• Posts Tagged ‘friends’

    Who Knows How Much You Make?

    by  • April 20, 2012 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    $12,000 Salary?

    Don't spend it all in one place.

    image: J Wynia

    What would you rather tell people: your favorite sexual position or your salary? Which would you rather people knew?

    Of the topics of conversation that seem to remain forever taboo, revealing how much you make will always be controversial. If you make more than your companions, then they might think that you’re bragging. On the other hand, if you make less than them, you’ll forever be sizing them up and comparing yourself to them. However, there’s got to be some people in your life who know how much you make.

    Does My Wife Know How Much I Make?

    Of course Her knows how much I make. Lately it has become a point of contention because my salary has doubled in the past 7 years and she has only received modest pay raises of 25% of her original salary in the same time period. While Her has one more Master’s degree than I do, our fields of work are vastly different. Her is beginning to feel like she’s not pulling her weight in this marriage, but I don’t feel that way. Our paychecks are combined into one pot of money so it doesn’t matter whose dollars are going where.

    Do My Parents Know How Much I Make?

    No way. Well, if I told my dad probably nothing would change and he would soon forget. But I’ve written extensively about how my mom asks me how much my bonuses are, tried to ask Her financial questions when I’m not there, buys herself a huge post-engagement ring, expects too much at Mother’s Day, buys wine she doesn’t even like, and expects money because we’re asian. She already snoops around my life too much, and if she knew exactly how much my salary is or how much my bonuses are she’d be waaaay up all in my business.

    Do My Friends Know How Much I Make?

    None of my friends know how much I make. In fact, I’m not even sure what my friend’s ballpark estimates of what my salary might be. This can be good or bad depending on which group of friends I’m with. I think that we all can guess by our living situations, the stuff in our houses, our cars (or lack thereof), and our vacations. I think that this is the category of people I least care about knowing my salary. Friends should be friends, no matter if I’m unemployed or if I’m a 1%’er.

    Do My Coworkers Know How Much I Make?

    Nope. I work at a small company and gossip is king. Everybody seems to be in everyone else’s business, and not in a good way. My coworkers all seem to talk about each other behind each other’s backs. Once during happy hour (oh the pre-parenting days) I got our office manager to divulge the information that new hires generally start at $30,000 per year. She didn’t seem to regret telling me this as she didn’t really get along with the new hires. Another time a senior executive accidentally left his W-2 form laying around and someone else found it. It turns out that this senior executive was making significantly more than the other senior executives at my company, and everyone thereafter tried to give that guy the shaft. He still works with us.

    What about you? Who knows how much you make?

    Financial inversions

    by  • May 26, 2010 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments


    photo: alykat

    I’ve always had a pretty laisser-faire approach to calculating “my share” of financial transactions with friends and family. It stems from my previously mentioned commie streak — instead of allocating shares of bills dead equally, I’m inclined to let the person of the most means shoulder a larger share. Throughout most of my 20s, that person was almost always me.

    Not, I hasten to add, that I was swimming in cash. My life is a very distant cry from The Hills or NYC Prep , where a typical afternoon out means dropping the kind of money that would keep me in rentmortgage payments for three months. But I started working half-time at 19, and by 20 I’d ditched my senior year of college in favor of a full-time job. It was entry level and paid sustenance wages, but that still put me a fair sight ahead of my friends pulling $6 an hour from work-study gigs. And by the time they graduated into their entry-level gigs, I’d taken a promotion and changed jobs for a higher salary, and on it went. While those around me job-hopped, went to grad school, explored different fields, or suffered from pot-dot-com-kaboom layoffs, I inched up the career ladder in the same field I’ve been working in since I was 16. So at lunch, I often grabbed the check away from the friend I knew had a harder time than me making ends meet.

    And I always did that with my three-years-younger sister, who left college with a fancy diploma and the requisite five-figure debt load that comes with it. I knew she was constantly fighting to keep up with student loan, medical and credit card bills on a salary that was never more than half of what I made. When we went out for dinner or took a weekend trip, I paid.

