This is adapted from the newsletter I sent out in May, which had the most responses ever. I learned SO much about people’s finances, and I opened up so much in response to their messages. I think it’s really important that we all start opening up a bit more so I thought I’d share this on the blog, too.
I recently read Open Up* by Alex Holden (which I was sent by the publisher). It is all about how talking about money (in exact pounds and pence, not just in general terms) can have a positive impact on your life and the lives of those around you.
I thought it was a really interesting, funny and though-provoking book, and I could 100% see why her arguments were valid in every single circumstance. And yet.
And yet, I still find it hard to share how much I earn. Talking about money is scary. There are VERY few people I would ask detailed financial questions of.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why that might be. My family (as in my parents) are now, and have been for many years, very financially comfortable. I want to say up front that my journey with money has undoubtedly been easier than many other people’s and that I recognise my privilege in all of this. I am very grateful for the opportunities I had growing up.
I spent my first 9 years in the Caribbean, and things like electricity outages, water shortages, food shortages etc were pretty familiar to me. I took many a bath in a bucket as a small child. But we lived in a nice little house on a wonderful street that was full of other children. Times may have been tight at times back then, but I was certainly not aware of it.
Later on in life, I went to school with people who were way out of our income bracket. I spent my teenage years in Manhattan, where there were multiple kids in my class whose parents had bought or rented them their own apartment at 16 (one of which was in the gold-plated Trump building!!!). Probably half of my class had a summer house upstate or abroad. If you imagine the Gossip Girl kids, you won’t be far off my school.
I had pretty decent pocket money and got a good wage at my Sunday job. Plus I babysat once or twice a month. But the people around me always seemed to be overflowing with cash, which I certainly was not.
And that feeling continues to this day. A lot of my friends from my masters all went on to work at consultancies or in telecoms or IT – pursuing life in a creative industry was unlikely to earn me as much as them. And I’m okay with that, I’m actually really happy with how much I make now. I’d just really like to know what the gap in our income is.
How much ARE people earning? Why does it feel like everyone I know is able to pay for All The Things – car, cleaner, multiple holidays a year, every TV subscription etc? Are they just making loads more than me or do they have loads of credit card debt? Is everyone just really way richer than us? How are people spending their money differently that means they seem to have so much more spare cash?
Asking someone these questions in person still feels completely taboo to me, and I think most people I know feel the same way. But maybe I’m being overly sensitive about it.
I did a poll recently on Instagram, where more people than I’d expected said they felt happy to talk about money. Are you? In which case: how much did you earn last month? How did you earn it? How much did you spend? What do you have left at the end of each month to save or spend as you like? How the hell are you affording your holidays??? Based on what I’ve written here, how much do you think I made (before tax) last month? You tell me yours, and I’ll tell you mine…
I would LOVE you to email me and tell me your answers, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing them in the comments. The more we talk about what we earn, the more comfortable we will be with what we have, and hopefully the better we’ll be at asking for more money in work situations, too.
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