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

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#1 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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!!

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#2 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 05:01 PM
 
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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?
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#3 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 05:07 PM
 
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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.
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#4 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 05:52 PM
 
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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.

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#5 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 06:17 PM
 
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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.

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#6 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 06:39 PM
 
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In the circles in which I grew up, it was considered crass to talk about money.

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#7 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 06:57 PM
 
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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. ^^^^

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#8 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 07:25 PM
 
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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.
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#9 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 07:36 PM
 
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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...
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#10 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 08:44 PM
 
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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!

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#11 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 09:41 PM
 
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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.
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#12 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 10:15 PM
 
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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.
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#13 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 10:17 PM
 
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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...
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#14 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 10:55 PM
 
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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)
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#15 of 43 Old 03-28-2010, 11:36 PM
 
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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.

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#16 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 12:33 AM
 
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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.

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#17 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 02:47 AM
 
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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.

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#18 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 03:39 AM
 
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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.

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#19 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 04:39 AM
 
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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

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#20 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 09:49 AM
 
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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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#21 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 09:51 AM
 
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Have not read all the responses yet but wanted to say to the OP~

As an employee (teacher) in the school system your salary should be public knowledge for at the very least the people of the town/city you work in. After all, they are the ones who pay you through their taxes. In my town, the school employees salaries are all published in the annual Town Report every year along with all the people who are employees of the town.

JMO

Beyond this, it is impolite to discuss salaries outside family and family-like friends.
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#22 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 10:32 AM
 
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it's also VERY cultural. i grew up in India and although no one asks your salary per se, talking about how much one makes approx. (or for ppl to ask in a casual conv. ) is not totally inappropriate. that said, i've never seen anyone respond to such a query in anything less than the vaguest way

BUT that's a culture of "showing off" excesses so really no one needs to tell anyone their exact income if they're wearing a cartier watch, yk?
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#23 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 11:15 AM
 
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I definitely think that in the current environment in which I live, openly sharing our salary would be kicking off open season on judgement of our personal affairs!

If people didn't enjoy deciding what other people should do, it could be different.

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#24 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 11:18 AM
 
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I do talk about our income to very close friends, but I would never ask. And a couple of times when I have done this, I have felt embarrassed afterwards and kind of regretted it; so now I think I'll stick to generalizations about our income and still be specific about purchases/budgeting. I guess the way it has come up for me has more to do with the other thread, about are you the same "class" you grew up? The answer for me is no and the answer for dh is yes. I gew up very, very poor (urban poor). I realized not too long ago that I carried around this mentality and still had the idea that I couldn't afford anything. So when dh and I gave me the actual figures for our last year's income, I was truly amazed. I knew all the details of our budgeting and roughly what we earned, but he does the spreadsheets and when I heard the actual figure I just couldn't believe it. We do not have fancy jobs (computer tech and medical transcriptionist at the hospital for us), but we are unionized and dh does on-call work every month.

So that's how it came up with my friends, in discussions about class and how I can't believe we own our own home, have money for discretionary purchases, etc. But again, I'm sure that leaves people wondering what our exact income is and I'm afraid to post it!

Friends do say it's freeing to be able to discuss money with me. Dh and I have excellent communication around finances and our friends often ask us to help them with theirs. Sometimes it's just easier to know the bottom line in those cases.
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#25 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 01:28 PM
 
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We are usually vague, because we don't want to make anyone feel badly. We are so not rich, either. It's just that my dh makes almost twice what any of our neighbors or friends make. We do not apologize for it, though, because we know how hard not only my dh has worked, but how hard we as a family work/ed to make it happen.

We do have a neighbor who always felt the need to tell everyone he made $22/hr. For here that's not bad, really. It's just that we never could really understand why, if he made that particular amount, they were always broke (we knew our mortgage was roughly twice theirs, etc). We never really cared or thought it was our business, until they both came to us begging for budgeting advice. Like, here's our bills, this is our bring home, can you please help us? So, in doing this for them, we discovered (as did his wife, don't ask me why she didn't know), that he actually made $4/hr less than he was always saying. Needless to say, his wife is working now, and they are doing better. I don't get it, though, and after helping them, then watching them do the opposite and getting into a really really big hole, we refuse to allow them to involve us again.

I grew up not really knowing anything about my parent's finances (but found out when I was much older that we were lower middle class). I was always taught that it was not socially acceptable to discuss it. Kind of like asking a woman her age (which I personally don't have a problem with-I'm 37).

