How much money do you make? “I make enough,” she said.
I’ve asked this question before: how often do you hear a talk-show host ask a movie star how much money they made on their last film? Rarely. Why? Because money is still considered a taboo topic and it doesn’t play well on the circuit of celebrity chatter.
“Salary stories are intrusive. Do you ask your neighbor what they earn for their job?” That was a quote by Nicole Kidman. Even Howard Stern, who will talk about almost anything, has said before, “I don’t talk about my salary.”
But on Sunday, I learned that Gen Y is all about revealing what they make. The New York Times reported that personal finance is not so personal anymore. In this Facebook era, nothing is too private to be shared amongst friends and co-workers:
For people old enough to remember phone booths, a blunt reference to salary in a social setting still represents the height of bad manners. But for many young professionals, the don’t-ask-don’t-tell etiquette of previous generations seems like a relic.
For them, salary information is now fair game, at least among friends. Many consider it crucial to prosper in an increasingly transient, winner-take-all workplace — regardless of the envy that full disclosure can raise. Besides, when the Internet already offers a cornucopia of personal information, it almost seems coy to keep personal income private.
Or does it? Anita Bruzzese, the author of 45 Things You Do To Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them, appears to be about my age and the topic seems to make her cringe:
In a live radio interview last year about my book, the host asked me: “So, Anita, how much do you make writing your syndicated workplace column?”
Thankfully, you couldn’t see my reaction, because I have a feeling my face sort of resembled a landed halibut. But after a moment’s hesitation, I answered him in a round, ballpark-figure-sort-of-way.
But Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist fame believes there isn’t anything wrong with asking co-workers how much money they make. In fact, she encourages it: “Don’t be shy because everyone else is asking too.”
Or are they? One Frugal Girl (who is thirty) had something to say about this topic. She writes:
The topic of income is usually taboo, but I bet almost everyone has been asked about their salary at least once in their lives. In college my friends and I talked openly and honestly about money. We discussed increasing book costs, rent, and utilities. I even remember celebrating the 15 cent raise of one of my roommates. No one objected to talking about money when we were working in low-paying, part-time jobs, but it seemed no one wanted to discuss salaries when we started our ‘real jobs.’ When graduation dates neared a few of my friends discussed their starting salaries, but most kept their new incomes to themselves.
In my twenties I still remember discussing income with my friends. But at some point in my early thirties it stopped. On both sides: Friends stopped offering this information, I stopped asking and vice versa. I recall a close friend once mentioned that she was interviewing for a job promotion and the package was over $300,000. We never talked about income after that. I felt like I couldn’t keep up (so I didn’t really want to talk about it) and perhaps, it just seemed in poor taste to be disclosing these details… even with a close friend.
But our sister, Suze Orman, god love her… made a great point during an appearance on “The View” last year by asking her co-hosts and other guests to reveal their salary on the air. Nobody took her up on the challenge. But Suze thinks people should share salary figures as a way of fighting income disparity and level the playing field.
It seems younger workers seem to have less of problem with all this transparency. Fogies tend to be more discreet. After all, I was never one to kiss and tell… unless it offered up good money fodder.
So back to you… If someone asks how much you make, do you tell them? If you comment below, then please tell us your age or at least what generation you belong to: Gen Y, Gen X or a Baby Boomer.