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September 30, 2010


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Some people don't care if others know what they make, some do. I guess it depends on the person

When I was young, I worked in a warehouse. We all got raises and I asked a friend how much he got. He insisted it was wrong to tell and wouldn't. Then about a week later, he was asked to climb way up to the top of the warehouse on some wobbly shelves. His response, "I'm not doing that for (enter whatever his salary was at that moment, I can't remember)."

I found it funny that the salary came out even without him knowing it. : )

I've been asked more than I've asked, but the conversation has always benefitted me. I think it depends on what industry you work in of course, but in most professional fields (where there's bound to be a lot more disparity) it really can be good to know.

I've been in banking for a few years now and went to visit my old boss to get his insight on eventually moving back into the wealth management field (where I previously interned). He introduced me around and mentored me a bit and then delicately asked if I minded telling him how much I was making now. When I did, he grimmaced and commented that if I wanted to move into that line of work I should be prepared to "take a step backward" in order to eventually move forward. In other words - there's no way I'd be paid anywhere close to what I'm making now. His frankness saved me a lot of time and potential frustration.

Also I had a friend from college disclose her salary over drinks and wonder openly if her disappointment with her pay was appropriate. I was able to jump in and encourage her not to feel guilty asking for more or looking for another position - we have the same degree, experience and job description, but I was making much more.

I've never asked someone what they make but I'm often curious. I probably would be bold enough to do that if they're in a career/position that I'm trying to get into. I work for the government so co-worker salaries are fairly public at least office-wide. There was even a website, hopefully it was taken down, that allowed ANYONE to look up a government worker's salary by name.

I've found that the more money I make, the less I want to disclose the amount. I only tell people that have a legitimate reason to care such as if they wanted to do something similar to what I do as a career. I think that I make more than most of my peers but I'm still not a spendthrift and I wouldn't want anybody throwing my salary in my face if I decline to go to an expensive dinner, travel somewhere outside of my budget or lend money.

I think in an office situation that it can do more harm than good. If there inequities in salaries among co-workers, it can create resentment and a difficult working situation. There may very well be valid reason for it, but human nature is to just see that someone else is making more, even if you are making a good salary.

In other situations, I can see the benefit. A couple of them have already been pointed out in prior comments. If you are trying to move into another line of work, it may pay to talk to someone about what they make. Asking someone doing what you want to do in the location you want to do it in is much better than looking at wage survey data.

Also, if you are wondering about whether your company is paying you well for what you do, confiding in a friend who has insight into that may be beneficial as well. It can either satisfy your curiosity or give you leverage to make a change.

Talking to someone who is where you want to be about what they make in more of a general sense such as income per client, income per seminar, general costs of doing business can also give you a lot of insight when contemplating a move as well.

I regularly ask people how much they make when we're discussing their finances and budget (when they have approached me for help in financial managment). Otherwise, the subject never comes up unless the conversation warrants it, and then I usually talk about my household income (i.e. - "I'm never going to save enough for retirement only making $150k per year" "Well, my household brings in around $130k and we're well on the way.")

interestingly, I worked with a guy who would make a very public display about putting his paystub (when we actually still received paper paystubs) in the top drawer of his file cabinet. He felt, as did I, that employees benefit when everyone knows how much everyone else is making.

I guess I would be pissed if someone next to me was making 50k more than me for doing a lesser or equal job. Still though, I took the job happy w/ the salary I was making, and if someone is making that +$50k, that gives me a lot of room for growth and/or negotiation (or protects me from being laid off).

I say, share and share alike. It gets a bit more awkward w/ friends, especially as you get a few years out after college. If your friend is making 65k and you are making 150 or something very large, things might get a little weird.

I ask people this question fairly often, but also frame it with 'don't feel obligated to answer, but I'm curious.' Usually, the person I'm asking is a friend with whom I already have the kind of relationship that involves telling one another rather intimate details of our lives. Sometimes, it's someone who has a job that's of particular interest, and I'd like to know what kind of earning potential exists, and I'd like to get that information straight from the horse's mouth, rather than from some BS website that aggregates a whole bunch of information but lends no context.

Very rarely does someone beg off and refuse to answer the question or even try to dance around it, although it has happened on a few occasions.

I'll be honest, I am INSANELY curious to know how much money various professional bloggers make, and I have yet to see a single one of them tackle that question head on.

@Michele. I know of at least one blogger-financial of course-that reports all of their income. I believe that they donate all of it to charity. I can't remember which one it is. It could be FMF, actually. I'll see if I can find it.

FMF donates the proceeds from this blog to charity. He also has a well paying day job though.

I think in an office environment knowing other people salaries is a must. This forces companies to have a more fair payscale. If everyone knows everybody's salary, that company needs to justifiy their payrate. Instead of being subjective about salary, the company has to be objective (e.g. "You're getting paid this much this year because 30% of your projects did not meet their deadlines. Meanwhile person X is making this much because she made all of her quota last year.")

Having full pay disclosures from the CEO to the hourly employees is extremely beneficial.

I was still half wrong though, I can't even find on FMF how much the blog generates yearly. I don't know if he/she? would mind disclosing or not. All I see is that overall, 200K has been generated and given to charity but that's at least since 2005.

