Earn Salaries

Would You Rather Divulge Your Weight or Your Salary?

Dayana Yochim  |  October 26, 2020

The answer may depend on where you carry your extra weight — in your waist or wallet — and if you're a man or woman.

Which would you rather share with a friend, co-worker or romantic partner, your weight or your salary? 

It’s a pretty close call, according to a new MagnifyMoney survey. It found that 45% of Americans would rather divulge how much they weigh than how much money they make. Dig deeper to see who is willing to bare all, and other factors like gender and size (paycheck size, that is) come in to play. 

Men are more comfortable putting their pay stubs on the table.

Although 83% of Americans have shared their salary with at least one other person, men are more open to opening their pay stubs to scrutiny than women (58% versus 51%). And the more someone makes, the more pronounced the preference for revealing salary instead of girth. Sixty five percent of respondents who earn more than $150,000 said they’d rather divulge their salary versus 40% of those who earn less than $35,000.

Another insight from the results: Talking about salary and telling the truth don’t necessarily go hand in hand.   

Who lies more about their salary? Men or women?

When asked if it’s okay to discuss pay with co-workers, half of men said yes while just 21% of women agreed. 

However, if it’s a man revealing how much he makes, you might want to double check his math. 

Men were twice as likely to lie about their salaries (58%) than women (29%). The majority inflated the size of their pay to friends and romantic partners, while 16% downplayed their take-home pay and said they made less than they actually did.

The reasons for fibbing ranged from feeling guilty about how much they made (32%), wanting to impress someone else (21%) or avoid feeling inferior (20%). And 17% of liars said they simply felt uncomfortable sharing their true salary. 

Are you willing to bare it all?

There are plenty of reasons people keep their pay to themselves:

  • “It never comes up in conversation.”
  • “It’s too awkward to bring it up.”
  • “It’s illegal at my company to share salary information with my co-workers.”

The first two reasons are legit. And although 58% of respondents to MagnifyMoney’s survey said they think that companies can legally prevent them from exchanging personal salary information with their co-workers, thanks to the National Labor Relations Act, that’s just not true.

If you want to broach the topic, you don’t have to exchange pay stubs to share useful information.

When we asked the HerMoney private Facebook group if they talk about salary with friends, the group was divided. Some were happy to openly talk pay with their peers. Others said they avoided money talk — especially with work colleagues — because of the stigma and the fear that revealing their pay to others could backfire. 

>>MORE: HerMoney Water Cooler: Should You Disclose Your Salary To Your Friends?

As uncomfortable as broaching the topic of pay might be, you might be surprised how open others are to discussing it.

According to MagnifyMoney, 24% of respondents said they talked about their salary because the other person brought it up. Discussing a job offer with a loved one was another impetus for discussion for 18%. And 15% of those who talked turkey did so to find out if they or someone else was being fairly paid.

If you want to broach the topic, you don’t have to exchange pay stubs to share useful information. Talk about it in more general terms — think salary ranges or playing the over/under game.

>>MORE: Why I Started Talking to My Friends About Salary

4 payoffs of the “pay” conversation

It helps you gauge your compensation and gives you fodder for raise negotiations: Specific information from within your company will help you assess whether you are being paid fairly. Try to gather information from both sides of the gender gap. Ask colleagues what they think you should be making. We’ve heard time and again how awkward it is to ask for more money. Your bargaining chip is knowledge. You’ll be oozing with confidence when you go in to talk to your boss if you’re well informed about pay trends, practices and requirements at your company. 

It provides context to your friends’ and family’s financial situation: It’s easy to assume that others in your social circle are in a similar financial situation as you are. But you don’t know until you know. If you know that fancy dinners are a stretch for a friend, or that a destination family reunion isn’t realistic for your close cousin, you’ll be able to suggest more appropriate alternatives without making them feel awkward. 

It gives you a dose of reality about that supposed “dream job”: Always dreamed about switching careers because of a friend’s seemingly perfect job? It’s easy to glamorize other people’s jobs. But nothing is more valuable than talking details with someone you know who works in that job. You’ll have a more realistic sense of what’s involved if, for example, your veterinarian pal reveals she’s saddled with a pile of student loan debt or that your friend’s husband, the architect, earns a surprising modest amount.

It can encourage you to stretch for more: Don’t be discouraged if you find out a colleague makes more money than you. Use that data point and dig into why there’s a discrepancy. Do they have more training? Is that something you can pursue to make a case to your boss for a raise. Have you been underselling your skills? 

As AJ F. commented when we posed the salary sharing question in our Facebook group: “I find it incredibly empowering to hear a colleague is making more than me. More pie for you means there’s more pie out there for me, too.”

More about salaries and sharing on HerMoney.com:

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