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S/O of "Class" Thread- Why don't we say how much money we make?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
As I was reading through the "Are you the same class as your parents" thread, I noticed that many people don't know how much money their parents made growing up. I know I certainly didn't- when I was a kid and I would ask my parents their salary, they would always dodge the question.

Even when I was a senior in high school and I asked the question as part of the college application / financial aid process, my mom refused to tell me. She said she "didn't know," which I guess could be true but I highly doubt because she paid all the bills.

Why is it so taboo to tell anyone your annual salary?

I am a public school teacher in Illinois, and a conservative government- watchdog-type website posts all IL educator's annual salaries on their website. When I first heard about this website I was all up-in-arms about it... like HOW DARE THEY... but as the years have gone on I actually find it freeing!!! What do I have to hide? What am I ashamed of? My salary is out there for anyone with a computer and my name to find.... and my life goes on!!
post #2 of 43
I don't think it's "taboo" but more an etiquette/privacy matter. Besides does anyone need to know how much we make? And really, under what circumstances (socially) would I even mention it? And why?
post #3 of 43
There's a lot of judgment that can go hand in hand with knowing how much someone makes. If it's much more than you, you figure they are snooty or wasteful or whatever else, if it's less then maybe they are seen as struggling, to be pitied, or worse despised ore devalued. You pretty much have to count it as irrelevant to go on without those feelings after you know, so why find out in the first place? Or if we all knew the actual figures we'd automatically analyze their spending and make judgments about where they should cut back or change things, again unless we caught ourselves and remembered it's not our business. But maybe if it were a normal thing to be open about that self control to stay out of others' business and not judge would come naturally.
post #4 of 43
I think it's a privacy issue as well as not wanting to be "boastful." I've posted detailed budget information here before so it doesn't really bother me to share but I completely understand that it's not okay to all people. I just like to hear real stories with real numbers.
post #5 of 43
IRL I don't really mention how much we make. We're a bit better off than some of my other sibs (we're all in our 20's and still starting out) so I wouldn't want to rub it in. In general though, if I'm talking about money, taxes, trying to afford a house etc, I'm open with #'s and saying what worked for us in case it's able to help others.
post #6 of 43
In the circles in which I grew up, it was considered crass to talk about money.
post #7 of 43
Quote:
I don't think it's "taboo" but more an etiquette/privacy matter. Besides does anyone need to know how much we make? And really, under what circumstances (socially) would I even mention it? And why?
This. ^^^^
post #8 of 43
I have no problem talking about money or answering questions about our personal finances. I'm in the military, so we all know how much everyone makes and I think that's where a lot of it comes from. We talk pretty freely about how much we pay for things, too. (like our home, for example)

It's a bit different on here, because not everyone is as forthcoming or comfortable talking about numbers, so I'll often edit or give more vague answers.
post #9 of 43
I wonder if it is a regional thing? My mom's family and I (including my mom) love to talk about bargain shopping, and how little we paid for really great stuff. My DH's mom finds this kind of talk almost offensive. She has chilled out about it a bit over the years though, and now can handle my DH boasting about some great find (like the recent Happy Green Bee sale).

I've always known how much my parents made, and my mom has always known how much me and DH make. She sees herself as our safety net though (as we are hers) so this has something to do with it. Perhaps people from families where discussing money is taboo are the same folks who would rather starve than ask family for help. I dunno if there is a connection...
post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post
There's a lot of judgment that can go hand in hand with knowing how much someone makes. If it's much more than you, you figure they are snooty or wasteful or whatever else, if it's less then maybe they are seen as struggling, to be pitied, or worse despised ore devalued. You pretty much have to count it as irrelevant to go on without those feelings after you know, so why find out in the first place? Or if we all knew the actual figures we'd automatically analyze their spending and make judgments about where they should cut back or change things, again unless we caught ourselves and remembered it's not our business. But maybe if it were a normal thing to be open about that self control to stay out of others' business and not judge would come naturally.
ITA with this... I think people make assumptions when they know your salary. And no one can really understand your true financial situation (unless you give them a detailed breakdown of your monthly expenses ) so it's not really "fair" for them to make those judgments. Some people make a lot "on paper" but are struggling to get by, others might make a salary at the poverty line but be managing just fine. And some might make "enough" money to indulge in certain things but simply choose to live a simpler & more frugal lifestyle. I think in some ways it takes away your individual freedom to portray yourself however you want. Plus if you wanted to go out to dinner with friends -- well I could just picture someone choosing an expensive restaurant thinking we could afford it (based on salary) but if they knew our true financial picture, or relied on their uninformed observations of our lifestyle alone, they would choose a very cheap restaurant. I don't know know what I'm saying exactly . Also with kids, if my parents told me how much they were making, I would've thought we were rich. I thought $100 was a TON of money when I was a kid! Now, I know how much both my parents make -- but they do not know exactly how much DH & I make (although they have some idea). I would feel uncomfortable with anyone knowing our exact salaries, I prefer to manage our finances and decide for myself what we can/can't afford vs. having someone try to tell me... if that makes sense?

