32 Comments

  1. Yes! I am always amazed at how acceptable it is to be open about a portion of daily life, but not the other half. Yet when I actually find people, especially women, willing to talk finance, our conversations are incredibly helpful and inspiring. Let’s talk salaries, female breadwinners, family finance and the cost of our life choices (fur and real babies!)!

    • It’s amazing to me how many things women think that they just have to figure out or muscle through on their own. We’re definitely better together!

  2. Yeah, I hate the culture of not talking about money, and how companies ban comparing salaries – this is how we end up with the appalling gender pay gaps.

    Times are changing, and we are much more open and inclusive, as a society, so hopefully money is next.

    • I agree! I hope that is where we are headed as well. It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable, especially if you feel like you have to be in constant competition with other women. But I think we are starting to be more inclusive and collaborative (as opposed to competitive).

  3. Important! There are laws protecting thediscussion of salary for W-2 workers, so if you’re in a position like that, don’t be scared!

    That’s phenomenal that you’ve already hit the top of the payscale–go, Penny!

    • That NPR link I posted was so fascinating to me. It’s so sad (and sadly understandable) why companies want us to think that it isn’t proper or right or legal to discuss salary. TALK AWAY!

  4. What a wonderful post! In addition to speaking more about salary, I wish women talked more openly about their debt and savings. While it can be extremely vulnerable and scary and even embarrassing to discuss debt with others there is so much value and knowledge to be gained from talking to someone else who is going through it or has gone through it!

  5. I am a money talker. It makes other people very uncomfortable. Why oh why? If people open up to me about money I *try* to be super accepting of whatever they tell me. So that we can break those walls down! Love this post.

    • I think that’s really key, Laurie. To listen, not necessarily try to fix. For all I know, someone will have better ideas than mine!

  6. Such a good point about how open women are with each other on some subjects and how closed off we are on others. I’ve had many embarrassing conversations with my closest friends and none of them has been about money (and my money issues aren’t even embarrassing!)

    • It is so strange and sad what society has done to us. I think about my bridesmaids at my wedding — you’ll offer to hold my dress while I pee but you clam up when I mention my budget?

  7. You had me laughing out loud worth the cervix size comment. I’ve heard some women describe their birth stories in excruciating detail, yet be embarrassed to talk money.

    Among my friends I’ve noticed the men will often talk money, but I can hardly get the women to do the same. It’s not just the man’s job to understand family finances. Women HAVE to want to be involved and open for positive changes to happen.

    • It’s going to be gradual and there have to be different comfort levels. I think it’s also about knowing your friends. I now entertain the birth (horror) stories and then follow up with things like, What did you spend money on that seemed totally worth it or totally wasteful? and How are you balancing the cost of daycare? Playing the new mom card has unlocked a lot of money conversation for me because I genuinely want to learn from other people. I just don’t know how we can keep fueling the conversations.

  8. Wonderful post! I would love to talk more about money with my friends. My only hesitation is, when discussing salaries, I feel like one person will always feel bad if they’re making less. How do we get around that?

    • I binge-watched Friends on my maternity leave, and I’m not too proud to admit it! (Side note: not everything on that show aged well IMHO). Your question reminds me when the characters kind of face off over exactly that: the high earners want to do more expensive things and it drives a made-for-TV wedge between them. I saw the exact same thing play out in the most recent wedding I stood up in. As the person who is generally the low earner (and I’m frugal AND I have an expensive baby), I can say that I don’t really mind because I know my salary doesn’t reflect my worth as a human. But I could see this being tricky! I think part of the puzzle is that high income doesn’t always equal good with money. So when we have money conversations, we have to do more than just talking salary. What you do with your salary matters so much more (I know I’m preaching to the choir here, Luxe). I think you’ve given me enough to puzzle over for another post!

  9. “We have a created a society where talking about cervix size is preferable to discussing the cost of daycare”

    Yes!! It’s so crazy.

    I am that person who asks “so…how much is the rent here?” At a friend of a friend’s place. XD

    Less so with salary, though — but I really ought to!

  10. Yes! We’ll discuss so many numbers, embarrassing or otherwise, but won’t discuss the ones where we’d most benefit from having a frank conversation about them. Love this post, and here’s to more discussions of the right numbers.

    Happy International Women’s Day, Penny!

    • I agree! I have one family member who totally talks down to me whenever I try to chime in about investing. As for friends talking about investing, cue the crickets!

  11. I’ve always been weird in that I don’t mind sharing my numbers. I guess you kinda have to be okay with it when writing about money, eh? 🙂 I’m always the first to share my salary, and that always leads to good conversations with my friends. I was able to double my salary in three years by playing hard ball with salary negotiation, something a lot of us women struggle with.

