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May 13, 2013

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It is just me and my wife who know each others salary. She does need to be reminded on just how much she does make. Our kids know that we both have well paying professional jobs but not how much.

I grew up with that sort of information not being shared, so that was my tendency. have not shared the information. It came as a surprise that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form makes your salaries available to your kids whether you wish or not. However, my father started being more open as he became older and wanted to make sure we had enough information to help my mother.

That's true, as much as I don't mind talking to people about money/finances it still seems kinda disgusting to throw out salary (I don't know why, gut feeling).

Owning a highly fluctuating business, I don't have any numbers to give that have much meaning anymore anyway and would just highly distort what a W-2'd person thinks. (Salary only makes sense when talk about time period, per month, per year, etc, I can always pick a time period that makes me seem rich/poor/whatever) The worst was when I was talking about a quick project with a close friend (we were talking business) and mentioned what I made on it. His eyes got wide like I was rich, I realized I had to quickly explain it had to be averaged with the 4 previous months of nothing and the project was a relief...

Just my husband and my parents.

Talking salary with fellow employees has only helped each other not get screwed over in my short experience.

I share my salary and financial situation to the penny with 2 friends of mine. We frequently talk finances and discuss financial pros and cons. Sometimes, I feel like I shouldn't be so open but have been doing it for decades. It has really helped in terms of advice and talking numbers when exploring financial endeavors, debt, etc.

With trusted people, absolutely. My girlfriend, parents, and about ten close friends know what I make. My friends and I talk with very often about how we spend, save, and invest and I cannot stress how valuable those conversations have been. So long as they are trusted I'd even share with people at work.

However I do think there has to be a lot of respect around these conversations. So when peers ask, I typically dance around it unless it's a valuable conversation and we can both learn and grow from having it. If it's a casual night at the bar and we are all puffing chests up, no way.

Never, and I do not want to know the salary of my colleagues. Not much good comes out if it - it can quickly ignite a source of hostility amongst an otherwise productive team.

I work for a public university so it's all public information. Someone has created a website of the entire database and updates it every year, so you can search by department, name and job title and see anyone's salary.
Although we can all see it, no one really talks about it.

Only my lovely wife and I know how much we earn. A handful of folks have guessed but we point to the ancient Suburban I drive and laugh. And if the point is pushed, we tell them it's none of their business. There are reasons why those with conspicuous consumption are frequently robbed and the very wealthy live behind closed gates patrolled by armed guards.

Climbing out of poverty taught us valuable lessons in human nature and relationships. Sharing knowledge of great success with friends, co-workers and neighbors can be the unluckiest thing you do.

Husband and parents. I make more than most colleagues and friends and would never share that because at best it would seem like bragging, at worst will generate jealousy. I can't imagine a situation with a positive outcome. We may tell the kids when they are older, but it's not a good idea until they figure out what to share and what not with other friends.
I do have one friend who makes more (based on her profession, position and also on random comments she has made). If she asks me I wouldn't mind telling my salary to her - as the above mentioned arguments would not hold. But neither of us is especially interested in actual numbers, so it hasn't come up, we'd rather talk investments, which is more helpful as another comment above noted.

I've never really shared it beyond my wife or a very close friend. I wouldn't ask someone else because I really do not see it as any of my own business to know that information. My wife and I run our own business which means our income fluctuates and that's all we really tell anyone that asks.

My husband is in the military. Anyone can look up his base salary and food and housing allowances based on our current location and his rank. However, what isn't so apparent is any special duty pay or bonuses that he may receive.

I had a general idea of my parents' salaries from about high school on and specific numbers once I filled out the FAFSA. I certainly didn't discuss those numbers with anyone but them.

As long as it is private information (unlike gov't jobs), I would not share your salary. It could lead to hurt feelings from co-workers wondering why Bill makes more money than Gary, etc. Your salary is between you and your employer. If you don't like it, ask for a raise or seek a different job.

Some of our friends in the same industry know--or knew--because the only way to know if you're being treated right by a company is to find out what its competitors are paying.