    And then I turned 30.

    Suddenly, in the past year or so, a whole bunch of those I hang out with have leapt forward financially. The friend who used to be a broke law-school student got a job at a ritzy white-shoe law firm with an eye-popping starting salary. The friend who was a teacher is now a principal, running her own school. The math grad student became Dr. Bonnie and had two universities bidding for her services. And the friend who completed a social work masters program is head of the human services department in a big city.

    And my sister landed her dream job, which pays a very reasonable salary and comes with the unbeatable perk of free housing. (Before anyone gets too envious, said housing is in Ciudad Juárez. It has a lovely backyard — surrounded by alarms and barbed wire.)

    Of course, the recession hasn’t totally whooshed by and left my social circle unscathed. I also know people who spent small fortunes on grad degrees and now can’t find work in the field, fellow journalists left stranded as their publications closed, and friends muddling through gigs they’re overqualified for because it’s all they can find.

    But instead of being the most financially secure of my friends, I’m now somewhere in the middle of the pack — and falling. Most of those I know are in fields with much better salary-advancement prospects than mine.

    That doesn’t bother me in a financial sense (for now — check back in 10 years and see if I’m regretting this whole “write words for a living” thing), but I’ve been surprised by the mental reprogramming it’s required. I still start to reach for checks and then remember — I’m not the only one with regular paychecks anymore. I can let other people leave the extra cash for the tip, or pay a bit more than their share if we all have $20s and no change. Or let my friends treat if they offer, without feeling guilty.

    The splitting-the-bill machinations many be a me-specific thing, but I think it’s pretty universal for those in their 30s to suddenly find their whole social-circle financial landscape shaken up. People get married, get promoted out of entry-level gigs, have kids, leave grad school, ditch waiting-tables-and-acting for jobs with health insurance, and generally grow up into situations that are more complicated, but also usually more lucrative. And the salary disparties become starker — instead of everyone being young and basically broke, suddenly some people are doctors or investment bankers making much more than the friends who became teachers and office managers.

    The whole thing really hit home for me when my sister came to NYC a few weeks ago for a final pre-Juarez-departure visit. We went to Babbo, where we first journeyed eight years ago in our initial foray into pricey Foodie Nirvana Restaurantland. I saved for two months to field that bill, which came to almost a third of my monthly rent at the time.

    This time, after a four-hour wine-and-pasta extravagance, we surveyed the financial damage. I started to reach for my Amex … then realized that for the first time I didn’t have to vehemently insist that my sister put her own credit card away. Thanks to the whole free-housing thing, her take-home pay is probably better than mine these days.

    So I left her take care of more than half the bill. It’s an adjustment, but I think I can get used to this.

    When Does Borrowing Become Mooching?

    by  • January 21, 2008 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    Back when I was a kid, borrowing Nintendo games from friends was an accepted practice. One would usually set a limit to how many days the game could be lent out for; those who went past the deadline were usually given a good book check in the hallway or have an annoying girl told that he had a crush on her. There was always that one kid who kept games for a lot longer than was ever agreed upon. I hated that guy.

    I feel that the rules of borrowing are a little different now that we’re adults. I have a friend who owns a Blockbuster store worth of DVDs. He’s pretty generous with lending out his DVD to friends; he’ll push them on you if you haven’t seen a movie of a TV show that he things is awesome. Other friends of mine often ask to borrow DVDs from him, which he happily lends out.

    He does have many television shows on DVD that I would like to watch. Since we recently canceled our Netflix account, we don’t have the unlimited access to any DVD we’d want to watch.

    If I asked him to borrow DVDs am I:

    A) Making a frugal decision? After all, I am just borrowing a few DVDs from a friend.

    B) Being cheap? I have enough money to rent/buy them on my own, after all.

    Of course, if he actively lends them to me (dude, you HAVE to watch this…here’s the DVDs!) then that’s a totally different story.

    When does borrowing become mooching? Do you have friends who are over-borrowers? Do you borrow a lot of stuff from your friends?

