Talking about Money Offline

A lot of personal finance bloggers are drawn to blogging because it gives them an outlet that they otherwise wouldn’t have to talk about money.

The world that I am in is a strange place. Starting out of college, I knew how much most of my coworkers were starting out making. Since we all make comparable (and plenty of) money, there are small things that are talked about. Perhaps it is that money is less of a sticky issue when people are on similar footing AND have plenty of it.

Some examples:

  • Quite a few of my friends know that my parents paid for college.
  • Several of my friends, point blank, told me how much they were making when they started.
  • When I was up for promotion, one of my friends told me how much of a raise he got when he got that promotion and told me what raises are like at other times.
  • I have somewhat of a guess as to how much my manager makes.
  • Everyone talks about how important it is to negotiate your starting salary.
  • I have had no qualms showing people the real estate link for the condo I am buying and I even showed some people the links for places I was looking at.
  • During the offer negotiation process, I continually asked various coworkers for advice. This means that many coworkers know exactly how much I am paying for my condo.
  • My coworkers and I have spent lunch hours comparing and contrasting fixed rate mortgages and ARMs. They convinced me that a fixed rate mortgage for 30 years wasn’t necessarily the best idea, considering that I might not even stay there for that long.
  • I commented to my manager that some days I worried I couldn’t afford the condo and his comment was “Your salary can only go up from this point and I know you can afford it now, so you will more than be able to afford it in the future.” (At my company, managers know exactly how and how much their employees are compensated.)
  • Two of my friends know that my parents gave me some money to help with the down payment on my condo.
  • Most of my friends freely discuss how much their rent costs and compare cell phone bills, credit card limit tricks, etc.
  • Coworkers freely talk about their stock compensation and whether they sell-all immediately, use cash to cover the taxes, or keep the shares post-tax. This was super helpful in helping me to understand how that form of compensation worked and with the decision-making process on which method to pick.
  • Coworkers freely discuss credit card points and which ones they like the best and why.

I realize when I talk to people in completely different social circles that this is not normal. It’s probably a combination of the mathematical/analytical nature of technical people and their social awkwardness, but I’ve become accustomed to this just being normal to the point that it’s quite strange to talk to other people and realize that talking about my spreadsheets is not normal…

One of my friends finally enrolled in the 401(k) plan and I gave her a high-five! We talk reasonably openly about money, which is pretty cool. I’m proud of her for signing up for the 401(k) and have been super happy to answer any questions she might have in the process. I showed her my first quarter 401(k) statement and we both laughed at my silliness. Any friendship in which one can switch between cute boys, technical stuff, food, money, and sports is a pretty awesome one in my books!

I’ve learned quickly with which people I should not at all talk about money. They’re the people who will freely let you ramble, but then never respond with any of their stories or make negative comments.

For the most part, however, I try to only make small bits of conversation about money and not go into the level of detail that I care about. I know that no one else really cares about the level of detail that I do. Or maybe they do, but only in the context of their own finances, but not someone else’s. And that is why I blog – people on the internet are free to not care about my finances in the level of detail that I do, but it still provides a reasonable level of accountability.

Readers, do you have money confidantes outside of the personal finance blogging world?

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13 thoughts on “Talking about Money Offline

  1. My first job out of college was somewhat similar to yours in that everyone had a good idea how much everyone else was making and we discussed money an purchases very openly. It was great and really helped me figure out a lot of personal finance issues. It was particularly easy because a lot of us had similar financial goals as we were all young and single.

    Flash forward to today and now I only really discuss money with friends in big picture terms. It is still helpful, but I miss the days when everything was more open.

    A lot of friends talk to me about their finances b/c they know it is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. There’s nothing I love more than having a friend call to discuss 401k options or how to save for their kids’ college!

    • That sounds like that was a really great job community to have for your first job! Everyone being young and single definitely makes it easier, though I’ve actually found it great for people to be a little bit older – more wise knowledge to pass down ;)

      You may not talk about money with friends now, but at least you have your husband, right? That might actually be even more awesome since you’re trying to hit goals with a shared vision.

      I’m trying to work on one of my friends that investing in stocks when he has a small balance is eating into his balance a lot because of how much he is spending on trading fees.

  2. My first (and only job so far) out of University (yeah Canada :) ) was in a very private and competitive environment. We all had a general idea of what everyone was making, but it was definitely frowned upon to discuss it openly in the office.

    I have a couple of friends I talk to openly about finances, but the majority of them are very secretive about it. I’m hoping to change that!

    • Woo Canada! :)

      Good luck with changing that! It is *hard*, but I’m trying my best. I figure that for everything there are taboos around talking about, if someone starts talking about it, eventually more people will.

  3. Hahahaha! Yes, I am an economist and it is exactly the same thing. WE know exactly how much everyone is making and don’t feel the least bit embarrassed talking about money… but other people outside the discipline seem to think it’s rude.

    • Haha, awesome! I don’t quite see why it’s rude… But it could be quite embarrassing if someone else makes significantly less than everyone else, I suppose.

  4. As I’m in graduate school, I know what all my peers make because we all have the same stipend (excluding those on fellowships – but I know what they make, too). Unlike you and your coworkers, we’re making comparable but low salaries. :) While I wouldn’t say personal finance is a popular topic, most of my friends know my interest and I discuss one aspect or another with them quite often. Many of those conversations consist of me explaining why and how to open and fund a Roth IRA or other teaching-type conversations. I’ll miss this open atmosphere when I move on to a “real job,” where I imagine there will be more ego tied to these conversations.

    • There could be more ego, but if you’re not using specific numbers, it might still be helpful. Older, wiser colleagues can almost always provide some good insight on life.

      Are you definitely planning on going onto a “real job” or are you going to do a postdoc?

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