I never, ever ask! Sometimes my friends and I talk money, but never paychecks. It just seems rude to me. I do know what my family members make. Parents, sister and brother-in-law, and cousins all share that information if we're talking about it. I really don't want to know what my husband's co-workers make, since it wouldn't accomplish anything but making somebody feel bad.

When talking with a couple close friends with whom I share financial ideas and plans, I would be comfortable talking about a salary or household income. Outside of that (and with complete strangers via this website!), I'm not comfortable sharing the details. I've found that as income becomes higher, I am less willing to discuss it with people since it changes their perceptions of us and what we "should" do.
I don't want people at work to know the details of my salary either. It might be higher than theirs, in which case they'd be asking "why does she get x when I only get y" and examining everything I do to find problems to justify their own salary increase in the future. Equally, they might make more than I do, in which case they could take the view that "They must not value her as highly as me" and treat me accordingly. The truth behind salary differences may relate more to managers, initial negotiating ability, and non-monetary alternative compensation rather than a person's actual value to the company, but if co-workers know your salary they focus in that direction alone.

I don't have any problems discussing salary. I'll talk to my friends and family openly about incomes. At work it is supposed to be 'taboo' for us to talk about our salaries but the way I figure it that only helps the employer. If nobody knows what anyone else makes then they can keep underpaid people in the dark and cover up over paying other people. While back I accidentally found out one of my coworkers was making 25% less than me. (his computer screen was displaying his paystub) We both did the same work and he had 12 years more experience than me. Of course our employer didn't want him to know that. If he knew then he'd have very good leverage and justification to ask for a 25% raise.

I don't run around asking everyone I know how much they make but I have no problems discussing salary or wages. People who are underpaid or overpaid should know so. The underpaid people need to know so they can ask for more and the overpaid people ought to know so they don't take it for granted.

Hello FMF!

I just posted an article around this same topic--how much personal financial information is too much?

Personally, I do not want to give out my salary. I think it is way too personal, and so I would never ask someone else.

I don't ask, but people just tell me sometimes... It's very strange when that happens!

But, I never tell what I make.

People use income to define worth and class too often. So knowing what a person make half as much as you else might make you think a little less of them.

Some people devalues what a person that makes less may say. So I think it's wise of someone make less to keep quiet about their earnings.

Luckily, there are sites online that you can check out to learn what your peers make at some of the larger companies.

@Michele, I list both my salary and my husband's salary anytime anyone wants to know ($35,000 and $47,500 respectively). I love numbers and details and understand that others would too. I also post our net worth around the first of every month, have my budget listed all the time, and update it as a post whenever it changes, lol. I like my readers to have as much background info as possible when they take my pov into account. :-)

I will share most details with anybody who is interested but don't take offense if someone else doesn't want to share too. I figure it's all a matter of what someone is comfortable with...

Reading some of the comments above, I hope people are not judging me too harshly just because I don't make a bazillion dollars a year, but honestly, I rather be open and let people judge than be closed off and lose that big part of my personality. I meet the coolest people by being open (on my blog and in my day-to-day stuff).

@Michele, sorry, I just re-read your comment and realized you asked about professional bloggers, not bloggers in general. I'm not there yet, but I have made $3160 with BFS so far in 7 months (almost all of that has been in the last 3 months or so).

I am hoping to grow Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and my new blogs, Crystal Clear Thoughts and It's a Dog's Life For Me, to the point that they are bringing in $36,000 or more a year so I can blog full time. My current goal is to get there by early 2012. My longer term goal is to bring in $50,000 or more a year by 2015. Everything above that would be gravy and awesome, but I would never want to sacrifice any of my blogs personalities to get there - fun before money when it comes to blogging imho. ;-)

Although the salary discussion can be a sensitive topic, I found having discussions with co-workers to be very informative and productive. The proposition is usually that we will both share salary information. Sharing this information gave me a very good idea of the salary ranges for different positions and what to expect based on promotions. I was even able to parlay the fact that I was toward bottom of the range into a very nice raise the following year. I think it is the employer that benefits when people are tight lipped on the salary information. Its always a risk to have this discussion with a co-worker, but one that can have a huge reward.

I think asking what someone makes is rude and intrusive to the individual. However, I have seen salary information be brought up openly or posted for all to see (e.g. athletes, politicians). I can definitely see the benefits in knowing to negotiate starting salaries or be paid fairly.

Many years ago, I'm at dinner with a close friend and his fiancee. She asked what I made, and when both the friend and I said we don't discuss that, the rest of the evening we were stuck listening to this gal tell us how she and her friends all discussed this and that we (the group of guys we hung out with at the time) couldn't be very close if we drew that kind of line. There was no stopping her. At the end of the night he said to me very loudly - let's go out boys only next time.
Me? I don't care. It's none of my business what others make.

I think it's downright weird to ask someone what they bank! Plus it also could create dissatisfaction in your own heart - I have enough problems with discontentment, I don't need to know if everyone else is bringing home more coin than I am.

@Digerati: I absolutely agree.