    Guests, Guests, and More Guests

    by  • August 23, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    We’ve just had company over for the last 11 days, hence the lack of timely posts. Mind you it wasn’t all the same people – somewhere in our budget there was room for a revolving door that family and friends could come and go as they please.

    Of course, having guests over for any period of time induces a little mental stress, although we have yet to sit down and see what kind of stress is put on our finances. Luckily, our guests were all more than generous and insisted they pay for meals out (which some they did, some we did), suggested that we eat in, or just plain stuck to inexpensive things to do. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be too bad, but we need to give Microsoft Money a thorough work out.

    The VIP Drinks at Da Club

    by  • June 19, 2007 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    A few weeks ago a friend of ours had a birthday celebration at a club in downtown Chicago. Neither Her or I are of the clubbing type (and that includes baby seals) so we begrudgingly went. Lucky for us, there was no cover to get in before 9PM, so we were there nice and early. I do have to admit that clubs suck when they’re empty.

    The club itself was pretty nice, but again, not our style. After I had a few overpriced Miller Lites (still the cheapest beer there), I wandered into an empty VIP lounge. Scattered among the tables of the lounge space were champaign buckets that had menus of the VIP drinks. I was just un-inebriated enough to take this picture of it…

    The top bottle, the ‘L’ Exclusive de Ruinart, would run you just about $3,000! If I bought that, I sure as hell would expect to take every woman home (if I were single, and a pimp, of course) after we imbibed that sort of liquid gold.

    I also had no idea how much Cristal cost, and that there were even different varieties and sizes. I guess that’s why I’m not a rapper. Well, that and I have no flow.

    When A Friend Has Become A MLM Robot

    by  • June 14, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    What do you do when a good friend gets sucked into a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM), more commonly known as pyramid schemes?

    Over the past year one of my closest friends has displayed increasingly bizarre behaviors that are totally unlike her. For example, she has been making claims about how much money she is making in the MLM, even though statistically over 99% of participants in that MLM have earned less than $10,000 per year. To boot, this MLM is known for encouraging participants to acquire huge credit card debt in order to purchase products and “move up the ranks.” Last time we went out to eat, her credit card was declined…for a $12 purchase.

    She used to be a complete tomboy, but lately she’s been bragging about the very girly prizes she has won from her MLM participation. This is a girl whose only dress was her wedding dress…but who suddenly has started carrying matching pink luggage with rhinestones on the front.

    This MLM is also known for being almost cult-ish in its religious doctrine. She is from a family of atheists, and until recently, never expressed the slightest interest in religion. Last time I saw her, she had purchased a bracelet with scripture on it.

    Now, carrying debt and bracelets in pink luggage are hardly unusual by themselves. But in this instance, these things are totally out of character for my friend.

    I am afraid she is becoming a MLM robot and is headed for financial ruin. I sent her some literature exposing the dangers of this MLM and never got a reply. What’s a girl to do?

    Getting Drunk Or Oil Changes For Cheap (Or Free)

    by  • May 29, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    This past weekend I went to lunch with a friend of mine from way back in the day. Although I haven’t seen this guy in quite a while, when we do get together it usually results in a crazy night where I wake up without pants (in my bed, mind you) and half-eaten Doritos all over me. The great thing is that almost all of my cash that I left the apartment with is usually still left in my pants, wherever I left them.

    What I neglected to say is that my friend is bartender. Not only does that mean free drinks at the bar that he works at, but he seems to know every bartender at every other Chicago bar. He also worked at a restaurant, and when he did we would get heavily discounted meals at nice places. Alas, the biggest expense whenever we went out were for cab rides and tips.

    Normally, I’d really feel guilty taking all of the free drinks, but I NEVER ask to go out to the bars with him. Whenever I invite him out, it is usually for lunch where I can pay for myself. Whenever he invites me out, it is generally to a tavern or six. I consider myself really lucky to have such a generous, well connected friend.

