we keep our financial information private because we’ve encountered irritating/inappropriate/offensive responses when we’ve shared information before. I wish my mom didn’t know how much I make. I’m an attorney, and she’s a teacher. She’s furious that I make more than her with only two years’ experience compared to her twenty, and I don’t feel like I get a lot of emotional support if I’m having a hard time at work. It’s always, “well, yeah, but you get paid well. Let me tell you about how my job is harder than yours AND I don’t get paid well…blah blah blah.” It’s not my fault that society values different occupations differently and that the value is reflected in the salary. And it’s not my fault if someone chooses a profession that’s not well-compensated.
I also feel like people expect me to volunteer to pay for things or don’t think it’s a big deal not to pay me back if I cover their portion of a meal, etc. because they assume I can afford it. Unfortunately, I have one of those professions where people assume I make a lot of money whether I do or not. So maybe it’s better to just be open. Sigh.
Thank you for sharing this post. I made the mistake of sharing my income with a co-worker at my first “real” job after college. Even though she made more than me at the time, she became upset that my salary was more than she earned when she started there 2 years earlier. Needless to say, she didn’t account for inflation. She wouldn’t let it go and made my life miserable from there on out. I learned right then and there never to discuss salary with anyone outside of my home. You never know someone else’s feelings around money and it can make a situation very uncomfortable.
I agree Stephanie! I think our society equates wealth to worth, but I think that I try to avoid telling people what I make because they’ll ask me for money (that I don’t have). If my friends and family knew how much I made, they’d think that that money was at my disposal. However, they wouldn’t understand that on top of my hearty income, is a boatload of student loan debt that I’m trying to pay off. And sometimes it’s hard to say no.
Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog says
This is such an interesting conversation!
The biggest thing holding me back from talking to lots of people about our debt repayment journey is that I fear people will judge us for not giving out more donations. So, the same idea that others have shared – being judged on what you do or don’t spend money on.
We do sponsor a child each month (which isn’t a huge dent in our budget, but to us, every dollar still counts, as I know it does for many of your readers!), but we don’t tithe although we are active in our church and volunteer a good deal there. While people aren’t supposed to know what church members tithe, I know that some do, anyway.
So my concern is that if I giddily announce that we have paid off our debt and succeeded on living on just a little over half our income for a while to do so, people will think, “Oh, now they’ll start giving more financially,” or they will assume that we are tightwads when I talk about sticking to a budget.
The thing is, our goal after paying off student loans is to save for a house, and that will probably take us 4 years of working just as hard at saving as we have been at paying down debt. It doesn’t mean we won’t be generous with our time and continue to sponsor the child, but I don’t know what our budget will look like at that point and I don’t want to feel like we’re being judged for not donating more.
This is kind of a scary comment to post, but I do want to be honest with myself, and I’m curious as to what others have to say about this… any advice for me? 🙂
I’ve never considered my church family to judge us on our giving. The only ones who should even know whether you do or don’t is the bookkeeper, and you should be in a church that you can trust that person with that knowledge- whichever way it goes.
I understand how you feel, in a different kind of way. We do tithe, but we are also paying off student loans and saving for a house, so we live well below what we probably could if we didn’t tithe. My worry is that the bookkeeper will see how much we tithe and think we are living below our means to appear poorer than we are to get handouts. Kinda messed up when you really lay it out, huh? Finally I just decided, I can’t change how people think, so I’m not gonna stress about it. Could we get into a house quicker if we didn’t tithe? Yes. Could we be living in a rental house instead of a camper now and have more room? Absolutely. But I’d rather put that $1000 rent into my savings account to put a down payment on something we will own.
I think the biggest fear of judgement is because nobody has other people’s whole story, and when you don’t have the whole story you tend to make judgements based on the parts you DO know. Like judging a book by reading only chapter 7. As Christians we aren’t supposed to do that (judge not lest ye be judged) but as humans it’s part of what we have been taught.
I think that’s pretty funny. If I were in your shoes and the bookkeeper said anything to me I’d be tempted to say – as piously as I could manage – “Some people might tithe more than 10%.” Which is technically true; even if you aren’t one of them – but it would leave him with the impression that you were just ultra-righteous, which would put Mr Judgy-pants in his proper place!
