What do you say when someone asks how much you make? Do you tell them? The topic of income is usually taboo, but I bet almost everyone has been asked about their salary at least once. 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 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.
Since I graduated from college, quite a few people have indirectly asked about my salary. My mom, who works part-time and makes very little money, started asking many questions when my husband and I decided to purchase a beach house.
Although I love my mom dearly, I was uncomfortable telling her my salary. In part, I didn’t think she needed to know the answer, but I was sad to tell her how much I made because my income was much higher than her own. When I told her I wouldn’t discuss it, she started listing numbers, $40,000… $60,000… $80,000.
I finally told my mother and father my salary after realizing they were asking out of concern. They feared I couldn’t afford a second house, and I drew up a spreadsheet of our income versus expenses to put their minds at ease.
So what do you do if someone crosses the taboo barrier? If someone asks how much you make, do you tell them? As a child, I remember a competitive friend of my father’s asking my dad how much he made.
My father answered, “I make enough.” Since his retirement, my dad’s answer has been roughly the same. When that friend asks him about money, my dad answers, “I have enough.”
When asked about my income, I steal my father’s line and say, “I make enough.” I often find this hard to do with close friends and family, but I’m fearful that people will think differently of me if they know just how much my husband and I make.