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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

Break the Salary Silence: How to Talk About Money

Women have no problem passing along the latest deal on skinny jeans, or forwarding that Groupon for a great new restaurant. We’ll bemoan our rent increase, and we might even share the price we paid for our new house with our friends.

But that’s where the conversation about money ends. We can talk about nearly every aspect of our lives—but when it comes to our salaries, bonuses, pay raises, and freelancing fees, our lips are sealed. Sure, comparing paychecks can be prickly, but staying silent is hurting us where it counts: our pocketbooks.

Case in point: Christine, a client I recently worked with, is trying to save for a down payment on an apartment. While we were plugging numbers into her budget, I realized that she was underearning for her job title and level of experience. But until then, she had no idea: When I inquired about the salary range for her industry, including her colleagues and friends, she admitted that she had never asked.

Ladies, it’s time to start talking money. It’s not competitive, backstabbing, or even embarrassing. It’s motivating. And it will increase your money confidence and positively influence your careers, savings, and self-esteem. Here are a few easy ways to help you get started:

1. Share Your Salary

No, this is not about picking up the tab for your group at your next get together (though I’m sure they’d appreciate it)—it’s about talking about what you earn with your friends. You don't need to divulge exact numbers, but it's OK to celebrate your 5% salary increase, commiserate over a smaller bonus, or talk about the new benefits your company offers. By making personal finance a commonplace conversation topic, you’ll get a better sense for how your salary and benefits package stack up to the norm.

2. Talk About Retirement

Ask a few close friends what percentage of their salaries they contribute to their 401(k) plans, explaining that you need motivation to contribute more to yours and a buddy or two to keep you accountable. Most women live longer than men, and thus need more savings, so retirement is an important topic to be thinking about—and discussing.

Just having that conversation can help you and your friends take concrete, more-informed steps toward a better retirement. Plus, it can open the door to talking about your finances in an unintimidating way.

Your next step: Mulling over your 401(k) mutual fund choices at happy hour.

3. Start a Money Book Club 

A group of women who met at one of my courses wanted to continue the momentum of their new-found financial empowerment, so they decided to form a book club. Their first pick was Barbara Stanney’s Overcoming Underearning, a book chock-full of exercises to help you earn more, build your savings, and gain financial independence.

The club provided an environment where talking about finances was comfortable. It was a place where they could challenge each other to ask for a higher fee on that next project or think about making the switch to a job with a higher salary, and it helped them stay empowered.

Money changes won’t happen overnight, but they do happen. Since we all need a sprinkling of inspiration and motivation, creating your own money community with your close friends can turn your obstacles into financial success.

Tell us! Do you talk about money with your friends? What’s the toughest topic to discuss? How has swapping financial info with friends helped you with your own money management? 

Photo courtesy of Kate Bingaman-Burt.