Money Talk || Do You Talk About How Much Money You Make?

(This feature was photographed at– but not sponsored by– The Line Hotel in Austin, a spot you don’t want to miss if you’re visiting the city. Lunch at Arlo Grey, grab coffee at Alfred, or just cozy up in the well-designed lobby.)

I was raised with the idea that you never discuss how much money you make outside of your own home. Was this the same in your house? I’m so curious. I genuinely viewed few things as ill-mannered as dropping the amount of money you made or what something cost in the company of anyone other than close family. It was in this same familial setting that I was given a healthy fear of debt and living outside of your means.

I come from people who work diligently for what they make and spend it in the same way, giving considerable thought to purchases. No expenditure ever felt frivolous and money seemed to always be spent in a way that lined up with my parent’s values. We took family vacations, but never ordered beverages when out to a restaurant. We were denied no extracurricular activity and soccer tournament and dance recital fees were happily paid while the cost of the pair of Nike AirMax’s requested was immediately deemed superfluous. I learned the value of a Dillard’s extra 50% off sale early.

“there are direct, concrete consequences for falling victim to salary secrecy, including wage suppression and a lack of transparency around pay inequity, which disproportionately affects women and minorities.”

In contrast, some of the most important conversations I have had in my career have been about money. What’s the going rate for this job I’m being asked to do? What fee should I quote for doing this photo shoot, press tour, consulting job, or blog post? I recently read this article in the New York Times (it originally ran in August) that said, “there are direct, concrete consequences for falling victim to salary secrecy, including wage suppression and a lack of transparency around pay inequity, which disproportionately affects women and minorities.” Did you know that it’s illegal in all fifty states for an employer to prevent it’s employees from sharing their salaries? You can freely talk amongst yourselves about how much money you make without legal consequence.

The more I thought about this subject of discussing openly how much money you make, the more I realized that neither perspective was wrong and feel strongly that it depends on the context of the situation and the intention behind the subject. Is the intention behind revealing how much you make or what your home is worth to brag or to prove your own value over someone else’s? Or is it to provide context and perhaps insight for another trusted person who can gain something from the financial information? “This is how much we paid for our home and this is what it amounts to monthly for us after utilities, taxes, and insurance.” “This is what I made for this job and it felt like too little / just right / more than was even necessary.”

I think that financial transparency in business provides something that is majorly lacking in our VC and Angel Invested world. We can think a brand, business idea or CEO is brilliant based on what they are putting forward and how frequently we come in to contact with them in our daily lives when the reality may likely be that they are just heavily invested in and not yet even profitable. While it still feels so personal and uncomfortable to put forth what my own blogging business makes annually, I have long revered A Pinch of Yum for publishing their monthly income reports with the world. My friend Jesse shared how much she made last year from blogging (something she does on the side, in addition to her demanding marketing career) here which felt equally brave and transparent.

Finances have been at the top of my mind going into this year. I’ve been asking myself and Aaron about our long-term financial goals, strategically mapping out how we will be saving for college for the girls, how we want to go about paying off our mortgage and when, and how we will balance fun goals (beach house?!) with serious ones (retirement). It’s something I plan to share here as I begin to get clearer on each of these things if it feels beneficial to you. I would love to know what’s been front of mind financially for you this year? What are your financial goals? Did you grow up talking about salaries or was it a hush-hush topic like in my house? Do you talk about how much money you make now?

Photography by Katie Jameson

Skirt, Ganni (Similar + Similar) || Tee, Jenni Kayne || Mules, Maryam Nassir Zadeh (Similar) || Locket, Nordstrom (Similar) || Moon Necklace, Madison McKinley || Bag, Clare Vivier || Coat, J.Crew (Similar + Similar) ||

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  1. I never grew up talking about money. When my sister and I were in the car with my mom, she would tell us my dad wasn’t making that much. And as I’m older, I realize she shouldn’t have done that. It made me so worried as a little girl. I never want my future children to worry about money.
    And there are definitely some times where I think I didn’t quote enough for a collaboration. I’m also planning on adding styling services to my blog and I have no clue where to even begin for pricing!