My husband comes from a large family and his other siblings and parents are not good with money. When we first started to achieve a degree of success after school, we bought nice new cars (which we still drive) and a nicer house. It changed our relationship with them. What we learned is that, unless we are discreet, they (and other friends/family) may feel entitled to 'free' loans or gifts. We've found it's better to keep it on the DL, save, and take nicer vacations that no one has to know about.

Throughout my working career of 36 years as an aerospace engineer from 1956 to 1992, individual salaries were NEVER discussed between employees no matter how friendly we were. I see only negative repercussions from sharing that information with fellow workers, and their feelings were always mutual.

My boss once told me that when it came to raises and layoffs he did take an employee's family status into consideration and tried to not have to lay off a married man with children, but there were no company directives covering that situation.

I only share my salary on FMF in the reader profiles :-)

Nobody in my company knows my salary. We live pretty much under the radar, although just buying a nicer place will put us in the spotlight for sure...

-Mike

Two decades into my career, I was laid-off in the financial implosion of 2008. In desperation, I took a minimum wage job. That's the only time I've ever shared what I was earning.

Younger people are more comfortable sharing more details about their personal lives, but I don't think it's prudent. I suspect that the very highest earners keep their mouths shut about the real number.

I read an economics article a few years ago that described the impact of the American culture of not sharing salary data with friends and colleagues. As I recall, it described that the taboo/silence by employees on this topic only benefits the company in the labor marketplace. Companies have a wide number of datapoints on competitive salaries, employees do not, and are at a disadvantage in negotiating. One can see how this has also been linked to the considerable differential in pay for the same job often experienced by women.

I personally think greater transparancy in the labor market would help employees in negotiations. Having said that, I'm guilty of not sharing beyond my spouse.

I have heard that people who freely give out their salary almost never tell the truth. They inflate the numbers to impress.

Only my wife knows. Neither my parents nor siblings nor close friends know. Like many FMF readers, we live pretty simply so I'm guessing that almost no one would have much of a clue about our income and net worth.

My wife is European and they are very open with their salaries. I really don't think it is that big a deal and I do think this secrecy benefits companies more than the individuals. When she finds out other's salaries because she is willing to discuss it, it's often helpful when knowing what she should ask for.

But I am an American, so I rarely even share vague approximations of my salary with others (and then only if I know they are at about the same level as I am) but depending on the individual, I might share exact if asked point blank.

My parents made very little but I can't remember when I knew exactly how little--maybe it was the FAFSA. They knew how much I made right out of college, but don't know now.

I wouldn't shy away from telling my kids when they are old enough to understand (I am not sure when that will be, but my younger one asked me yesterday if a nickel was worth 5 cents or 5 dollars, so I think it will be a while...)

It is true that not sharing your salary with co-workers helps the company. However, it can hurt employees who are compensated at a higher rate because of high performance relative to their peers. Companies do not want to deal with justifying to another employee why a peer is compensated at a higher rate when they feel their performance is just as good. The other thing companies want to hide is salary compression. This is when market salaries increase faster than companies want to compensate their employees. Thus a new employee will make almost as much as a seasoned employee who might feel angry knowing someone makes as much they do just starting the job. I never shared my salary because I know I was highly compensated for high level performance.

My wife and my parents are the only non-work related people that I share my salary with. My parents have always been open with their finances, and I know almost every detail of their financial situation currently (I do their taxes too).

The openness with my parents led to one unfortunate incident because my mom shared my salary with a cousin to motivate them towards a certain college major. That cousin ended up bringing it up in front of some other family members, so it then went from 3 people knowing to 8 people knowing. I was none too pleased.

And, just as an afterthought, I really dislike having to share my salary with recruiters or HR people at potential employers. I am of the perspective that it matters little what I make now, but, more importantly, what it will take for me to make a move. That doesn't often fly, as I have had to go as far as to provide multiple years of W2s for proof of my salary and progression, and apparently to prove that I am not randomly asking for a big chunk of money.

-Jon

I have no problem telling friends who are about on approximately my same level/experience but are working at other companies... I'm a Millienial so maybe that explains part of it. Mostly I'm curious to see what other places pay so I have some frame of reference when I decide to look elsewhere for work - another hallmark of my generation which I feel like salary transparency plays right into.

