Last night hubs and I were watching Parks and Rec. (Spoilers ahead, so if you’re like us and you’re 8 years behind on your television – skip this next bit.)
The scene features Ben and Leslie, who are asked to help the city of Eagleton, Pawnee’s wealthy rival for centuries, overcome a budget crisis.
Leslie is reveling in the glory of the fact that rich, snooty Eagleton is broke, while Ben tries to determine precisely how bad Eagleton’s situation is. Since Ben is an accountant, he starts to ask questions related to the budget and expenditures of the city.
Ingrid, Eagleton’s slightly snooty city councilwoman, whispers that talking about money is “gauche.”
And therein lies my point (finally) – we MUST talk about money. I saw a comment on Thinking Thrifty the other day that talking about money is still considered inappropriate in Canada. David of Thinking Thrifty replied that it’s just as taboo in the UK, and I’m here to tell you it is still not super cool in the US either.
But it DOES. NOT. MATTER.
And here’s why.
Much like the mythical city of Eagleton, secrecy tends to be a breeding ground for trouble. You don’t want your buds to know you’re on a budget (how distinctly unsexy of you), so you go out for the fancy get togethers at the swanky joints you’re invited to. You don’t want seem too aggressive or push your boss too hard, so you don’t fight for more when he announces your annual 3% raise. You don’t want to tell your mother you can’t afford to go on the cruise she’s been planning for her 60th birthday, so you put it on a credit card.
STOP. JUST. STOP.
Let’s clarify a few things:
- No one is perfect. You know that perfect friend you have who has the perfect husband, gorgeous children, a wonderful job, blah blah blah. She has issues too. In fact, there are probably parts of your life that you take for granted that she envies.
- Everybody struggles somewhere. In fact, if you’re like me, you struggle a lot! I struggle with keeping our debt payoff plan on track, especially during months like this; I struggle with feeling like I’m doing enough/the right things to parent my children, with keeping up the house. Someone else may struggle with their marriage or career or exercising or getting enough rest or a mentally ill or disabled parent or something totally different – but there’s something.
- Most people have room to improve in their finances (and other areas of their lives). Have you ever been talking to a friend and they shared something they were trying – maybe a new exercise program, or a way they were keeping up with the laundry, or the activities they were doing with their kids – and you were inspired, and made a change? Why are we so willing to have our friends dive into the other intimate areas of our lives – our marriages, our parenting, our careers – but not money? Sometimes, a different perspective makes a world of difference.
A couple of years ago, I vowed to always be transparent about my salary and my financial situation. I read an article that described the complexity of the wage gap between men and women. One of the factors that’s often brought up is the fact that women either don’t negotiate their salaries, or don’t ask for as much. While in a future post, I’ll address salary negotiation and how I’ve doubled my salary in the past 3 years, in the meantime – I realized that it is really important to understand the market value of your skills.
While I can’t change the larger social landscape that impacts the salary gap, I can be an activist in my own life by doing my part. Doing my part means openly discussing my salary if it comes up with relevant colleagues, always negotiating my salary to meet market value, staying knowledgeable about changes in the market that impact my market value, and improving my skillset to become more valuable.
So far, this has proved valuable in a number of ways:
- I was able to drastically increase my salary in a short period of time.
- I was able to negotiate fair pay for my freelancing jobs.
- I was able to develop relationships with folks who were further along in their careers. These folks are now my money mentors – they’re the ones who helped me better understand my 401k, how to prioritize debt payments, how to stay motivated, and so much more.
- I was able to help several friends through three separate salary negotiations. One netted a 25% raise, one netted a 17% raise, and one netted a 10% raise – not including their bonuses, work from home schedules, and vacation days – when all three had been considering asking for what they made or had before.
Now, I make people uncomfortable by talking about money.
And I’m fine with that.
If I can help one person relieve the stress that comes with trying to keep it all in, or negotiate their salary, or land a better job, or feel more comfortable about how they’re approaching their investments, then a moment of discomfort will have been well worth it.
I want everyone in my life to be able to tell me – Hey, I can’t go to Starbucks with you, or hey, let’s grill out at home this weekend instead of going out. I want everyone to feel comfortable sharing – I’m really struggling with my debt right now.
That can lead to one of two types of conversations – one like I mentioned above, where a different perspective allows you to make a change.
Or a different type of conversation – one of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes, we don’t need advice. You already know *what* to do. But it’s so important to know you’re not the only one. It’s important to the people in your life to know they’re not the only ones either.
Dear readers – please know that whatever your struggle is now, you’re not alone.
So tell me – am I being gauche for talking about money? (The GIFs are strong in this post!) How much do you share with those around you?