    Jennifer
    Effortlessly Sophisticated

    • Jen Pinkston

      01/28/2019

      Oh that’s very insightful of you to realize now. Yes, I think everyone should ask three people in similar industries for opinions on rates / salaries before negotiating. It’s so helpful!
      Xo

  2. NOT TALKING ABOUT MONEY IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS I FEEL WOMEN MOSTLY (ALTHOUGH COULD APPLY TO MEN AS WELL) HAVE BEEN DISCOURAGED FROM DISCUSSING. IT’S DEFINITELY BEEN A TABOO SUBJECT THROUGH TIME – WHICH IS A GREAT DISSERVICE TO EVERYONE. WE ALL NOW ARE MORE AWARE OF THE PAY DISPARITIES BETWEEN GENDERS…SO THAT’S GOOD. BUT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, MOST REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY SHOULD BE ASKING FOR WHEN NEGOTIATING SALARIES AT A NEW JOB OR PAY FOR FREELANCE WORK. IT’S SO EASY TO SHORT-CHANGE YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK MERELY BECAUSE SOCIETY HAS KEPT MONEY AS SUCH A HUSH TOPIC.

    XOXO – KELLY
    http://WWW.DREAMINLACE.COM

    • Jen Pinkston

      01/28/2019

      Yes, I agree that it falls into the category of things we are told is “not ladylike”. Also, I think everyone should ask three people in similar industries for opinions on rates / salaries before negotiating. It’s very empowering!

  3. This is EXACTLY how I was raised. Looking back I never knew anything different.and now that I’m older with kids I appreciate that money was never brought up until we were old enough to need to deal with it ourselves.

  4. Amanda

    01/28/2019

    I agree! I have had so many friends and friends of friends that have helped inform what I now charge and am so grateful to them for their candidness. On the flip side, I think we all have been in situations where people are bragging about how much they make or have and they are for sure the worst.

  5. Corinna

    01/29/2019

    Jen,
    I’m not usually one to typically comment on blog posts but i loved this post/topic and just had to jump in on this discussion. Like you, my home growing up was very “hush-hush” around the money subject. your tid bits on “a healthy fear of debt” and “not living outside of your means” really hit home for me.
    I agree with many of the points that you make, particularly around the consequences of salary secrecy and pay inequity. just recently, I have experienced being on both sides of the transaction – interviewing for a role and being asked what i was asking for in terms of compensation and working in a corporate finace budgeting role where i knew and assigned the dollar figure associated with each role in the company. it was always disappointing to see a role having an approved budget of ‘X’ then having it filled with a candidate at $25-50k lower than the approved budget. had these individuals known that their skills were valued more than they knew, they could’ve easily negotiated a salary that was $25-50k higher (or whatever the numbers were – point being, you shouldn’t leave money on the table). But how do you know how much your role is worth if no one talks about it? how do you know how much you can ask for if you have no reference points?
    I once read an article talking about how women were on average less likely than men to negotiate initial salaries offered by an employer. meaning, Women are more likely to “leave money on the table.” my only piece of advice for anyone reading this is that you should absolutely always negotiate your salary. always.
    again, thank you for shedding some light on this topic. i enjoyed reading!
    Corinna

    • Jen Pinkston

      01/30/2019

      Oh that’s so interesting! I’ve read somewhere before that “she who speaks first in money negotiations loses” to say that you should always ask what the budget it first before giving a number. I was undercharging for content creation for so long before I realized what I really should have been making. Thanks for taking the time to comment! I think we are going to continue these money discussions here so stay tuned!

      Xo

  6. Caleigh

    02/04/2019

    Financial health is just as important as physical health and mental health, since it is all connected. I greW up poor and it was hard to watch my parents fight and deSpair over their finances. But they perSevered and that alone is a lesson i am Grateful for. I talk freely About money. I work in a credit union and it is truly astounding the lack of knowledge and expErience people have toward financial products and services. I think it is Super important for people to talk about money and The different ways to manage it, and not keep thinGs hush hUsh.

  7. Oh, I love the subject of money, not really, but I do love we’re all starting to discuss it. I haven’t met anyone that didn’t grow up with the “money is not to be discussed” mentality. Also, so glad you mention discussing what to negotiate on projects with others already working in the industry. As I work to build my art business, I have no idea what the going rates are and I feel better knowing others think we should reach out and get some answers. Thank you!

    • Jen Pinkston

      02/06/2019

      Yes, girl! All of this! Ask people! Friends and family but also don’t hesitate to reach out to other artists you admire. The worst they can do is not respond or say no.