Unfortunately we also get in trouble
For sharing our income at work. Some of my coworkers found out how much new hires are making. We work in the health care field, and the newly hired nurses are making more than the same nurses with more experience.
I actually really hate when my friends talk about money, and I refuse to do it. It always makes me feel like they are subtly asking for a hand out. Much like your brother not coming right out and asking about scores, they have, fortunately, never come right out and asked for money, but the suggestion is there. The guilt laden pity party over their financial struggles are there. Like somehow I’m supposed to feel bad that I can better care for my 7 kids without government assistance than they can their 2 with it, so I should help them pay their bills or buy their groceries too.
It never feels like they are looking for emotional support, only financial.
Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds says
I definitely agree with income being a judging point for others. Most people will judge you if you don’t earn much. Earning a huge salary is believed to belong to the smart people. So if you don’t…then you aren’t smart. That’s not what I think by the way!!
But I think that when people ask about having children, that that can be thought of as rude. I don’t like it when people ask me when I’m having another child, because it’s an assumption that we aren’t happy and complete the way we are. But more than that it’s probably because the same people ask me all the time, lol.
I don’t think of it as a taboo thing for me… though definitely an area so filled with judgment from anyone who has a strong opinion about just about everything. One thing that we got especially the first time my husband went through an extended unemployment period was that I should just start working (I have a 4-year nursing degree) since I would have a high earning potential and we wouldn’t have to worry about money while he was looking for a new job. While that would “make sense” to any person with “common sense” (stuff I heard constantly), I had 2 littles at the time (one newborn, other a toddler)… and leaving them was not an option for me (I had done it for almost my first’s whole first year). Being with my kids was more important to me than a large paycheck… and my husband didn’t want me to go back to work. He wanted to have the freedom to search for a job, and me working would have limited that ability. While the unemployment time was stressful, we learned a great deal about trusting in God and His control over our lives and His care for us. I learned how to cook from scratch and to be faithful in meal-planning. I saw how I was foolish in grocery spending prior to that time. If we hadn’t had the stress of no income (other than Veteran’s disability benefits), I wouldn’t have learned those valuable lessons. It’s all in the perspective and where a person’s priorities lie. We made the right decision for us, and while others may not have understood, God knows.
Great discussion, Stephanie. As a fairly new frugal finance blogger, I’ve been struggling with whether to start sharing my expenses and/or income myself. I’m going to practice in this comment. 🙂 A couple things have me hesitating- child support and medical insurance assistance. I’m divorced and therefore receive some child support for my two teens. Last summer I lost my job, and therefore insurance, because of budget cuts. I applied for the state’s insurance for my kids, which they still currently receive and I am able to benefit from reduced rate Obama insurance for myself. I don’t want to be judged by this, which I know is ridiculous, but I’m a little concerned I’ll hear the “oh, sure, it must be nice to get that every month” type of comments.
Also, I decided to become self employed and only work part time. So, while I could go get a full time job and then not qualify for the medical insurance benefits, I’m choosing not to do that. Given that even just medical benefits can be such a political issue, I’m still concerned I could be seen as a slacker, I guess. Of course, I have my reasons for only wanting to work part time and we are getting along just fine on my income and I don’t have any debt but my mortgage. But would I also be judged for getting medical insurance when I have over $20,000 in the bank in an emergency fund, over $50,000 in college savings for my kids and over $40,000 in an IRA that I have worked HARD to save over the years all by myself?? Even though, qualifying for the insurance is based on your current monthly income and not what you have saved, Would my choice to live frugally in order to save all that money be discounted because for the last few years I’ve received around $700 a month in child support and for the last year received state insurance help?
Linda S. says
In the early days of our country a man couldn’t vote if he was not a land owner. Money has always been equated with power. Think about all the old movies: there was the banker, his friend the mayor who, of course, knew the governor, etc. These were the people who made the rules & determined the futures of “lesser” folks. Finances are the biggest class dividers. If you admit you’re poor people will devalue you & your opinions.