If someone at my company asked what my salary was, I'd ballpark (probably would for someone outside my company too), but I WOULD give them an answer. There are pros and cons to employee transparency but I think the pros outweigh the possible cons. Employee secrecy does allow companies to discriminate and keep their costs down in the wrong spirit, and I think that's overall worse than the cons of employee transparency.

It depends. I will discuss my salary with close friends or family if we get on the topic. I don't initiate that kind of discussion generally but I'm not opposed to telling someone my salary if we're discussing wages and someone close asks. For mere acquaintances I would dodge the topic and give a vague or indirect answer.

Also, I generally think that keeping salaries taboo topic mostly just benefits the employers. They end up with all the power that way. If they keep employees in the dark about pay then people can be underpaid and won't know it and then won't complain. Yes if employees discuss salary openly then someones bound to get upset. But often they are justified in being upset cause they're underpaid.

I've seen and heard of some pretty big differences in pay rates at my company between people doing the same jobs. One of my old coworkers made about 25% less than me and he had more experience but I had 2 degrees. Theres probably a logical reason our salaries diverged the way they did but that doesn't make it fair. I don't think wages are a zero sum game either so I don't feel one person has to take a pay cut to give another a pay raise.

I'd be OK talking wages more openly because I think its fair. But the system we have is designed so we don't discuss the topic, so I'll play by the existing 'rules'.

I guess what it comes down to is, why would someone get upset at their coworkers for having a higher salary for the same approximate job? I'd imagine people would be more likely to be angry at their employer for allowing it to happen that way. And then when the angry employee goes to their boss and confronts them, that puts the employer in a bad position, I guess? So really doesn't salary secrecy DOUBLY protect the employer? Not only can they pay you less but not have to deal with questions about why they're paying someone more than someone else?

So why are we still so secretive about it? Maybe it's because we're afraid the employer will somehow count that confrontation against us and treat us worse for it. And if that's how your employer would react, would you want to keep working for them? I know I wouldn't!

The only time I ever see anyone challenge their salary with their current employer is when they have another, much better offer waiting in the wings. But should it always be that way?

As a member of the younger working generation (late 20's early 30's) I tend to keep my salary to myself within my working environment. I've seen and experienced the ramifications that can occur when co-workers know how much either other make. It opens a host of comparisons and judgement about how hard a person works (or doesn't) and that only helps to create divides and resentment that fester into a toxic environment.

That said, outside of work I generally don't have any problem sharing my salary, budget etc. There are a few "friends" that want to know because they like to play the "compare" game and for those folks I try to just give generalities, but for the most part feel as though I don't have anything to hide. My husband and I have done fairly well for ourselves and while we are paid more than many of our peers we also feel this is a testament to the hard work we've put into our careers and our faith. Our feelings are that if we can share and maybe be a resource for our friends, then we should do so.

I have to disagree with those saying that salary sharing typically hurts the sharer. Sharing information with the right intent and the right person(s) is the important aspect of this discussion. I believe not sharing gives employers the advantage and hurts employees. Plus, there are great online websites to find out relative salaries anyway. Glassdoor is a very interesting site to look up companies and job title salaries.

I don't have any problem sharing my salary with friends and family if they ask me. I don't go parading it around, but I'm not scared of it. I don't ask other people their salaries because I realize that it is very personal to many people.

From a parental aspect I don't want my kids to ever think money is a taboo topic, I want to encourage them to talk about those types of things. So I will definitely share that information with them.

I never discuss salary and, as others have said, I suspect most family and friends would guess on the (very) low side because my wife and I do not showboat.

I hope to start to live off my net worth sooner rather than later. It will come as a shock to many who think they have us "pegged".


In my industry, salaries are often disparate and, probably as a consquence, it is traditional to not share them at work. This tradition has led to low salaries for women and minorities in my field (I'm a professor) and abnormally high salaries for some well-connected people who knew the right people.