    When it comes to getting discounted services, I also able to get inexpensive service performed on our car. A family friend of ours has been the mechanic for all of our cars for the past 10 years. At first we would bring our cars to him because we knew he wouldn’t rip us off, and he would charge us only a fraction of the labor charges. Now when we ask him to look at our cars he offers to do it “on the side” at his house, assuming it isn’t too complicated. He takes a little longer, but only charges us for any parts. Of course we add in some extra cash to compensate him for his work.

    In the first example, I get free stuff because of a mutual friend relationship – we do more than drink. In the second example, it is purely a business relationship – we only really see each other when the car needs work.

    Do any of your relationships (business, friendships, etc.) directly affect your personal finances? How did these relationships come about, and how are the discounted services or goods handled?

    Our Peers Aren’t Doing So Bad

    by  • February 1, 2007 • Tagged: , , ,  • Comments

    I have a ton of websites that are currently in my feedreader, but only a few that I visit daily. Of them, the Chicago-based Gaper’s Block (origin of the name) is surely one of my favorites. The site is well-designed, contains articles about lesser known Chicago happenings around town, and even has a calendar of (often free) events that we usually end up going to.

    One of the sections on the site is called “Fuel,” a feature that asks a question and asks the general community to share their answer. The questions range from where to eat breakfast to whether or not you believe in UFOs to what your favorite zoo animal is. Of particular interest to those in the personal finance blog community were two questions that were asked recently: How much do you earn annually? and especially Are you saving for the future? How?

    After reading all of the responses, I was quite surprised – the audience that Gaper’s Block attracts is usually anti-corporate, anti-mainstream, art-loving hipsters and hipster wannabes. Despite that generality, many of them were well aware that they need to be saving for the future. Many had accounts with ING Direct and contributed to their retirement plan at work. Sure, their answers weren’t highly polished replies that meandered over the benefits of asset allocation. That’s okay though, as for them, money is just a means to an end.

    Much of the has been said in the pfblogosphere about how much we think our peers aren’t saving. It is nice to see, that at least for this particular instance, my original assumptions were very wrong.

    I Love My Friends. Their Names? The Joneses.

    by  • January 19, 2007 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Last weekend, we attended a house warming party for a friend of ours. They just bought a large condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and a week later he bought a 52-inch flat screen TV. At the party they were serving food from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The heat was turned up to 80F. It was great. Our price? $0.00.

    A few weekends ago a friend of mine picked me up in his brand new Nissan Murano. We drove to another buddy’s party where he had a keg and lots of hard liquor. We all got wasted. It was great. My price? $0.00.

    Another friend of mine bought a condo in another up-and-coming neighborhood over a year ago. He just bought a 42-inch flat screen TV. I go there all the time to watch sports games that our alma matter is in. Football is so much more awesome on a 42-inch flat screen. Every time I go over to his place, the cost is $0.00 (that’s not entirely accurate – I usually bring some beers with me, so whatever that cost is).

    There is so much that is said about not keeping up with the Joneses. Their lifestyles are very different from our Jewel and Dominick’s bought food, our vintage 850 square foot apartment with leaky windows, our thermostat at a maximum of 66F, our economical mid-size car, and 20 year old 27-inch television (with wood paneling, I might add). Admittedly, looking at their posh places, watching their large TVs, driving in their expensive vehicles, and eating their delectable food, I was a little bit jealous. But most of all, I am grateful that I have the kind of friends who invite me over all the time, regardless of the stuff that I own.

    Battlestar Galactica > Retirement Plans

    by  • October 26, 2006 • Tagged: , ,  • Comments

    A few weeks ago I was out having a few drinks with few coworkers during happy hour. One of my coworkers (CW1) noted that in a few weeks he will have been at the company for six months. Another coworker (CW2) remaked that he was then eligible to participate in the company retirement plan. Both of these coworkers are my age, maybe a little younger. The conversation went a little like this…

    CW1: Hey, I’ll be at the company for six months in a few weeks!

    CW2: Yeah dude, you’ll be eligible for our 401k. (but we have a SIMPLE IRA…or am I just being nitpicky?)

    CW1: Yeah that’s cool.