There are perhaps 2 people I feel comfortable discussing numbers with (aside rom my husband, of course). Even then, it’s not an all-laid-out deal. Why? Because if you’re a higher earner your social group or family, advertising it may come off as bragging and breed resentment from other or open you up to some folks coming around with their hands out, breeding resentment on your end. If you’re a lower earner, it’s a pride issue, I imagine. I think finances aren’t so much taboo but at the same time shouldn’t be everyone else’s business. Discuss them, but choose very carefully folks who will support you on your path, steer you right, and celebrate your victories.
I like that happy medium Kara. Don’t shout them from the rooftops, but discuss without fear when it’s appropriate.
Emily S says
I was asked in a round about way how much my family income was by a friend. I answered we are in the range of average for our city according to the data on the Internet. I then said I’m sure you’re in the average range for your city too.
I’m not sure if his feathers were ruffled, but he left deep in thought.
I don’t want to talk about our finances because I’m ashamed of how far below the poverty level we are, and for how long we’ve been there. A few years ago we found that our income qualified us for certain government assistance programs, so we applied honestly and began receiving benefits. I shared with some members of our family how grateful we were for this assistance and how helpful it was for us. They also knew about things we were going without in order to keep our expenditures low (restaurant food, laundry facilities, new clothes, a dishwasher, etc.) But when I learned that most of those family members disapproved politically of the programs that were helping us, I felt like they disapproved of our entire lifestyle. To avoid feeling like I was being judged, I stopped sharing things we were doing to save money, stopped telling them the earned income tax return we received, stopped sharing the details of our entrepreneurial successes, stopped sharing our setbacks and struggles. I am just pretending like everything is fine and we’re getting along independently, and I wish that I’d given the same impression all along.
I’m so sorry you’ve experienced that. Next time they open their mouths you can tell them that in almost every other industrialised nation, people understand that children have the right to eat.
I get so annoyed at American politicians from one side of the aisle in particular who say life is so valuable, families are so important, and then refuse to recognise that ‘it takes a village’ They can find billions for illegal wars but want families to feel they are morally deficient if they need a couple hundred to feed their kids.
We get family benefits here. I don’t know a single family that doesn’t, and some of my friends are very well off. We could do okay without the extra, but the extra sure is nice. When we had our first child I felt bad about government support and asked my mom, who is rather conservative, if we were wrong to take it. Her response was, ‘Just be grateful you live in a country that actually values families.’
Thanks for sticking up for me, Becca. It must be an election year, because I’m hearing so much public debate on the subject lately and I think it is making me extra sensitive. 🙂
I can say as someone who worked as an eligibility worker for the state, you are not alone receiving benefits. As a mother who has received and is still receiving benefits for her children, I can tell you, you are in the majority, not the minority in this country right now. In the United States, we have a capitalistic economy and that drives prices for goods and services up. Income does not raise as fast or as often. It is no surprise that some people feel like they pay taxes to support those who need benefits. This just simply is not true. In my case, I’ve worked since I was 16 years old and still pay taxes on my income. I know that I am not paying as much as some people because of child tax credit, however, there are no greater recipients of tax credits as big businesses that have profits in the billions each year. No one humiliates big business, we just accept that they are lucky enough to write off so much money and PROFIT and PROSPER nonetheless. Even though our country has programs to assist the needy they are still underfunded. The last time food stamps were increased for the poor was 1996, I wish the “rich and judgmental” who have something nasty to say to the poor would live on a food stamp budget for three months and see what it is like. I’m sure if they had no wage increase since 1996 they would understand more. SNAP is a program that has high accountability now (after the Clinton welfare reforms of 1996) and fraud is dealt with immediately and the guilty are often prosecuted. People do not realize, unless they’ve been on the receiving end, just how much you go through to receive benefits, how much scrutiny you are under, It’s not fun, it’s not a handout, it’s still rough and yes, people do go hungry in this country even with the food stamp program. Keep your head up, you are taking care of your children however you can, there is no shame in that, it means your priorities are right.
I’m sorry that your family is insensitive Jo. That’s so frustrating. It’s sad that you can’t even share your struggles with the people who should be supportive of you.
I think a lot of times when people are bashing government programs, they are most frustrated with people who abuse the system and take advantage of the programs (in a bad way). I can’t imagine people being critical of people who legitimately need and qualify for the programs and are using them to get on their feet, not to abuse the system.
Thanks, Stephanie! It’s too easy to see a certain aspect of someone’s life and immediately judge the person as good or bad. I am working on seeing people for who they are, and also trying to be more authentic myself.