  12. There was a really interesting PlanetMoney Podcast on how the dynamics could shift in your office if you knew how much everyone earned. I would LOVE to know this data and have these be up for open discussion in my office.This taboo about wages has led to lots of websites/ forums of people anonymously sharing their salaries.

    While my friends and coworkers do not disclose specific numbers, we do a lot of our conversations in terms of percentages, such as % contributed to 401ks or 403bs. It’s not perfect but it feels like a step in direction towards being more open about money!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic! Happy International Women’s Day.

  13. I tend to overshare on EVERYTHING – except finances. It’s taken the better part of a year blogging to finally start talking about finances to more of my friends (not just the ones that have it all figured out). It’s a hard line to balance between being supportive and helpful and turning people off because it sounds like bragging to them.

    • THIS. I work in a public place where salaries are published and pay bands clearly stated. Good(ish) and bad, there’s not much room to “negotiate”, what you see is what you get. Yet some people don’t want to do the extra things to get to the higher end of the range, or the next band, and then get defensive. I don’t want to alienate people or sound like “well I did this so I make more than you now and you should too”… it’s a complicated topic. But you’ve definitely given me a lot to think about. I need to work on deepening some friendships here, and making new ones, for sure.

  14. I love this post. I have a small business that is interesting to a lot of young queer women. If they ask me anything about my business, I bring up how much it costs me to run it yearly. And I anticipate how much my costs will rise once I have everything that would make it run most smoothly. I let them know how much commercial insurance has cost me and by what percentage it seems to grow. I tell them why I’ve put off certain purchases even when they seem like necessities.

  15. I think people don’t talk from fear of judgement. It seems people are least likely to talk about finances when they are in difficulties and is when they most need to talk,

  16. Elizabeth

    After getting married, I noticed how much more open my husband and his friends are about their pay. He and his group of friends (including several former and current colleagues and a smattering of former MBA classmates) all keep each other informed of every single raise, bonus, and salary negotiation. Whether via text or a serious strategy conversation over beers, they talk numbers all the time (of course they are all bankers/finance ppl so that may be part of it). That communal knowledge is tremendously powerful whenever any of them is switching jobs or asking for a raise or signing bonus. They know what’s standard at most companies in town – or can easily find out through their grapevine.

    I’m very open about money and never hesitate to respond honestly if a friend or family member asks what something cost, what our mortgage payment or rate is, or even what I make. But I’ve never had a current or former colleague – male or female – I felt I could be as open with. My closest friends and I do talk numbers when it comes to our salaries and other salaries in our fields though – what we expect to make, when we had a bonus that wasn’t what we expected, etc. But we all make around the same amount so it isn’t terribly awkward so far.

    I no longer discuss the same thing with all my sisters as our compensation has diverged somewhat dramatically over the last decade. But we all know generally what each other makes. It’s never been taboo to discuss money in my family though. Thanks to us all being open (and me being bossy), my mom moved her retirement acct from Edward Jones to Vanguard, my sisters and I all have funded Roth IRAs since we turned 18, my friends all know which credit cards have the best rewards and how to get the cheapest mortgage rates. Knowledge is power!

  17. Sarah

    Oh man! I wish people were way more open, but oh, THE JUDGEMENT! A friend recently asked about our household income, and I reluctantly shared it with her. Her response, “I could do SO WELL with that money,” implying that we are not. Sure, she knows the big number, our income, but she doesn’t know the income in action – the line items on our budget. How we save for retirement, plan for holidays, pay for kids activities, hair cuts, contact lenses, vitamins, diapers, etc, etc. It’s really tempting to look at a persons pay and then at their life, and make a judgement on whether we think everything is congruent. But income is such a tiny part of the story. The real “dirty” secret is how and why we spent our money – and that most people have no idea where their money is going! I don’t think people are ready to get into the nitty gritty of spending, with openness and without judgement – but I hope the day is coming!

  18. Penny, this is such an important thread. Open discussions with actual numbers are really important and helpful. So is the framework and the intent of sharing those details. (Sarah’s post about her friend’s judgement gave me pause.) Not long ago, a guy friend asked me to share the details of my investment strategy. I took a spreadsheet over. We had some beers, and I broke things down in terms of specific investment choices. We didn’t talk raw net worth, but we did talk percentage allocations and why I chose them. He was appreciative, and there was never a doubt in my mind that he wanted the information to tweak his own portfolio. He asked as a friend. I answered as a friend. He wants me to succeed. I want him to succeed. That’s the only way I roll when it comes to sharing numbers. And also to having friendships.

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