I went out for dinner last night with two friends in my field, and had the most bizarre realization that I make way more money than they do.
I've never been in this situation before. For whatever reason, I tend to "friend up" and so all of my friends have generally been more professionally successful or in the industry longer than me, and so it could be safely assumed that they made more than me. Of these two friends, one has been working longer than me (about three years longer) and one has been working for the same length of time. And yet I make more -- quite a bit more in one case -- than both of them.
The way I found out is that one friend is interviewing for a job with my company and asked me how much I thought the job paid, and flat out told me what she's making now (which is quite low -- $15,000 less than me). The other friend was complaining that her younger brother, who lives in the midwest and has only been in the workforce for two years, is now making more than her, and she named a number which is $6,000 less than what I make. These conversations happened separately, so as far as I know, I know what friend A makes and what friend B makes, but friend A doesn't know what friend B makes and vice versa, and neither know what I make nor that I know what the other makes. Got that?
Both of these friends work full time. Both of them also have part-time jobs on the side, working evenings and weekends in service-type jobs. Both are single. One lives alone, the other lives with her parents outside of the city, where she owns a car and has a crazy expensive commute. Both are older than me by a year or two.
I want finances to be an open matter -- that's why I blog, even though it's anonymous. I want to be in friendships where we can discuss things like this. And yet, I feel very strange telling my friends how much I make since it's substantially more than them. I feel weird telling them that Peanut and I live off of my income alone, and bank his larger income for the future.
Why do I feel so weird about this?! I can't figure it out. We're in different jobs that have different salary expectations. We handle money differently (they both ordered appetizers with dinner and looked at the dessert menu; I did not). I work hard for my salary and I'm good at my job. I'm not ashamed of what I make and I intend to make more still, but I don't want to make them feel bad by saying out loud that I don't have to worry about money at this point in my life.
I also felt like geez, it's not really fair. I know how much they make, and they don't know how much I make. My salary never came up, as the conversations were pretty specific to their situation, and injecting my number was irrelevant. But it seems like introducing how much I make into the equation would make the friendship unequal, especially given how thrifty I generally am during outings. Would they think me a cheapskate for only ordering one drink, if they knew that I earned more than them? Would they feel like I should pick up more of the dinner tab, because I could? Should I, especially if I do the inviting or pick the restaurant?
If a more general salary discussion came up, I'm not sure what I would have said. Would I have told them the truth? Would I have demurred and said nothing substantial? Would I have lied to my friends to spare their feelings? Honestly, I don't know.
Do you earn more or less than your friends? If you're on either side of the situation, please weigh in and tell me how you prefer it to be handled. I'm really stumped.