Why all my friends know how much I make

They also know how much I pay in rent, how much my car cost, my cell phone bill – some of them even know how much I have in savings. I have one friend I’ll literally send screenshots of my balance to when I hit exciting milestones. I have no qualms about sharing my financial details with the people I’m close to.

A lot of times, there will be a look of a little surprise on someone’s face when we’re in the middle of a conversation about money and I state “Well, I make X and I save X per month.” (Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of using x’s on a post about transparency. I haven’t decided yet how I feel about total transparency on the internet, although I’m aware that someone looking at my spending percentages could figure out fairly easily how much I get paid – fellow bloggers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.) After the look of surprise, the conversation usually gets a lot more interesting.

(And no, I don’t ask my friends how much they make unless they’re directly asking for my advice.)

I’ve been reading a lot of financial blogs in the last six months or so, and many of those were created by people who needed some sort of accountability to get out of debt or change their spending patterns. Almost all of them start with the same story:

“My family never talked about money.”
“When I asked questions, I was told it was rude.”
“My parents didn’t want me to worry about costs, so I never learned to budget.”

I got lucky with parents who always supplied me with a good home, plenty of food, and fun things to do – but made it clear when I wanted to go to a $500 summer camp at 14 that I would need to find some way to fund it (I worked out a trade where I got free camp tuition and then volunteered nearly full-time to help teach the younger kids’ drama camps for the rest of the summer). From childhood, I was naturally a saver, and we talked about money a decent amount.

So, that’s good. But there’s a difference between getting advice from established adults and working through things with your peers. It’s why we usually go to our friends for dating advice, not our long-partnered (or dating in a very different life stage) parents.

It’s our friends who are dealing with the same things we are. Trying to figure out affordable housing (and what that even means). Navigating how to balance saving for retirement vs. an emergency fund vs. student loans vs. do I maybe want to buy a house eventually? Determining how much is okay to spend going out and enjoying your youth, when you know you ought to be saving for less frivolous things. Balancing the responsibilities of young adulthood with the fun of young adulthood.

That’s part of why I started this blog – to talk about paying rent and learning to cook and going on fun adventures on a low salary, not to talk about daycare and mortgages and the financial concerns of real grown-ups.

From an early age, we’re taught that you don’t talk about money in polite company. And yet we talk, deeply, about everything else – our relationships, our jobs, our families, our hopes and dreams and the things we’re terrified of. And then money we just brush off with a “but it’s too expensive” or a “I can afford it”?

This is why people don’t understand compound interest. This is why people think a 5% savings rate is sufficient. This is why people don’t get how terrible consumer debt is. This is why people graduate from high school – and college! – not knowing how the stock market works. This is why people don’t know how much they need to retire. This is a problem.

So let’s talk about it. Let’s be honest about our struggles and share our wins. Let’s learn – it may be dorky to be fascinated by the stock market’s historical trends, but I’d rather be dorky than destitute.

If I’m trying to give someone real-life personal advice, I just don’t think you can do it without specifics. And I don’t see any shame in being honest about it. If someone started constantly trying to borrow money or thinking I should pay for them when we hung out, that would be a different story, but my friends are good people.

So they know what my paycheck is, and what I earn from tutoring and freelancing. No one needs to awkwardly edge around those kinds of questions with me – I’ll pull up my Mint.com account and show them as soon as I get a “err…umm…so like…how do you budget?” Because I want the people I care about to understand this stuff. I want their money to serve them. I want them all to feel comfortable and confident and empowered, and we’re not going to get there if money continues to be the ultimate taboo.

Do you talk to your friends about money?

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16 thoughts on “Why all my friends know how much I make

  1. mrswaterb says:

    Excellent piece!! I wrote a piece about saving for a mortgage when I was in my teens and buying my first house when I was in my early 20’s. Being wise with money early on is the best head start – kudos to your parents 🙂

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  2. our next life says:

    It’s great you’re so open with your friends, and generously share your knowledge and what you’ve learned along the way. In our experience it gets more challenging as you get older and, how to put it delicately, your income starts to perhaps get higher than that of your friends, maybe by a lot. Because you’ve been smart about trying to earn more and save more. And all of a sudden, if you’re talking real numbers, stuff could start to sound braggy, and that gets tough. We’ll share certain numbers now if folks ask directly, but mostly we just share our savings targets, or what we plan to live on in early retirement. Money is just so emotionally loaded – it’s tough!

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    • Stacking Twenties says:

      Yeah, I could definitely see it changing as I get older and have more assets/hopefully income. For now, we’re all close enough that the actual numbers I think make things less theoretical and more like “yes, it’s actually possible to save a significant percentage even if you don’t make that much.” I’ll continue to re-evaluate as life goes on 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Generation YRA says:

    I definitely will talk money with friends, family & my fiancé if they are willing to do so! For my fiancé and I it’s absolutely key to be transparent. It allows us to create goals and what we can do to accomplish them. I am happy to hear you are an advocate for transparency on money! It makes me heartbroken to see/hear of people suffering with financial matters internally because they feel they have no one to go to. Thanks for promoting the conventions!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. the9to5wanderer says:

    Just getting to read this- great post that hit really close to home. I like to think I’m relatively transparent about my finances, but have noticed that I have some friends with whom those conversations are easier than others. My friends from grad school and I went through our “VERY broke graduate student phase” together, and now are all a year or two into the deferred start to our professional careers, mostly all in the same field. I have some of my most candid financial conversations with these friends. They’re the first people I go to to discuss what percent is an appropriate raise, salary, how broke I am this month, etc. Some of my other friends who went straight into the work force after college and subsequently are about 3 years in and in higher salaried positions than I am in, in different fields, tend to zip their lips and become uncomfortable about talking finance. Maybe income disparity, even from a young adult age, is still part of the reason these conversations with our friends become complicated/awkward?

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    • Stacking Twenties says:

      Yes, I think that’s definitely a part of it. I graduated in 2013 and went straight to working, while a lot of my college friends are in med school or PhD programs, so they’ll still be in school for another four years. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as our lives keep diverging. I’m glad to hear that you’re still able to maintain those friendships though, it makes me so sad when money awkwardness leads to a friendship dying.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sexymilitarybudget says:

    I was never ashamed to talk about my income and how much I saved! In less than 3 years of working (after college), I had already saved 33K. It’s all about making changes in our lives, not buying stuff we do not need, or that daily coffee at Starbucks, etc. You can save a lot by preparing a homemade lunch at work. That’s how I managed to save 33K in 2.5 years, and I even had student loans back then… not anymore 😉

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