What’s So Bad About Sharing Salary Info? We Weigh the Pros and Cons

Portrait of group of young people sitting at a cafe and discussing work.
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Never ask a woman how old she is. Never ask a woman how much she weighs. And never ask anyone how much money they make.

Well-accepted American workplace culture dictates you don’t dare discuss salary information. Yet a recent survey from The Cashlorette found millennials aren’t exactly heeding that unspoken rule.

Sixty-three percent of millennials surveyed said they’ve disclosed their wages to an immediate family member. Nearly half (48%) shared that information with a friend, and 30% discussed it with a co-worker.

Baby boomers, on the other hand, are more discreet. Only 41% of boomers surveyed spilled their salary to an immediate family member, 21% to a friend and 8% to a co-worker.

It’s no surprise millennials have to do things differently, but it brings up a good question: What’s the big deal about staying silent when it comes to money?

Shattering the Silence

Keeping quiet about what you earn is so ingrained in our culture, it feels taboo to go against the grain. But sharing your salary can have its benefits.

Knowing what your co-workers (or others in similar careers) make can serve as a great tool when it comes to negotiating salary. It’s easy for wage gaps to thrive when the amount of money others are being paid is kept in the dark.

Though it might be frowned upon, it’s important to know that sharing your salary with your fellow colleagues is not illegal, despite common myths.

Having insider information about what a company pays its employees is also great for job seekers.

Popular advice for those on the job hunt includes checking sites like Glassdoor and Payscale to find out what others in that role are being paid. Though that information is typically given anonymously, it puts new hires at an advantage when it comes to that initial salary discussion.

And if you’re struggling financially or working toward a particular money goal like saving for a house, sharing salary information with family and friends could help take some of the weight off your shoulders.

That way, no one just assumes you can go out for drinks every Friday, that you can cover the costs of being a bridesmaid or that you can host Thanksgiving dinner at your home… again.

The Downsides to Salary Disclosure

Now before you go telling everyone you meet how much you make, you might want to consider the flipside — there are certain disadvantages to sharing your salary.

It can be an awkward conversation to have. You’ve got to be prepared that it could unfairly change the way people think of you.

If you make less than what friends and family assumed, they could start judging you or start questioning your life choices. If you make more, you may find yourself picking up the tab more often or being asked for “loans” that never get repaid.

Co-workers earning less than you may resent you and start believing you should be the one to pick up the slack or put in the additional work needed for a collaborative project.

Sharing how much you make can never be unshared. Though it definitely has its benefits, some people have completely valid reasons to remain hush-hush about their salaries. At the end of the day, the choice is yours.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She favors transparency and recently shared how much she made with a co-worker. It wasn’t too awkward.