And yes, to clarify, I'm specifically talking about professional bloggers: Those who have left the "traditional" work environment generate the majority of their income by writing/editing a blog.

I'm always wildly curious to hear what people make. It awes me that so many people can earn so much. I've always struggled to earn money, so I'm always curious to see what other people have managed.

As far as me telling my wages, I don't care. I tell people what I make - less than $10,000/yr. I don't worry about anyone being jealous or about being robbed, because when you make poverty-level wages, there's no risk of those things happening from disclosing your earnings. If I'm ever in a situation where I am able to earn a good wage, I'm not so sure I'd disclose it.

I remember reading awhile back about a company where everybody's salary was known to everybody else in the company. The thought being that making salary information common knowledge, it would foster a sense of trust and accountability. I think there is something to be said for that. By being transparent right from the start, the company then has pressure to make sure that salaries are fair and equitable.

Consider a company where salaries are not known. As with any group of people, it is inevitable that somebody finds out about somebody else's salary, either through conversation or through accidently seeing somebody's pay stub. If the salaries are not "fair" (person A makes more but contributes less) that leads to discontent.

No advantage to share salary with your colleagues. Either you make more than them for doing less and they resent you or it's the other way around.

I am the boss of my business unit so I know all salaries below mine. However I don't know what my peers make in a sister company, I have an idea but don't know exactly. And that's fine by me.


I never ask people this question, but I'm often curious what folks make. It's not to be competitive in any way though; rather, it's to make sure that I know what someone of my experience is worth in the market, and what I am working toward.

If the information is offered willingly, I'll listen. Honestly, I just don't feel comfortable sharing this though, which is why I feel guilty if someone wants to discuss.

I always have customers ask me how much I make. I'm in a commission and tip based job, so it's really awkward.

For the record:

1. I do not state my income for personal/private reasons.

2. From the start of this blog, I have given all its profits to charity.

In a completely social context, I feel asking about someone's pay isn't the most graceful tactic, unless the conversants know each other well or are having a wide-ranging relevant conversation.

However, in a workplace, such information can be vital to have open. At my first job in the '80s as a teenager, my unusually forthright boss (a woodworker/artisan) volunteered that he usually hired females because he found them to be better workers and he could get away with paying them less. Subjective opinions about work quality aside, it probably balanced out -- men wouldn't get the job because they would expect more money and but women would get the job because they would accept less money. But it made me alert to how the rest of the marketplace made it possible. I recently worked at a job where gender wasn't the issue -- the bosses employed kids out of school and kept their compensation unethically low (below minimum wage because they were "independent contractors") long after they were skilled workers. As someone more experienced, I've been frank and vocal about what I earn and what the industry standard is. The only one who cringed at this were the owners of the company -- my younger, wide-eyed coworkers thanked me profusely for the information. I could afford to lose the job (I haven't) but my younger colleagues where in a tighter spot and timid about consulting each other.

Consider this: If Lilly Ledbetter had risked being seen as tacky and asked a male colleague years ago what he was paid, her case never would have had to go to the Supreme Court (

I'm primarily using injustice as an argument but I also suspect that hesitation about asking professional colleagues what they earn contributes to the weird emotions we have around money and its tie to self-worth. Look, we know we're not at the workplace as volunteers and usually have a good idea what our colleagues are giving the company, so why is it inappropriate to inquire what the company is giving our colleagues?

I think there is a difference between asking someone straight out what they make and studying an industry and asking someone what someone in their industry typically makes. If a college student or someone looking for a switch asks me I consider it more educational then comparative. Whereas when someone usually asks you how much they make it's for comparative reasons.

I only ask if it is directly relevant to the conversation, which never happens. I also don't answer except under that same condition.

Sometimes this backfires, though. I once had a friend who knew someone vacating a position that sounded like a good fit for me, but she didn't know what I made or what the position paid, and I would have taken a pretty hefty pay cut if I had taken the job.

I don't know why people are so wierd about this. I do ask people if it is appropriate. I has a co=worker who was always making comments about "this is the most money I have ever made" "I have more money now then I ever have". So one day I said "Well, how much do you make?" She was appalled. I thought it was ok because she was the one who referred to it alot. We were in different job classes so my salary was considerably more than her's.

Despite the clearly inappropriate salary+benefits some top administrators in certain southern California cities lately have been reported making (and hiding from the public), the fact is that at least for jobs in cities and counties in California, and I suppose many other jurisdictions, salary ranges for almost all stanardized job titles are posted publicly on bulletin boards and sometimes agency or jurisdiction websites. Since a person's job title is not private (it is right on our ID tags which we have to wear when we are in the building for security), then we all know pretty much what we all make at our workplace and it is easy to look up what folks with equivalent job titles earn in similar agencies in nearby jurisdictions. Now, I don't go around announcing my salary in social situations because it is rarely relevant, and it might make others feal pressured to make a similar relvelation that they do not want to make. But my salary is not a secret either. Anyone with Internet access who knows me well enough to know what agency I work for and my likely job title (again, on my ID and also my business card) can figure out my salary range fairly quickly if they really wanted to. Such transparency is appropriate for a job paid for by taxes from the public.

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