OK. So BOOM! There I was in the middle of my crappy job having started a mutiny amongst my co-workers to the big bosses; all because I had a conversation about the amount I was being paid with another co-worker. I assumed they were making more.
All I heard over the roar of power tools and radio chatter was “KRYSTAL! Come here for a second!” The way my name had been called made me feel like an 8-year-old walking to my doom as my mother confronted me about her delicious candy bar I had eaten. Only this time my mother wasn’t around and I was a grown ass woman confused on why I felt like I was in trouble.
Boss: “Did you discuss how much you’re getting paid with anyone here?”
Boss: “Why would you do that?!”
Manager Bystander: *scoffs and twists up their nose at me*
Me: “I didn’t know it was a secret. They asked and I told. Was I not supposed to?”
Boss: “No, you’re never supposed to discuss money.”
Manager Bystander: “Yea you’ve never been told that?! Never discuss money or politics!”
Boss: “You’ve started a mutiny because you make more than them.”
Me: *stares unimpressed* “Oh.”
Exits stage left
Apparently there’s this unspoken rule that you NEVER, EVER discuss money. At that moment all I could think about is the random conversation that I’d had with the bystander about politics in which he was hell-bent on hating Hilary at the time but somehow talking about money was an issue…?
The sad part is I was only being paid $10/hr and my first thought was “SO WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PAYING THEM?!” My co-workers had been there longer and were more experienced than I was. If they were starting to complain about how much they were being paid then it was long overdue.
I was unimpressed with the hourly rate I had so anything lower than that would have been a deal-breaker for me. I inadvertently get people to demand more of themselves and their jobs but that’s a post for a later time.
Right now let’s discuss why the world sees money talk as a profane language.
What’s Done in the Dark
Not on the job. Not in the living room of your rich Uncle’s mansion. Not even while living in the cardboard box in the alley. The message we’re being sent is simply don’t discuss it. It’s uncomfortable, unprofessional. It’s none of your business.
YET, it’s by keeping the numbers in the dark that inequality is able to thrive in almost every aspect of business as it relates to money. Regardless of if it’s women being paid less than men. Brown people being paid less than Vanilla people. Brown women being paid less than EVERYBODY
…it’s able to thrive because no one talks about what’s in their wallet.
I’ve always been open with how broke I am and not afraid to discuss it with others. Or so I thought. Until I found myself actively avoiding money related questions like “how much did that cost?” or “You must be making pretty good money.” Then a light bulb went off because I realize now that what steers us clear from discussions of money is fear of judgement.
We don’t want to be held accountable based of our $$$.
We don’t want to be pitied based on our lack thereof.
We don’t want you to price check every purchase based off the understanding of our financial situation.
We don’t want that negative judgement that comes with having money or not having money.
The crazy part is by keeping our money issues, anxieties or celebrations on the hush, hush we often miss out on deep conversations that could be a milestone in our lives and in paving the way for others.
Case-in-point? What’s one of the top reasons that couples get divorced?
Balance, No Balance…Balance
If you’re making a little more money than people around you are used to then you are familiar with hearing “Boy let me hold sumthin’, you big money now!” OR “Everybody ain’t got it like you do.” This could lead to a feeling of disconnect and unwillingness to share in money-related discussions as people assume you have it and life is good.
The truth is usually that you are making just enough to not be wholly considered broke but not enough to “Let them hold sumthin.” So you don’t discuss money because having a little extra is often expected to be shared in your circle and not for personal enjoyment in the form of a nice dinner or trip out-of-town.
Growing up around those who only express money issues and go radio silent around tax season has led many of you to distrust discussions of money with family and close loved ones. Also, the fear of being judged for enjoying your new-found money causes you to *Exit Stage Right* whenever your Great Aunt Cheryl starts loudly complaining about her bills for the month at the family gathering.
Broke Back Money
Truly being broke comes with its share of embarrassment. You don’t want anyone to know your struggle so you act like money is no issue.
“You’re blessed to even have a job” you tell yourself as you stave off the itch to ask for a raise or require a family member to pay for work you’ve done for them.
Us women do this a lot.
We don’t want to be seen as problematic, desperate or dependent.
With less than $20 in the checking account, no direct deposit in sight and bills just over the horizon the last thing you want is the judgmental, pity face from those who look up to you or depend on you.
You shower your friends with excuses on why you can’t attend brunch or tell your family you don’t feel well enough to attend that birthday party instead of admitting to them that you simply don’t have it. Bending over backwards to cover up your money issues only ends up breaking your back and your wallet.
Know Your worth
Us millennial are familiar with the endless sea of articles that tell us how worthless we are. No…literally. At the rate we are going most of us will likely die with a negative net worth. The culprit? 1.4 Trillion dollars of student loan debt. Here’s where I’ll make it personal and be transparent in an attempt to connect with you. Right now I make a decent living; working two jobs (looking for a third) and braving the road of entrepreneurship is no easy feat.
I pay my bills on time (most of them) and I try to do something big for myself at least once a year in the form a trip so that I don’t go crazy. I fight the urge to leave it all behind to go live in Tuscany like that lady in that movie because even when life is unicorns and rainbows I still feel the weight of my $40,000+ student loan debt.
I’m constantly having to choose between quality of life and financial responsibilities all because I started off into adulthood coming from a low-income background and had the audacity to want to further my education.
But instead of telling my partner why I am such a stickler for saving and money handling in general; I let him suffer thinking that I was a crazy person. The truth is that every dollar I make feels unreal because I know that I am working myself out of a hole big enough to fit a mortgage and new vehicle in. But because we don’t discuss money our debates would seem like I was bitchin’ about a Wendy’s 4 for $4 over a $7 baconator combo when what I really was saying is “I GOT MONEY BUT I’M BROKE N****, I’M BROKE!”
I couldn’t talk to my family about it because I was their beacon of light. I was “The one they didn’t have to worry about.” I was the one that made it out. And I couldn’t talk to my friends because in some financial form they were or had been getting help with their debt. I was on my own I told myself. I would die having worked all my life only to leave my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with nothing.
How depressing is that?! I finally got over myself and opened up to my boyfriend about my anxieties. We had the “MONEY TALK” and got a better understanding of how our personalities, realities and experiences play a part in how we handle the green. Better yet it took a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to see possibilities of getting out of debt within this actual lifetime.
Bank of Knowledge
Imagine if we openly discussed money…
No, No, No…that wouldn’t happen but a lot of people seem to focus so much on all the reasons you shouldn’t discuss money and none of the reasons of why you should.
Imagine young adults having a better understanding of how to open a checking/savings account in a bank or taking on student loans because they discussed it with parents or received a money management course in school.
Imagine that inequality in pay among women and men were seriously addressed once people start chattin’ about their paychecks in the break room over coffee and doughnuts. Dave from accounting is making $4.00/hr more than Jessica but she will never know this because money is never to be discussed; especially in the workplace.
Imagine couples having a serious discussion about money management and debt before the I dos.
Don’t shout your account balance from the rooftop…that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. My point is simply this…
Having the Money Talk with those who you trust and will likely be actively managing money with in the future is important. It is also important to encourage others you’re around to actively seek rightful pay from their contributions and performance.
Money doesn’t have to be vilified but the way we approach it should.
Does talking about the green make you uncomfortable? Have you had the “Money Talk” with a loved one? Let’s Talk about it, Comment below or Share.