    Him: Yeah, I was thinking of rolling over my SIMPLE IRA to a Traditional IRA because I don’t like our investment options. I won’t be eligible to do that until May, though.

    (blank stares)

    CW2: Yeah, my boyfriend works at Morningstar, so he handles all of that stuff for me.

    CW1: I don’t have a clue when it comes to that stuff.

    CW2: Yeah. You guys watch Battlestar Galactica?


    Selling to Friends vs. Ebay vs. Craigslist

    by  • July 20, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    This weekend we had some friends in town. One friend expressed how she was feeling overwhelmed with all of the things going on in her life. She said she was thinking about getting a PDA. As a matter of coincidence, I had a Palm Tungsten T5 laying around, not doing anything.

    In fact, that PDA had been sitting around not doing much for some time now. Before our friend said anything about it, I was contemplating selling it on eBay or Craigslist.

    When she asked about the price, I told her to take the PDA for a test drive and see if she could successfully integrate it into her life. In my mind, I was thinking $100 – a price that is lower than what I could get by selling it online, around $150-$250.

    My questions for you, dear readers:

    1) Should I sell it to her for the price I could get online?

    2) Do you cut your friends/family slack when it comes to selling stuff to them? How much of a discount do you give to them?

    I Want To Keep Up With The Joneses

    by  • March 28, 2006 • Tagged:   • Comments

    Another fine mantra of pfbloggers is “don’t keep up with the Joneses.” The pfblog community as a whole loves to assume that the Joneses are debt ridden, know nothing about finances, have flashy and glamorous stuff, have nothing to save for retirement, and have no emergency fund.

    But what if the Joneses are doing everything right?

    One of my roommates in college is now very successful. I’ve never seen him use a credit card. While he may not know what “beta” means in terms of mutual funds, I’m sure that his retirement accounts are well funded. He has a nice SUV that he paid mostly cash for, shares a huge apartment in the heart of the yuppiest neighborhood of Chicago, goes on vacation a couple times a year, and regularly buys everyone rounds at the bar. This behavior isn’t atypical for my group of friends.

    If that’s what the Joneses are doing, why wouldn’t I want to keep with them?

    Money is All Relative

    by  • February 19, 2006 • Tagged: ,  • Comments

    In college, everyone is poor. That makes it pretty easy to just make friends regardless of how much money one has. Sure, there are a few people who seems to have an endless supply of beer money, but they are usually the exception and not the rule.

    Then comes graduation. Many of my friends had jobs waiting for them right away. Others weren’t so lucky. Some went to law or med school. She and I choose grad school.

    Two college roommates/great friends had very different post-graduation financial lives. One didn’t find a job out of college, and lived at home. He eventually found a job outside of his field that didn’t pay so well; he eventually worked his way up the ranks, bought and paid for an SUV, and is now looking and saving for a house. He doesn’t go out so much to bars or restaurants, but when he does, he sticks around home in the suburbs where it isn’t so expensive.

    My other friend found a really good paying job out of college. He actually bought an SUV in college when he had a high-paying internship. He travels extensively, goes out to expensive bars most nights of the week, and eats out all the time. Weirdly enough, he didn’t know what an expense ratio was when we were talking about mutual funds.

    It is weird how money has changed my relationships with my friends. With the first friend, I don’t feel so…poor? uncomfortable?…when we go out. With my second friend, I sometimes feel inadequate and cheap, and that I can’t keep up. The MightyBargainHunter reminded me of an article I read this week at CNNMoney about the discrepancies of the incomes of recent college grads. From the article:

    Wealth disparity can drive a wedge between even the closest friends. This is increasingly a fact of life in today’s winner-take-all economy, where some skills are in fevered demand and others are, well, not. And it can make a friendly lunch feel weird.

    There is nothing wrong with either of my friends’ lifestyles, but the differences in income have dictated how they are spending (pun?) their young adult lives, and have had the potential to change the way that we all handled our relationship with each other. A few nights ago we went to an event where money wasn’t even a consideration, which gave us the opportunity to have a lot of laughs just like the old days. It reminded me that our friendship is based on everything but money.