Mel Roworth says
I find it very difficult to keep money out of conversations. It’s such a pivotal part of our lives.
What I have found is that everyone (everyone) I talk to about finance is struggling. No matter what their situation. Even when planning renovations, refurnishing their homes or getting a swimming pool put in.
It’s as though no one wants to accept their own fortunate situations. Maybe, as you say, it’s just to keep the less fortunate from feeling bad.
You’re so right. Everyone focuses on how they’re “struggling” even though that definition varies incredibly from person to person. Are we afraid to own our successes because they might make others feel bad? Or is it worse to cry “struggling” when you clearly don’t know the definition of the word. I don’t know. Maybe people who are going to get offended or jealous will be offended and jealous either way.
[email protected] says
I am very open with my friends, and I do blog, but my husband is not comfortable with people knowing our entire income. Part of that reason is employers frown upon people talking about their salaries. My employer does. We also do not want certain people feeling like they can hit us up for money because we choose to spend less than we make, even though every penny is earmarked for something important.
My husband is a CPA and financial planner. He knows quite a bit about literally thousands of people’s income. The common denominator for all of them? “I’m really not paid very well, am I?” People who are on $20,000 say this to him; people who are on $200,000 say this to him. Everybody thinks that everybody else makes a lot more money than they do.
In practice, once you get above a certain income level (and that level will vary according to geography – here it’s around $40,000/year) it doesn’t matter how much money you make; it matters how you manage it. It really shouldn’t have to be said, but if you’re spending more than you’re making, you’re going to think you’re poor. Unless your income can’t meet to stretch your necessary expenditures, you really aren’t poor. And lobster is not a necessary expenditure.
Very few things are more annoying to me, personally, than reading on-line comments like, “You aren’t really rich until you’re on $200,000. I’m on $150,000 and I really struggle. The mortgage on my $1 million house is almost crippling, and once you throw in the car payments for our two new Range Rovers, and eating out twice a week, and a night out with the girls every week, and private school tuition, and the stable fees for my daughter’s pony, there’s practically nothing left.” I just want to shout, “Don’t spend all your money and tell me you’re poor!”
That is really interesting to hear that across the board people don’t feel like they make enough. I think you’re right about there being a certain point where whether it matters much more how you manage your money than how much you make.
Danell Underwood says
Lol, I totally agree! I sometimes want to say the same thing, Becca!
Um, not today says
My parents always kept their income a secret because my father’s family was always asking for money, and they felt if they disclosed anything about their finances, the demands would grow accordingly.
I wish money wasn’t such a taboo topic, but like most people, I don’t usually volunteer the information. It depends on the person and their intentions. I have a relative who likes to pry for information about finances. I think she likes to give advice that I didn’t ask for, and to judge our purchasing decisions. With her, I keep it as private as I can.
If co-workers talked about it, I think that would be a helpful conversation because it could give us some leverage in asking for raises.
While I wouldn’t mind talking about incomes with people I know, I’m not likely to bring up the topic because I’m worried about offending others. And they probably don’t bring it up because they don’t want to offend me. Someone is going to have to speak up first if we’re going to talk about it!
Some people who would be open to talking about finances would prefer to have someone else bring it up, but others would rather volunteer the information completely on their own.
Maybe we’re all too worried about offending one another. I guess even if someone asks, you can always tell them that you’re not comfortable talking about it. If you carry on like normal (instead of getting offended) then they don’t have to feel awkward or rejected because you didn’t open up to them.
Sarah @ Little Bus on the Prairie says
Great topic! I love talking about money because personal finance is important and interesting to me. The large majority of people I spend time with are frugal, but some of my friends have a better handle on their money than others and they are the ones who tend to be more open about their finances.
I think, like others have brought up, that there’s the potential for jealousy and judgement.
Having just built a home, we’ve fielded a million questions from people about how much everything cost (about $330k, not including the portion of the funds that were gifted to us to purchase the land, including those it was about $390k, which is amazingly inexpensive for what we got in the area we got it) and I have been very honest with everyone who has been interested about whatever they want to know and of course everyone knows about the sacrifices we made in order to do it.
