Why aren’t we talking about money?

 

This article was originally posted on www.rebeccapritchard.com.

 

Have you ever been asked point blank, ‘What’s your income?’

In the rare event you have (outside of a job interview), you probably gave a vague, wishy-washy answer. You might have said, ‘Why do you ask?’, or have tried to keep a poker face while the asker plays the The Price is Right.
Just like we rarely talk about how we use our money, talking about our income is one of life’s remaining taboos. We might tell our partners what we earn, but we’re unlikely to share it with our peers, family or friends.
It’s not even discussed in the workplace. As a finance coach to millennials, I meet more than a few people who can’t even put a figure on what they personally earn — let alone their colleagues.
Why do we keep our wages so intensely private? It’s something I struggle with sharing myself, even though I talk about money all day every day. I wonder what the world would be like if we all had a better understanding of each others’ incomes?

Cultural norms

It feels like the height of rudeness to ask about another person’s income. I cringed when tenants applied for my rental property, and on the estate agent’s application form they were required to disclose their wages to me.
Across Asia and in the US, people are much more open about the topic. So why does it feel so invasive in Australia?
It could be something to do with our ‘tall poppy syndrome’, and a fear of revealing how well we’re doing. Or we could worry we’ll be judged for not earning ‘enough’. We might look at what people our own age are bringing in, and think, ‘Shit I’m 29 too, and I’m not stacking up!’
Or perhaps it’s that we see our income as a reflection of our sense of worth as a person, so sharing our ‘dollar value’ can feel like a very personal disclosure.

Professional power

In weighing up the benefits of opening up, I’ve found it helpful to look at it from both professional and personal viewpoints.
Professionally, if someone asked me what I earn, I would be far more likely to answer clearly and truthfully. I expect it would be in context and they’d probably have a good reason for asking. The answer could help them make a career decision, or plan better negotiations with their employer.
As we move into the gig economy — and go from having base salary packages to percentage-based bonuses, side hustles, contract and freelance work — being more transparent could really help our conversations about what our skills are worth. If we can’t hack the conversation, we’ll lose out in negotiations.

Read the full article on www.rebeccapritchard.com.

 


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