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Can you keep a secret? If you’re a millennial, maybe not. At least when it comes to your salary.
Call us chronic over-sharers (thanks, Facebook), but young adults are spilling the deets on our salaries at much, much higher rates than older generations. The Cashlorette’s survey found that, overall, 63 percent of millennials ages 18-36 have shared their salaries with an immediate family member, 48 percent have shared with friends and 30 percent have even shared with co-workers.
On the flip side, only 41 percent of baby boomers ages 53-71 have shared their salaries with an immediate family member, 21 percent have spilled it to a friend, and a mere 8 percent have shared with a co-worker.
So, when it comes to your salary, should you loosen those lips or keep them sealed? The answer isn’t exactly one-size-fits-all.
Swapping salary secrets with family and friends
We millennials have many reasons as to why we might share our salaries with an immediate family member. If you’re new to the workforce, confiding in a parent could be a good way to get advice and guidance on budgeting, asking for a raise and navigating how much you should be stashing in your 401(k). Without knowing your salary, it might be a bit tricky for a parent to give you actionable advice when it comes to all that #adulting.
“I do share my salary with my family because no one else is going to look out for me better than they will,” Alison Vidler, a 27-year-old HR director living in New York, says. “Between my mom, sister, and me, we all share what we make and help boost each other to negotiate for more when someone has an offer, or pushing the other to ask for a promotion. Family can be your best ally!”
We’re also spilling our salaries to our squads. Friendships can be a good place to vent about financial stress or ask for advice and get the confidence boost you need to ask for a raise. And if you’re blessed to have a BFF like mine, you know you can count on her to tell it to you straight.
“I do share my salary with some friends and the reason is that a lot of times people don’t realize what salaries could or should be and undercut themselves,” Vidler says. “As a person who phone screens many candidates a day, I think we all should be more open about it.”
Before you get financially candid with, let’s say, your frenemy, you might be better off staying mum. Every friendship is different, and sometimes being super transparent about your salary can put a strain on the relationship you have with your Bumble BFF. Take into consideration what your relationship with that particular friend is like, and how that relationship might change after you swap salary secrets. Meredith Hirt, a 26-year-old New Yorker working in marketing, is strategic about who she spills it to.
“I share my salary with friends who I know make a similar salary, mostly to discuss how they make a budget work with this particular income,” Hirt says. “I tend not to share my salary with friends who I know make more or less than I do, because it can be uncomfortable—if they make more, I feel insecure, and if they make less, I don’t want to make them feel bad.”
Confiding in co-workers
When it comes to confessing how much you’re making to co-workers, salary secrets can get a bit stickier.
Overall, only 20 percent of survey respondents said they they share their salaries with co-workers. But when it comes to us millennials, 30 percent of us say we’ve spilled it to a colleague. That’s a pretty significant difference from the 19 percent of Gen Xers and 8 percent of baby boomers who have done the same.
Want to swap secrets with your work wife? It could help you determine if you’re actually getting paid fairly, or give you the mental boost you need to work up the nerve to ask for a raise. And we know that the wage gap is whack … but also very real. So shedding some light on how much men are making in your workplace in comparison to women can help you fight the good fight, ya know?
“I have shared my salary with certain co-workers when encouraging them to make a boost or compare to see if we are all in line or should be asking for more,” Vidler, the 27-year-old HR director, says.
But confiding in your co-workers at the water cooler also has its cons. Depending on your field, your salary could be based on factors like experience or job performance, not just job title. If you’re a boss babe and #slay from the moment you power up your laptop, you might be making more than your cubemate who slides in late every day. Asking how much she makes and comparing it to your own salary could create some tension.
“I’ve always worked in places that are competitive, and a lot of times people are paid differently even though they may have the same job title,” Melissa Manley, a 27-year-old working in nursing in New Jersey, says. “The salaries or pay rates are often on a sliding scale, based on years worked, experience, job performance, et cetera. If a co-worker of mine found out that I make significantly more money than her even though we both do the exact same thing and she’s been working here longer, it will only cause animosity.”
If you’d rather keep your lips sealed at work, but suspect you’re underpaid, there are still ways to seek out salary info. Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth tool compares your pay with people like you, giving you a good guideline as to whether you’re getting paid fairly. Payscale is another good resource if you want a free salary report, no awkward cubicle convos required.
Should you spill?
When it comes down to it, who you choose to share your salary with is a personal decision and will differ based on your relationships. It’s also a decision you should take seriously. Even if they “cross their heart,” you should consider the possibility that the person you share with might slip up and spill your salary to someone else. Consider how sharing your salary will impact your relationship with that person, how they might react and how you would feel if they told anyone else.
The Cashlorette’s survey reveals a common trend we’re seeing among millennials: Talking freely and openly about money. And that’s far from a bad thing. The more we talk about it, the more we learn. And sometimes, a girl’s just gotta vent, ya know?
The PSRAI September 2017 Omnibus Week 3 obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,001 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (501, including 312 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from September 21-24, 2017. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.9 percentage points.