Talking about money and salaries was much more common among my friends when we were just out of college and looking for our first jobs. Perhaps it’s because we were all on equal ground – around same age, student loan debt, and looking for our first jobs – that made it seem less intimidating.
Now that my friends are in their late 20’s and early 30’s and we’ve been in the work force for almost a decade (!), we don’t talk about exact numbers as much as we used to. They’ll say “I make in the range of X” or “I got a 10%” raise” without saying how much they now make. And so in turn, I use vague references about my salary and finances too.
However, since I have this blog, anyone can poke around and see how much money I currently make (and how much I’ve made in the past), as well as pretty much any other financial detail of my life. And I’m okay with that because I’ve always been pretty open when it comes to talking about money with my close friends. If someone asks me a question, I’ll happily answer (and as a PF nerd, I’m always hopeful for an engaging financial conversation). But as a rule, I don’t bring up anything to do with personal finance or salaries unless specifically asked.
Knowledge is power
Simply knowing what a friend or co-worker is earning will not result in a raise for you. That’s not how it works. But it could help you negotiate more confidently during your next performance review or job search if you know what other people with similar experience in similar industries are making. There have been countless instances where I’ve reached out to my friends in marketing to ask about their salary range and responsibilities, and I’ve been approached often as well to provide the same sort of information. Sometimes we don’t talk specific numbers, but just being able to pass along information seems to help.
If you’re not comfortable talking about money with your friends just yet, at least be sure to check out websites like Glassdoor, which can help you see what others are making in similar jobs within your city. I just pulled the below screenshot from Glassdoor after searching for Marketing Manager salaries in Vancouver. Now, that’s not my exact job title, but it’s close enough. And I feel good knowing that my salary falls comfortably within the range below.
But there are other benefits to knowing what your friends make besides helping each other with job searches and raise negotiations. It can also give us each other a greater understanding of how much to spend when going out to restaurants or traveling. If my friend knows what I make, perhaps she will understand my budget and how much I’m comfortable spending when we are together.
Honesty has consequences
While talking about salaries with close friends can be a good decision, it can also have negative effects as well. Depending on what your relationship is with someone, finding out how much they make might bring on feelings of jealousy. It could also inspire resentment within the friendship when you start to notice small examples of what one person has that the other person doesn’t (like a designer purse, or dining in fancier restaurants, etc.) – a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
I wouldn’t be comfortable talking about my salary or details about my finances with people I’m not close to. But I do think it’s beneficial to have open discussions about salary ranges, responsibilities, negotiation strategies, promotions, etc. with people you trust who are doing similar work or are within the same industry as you.
Do you know how much money your friends are making?
This bothered me. Not because I was jealous of our acquaintance’s healthy household income, but because my friend automatically assumed that because of the salary they were making, they were automatically rich. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started this personal finance journey, is that when it comes to money, you can’t judge how financially savvy someone is by their salary or their appearance.
The definition of the word “rich” means to have a great deal of money or assets. Well, if our acquaintance is making $240,000, but also spending $240,000, then she isn’t rich – she’s just living a $240,000 lifestyle. A big pay cheque doesn’t mean a thing if you have nothing to show for it, and we just didn’t know what their financial situation is to know if they are actually “rich.”
From 2006 to 2011 (5 years) I grew my net worth from -$20,000 to +$63,000. That’s a difference of $83,000 (or an average of $16,600 per year)! And I did that all on an average annual salary of $44,000. My salary was quite low, but my savings rate made me feel rich.
Now that my income is higher (I’ll earn around $85,000 to 90,000 this year), I’m trying really hard to curb lifestyle inflation. Because let’s be real, the more money you make, the more you have to spend (and the more you likely will spend). More money equals upgrading your housing, buying nicer clothing, more frequent Starbucks trips, and more vacations. I’m guilty of some of those things, but I’m trying the best I can. :)
Below is a chart based on an average month of spending for me in 2007, 2013, and 2016:
Related: Can lifestyle inflation be avoided?
Let me be the first to tell you that I’m not rich. I do not earn large pay cheques, and my net worth is only about $120,000. But my monthly expenses (as shown above) aren’t that much different than they were 9 or 10 years ago. My rent has only gone up by $100, and I feel like my groceries and entertainment budget have increased by a normal amount.
