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Taboo of Divulging Income

Most personal finance bloggers will write about their net worth, their assets, their debts, what car they drive, the house own, and almost every single bit of their financial life except their income. Is it because it’s a cultural taboo? [3] Yes, in part, but the reason I don’t ever mention my income is because I don’t think it’s relevant and at times can be a distraction. There is a lot more than money involved whenever you discuss income and a lot of that has to do with how some tightly couple their sense of self-worth with their income.

People do do that with their net worth or their assets or their credit card debt, it appears to only happen with income. When you take a pay cut, you don’t think of it in terms of how many junior bacon cheeseburgers you can’t eat this pay period, you think of it in terms of how your employer values you less than before. That inherent connection between income and self-worth makes discussions of personal finance more cluttered.

When you find out how much someone makes, no matter who it is, what is the first thing you do? You compare that person with yourself. Think about that co-worker who seems to always be on the phone arguing to his wife about taxes, or buying a flat-screen TV from some guys in Brooklyn, or buying his sixth rental house? What if you found out that not only does he make more than you but that he got a raise that year despite doing less work than you did?

Income is merely a number and mostly a distraction, that’s why I never talk about it. I think bringing up income only draws attention to it and there’s no added value in doing so. As they say, it’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.