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Why We Don’t Share Salaries

In the past there has been great debate as to why personal finance bloggers are so willing to share their net worths but aren’t so forthcoming with their salaries – I was one of them (until recently, now I don’t share either, ha!). It’s been talked about on other blogs as well but I wanted to put forth my theory as to why it doesn’t bother us to learn Tiger Woods’ or Bill Gates’ or the President’s salary and it’s not terribly outlandish (and you’ve probably heard it before).

People keep their salaries private because they use it to compare how successful they are against others. If you make $30,000 now and your friend is making $35,000, then you feel bad (if you think you don’t feel bad, please be honest with yourself; if you still don’t feel bad, I applaud you because you are likely in the minority). Why is the other guy making $5k more than you? Why are you paid less? Why is he or she paid more? Am I a jerk for even thinking this? The answer is there is no answer, there are plenty of reasons why the other person is making more (or less) and it likely has nothing to do with you or his or her ability. Oh, and you’re not a jerk, it’s natural to compare anything. The other person might be paid more because they started at a time when the competition was hot; the other person might be paid more because they’re doing a slightly different job; the other person might be paid more because they honestly are better than you or harder working and you just don’t know it. Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons and a majority have nothing to do with you… but it’s hard to accept that. That’s why you don’t share salaries. You don’t want other people to feel bad and you don’t want to feel bad yourself; it’s okay.

So why doesn’t it bother you to find out how much Tiger Woods makes? You can’t compare to Tiger Woods unless you’re Phil Mickelson or VJ Singh, you’re probably neither (if you are, shoot me an email!). You don’t compare yourself to Donald Trump, you don’t compare yourself to Martha Stewart, and you don’t compare yourself to Steve Jobs – that’s why it doesn’t matter if you know how much they bank each month.

Oh, Steve Jobs makes a dollar each year… you probably make more and I think he’s okay with that.