Discussing Salary On Dates

It’s Friday, so today, I’m going to talk about dating! I’ve been single for awhile now, but I still have amusing date stories from time to time.

I was on a date recently and we were discussing salary and how powerful negotiating your salary can be. We are both in the same industry and we compared our initial offers out of college and what we started at. It was interesting hearing how he negotiated his salary, how he based his arguments, and what he had his offer improved to. I (stupidly) did not negotiate my salary at all when I started. I definitely think that I’m doing okay now, but some days, I still kick myself for not negotiating.

When he turned the conversation to me and asked “Well, what do you make?” I felt really, really weird. Here is this guy who I don’t know very well directly asking me how much money I make. That doesn’t seem so weird in the context that he had just flat-out told me how much he was going to make this year, but I realized that I didn’t want to tell him. My current forecasts suggest that I will net more than what he expects to gross this year. That is a pretty significant difference.

At the end of a first date I went on last year, we argued over who was going to pay, which turned into us each calculating how much the other person earned. We both figured out that the difference was around $10,000, which at our income level, was negligible. I thought that situation was kind of cute. But me netting more than the guy is going to gross? That’s way too much of a difference to voice too early on.

When I relayed the recent date story to a friend of mine, she told me that I’m really a grown-up now. We agreed that in a serious relationship, it is one thing to tell the guy how much we earn, but on the first few dates, it’s a bit weird.

Readers, how early in a relationship/dating would you tell someone how much you earn?

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29 thoughts on “Discussing Salary On Dates

  1. I would have said some thing like, “Why do you need to know how much I make? You have enough to pay for dinner don’t you?” You’re in the trenches though….

    When my spouse and I were dating, they were clueless to how much money I made or had. They thought I was a useless ski bum who didn’t have a job. And while I didn’t have to lie to give this impression (there’s something about skiing over 40 days in a year that makes people think you don’t work), I have an “OK” job which far surpassed my spouses expectations.

    • Haha yep, I hate dating. I think the noun phrase “circus algorithm” can aptly describe the process at times. At least it provides me with amusing stories?

      A useless ski bum? That’s an excellent way to show yourself! How did you manage to ski over 40 days per year? Did you ski every weekend and use all of your vacation time for skiing?

  2. If the person enjoys talking about money (and I am assuming he was trying to brag), wants to know how much you make (for bragging rights if you made less), but doesn’t want to part with it (e.g. pay a dinner bill), then his self-identity is wrapped up in his money. That’s a sad, sad life.

    I cannot wait for the day for the world to realize that how much you make does not mean you are a better or worse person.

    • I didn’t feel like he didn’t want to part with his money to pay the dinner bill. It’s also quite possible that he was just really excited about the fact that he had negotiated his salary so well and wanted to talk about it. But that doesn’t mean that he needs to know how much money *I* make. That’s irrelevant.

      I feel like he was definitely looking for bragging rights or something, but I also worried he would feel down on himself if he found out that I made more. He probably suspected so since I am (now) a higher level than he is (now), but I didn’t feel any need to show him just how much more.

      Me too, but some people would chastise me for saying that because of my income level :( I remember the days in college where we would sit around at each other’s places and just hang out. No money required. That was awesome.

    • I used to work on a rotational schedule. I would work for x number of days (usually at least 14) and get x number of days off. No one bothered me on my days off and I could live where I wanted and do as I please. My spouse did wonder why I would go “radio silent” for weeks at a time, but just thought I had lost interest. Nonetheless, we had great times together after the ski resort closed and I wasn’t working.

      • That sounds pretty cool! I like my M-F, but I definitely miss having time off during business hours from when I worked part-time. Haha, “radio silent” for weeks at a time. That would totally freak me out in the early stages of dating :P

  3. When my fiance and I started dating, neither one of us had real jobs since we were both undergraduate students.

    I definitely think salary is an odd thing to talk about on a first date

  4. lol besides salaries, you definitely should have discussed religion and politics. Excellent first date material.

    • Haha. On the best first date I’ve ever had we discussed religion and politics and then we went to a Church of Scientology randomly on our second date :P Screw dating “rules”.

      In all honesty though, given my religious beliefs or lack thereof, I actually wouldn’t go too many dates without bringing that up.

    • I am thankful to have found my fiance (just after high school!) The thought of dating is tiring.

      I’m pretty open about money IRL but first date is weird territory for income talk. I might, depending on the vibe (after all it’s a given that nobody in my field makes any money). Or I might not.

  5. Personally, if the guy I was on first date with mentioned salary or asked me how much I made, that would result in no second dates :) Salary is not something I’d feel comfortable discussing with someone unless the relationship turns serious. Also I’d insist on going dutch on dates if both are earning, regardless of who earned more. That’s just me.