So while my $120,000 net worth isn’t much to celebrate now, that number will continue to increase every month. And 2016 could turn out to be a great year for me, as I have the ability to save nearly $40,000 if I stick to my budget.
I’ve blogged about it before, but I no longer aspire to earn more money. If it happens, it’ll be due to working hard at my full-time job or becoming more strategic with my freelancing. But I’m not going to sacrifice my lifestyle in pursuit of more dollars. :) So that means I’m never going to have a enviable salary that my friends can talk about behind my back. I’ll never wear high fashion brand name clothes, or fly first class, or hire house cleaners (but actually that’s mostly because RD refuses to let me). I just want to be comfortable.
My method of getting rich is by being smart with the money that I already earn. I want to save at least 50% of my net income this year, curb lifestyle inflation as best I can, and grow my wealth in a healthy and sustainable way. To me, this seems like a way better plan than trying to figure out a way to earn millions of dollars, or buying Lotto Max tickets in the hope of striking rich. :)
So whenever you hear of someone who earns the kind of salary you could only dream of, just remember that comparing yourself to others (while tempting to do) is never a good idea. There are always going to be people who make more money than you, but you can live a fulfilling life on your own terms by keeping lifestyle inflation in check and saving your money.
What are your savings goals for 2016?
Recently I read a blog post by a woman who refuses to date men who make less than six figures. “I am all about living life, and not about working to pay for it,” she wrote. At first, I was outraged because shouldn’t we all be striving for our own personal financial independence? It’s the main goal of this blog! But now that it’s been a couple of weeks since I first read that post, I have to admit that I kind of get where she’s coming from.
I’ve never specifically laid out financial requirements for a potential partner, but I’ve always gravitated towards men who were ambitious and financially capable of supporting a certain lifestyle. I’m not talking about flying first class or living in penthouse apartments – I just mean being able to enjoy similar interests, vacation styles, comfortable apartments, and early retirement goals.
And in my previous relationships where there was a financial disparity? It sometimes caused friction. So seeking a partner who made a good income just seemed like an easy solution, and I felt like it would be less complicated. Because the number one thing couples fight about is money, right?
Yet, if I had made that a hard rule – if I refused to ever consider anyone who didn’t make at least an equivalent salary to mine – I would have missed out on so many amazing adventures and happy memories in my life. And as for some of the relationships I’ve had with men who made good incomes? They ended up being incredibly messy. Because while it’s true that our finances and lifestyle compatibility were less complicated, I wasn’t completely focused on the bigger picture. Did I love them – or did I just love the idea of them?
As my last relationship was winding down, I learned a lot about myself and what I was looking for. I learned to look outside the box of what I would normally want in a partner – because the path of unsuccessful relationships I was on was not very fun. I needed to stop checking boxes, and I needed to trust my instincts instead. As for financial compatibility, I decided that all I needed was someone who was good with the money that they earned. It didn’t matter what they did for a living. And whether their salary was $40,000 or $400,000 – as long as they were happy and living within their means, what more could I ask for?
Related: Why I can’t afford to start dating
I consider myself extremely lucky to have met my boyfriend. While he cares (a lot) less than me about his finances, he has a stable job, zero debt, savings in the bank, and is really good at pretending to be interested in the latest evolution of my budgeting spreadsheet. :) He is ambitious, yet realistic in the fact that he took a significant pay cut to take a job that would make him happier in the long run – and I think that says a lot about someone to know exactly what they want.
Even though I understand where that woman in the original article may have been coming for, I don’t support her reliance on someone else to create the life she wants for herself. Because you certainly don’t need a 6-figure salary to live a good life. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to earn my financial independence. I’m not super smart or well educated or even a very good writer. But I’ve worked hard for the life that I have.
When I was 28, I bought my first home. I saved for the down payment for years, and in the 5 years I owned that home, I paid my mortgage payments on time, traveled to over 20 different countries, and stayed on track with my retirement savings. Maybe this is a super cliche way of thinking, but my financial accomplishments felt like even bigger accomplishments because I was doing everything as a single female.
I don’t really understand why anyone would look for a relationship that includes being financially supported. Sure I understand if you fall for someone who just happens to be wealthy (and also provides you with all of the other things you need in a healthy relationship), but to specifically seek it out seems wrong. I guess I just don’t get why you wouldn’t to experience that amazing feeling of making it on your own. :)
Would you date someone who made significantly less than you?
Would you ever refuse to date someone because they didn’t make enough money?