I think if we had paid a lot more than we did though, and if we hadn’t lived in a bus for two years to do it, I would possibly not feel as comfortable. It would feel much more like bragging because it is very much a privileged position to be in.
I love your transparency Sarah! And yes that is amazingly inexpensive for good ol’ California!
I feel like there is a difference between being secretive and being private. I’m ok being asked by close friends or family about our finances but I definitely would not be comfortable discussing it with someone I don’t know.
I also feel like I am judged on the purchases I make at times and honestly, I judge others priorities on purchases at times when I know their income. That is my issue to work on though 🙂
That’s a good point about the difference between secret and private.
I know I don’t discuss it because we get judged for the choices we make financially. My siblings make well into the 6 figure range and we make well below that. If I buy something expensive (after painfully saving forever) I hear, Where’d you get the money for that?” We get judged for renting by in-laws but we can’t afford a home in our area (in a safe area that will not fall apart). We are having our fourth child and are judged by other in-laws for adding to the family when our place/income is so small. I never say how much we make exactly because the barrage of well-intended, but rude comments upsets me. 😕
That’s frustrating Tammy! I’m sorry that your family doesn’t mind their own business. I hope that they are well-meaning, just tactless. I don’t know how long you have been reading here, but when I thought that I might get a barrage of critical comments from readers when I announced I was expecting our fourth, which is why my announcement came in the form of this post, which addressed the concern before anyone even brought it up.
Sara Newton says
For me, it depends on the situation. When my husband was a lawyer in Manhattan, everyone knew how much we made and it wasn’t an issue. But that’s because there was a pay scale and everyone got the same raise and bonus based on how many years of experience they had. And we were the “poorest” people of our acquaintance. And it didn’t matter! We were tight with our money, but we had what we needed. Then we moved and took a pay cut, but now live in a neighborhood where we probably make more than most if not all of them. We don’t make a big deal of it because we are living as frugally as possible for our many financial goals, but people make a lot of comments to us about “how much we make” even though they actually don’t know how much we make and they don’t seem to get that student debt is a big burden. My husband is very adamant that we don’t talk about how much he makes because he gets the brunt of the comments and I think it’s because he has more education than most so they just assume he makes a ton. I don’t know if that makes any sense. Anyway, he’s been burned too many times and doesn’t want anyone (not even his siblings) to know how much he makes. I think he may be swinging the pendulum the other way, but that’s how we are as humans sometimes. I’m always upfront about having law school loans and savings loans and I don’t flaunt my purchases because I don’t actually make many. We do love to travel, which gets a lot of comments, but we don’t eat out (even on vacation we brown bag 2/3 meals a day), which gets the comments. I’ve just decided that people spend their money on what’s important to them.
I find that I always try to excuse away the money we spend travelling. We go overseas every year but because we really don’t care where we go, we always find cheap airfare. I’m constantly throwing that in whenever someone asks about our travel plans: “We’re going to Japan because we found return flights plus accommodation for $500 return per person.” I don’t want them to think I’m bragging about it. I know we’re lucky to travel every year; but we also make sacrifices in other areas to be able to do it. We wear second-hand clothes and drive older cars; those things aren’t as important to us as being able to travel. It’s weird, because people who buy new cars every year don’t feel like they have to justify it; but I feel that I have to justify our vacations.
That is exactly what I mean!!! Goodwill and cheap flights are our best friends and yet people just see that you “are flying somewhere” and “that must be nice”. Lol
Yes – we’ve been on the receiving end of those comments too. My favourite was from a woman who spends several thousand dollars per child for Christmas, but is always “broke” and couldn’t understand how we could possibly afford to travel. “Must be nice for some!” Partially because we don’t spend several thousand dollars per child for Christmas! That $5000 juke box you bought for your son could fund nearly 2 weeks in Europe for your entire family!
Yes! We spend our money on what’s important to us. We shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed for putting our money where our heart (or mouth) is. Of course we don’t want people to judge us, but just take their judgment with a grain of salt. They just have different priorities!