The one thing I always thought was weird was, if my mom was filling out an anonymous survey, she would always check off "prefer not to answer" for the income question. I still do the same thing myself but I don't even know why!! They are usually asking much more personal questions than income on surveys!
post #11 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by mom0810 View Post
In the circles in which I grew up, it was considered crass to talk about money.
Me too. It's a middle class thing, money is not discussed in polite society.
post #12 of 43
When I was a child, my dad was in the military, so it was all public record. Same for my dh now.

I know about how much my dad and my mil make. I've always known what my mom's made at part-time jobs.

I wouldn't ask someone what their salary is, though, because that just seems impolite and invasive.
post #13 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delicateflower View Post
Me too. It's a middle class thing, money is not discussed in polite society.
I can't even think of an occasion that it would come up, to be honest. Nobody has ever asked me what I earn, and if they did, I'd tell them to mind their own business...
post #14 of 43
I'm with the others who said that it's crass. I love tot alk budgeting,frugality and such with others, but IMO talking about your specific income is just...taboo. Especially online, I've found that it can really become a source of judgment from people, and because the same salary figure can mean completely different thingsinvarious areas, it's reallynotagood way to judge anything. (ie - $100K in NYC is barely a living wage, while in rural Idaho, it would be a fortune; it's not an objective measure of anything)
post #15 of 43
I was raised to never discuss finances because it was rude, not at all something done in polite society. I now am willing to talk about money with any of my friends and openly on the internet. It is just money. It is just numbers. And, they don't define the societal value of my (or DH's) work and certainly not my personal worth. It helps that my field is public service.

But, I recently had my first negative experience with being so open. DH's mom had a really passive aggressive reaction to his recent salary increase and has started making comments about how we now need to support her in old age (we have consistently communicated for a decade that we will not ever since she has done little to nothing to help herself), how she will have to buy DD a new Easter dress since we won't (DD has plenty of clothes and dresses, they just aren't new, and we don't go to church anyway), how "fancy" we are that we bought a new car (we paid cash and had been saving for years), etc.

I guess I wish there weren't so many assumptions tied up in knowing someone's income.
post #16 of 43
Quote:
I'm with the others who said that it's crass. I love tot alk budgeting,frugality and such with others, but IMO talking about your specific income is just...taboo. Especially online, I've found that it can really become a source of judgment from people, and because the same salary figure can mean completely different thingsinvarious areas, it's reallynotagood way to judge anything. (ie - $100K in NYC is barely a living wage, while in rural Idaho, it would be a fortune; it's not an objective measure of anything)
Totally agree. We live in NYC and if I told people here what we make, people would make huge assumptions about our "class." In reality, we are squarely in the middle (between rich and poor) and our level of income totally relates to the COL in this area. If I told people here on or online about our income, I'd feel compelled to justify how we spend it, and frankly, that is no one's business. I don't feel I need to justify our finances, and therefor it is easier not to discuss income.
post #17 of 43
I personally don't talk about salary numbers, but find that a lot of others in my social circles do. IME I've found that they either talk about it to brag or to find some sympathy/advice about budgeting.

I've never shared with others what our salaries are even when others are talking about money. Personally, it makes me uncomfortable.
post #18 of 43
Nobody really ask us how much we make. DH's family are very polite and would never ask. My parents don't ask because they're afraid I'd ask how much they make in return. Though my dad did brag a couple times. Mom was pissed off because then they had to pay for their share of the dinner at restaurant.

I think most people are afraid to be judged. You know like if a moment ago you were just complaining about how much things cost, then you reveal your "rather high" salary, people might assume you not very wise with your money. Then you have to jump into the explanation that you have student loan, child support, parent support, and tithe...etc. You might end up dumping out too much information. We all compare ourselves with other people we know, and it might sometimes create unnecessary, uncomfortable feelings, if we feel we don't measure up to our peers or if they don't measure up to our expectations.

*It's really hard not to judge. DH has a friend who's very smart and has good jobs. I never asked him but I know he's always made much more than DH did. We're a family of 5 people living on one income, he's single. Then he was laid off and complained about his outstanding mortgage. I nearly choked. I knew his mortgage is huge, but thought it'd be paid off after 12 years of high salary with no dependents. I sure felt like telling him off for buying such a big house in the first place, but controlled myself. (It was over 5000 sqft, for just one person.) It's really not easy to not judge other people's money and decisions.
post #19 of 43
I'll talk salary with close friends. I dont feel embaressed by the amount hubby makes or what we do with it. And i find other people's budgets very fascinating
post #20 of 43
Because it could be percieved as bragging, which isn't socially acceptable. Or on the opposite end of the scale, a person could worry that others will look down on him if they find out what his salary is.

Personally, I don't run into very many social situations where there's a need to tell someone our income. Business talk, maybe. Or helping another person understand how to budget with a low income (which I have experience with). But generally, it is unnecessary.
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