I share my own salary with professional trainees who I am mentoring, because I think they need to know the appropriate salary range for later job offers. I also think they need to know because it makes a difference whether they are planning careers in academia or industry--the salaries are very different! I have also started sharing my salary with my kids (high school age) and discussing our family's spending and cost of living...because I think they need to know that different jobs and careers pay vastly different salaries, and that they won't be able to afford certain lifestyles while they are college, so they can plan accordingly. I tell them not to share it with their friends however. Money was never discussed in my home when I was growing up, and I think that was a mistake, and I'm trying to be more open with my kids. I don't share my salary with my other family members however--because there would be no point. But obviously they can see that we are comfortable. I also don't share my salary with men I am dating--maybe not unless I decided to marry one of them! In general I think the secrecy surrounding salaries just helps keep the existing unfairness in place but if there's no reason to share my salary I'd prefer not to.

@Mike B, I'm European and i won't share my salary with anyone other then my wife. And i don't know anyone who wil share their salary with someone.
I make a decent amount of money for my job and age and no one have to know how much it is.

I'm 29 and have been working for seven years. In the earlier years, my friends and I spoke candidly about our salaries. I had no debt, and was really into saving an investment and I tried to help them work out their spending and saving plans (they all had students loans a taste for the high life). Within the last two years however, we've stopped talking actual numbers. Their salary has now over taken mine ( most of them are finance majors) but even though I no longer know exactly how much they make, I know I'm still way ahead of them financially ( the power of compound interest with no debt). I will probably always be ahead of them cause they've failed to adapt their spending the way we've spoken about countless times. I think they're quite happy with their cash in/ cash out spending once their status quo is maintained but that doesn't interest me so i guess we dont have much in the way of finance to talk about anymore. Me, I plan to crush it early, then get out on my own, start a business for which I'm already laying the ground work. That motivates me, not having the latest gadgets with constant upgrades every year.

Personally I share my salary with others, particularly co-workers, when asked assuming they are willing to do the same and it is appropriate to share. In my department (which is not HR) we have access to the salary of everybody who bills our project which my company turns a blind eye to and pretends we cant figure it out. I feel like it gives me unfair advantage over others so Ill share my own info and, more importantly, if somebody tells me their salary and asks if they are being screwed I give them a straight answer.

Keeping this information secret is entirely beneficial to employers.

One thing all of this has taught me is that people get paid based on where they came from AND how well they negotiate. It has little to do with the work you do, at least in my industry.

I work at a public university so my salary and everyone else's is public information. IMO, sharing salaries causes problems because we've normalized the idea that it is private information and we've normalized that idea entirely because it is a major benefit to employers. Saying employers don't want to justify why they are paying specific people their salaries is just another way of saying employers don't want to give up the built in advantage they have when it comes to negotiating. Until we shift the norm that's always going to be the case.

On a somewhat related note, when people ask why colleges and universities don't do a better job sharing their graduates employment and salary information this thread is a good example why. Companies don't have any interest in sharing the information and individuals both don't like to share their salaries and generally prefer to lie about it if they do share. Even if you can get in touch with recent graduates (not generally easy to do) and get them to respond to a survey (also not easy) the data you get from the survey is mostly badly biased garbage.

I have two situations - I'm in the military Reserves,so my salary from that is public knowledge. However, most of my 'pay' comes from my consulting business. I do not share that with anyone but my husband and my father (he's my registered agent for my company).

Knowledge of salary levels for employees is important to know when you are looking for a job - you want to understand where you are within a range; however, in the end, it's what you keep and not what you get....my net worth is really what's important to me and that is really no one's business outside of my husband and I. It comes down to the decisions you make over the years regarding your lifestyle expectations. The book "Millionaire Next Door" illustrates this very well - doctors had large salaries but low net worth - others had smaller salaries, but higher net worth.

The younger generation does like to share a lot of information we considered private....I'm sure there are good and bad ramifications to this. Myself, I find it a bit uncomfortable to be told "too much information" from someone. We'll see how this all pans out over time.

I am a part of the younger generation and I think that transparency in salary is important. My family and friends know what I make and I know what they make. At my last job my coworkers and I were open about our salaries (on the down low) and that helped me realize that I was getting paid 1/2 as much as people who were hired after me.

