Should You Discuss Your Salary With Coworkers, Friends, and Family?

charlie_imageGrowing up, I had a wise old man (John) that I golfed with, that would frequently give me small bits of wisdom in random conversations throughout our 18 holes. One day he sat down with my friend and I, after a long round, and said, “Charlie and Nick…two things you never discuss with people. #1 Religion and #2 Politics. Nothing will get people more riled up then those two topics.

In keeping with John's words of wisdom, I think a close #3 would be your salary. Ohhhhh….I can hear the internet churning with opinions as I write this article for people to chime in! Everyone out there has their own opinion one way or the other. Here are a couple ideas to consider (that you can feel free to comment on):

Who You Should Discuss Your Salary With

  • Spouse – I love the advice that Dave Ramsey gives on your spouse. He frequently refers to the husband and wife as a team, and how to talk about money with spousehow finances should be done together and with openness. I couldn't agree more! Sharing your salary with my spouse is a given. Does anyone object? I'd love to hear your reasoning, if you do disagree.
  • Tax Accountant – the only family member I share my salary with is my mother-in-law. She also happens to be my tax accountant as well, and can't help but know my salary from my W2. If your accountant doesn't see your salary, then you run the risk of getting audited! :)
  • Jesus – he already owns it all, so why not consult the man who has already provided all your needs. “But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4:18-19
  • Debt Consultant/Retirement Planner – for folks who's job it is to help you get out of debt or into retirement, it's critical that these folks have all your information, so they draw an accurate picture of your financial picture.

Should I Discuss My Salary With Co-workers?

This topic is definitely a sensitive subject, and I know there can be a lot of varying opinions. In my experience when co-workers share their salary or raise, then it creates a lot of inter-office jealousy, anger, comparison (saying I'm better than Joe), and turnover in employees. I previously had a co-worker that argued with me (passionately) that not discussing salary/raise with co-workers is one way corporate America is suppressing its employees competitiveness in fighting for raises and making justification for one's job. He or I never agreed on each other's view point, but was food for thought. In looking back at the conversation I'm reminded of how we are at work to serve the master. Both our manager or owner, and the Lord.

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

In writing this article I really think the applicable scripture here is Matthew 20:1-16 (if you don't know it, then I encourage ya to click on the link). Basically, three sets of workers started working at the vineyard. One started early in the morning, one started at nine, and one started at noon. When it came to get paid at the end of the day each set of workers were paid the same amount of denarius. UNFAIR!!! Well, life isn't fair! If life was fair, then I'd play golf as good at Phil Mickelson! The whole parable is a reminder of the Lord's provision regardless of whether you are first or last. I know the story applies to getting into heaven, but I can see the similarities in arguing your salary too.

So what is your opinion? Do you think your should discuss your salary with coworkers, friends, or family? Do you have nosy family members that ask you to divulge this information?

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  1. I have never discussed my salary with my children but I tell my wife everything. If a coworker asks me who much I make, I usually say something like “not enough” or “probably less than you” because it does nothing but stir up animosity when everyone knows what everybody else makes.

  2. @Anita – ya I’d agree with you! I’ve never seen anything good come about of it either.

    @Pops – thanks for your wealth of knowledge. I’d expect that once the poison infects your workplace, then you start to see high turnover in employees?

    @Simon – I agree with you. However, I think a lot of people do struggle with this issue, and it isn’t always black and white.

    @Gail – I loved your comment! I truly feel ashamed sometimes how I don’t always come off correctly (for that I re-read my posts about 5 times to correct this problem). In being an open book with our blogging community I feel like a guy that is good with finances, but isn’t always good at grammar and spelling. I apologize up front. I really feel like God wants to teach me something through this whole blogging experience about myself, and I pray my pride won’t get in the way. Thanks again for your comment, Gail! I really do appreciate it.

    @Laurie – I’m glad I could be of some humor between you and Gail! :)

  3. Well, Laurie, since you have AFFECTIONATELY named your niece, and you love her, I will hope that you were laughing, or at least smiling, when you read my comment.

    I done my best to set Charlie straight!

  4. Gail, you remind me of my 13-year-old, who we have affectionately nicknamed “The Grammar Nazi.” Her little voice pops up in my head every time I type a grammatical error. Gotta love her :-). As for Charlie’s question: NO, NO, a thousand times NO! We have been in this situation more than once and it always turns out badly. Now, nobody – NOBODY – knows what we make or what we owe. They do know, however, that we make well under 100k, and we share this as a way to open doors for questions about frugal living. Great post, Charlie.

  5. “He and I. ” Not ” him or I”. When you’re not sure which pronoun to use, leave out the I. You wouldn’t say, “Him never agreed.” You’d say, “He never agreed.”
    I’m sorry. This is picky. I agree with everything else you said. I guess it’s just the teacher in me.

  6. I come from a bit of a unique family situation, where most of us serve in the military. Basically any one who can type “CF Pay Rated” into google can find out what we earn. This also means that we know pretty much what all of our co-workers earn since pay is based on rank, time served and occasionally on special skills.

    The only good time I could think of to withhold financial information from your partner is when you are being abused by your partner. A lot of abusers will hold the purse strings so lying about what you bring in can help the abused hold onto it until they can get out safely. I know that this is a very small minority of cases but I couldn’t pass up the challenge of coming up with a reason given the statement: “Does anyone object? I’d love to hear your reasoning, if you do disagree.”

  7. With a spouse or partner, I think finances should be open books. It should be something you discuss openly, plan jointly and make decisions together. Other family members, co-workers and friends, I really don’t think they have any business knowing your salary. In fact it might be a recipe for jealousness or inferiority feelings if you happen to be making lesser. If someone really insists, I give a general figure or industry averages without pin-pointing a specific figure!

  8. Having employed literally several thousand mostly young people over the last 33 years, I can say unequivocally that salary sharing among team members is one of the worst poisons that can plague a business. If you are not satisfied with your salary, tell the boss, not all your co-workers! They can’t do anything about it anyway!

  9. I agree 100% with you Charlie! I have never seen anything good come out of people at work knowing what their co- workers make. I’ve never been curious about what others make I just I just worry about myself! As a manager it even bothers me a little that I have to know how much all my employees make and where upper management is being unfair to certain individuals. Not much I can do in those instances except pray for guidance.

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