    • Very good point! I actually am a huge fan of going dutch as well. I make more money than a lot of the guys I meet, but I find that a lot of guys have it drilled into their head that they have to pay. So I’m working on letting that go, but still offering. For $20 or whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter who pays.

      I think it’s stupid that guys are expected to pay though. That seems so antiquated and made way more sense when women only moved out of the house after marriage. But I earn my own income! I can pay my own way! I also don’t like the feeling of the guy “buying” my time :/

      • Shouldn’t it be who ever invties the other person should pay? If I invtie someone to do something and don’t disclose how much it costs, I would hate to impose on them something they may not have elected to do if they knew the costs and what it was beforehand. I’ve also found when “arguing over who gets to pay,” that if the other person is being unrelenting, I insist to leave the tip and that is usually an ok “middle” ground which they will agree to.

        • I’ve tried that idea too. I had a date where the guy asked me out and then at the end of the night, asked me to pay for my share in cash! I never carry cash.

  6. Probably if I didn’t want to disclose my salary on a first date I wouldn’t have gotten too far into a conversation about starting salaries. That is, if I had a real job. As a grad student, people are impressed that I get paid at all, no matter how little.

    I started dating my husband in undergrad too, so I don’t remember a time when we didn’t know pretty much everything about each other’s developing financial pictures. When he was applying to grad schools we talked about all his stipend awards and thought it was ridiculous that the school in the most expensive city offered him the smallest stipend, and same when I was getting my offers.

    I’m not really in a place to give dating advice, but I agree with your above comment that the Big Important Things (religion, money, life plans) need to at least be stated early on so you can know if the relationship is worth pursuing. I think you can talk though a lot of money styles and preferences without getting to specific numbers (“I save 15%;” “I have a budget;” “I’m not in debt.”).

    • That’s very true. I definitely feel like salary can be a point of pride for men.

      I think that the more important part about money when you’re first starting to date someone isn’t assets or salary, but cash flow. I care less about how much a guy makes and more about him living within his means. I don’t know how to bring up if the other person has debt, even though that’s something that concerns me.

      Life goals are easier to talk about though. You can also see if they’ve followed through on past goals by talking about some of their past experiences.

      Some guys will brush off religion not being an issue and then realize it actually is after a few months of dating too. So bringing things up in the first few dates doesn’t always “clear” that topic.

      I dated someone who didn’t have a budget, but I could also tell that he had no cash flow issues – old clothes, cheap rent, no car, etc. – and I could guess his income range since he was in the same industry.

  7. That’s so awkward for a first date. I don’t think salaries should be talked about until much later – you shouldn’t decide if you want to be with someone based on how much they make. It should definitely be talked about at some point though but only once you’re in a more serious relationship. That guy does not sound like a keeper.

  8. I do not think you need to discuss salary unless things start getting serious. Think of how many people you are close to who have no idea how much you make.

    On a somewhat related note, I used to always be self conscious about my salary and dating since I almost always made more than the guys I dated. Therefore, I was extra reluctant to ever discuss salary. When I met Mr. NTF I was so nervous to have the salary discussion when we got to the point where it made sense for us to have it. He was awesome about it, which confirms my belief that if you are with the right guy, there’s nothing to fear with respect to the salary conversation.

    • I definitely agree with you that the guy doesn’t need to know until things are serious. My last boyfriend and I did know how much each other made, but we’re both in the same industry and I thought we were quite serious, so it didn’t matter all that much since it was such a minor difference.

      I’ve definitely been self-conscious about salary and assets. Most of the guys I dated in college, their parents didn’t pay for college, which meant there was a huge assets difference and then I was making more money on my internships. And now? My career has been taking off. I started out making more than some of my friends and I’m seeing $15+k a year increases in my overall compensation.

      One of my old coworkers told me that I should never tell a guy I was dating how much money I made because then he wouldn’t want to stop dating me anymore. I was thinking “Well, obviously I would then never date you, nor would I date anyone who cared that I made more money. If the guy would break up with me over that, I would be better off without him.”

      • I had a couple girls ask me once and I told them. I don’t bring it up because it is irrelevant for my decision of if I want to see someone again or not.

        I agree that cash flow would be more useful to know than assets/debt- but there’s not a way to bring it up gently, and it’s really not that important to me until it gets super serious.

        I just don’t date anymore because it stopped being fun.

        My least favorite date was with this “pet doctor” who kept flaunting her 6 figures and beach-side apartment.

        • Actually, when you put it that way, I think about it differently. I would never consider asking a guy how much money he makes until we’re serious. It’s just not relevant. I don’t think I would answer if someone asked me that question either, like I did on this particular date.

  9. Hi Leigh. New reader here. Great blog! I’m gonna subscribe. :)

    I’m curious, what negotiation techniques did he use? I’m a software developer myself!

    • He had a competing offer on the table that was significantly higher and for a lower cost of living city close by. That seems to be the primary negotiating power I’ve heard.

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