The funny thing about keeping your income a secret is that it might even be fueling the fire if they *think* you make even more than you actually do. 🙂
Money Beagle says
I think in a lot of cases that discussing income can lead to jealousy, whether someone you tell is jealous of what you make or whether you might get jealous of what someone else makes if you found out. We can all of course say that won’t happen but there are many out there that simply won’t be able to help those feelings, and in many cases, discussions like this lead to problems that might not otherwise exist. I guess I look at it from a risk/reward perspective. There seems to be greater risk than there is reward, at least in the general sense, when it comes to this type of discussion.
I have mixed feelings about this. My first reaction was “it’s none of your business” what I make, or how much I pay for something. I have a very dear friend that knows more our finances than anyone in our extended family, but that is information I volunteered. We have offered to loan each other money when times were tough, but have never taken each other up on the offer. I think that’s because the friendship is more important to us than the spot we were in at the time.
My MIL, however, will always ask how much we paid for something, and is upset if we don’t tell her. Our response is ” why would you need to know that?” She is 97 (bless her heart), and just would not understand why we paid what we did for anything.
I also feel that if you do put your debt out there, you are opening yourself to being judged, not only about how you got into this situation, but also about how you spend your money.
That’s funny that your MIL is so curious!
Yes, by being open about your debt and finances you definitely set yourself up to be judged. At the same time, you also get to choose how much weight you give their opinion and whether or not you will get offended. When I get mean comments or emails from people who think they know what is best for my family (even though they only have a tiny piece of the picture), I just take it lightly and realize that they don’t know the whole situation and they have different priorities. For me, it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over. I realize this would be harder with family or people who are close to you. They probably have more tact than some faceless internet trolls, but you value their opinion more too.
I think this is so funny because I never really thought about it but you did hit the nail on the head. In our case, we started out dirt poor. $20-25,000 was a good year with both of us working. We have worked and saved for the last 20 years and my husband (I stay home and homeschool) now makes about $150,000. I have to say that I am almost embarrassed to be so well off now that I still act/talk as if we were the broke newlyweds, much to my husband’s aggravation. However, if you compared us to many of our friends that make much less, you would think they are the well off ones because they eat out all the time and drive nicer vehicles… The only way that we “flaunt” our money is that we love traveling and will many times fly somewhere that we were just studying about in school to see it in person. I have to say though that we do not talk about because of our friends reactions-a couple would be very jealous and one of our friends is a Pastor so there is not the earning potential there. We do cheerfully give God at least 10% tithe because it is all His anyway and where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
It’s actually incredibly common for people who have struggled all their lives to feel guilty when, suddenly, they are well-off. You are certainly not alone there! My husband has a lot of clients who are in the same boat. But learn to enjoy it – You’ve no doubt both worked very hard to get where you are today, and it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
That’s awesome that you’ve come so far Shelley! And I think that is super cool that you travel to see places that you’re learning about!
I think you hit the nail on the head, in our society people put so much value on money and status associated with a job! This can be especially damaging if people are ashamed of their income and try to use expensive status symbols to portray success.
Although I think this is the major driving psychological force there are probably different variations on how it manifests. I come from a monetarily poor (but rich in love) family and the majority of our friends make less than us. I don’t want anyone I love to feel badly about their salary by comparing themselves to us. This was actually hugely advantageous to us during the debt pay off process because all of our family time and fun time was free or cheap with lots of bbqs, picnics, potlucks, hikes, and board game nights 🙂
That is a great point about trying to compensate for a low salary by using status symbols (that you can’t afford) to convey the idea of success.
I think in a lot of cases, our employers put it into our heads (whether stated or implied) that talking about our salary will not be tolerated. This is so they can pay everyone different, and not have to explain their reasoning. Once it becomes ingrained that “you’ll get in trouble!” if you discuss salary with your coworkers, it transfers into fear about talking about salary with anyone else.
This was my thought exactly (nearly submitted the same comment verbatim!). It’s the people we work for that make it taboo. Every year right before “review” time (otherwise called, you were the best employee we could hope for here’s your penny raise time) we get an email from leadership that goes on an on about the privacy and confidentiality of our reviews and compensation. It’s actually in our corporate handbook that it’s against policy to discuss this information with coworkers!
not talking about salaries only helps the company, not the employees. I’ve worked for places that told us we weren’t allowed to discuss salary information, but my understanding is that it is illegal to forbid it.
I hadn’t thought of that. Where my husband works (for the state) salary information for everyone is publicly accessible!