How much do you make?

Let's talk about money.

How much do you make? 

Do you find that question uncomfortable? Why? 

Money is neutral — we need it to live. But, there’s still a lot of stigma associated with discussing money, almost as though it’s immoral to do so openly. 

That’s not true, and today, I’m exploring why we don’t talk about money and why we need to. 

It begins at home 

We live in a patriarchal world — that’s not news to anyone. That’s why most women are not privy to the money discussions and decisions in their family. Without decision-making power, they often have no idea about the family’s assets or liabilities.

Without information about loan repayments, the cost of basic utilities, and where the family money is placed (mutual funds, FDs, property investments, etc.), the women are left in a vulnerable position if anything happens to the male head of the family,

It’s not just about big money. In most houses, the men take charge of all repairs or services. The women handle groceries and everything to do with the kitchen. This gender divide places both men and women at a disadvantage — the former know nothing about how much a kilogram of onions should cost. Likewise, the women have no idea how much a plumber usually charges to fix a leaking tap.

Talking about money leads to an equitable distribution of responsibility and knowledge, which benefits everyone. 

Historically, men withheld information about money to control women. It wasn’t considered ‘ladylike’ to discuss ‘vulgar’ and ‘dirty’ topics like money and sex. Talking about money comes naturally to men since they’ve long been positioned as ‘breadwinners’. As women enter the workforce, claim their rights, and fight for a seat at the table, it’s time we actively include them in money talks — in the house and outside of it. 

What’s your salary? 

It’s common knowledge that for every $1 a man makes, a woman makes $0.82 (this is even lower for women of colour). 

But we still don’t ask each other how much we make at work. 

It’s frowned upon for employees to share income details because the silence around money benefits their employers. But, like the men in the house, this is used as a measure of control.

If you don’t know that your co-worker with the same responsibilities and experience is being paid more than you, you won’t ask for a raise. 

Companies can (and will) hire a less-qualified man and pay him more than a more-than-qualified woman because no one dares talk about money in the workplace. Some even FIRE their employees for talking about money — it’s clear where their priorities lie. 

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Why don’t we talk about money openly? 

Other than capitalism and patriarchy, a scarcity mindset keeps us from discussing money. 

What if your friends get jealous when you tell them how much you make? What if someone decides to usurp your job and apply to your company with a better skillset? 

When we believe that there are limited opportunities and limited money to go around, we’re careful to choose the people we have money talks.

Going back to the etiquette of discussing money openly — a lot of people consider it a taboo subject, and not just for women. There are many reasons people don’t talk about money: the way their families and cultures view money, the fear of failure or being perceived differently, and money mindsets are some of them. 

Forget salaries and incomes; people don’t even share how much they spent on their shopping trip because of the stigma around money talks.

So, why do I ask people about how much they make? 

Simply put, I want to know. 

The knowledge is useful in so many ways. For example, I know what different jobs in different industries are worth and share that info with my friends. Plus, it can help them negotiate a higher salary for themselves. 

As a freelancer, I’m indebted to those who took it upon themselves to share their rates, incomes, and income streams. Thanks to them, I know the industry rates and can charge my worth without being blindsided by a company low-balling me. 

Freelancers like Anna Codrea-RadoSian Meades-Williams, & Somdyuti Datta Ray help improve pay transparency by sharing how much they made. These insights help industry newcomers set the correct prices and prevent publications from taking undue advantage of their inexperience. This is a step in the right direction towards pay parity. 

#BuildInPublic includes sharing EVERYTHING: revenue, customer numbers, successes and failures, both. Here’s how it helps entrepreneurs and startups: their audience is invested from Day One. Their entire journey is out there for potential investors and consumers. Transparency keeps them accountable and honest. 

Why YOU should talk about money openly too

Talking about money isn’t just going to benefit others. You’ll have a clearer idea of your finances, your financial strengths and your weaknesses. 

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve paid what was asked for a dozen bananas and later been told, “Oh, you overpaid, it costs 30 bucks lesser!” Well, why didn’t you tell me before? Why wait until I’ve made a poor financial decision to teach me what things cost?!

Recently, a friend found out she was paying an unusually high price for WiFi! So she asked around and found out the company was overcharging her for no reason. Armed with the info about the costs for WiFi in her area, she got her plan reduced to the correct amount. 

If you’re a woman, ask the head of your family (if it’s not you or split equally) about money — how much enters the house, where it’s placed, and how much goes out every month. Stay in control of the money you earn and know what other monetary assets you’re entitled to.

Start asking your friends, peers, and colleagues about how much they make. Use that information positively. Be wary of companies that forbid money talks — that’s not the sign of an honest, transparent place to work. 

I try to ask everyone I meet about their salary. I also willingly offer info on how much I make and how to anyone who asks (feel free to begin “asking” with me if you’d like!). I’m still unlearning my stigmas, but soon, I hope to be able to share a clear picture of how much I make without needing to be asked. 

Money is neutral. Unless you’re a billionaire or exploit people (they’re the same thing to me), you don’t need to be ashamed of how much you make.

Talk about money, even when it’s uncomfortable.

It only benefits you in the long run. 

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Credits: The cute tongue-in-cheek illustration above was made by @malvikonga, who is currently accepting fanart commissions, so get get some made!


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