‘When I get a raise or a promotion at work I want to be able to celebrate with my friends, and not feel like they’ll judge me or make snide remarks about my salary’
I have an old group of friends I’ve been close with for more than 15 years.
Two years ago, I graduated from college after struggling to get my undergraduate degree in computer science for eight years. I entered the workforce making what I knew to be a lot of money for someone my age. At 26, I make $105,000 a year. I’m incredibly lucky and privileged to do so.
My problem comes from one of my friends, in particular, who repeatedly shames me for my salary. I don’t recall if I’ve ever told her exactly how much I make, but she will occasionally say things like, “You make too much money” or, “You make more than enough to afford X.”
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Recently, during a game night when given a funny prompt to draw (“I had too much money, so I bought this car”) she called on me. Some of her assumptions are right. I do secretly feel like I’m paid too much for what I do, and I know my salary has to do with the tech industry instead of my skill.
However, I want to be able to have open and honest conversations with these friends about navigating money as young adults. When I get a raise or a promotion at work I want to be able to celebrate with my friends, and not feel like they’ll judge me or make snide remarks about my salary.
How should I approach this friend? Should I accept that I’m privileged and lucky and stop sharing money related things with them all together?
Making Too Much
Yes. That’s the short answer. Now for the long one:
You are worth $105,000 a year — and more. At twice that salary, I have no doubt that the value that you bring to your company still pales in comparison to the money they pay you. You don’t need your friends to believe in you for you to believe in yourself, or to know that you’re worth every penny.
If they do not respect your wishes? You choose to stay and endure their slings and arrows or you excuse yourself and find other friends who will show you the respect that you deserve.
It is my experience that it’s best to tell someone how you feel. When your friends make comments about your salary, even if they don’t know how much you make, ask them to stop and tell them why. You don’t have to make excuses for yourself. You don’t have to tell them how fortunate you feel.
Once you tell them how you feel, it’s up to them. Lay out your feelings, and ask them to leave any comments about your job and salary off the table, your job is done. They can respect your wishes or choose not to respect them. You can’t change them. Nor are you responsible for them.
And if they do not respect your wishes? Then you have a choice to make and that is when you are responsible for your own actions. You choose to stay and endure their slings and arrows or you excuse yourself and find other friends who will show you the respect that you deserve.
You are, as you say, in a privileged position, and your friends may be feeling financial pain right now. People are struggling to pay bills. As Americans have received their $1,200 stimulus checks, many have used it to keep a roof over their head. When people are fearful, they sometimes lash out.
Some sobering figures: The average hourly pay in the U.S. hovers at $25.72. Nearly 25% of Americans have no emergency savings. There’s growing concern among many people that the economy won’t restart in time to save them from missing their rent, their mortgage or grocery bills.
You are, as you say, in a privileged position. There’s a lot you can do outside of your friend group to make a difference. Taking action to help others is just one solution to that problem.
Gallup data released this month add more support to previous research that less-educated workers in low-wage, blue-collar roles have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and suggest the pandemic is “exacerbating the income inequality that existed before its arrival.”
Some 95% of workers in low-income households — making less than $36,000 per year — have either been laid off as a result of the coronavirus (37%) or have experienced a loss in income (58%). A quarter of workers earning between $90,000 and $180,000 a year saw an income loss.
Some groups will feel this public-health crisis more than others, including older people, workers who can’t call in sick, and those who can’t pay for quality health care. There’s a lot you can do outside of your friend group to make a difference. Taking action to help others is one solution to that problem.
Here are some of the charities that are doing some great work at the moment. You can help get medical supplies shipped to where they’re needed most, volunteer with Meals on Wheels, donate money to a reputable nonprofit, support your local food bank, or even donate blood.
Bottom line: If someone talks negatively about your achievements or aspirations, or believes you’re not up to the job, or suspects they should be doing what you’re doing or earning what you’re earning, it has nothing to do with you. This is all about their insecurities, not yours. It’s really not your problem.
So don’t discuss your salary with your friends. You don’t even have to discuss work with these friends, if you don’t want to. If they ask you how much money you spent on a piece of clothing, remind them that you hate talking about money, and that you would rather not talk about it.
I don’t know any 26-year-old men who think they’re getting paid too much, so focus on being the best friend and employee you can be. But first and foremost, be a best friend to yourself.
You should never have to apologize for being who are and/or for achieving what you have achieved. You have worked hard for this — and you should enjoy it. You are only accountable to yourself. If you are in a toxic situation, by all means ask yourself why you choose to remain in it.
I say that because there is another person whispering in your ear: Your saboteur. After you have spoken to your friends, turn your attentions to your saboteur. You can be far less diplomatic here. Tell her: “I am where I am because of who I am. Now do yourself a favor — and get lost!”
You’ve worked hard to finish college and get a job in a white male-dominated industry. Give yourself a break. I don’t know any 26-year-old men who think they’re getting paid too much, so focus on being the best friend and employee you can be. But first and foremost, be a best friend to yourself.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.
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About the Author
Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch’s personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.