Our company had a "don't tell people how much you make rule," so I just politely highlighted what I've done for the company in my time there and asked for a raise. My boss then told me that there was absolutely no money available for a raise. Needless to say, I found a new job, and was honest with my work friends about the starting salary being twice what I was making at the old place. Both of them recently found new jobs that pay them much more as well.

If you show you have something to hide, then you have something to hide.

Given I make at least triple what any of my siblings or in-laws make, I don't disclose my salary because the attitude would quickly become, "What do you mean you don't want to buy/spend/pay for X? You're just being a cheap SOB."

It's not that they'd necessarily be jealous, just that their expectations about us and our choices would become skewed. I learned a long time ago most of us, including myself, tend to think of people making twice what we make as well off compared to where we are and those making much more (say three to five times our salary) as being rich with few restrictions on how they spend their money. When we speak in terms of money I speak in terms of percentages rather than hard numbers.

I also don't share hard numbers with younger kids, because then they tend to share with friends, which then bites you in the butt at public gatherings one way or another. With the ones in college, I have shared information and they understand the subtleties.

I share with my wife, parents, and siblings only. I believe I am among the higher paid in our department and don't want to invite unnecessary scrutiny or cause jealousy. I would think twice about sharing with my wife's family because I think there's a higher chance for jealousy or awkwardness. We are debt-free, and pretty frugal.

I appreciate the advantage this gives the company, but I trust my (Fortune 500) company to do the right thing. I've been there a while and haven't had a reason to mistrust. If I was mistrustful, I might perhaps feel differently.

I share with anyone who asks, but usually just talk generalities. Amongst co-workers in my former office (financial services industry), we were very open, but since most of the large compensation was commission and bonus based, everyone sort of knew what others were earning anyways. Until recently, I lived in an area where I knew for certain that I was one of the higher earners amongst my social network outside of work and occassionally would talk about my income to hopefully provide motivation and help friends see what is possible. It's a fine line though because when shared with the wrong person or with the wrong intent it can make the relationship more awkward. I never share to brag, and never if the actual number or range isn't relevant. Surprisingly, I think it was most awkward to share with my parents my income, because I discovered that I was making slightly more than they were and am only 30 years old.

As an example, often I have run across people who assume that a six-figure income is a lofty goal that very few reach and that if they were to ever get there they would have more money than they knew what to do with. I have occasionally replied something like "100k is a lot of money, but it isn't what it used to be. Our household income hasn't been below the 6-figure threshold since we graduated college, and we have never felt rich...blessed yes, but rich, no".

My personal belief is that if we all were a bit more open about income and assets, keeping up with the Joneses would be less of an issue since you would know whether the Joneses were in over their heads in debt (typically the case in my experience), or if they had an income substantially greater than your own and simply chose to live in a neighborhood that to them is much more affordable than it is to you.

My husband and I share the real numbers for salary with each other, but that's it. When our kids are old enough (middle school or high school), we'll share more. Right now they are early elementary school and still define making a lot of money as "Do you make $1000 a year?" :) We usually deflect into saying "We make more than that, but don't forget we have to pay for water, electricity, etc. from what we make." Our families are not very good with money, so knowing our salaries would open us up to the same issues as another reader mentioned. Either there is jealousy, or a "You make a lot more so you should pay for all of us" attitude. They also don't have any understanding of inflation so they don't understand that retiring with $500,000 saved now and retiring with $500,000 saved in 25 years are two very different retirement incomes.

With a couple friends we know ballpark figures, but the details just don't matter for most of our finance discussions.

At work, I'm happy with my job and salary. I don't tend to discuss it with others in the office because either I make less (which would annoy me) or I make more (which would annoy others). Since I fall in an appropriate range based on what I see for salaries posted publicly, I'm not going to worry about the details. There is more than just a salary behind why I work where I do, and I can't come up with anything that would be gained by having those numbers available for public comparison.

My wife and I are the only ones who know my salary. However, I do not mind telling people what I make. It is usually the other person that makes me uncomfortable when discussing salaries.

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