Removing the Salary Stigma

Do you know your best friend’s salary? What about your sister’s, or even your co-worker’s? I’d venture to guess you don’t. If you do, you’re definitely in the minority. Even in our modern age, when we can talk about issues as personal as PMS woes and Tinder fails without so much as a blink, it’s still somehow considered taboo to talk about how much money we make. Sure, we might talk about other finance-related topics, like how much we spend on rent each month (a fave topic of conversation here in LA) or what our hairdresser charges, but most of us have been brought up to believe that it’s inappropriate to reveal the actual figures we earn.

Aside from being ingrained in us, it can be a sensitive topic for other reasons as well. We might shy away from discussing our salary because we’re embarrassed by it, for instance, or because we know we make significantly more or less than the person we’re talking to and feel uncomfortable acknowledging that.

It can also be a delicate subject because on a subconscious level, many of us associate our salary with our worth in some way or other. After all, if we are paid for our performance, then our salaries reveal something personal about us– such as how our company values us or thinks we’ve performed. As such, it can be a vulnerable thing to share. No wonder we’d rather gossip about the latest Bachelorette episode and out-there wellness trends at the brunch table!

But here’s the thing: learning to talk about our salaries can be a good thing. You see, the more comfortable we get discussing our earnings with others, the more financially savvy we become, and the more natural the salary negotiating process will be when the time comes for a new job or promotion. Plus, knowing what other people in our industries are getting paid is essential to ending the gender wage gap; we can’t fight to be paid the same wages as our peers unless we first know what our peers are making.

That said, if we want to remove the stigma attached to discussing salary, we must be the ones to set the precedent by normalizing the topic in our personal circles. I’m not suggesting we start polling our friends about what they make or posting screenshots of our latest pay stubs to Facebook, but we can start looking for natural opportunities to bring it up in conversation.

Perhaps the next time you find yourself up for a raise, you can be candid with your friends about what you’re currently making and what you hope to negotiate your earnings to. Your friends will likely not only feel enlightened to know, but will also be able to offer advice from their experience on how to accomplish your goal.

We push each other to be the best version of ourselves in almost every other area of our life. Isn’t it time we start helping each other make smarter financial decisions, too? Sharing our salaries out loud will open a new part of ourselves to others, as well as help us realize our financial goals. The numbers on our paycheck aren’t something we should feel bashful or embarrassed about, so let’s commit to being more open about them.

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