People will generally share some intimate stuff pretty openly. They will tell you how often they smoosh bikini areas, have a bowel movement, or pee their pants after too much partying. Peoples’ most embarrassing moment in life makes up like 10% of social media posts. Some might even admit to watching every episode of Gossip Girl in just a couple of weeks, maybe because their wife made them. And maybe it wasn’t even that bad….
The moral of the story here is that people will tell you some messed up stuff, but god forbid you ask someone how much they make per year. I think this is one of those age old stigmas that millennials could be the generation to do away with. The change has sort of begun due to online culture. It’s easier to tell someone how much you make in the form of a “I gave up my six figure salary job to blog and travel” post. Or the “I supplement my $50k per year job with this side hustle” help article. But older generations and the 9-5ers of the world do not discuss money freely.
For the record, I don’t think money is something that should be openly discussed willy-nilly (yea I said it). It is wholly dependent on the situation and participants. It is an area of discussion for relatively responsible people with mutual respect.
Let’s say you are working an entry level gig and your friend is currently and engineer. You might be making $40k per year and he could be pulling in $80k. If the two of you can discuss money without feeling awkward about a salary discrepancy that is pretty much warranted based on education, responsibilities and scope of work, then you can really help each other get ahead in life.
When you’re just learning to navigate murky financial waters it can be refreshing to talk to friends. Odds are they’re having similar troubles or have some really applicable advice. Maybe they have a great tip for why they selected a certain rewards credit card and how they pay down debt. Maybe they made a mistake and can share with you how to NOT make the same mistake. A higher salary doesn’t mean you are any richer. Higher bills and more debt are realistic factors so a discrepancy in earnings may not mean that drastic of a difference in how you handle disposable income.
I have a friend that is single with a high paying job. His situation is actually very similar to where my wife and I are financially. We also have a great deal of trust and respect for each other so we can openly talk about financial matters and it is extremely beneficial. If you have any desire to get ahead financially, then you’ll need all the advice you can get. Frankly, the advice of a 60 year old is helpful, but may not always be relevant since houses were half their current cost and Netflix cost nothing because Netflix didn’t exist (aka the Dark Ages).
It can also be motivational to learn how your friends are getting ahead or how they have fallen behind. It might just be the kick you need to get your shit together.
The only downfall, and why this topic is often avoided, is emotions. You need to be sure that this is a topic you and a friend are built to discuss. If you’re going to be all pissy because your friend earns double what you do and expect them to buy all the drinks next time you go out then you can’t handle a grown up conversation. Likewise, if you learn someone makes tens of thousands less than you don’t feel all high and mighty and assume they live paycheck to paycheck. If there is no judgment, then you’re good.
Sure, there is plenty of information on the internet, but it can be much more impactful to talk to someone face to face about applicable examples. Parents and other family members can be helpful, but again, not all families will openly discuss earnings.