What I am about to say may be a surprise to you, but here it goes: at my full-time job as a therapist, I make $58k per year, and as a freelance writer I make $50 to $100 per written piece. This may be shocking to some of you, because it may seem like a high salary. To others, it may seem a bit low for a master’s level profession. I imagine, however, that what is most shocking is that I am so forthright with these numbers.
It is okay if it feels a bit strange because culturally, we are encouraged to keep our income private. It can be considered taboo to be outspoken regarding the state of our finances, but I believe that it is time that we make some changes to our conversations about money.
Where does the money taboo come from?
American culture has inherited money taboo from British culture. According to Laura Shin, a contributor for Forbes, in Britain it has always been considered gauche to discuss the state of one’s finances. She states that those who have money do not need to discuss it, because their possessions already reflect the state of their finances.
Additionally, Shin states that there is an underlying moral code reinforcing that not speaking about having wealth allows those with wealth to feel less guilty about having more. Though this mindset regarding money began with the upper echelons of society, it has trickled into all economic levels in American culture.
Who does the money taboo benefit?
When thinking about the taboo of discussing salaries and income, it is useful to consider who it benefits. To put it bluntly, not discussing our financial standing benefits those who are in positions of leadership and power.
For example, if I am working alongside a colleague who has the same role and the same level of experience as I do, but we have not discussed our salaries, I may unknowingly be earning significantly less income. I may be earning $40k while they may be earning $50k, simply based on our income negotiations during hiring and review processes. If I openly discuss finances with this colleague, I can make a case for myself to earn a higher salary. If I do not discuss my finances, my employer will then be saving $10k simply because we have not had a conversation.
Those who set salaries are not the only people who benefit from the money taboo. Other beneficiaries include loan providers, universities, medical facilities, landlords, etc. Additionally, those who are in marginalized communities (like women, people of color, and those living with disabilities) suffer the consequences of the silence.
While I could discuss a variety of reasons to discuss personal finance, this piece will specifically focus on why you should be sharing your salary.
5 benefits of sharing your salary
- Ensure you are being paid what you are worth
It is not always easy to assess the appropriate market value for your role. For example, if I plug in “typical salary for partially licensed therapist” into Google, I see a range from $42k per year to $91k per year. It was not until I began speaking with colleagues and mentors that I was able to assess whether or not offers I was receiving were appropriate for my education level, experience, and role.
- Create a more equitable environment in your workplace
As described above, not all employees are paid a similar rate. It is common knowledge that there are pay gaps across a wide spectrum of marginalized identities. By sharing salary information, you may be able to help yourself or a colleague in negotiating for a fair salary or a better benefits package.
More broadly, sharing salary information may uncover information regarding whether or not your employer is discriminatory regarding their pay practices. If there is evidence of discrimination, you and your colleagues may have rights to further compensation.
- Create more transparency in your relationships
A common source of conflict in many romantic relationships or cohabitating relationships (such as roommates) is money. Bustle reports that 32 percent of people in partnerships do not know their partner’s income which can lead to the aforementioned conflict. Money-oriented conflicts can range from topics like paying bills, saving for retirement, and how people choose to spend their leisure time. These conflicts are normal, but are made far more complex if there is lack of transparency regarding personal income. With openness regarding salary and other financial information, those in partnerships and cohabitating relationships are better able to make financial decisions that are satisfactory for all involved.
- Increase workplace satisfaction
Income potential is a common stressor for many, so not knowing if you are being paid appropriately for your work can increase your stress. If you are able to share your salary information, this stress can be eliminated by knowing you are paid fairly, advocating for more appropriate wages, or finding a new role in which you are paid fairly, all of which lead to improved workplace satisfaction.
- Improve your overall financial education
Unless you are in school to learn information about financial planning or economic stability, it is unlikely that you have engaged with significant financial literacy content. Personally, my only education on finances was provided in one lecture of a graduate course. Sharing your salary information may open doors to learn how to plan for your financial future via retirement funds, savings, increased salary, and more.
After a year of significant financial stress and uncertainty, it is time for all of us to do what we can to create financial security—and that may begin with sharing our salaries.