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#26 of 43 Old 03-29-2010, 09:37 PM
 
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Want the honest answer?

I often disclose how little we have as our income because I feel defensive about it. People have all sorts of stereotypes about low-income, below-the-poverty-line individuals. I have been judged in that way in the years since I've been in this sort of financial situation. (As mentioned in the other thread, we were very rich when I was growing up.) I have been demeaned, stereotyped, boxed into categories... and it was a very abrupt change from their attitude when I was still in the upper-middle/lower-upper class. It made me angry, very angry. Now I tell people when appropriate. I don't do it to make people uncomfortable (I'm very anti-conflict, I want to be nice to everyone etc.) but I get uncomfortable when people make assumptions of lower-income people, and perhaps I can get people thinking outside the box.

Plus I'm proud of how well we live off of our small income, and I get angry that health insurance/medical is really the only glitch - and it ties into my politics. I believe in universal medical care (shoot me if you don't agree, that's your choice) and I get *ticked* when people who can easily get it through their employer get up in arms about the "freeloaders" who want more. We're not on public assistance and wouldn't consider it in our situation - except for Medicaid for the kids. I would have no qualms about getting it for H and me if it was possible. I mind my own business until someone brings it up and I feel that I am close enough to them to share our situation. Perhaps I can change a few minds here and there. If not, oh well. I never *start* the conversation, but I won't really shy away from it if it comes up.

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#27 of 43 Old 03-30-2010, 02:47 AM
 
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Personally, I've found that this goes a lot deeper than not wanting to offend/be judged. I've been in plenty of conversations where income was relevant information, and found that I had trouble telling/asking, but I went ahead and did it, because I had to ask myself what purpose it served not to, and I didn't come up with anything. I know what many of my friends make, they know what we make, and I guess that (as usual) I had a pretty unusual childhood experience in that I always knew what my mother made. It's been interesting information and opened up interesting conversations. Besides, it's not a cut-and-dried subject. We all know that our income and, say, the income of our friends who live in LA or our other friends who live in rural NC are not directly comparable.

People regularly talk about how much the super-rich are "worth", but we can't talk about our piddly incomes? Again I ask, who does this really serve? We all have our mental images of "poor" or "middle class" which may or may not have anything to do with reality, partly because we never talk about it. Maybe if we knew financial information about each other more often, we would be more inclined to question whether Person A is really somehow worth that much more than Person B; to analyze the basic inequities of our society. For example, does my husband deserve to be paid more than the techs at work, even though they're often highly experienced and knowledgeable, just because he has an engineering degree? Even when they're often doing the same work? You get the idea.

I have always felt that it's probably impolitic to bring up wages between coworkers, though...too much room for jealousy/hurt feelings.

Anyway, who needs to know salaries to judge people based on how they spend their money? Not me!
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#28 of 43 Old 03-30-2010, 10:56 AM
 
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Anyway, who needs to know salaries to judge people based on how they spend their money? Not me!
lol, TRUE!

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#29 of 43 Old 03-30-2010, 11:43 AM
 
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I have always felt that it's probably impolitic to bring up wages between coworkers, though...too much room for jealousy/hurt feelings.

Anyway, who needs to know salaries to judge people based on how they spend their money? Not me!
hahaha so true

As far as co-workers... My coworkers all compared salaries a couple years back when we were going through a restructuring. What we discovered is that a lot of people were making way more than others, regardless of the quality of their work, experience, etc. Salaries were seemingly totally random. On the one hand, we were glad to find that out, but on the other, many many people quit (not JUST because of that but it was definitely a contributing factor). It's a really horrible feeling to know the person working in the cubicle beside you (who is constantly goofing off, calling out sick, etc.) is making $15K more than you. I'm still not sure if it was good or bad that we compared (and the company would have a fit if they knew we did!) but I do think open salaries would be more 'fair' and also motivate people -- if you know you can make $5K more by meeting certain guidelines, that's really motivating (but of course the company would need to follow through...) Another really disturbing thing we discovered is that all the men in the company were making significantly more than all the women (even if they worked the same positions)...

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#30 of 43 Old 03-30-2010, 12:22 PM
 
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I have always felt that it's probably impolitic to bring up wages between coworkers, though...too much room for jealousy/hurt feelings.
I remember being hired at a circuit board shop years and years ago and one of the first things they told me was I'd be fired if I discussed my wages w/any other employees. Like anyone would have been jealous of my wages, lol.

Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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