Welcome! I’m Elizabeth M. Roberts. I produce podcasts in news and culture. I write about careers, lifestyles and personal finance.

Getting Financially Naked With 9 Strangers

Getting Financially Naked With 9 Strangers

Photo by  Kat Yukawa  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Raise your hand if you know how much money your friends make. 

My hand would be down. I only know about half of my friends’ salaries – mostly because I’m cautious to share my own. I have one friend that I feel completely comfortable sharing financial information with. We know each other’s salaries, the too small bonuses that came with the promotion, monthly rent and what my parents still pay for despite me telling them, “It’s fine! I can handle it now.” 

And now, 8 other strangers know most of that information too! 

Financial Gym’s Money Mindfulness event on June 20 wasn’t a typical Wine & Learn – instead of a presentation for a large group, a small number of clients gathered in a cozy couch circle led by FG Marketing Manager Caitlin Lyttle. FG practices what they preach – Caitlin says that everyone on staff knows what each other makes. They show their brokerage accounts to each other, cheer each other on with debt payment victories and offer support when some budgeting doesn’t go quite according to plan. It’s fair to say that isn’t the typical work environment for the rest of us. 
In what started as a tentative round robin, Caitlin asked us to share our salaries, debt, credit score and what’s in our bank accounts. Yes – all of those things with people we just met. What’s more surprising is that we did it. Thank you to the fearless Financial Gym clients who were willing to share their money mindfulness thoughts below. Here’s what we learned:


Our salaries ranged from $40K-$250K. 

Most of us don’t know the salaries of our coworkers – but know that having that info would probably improve our own salaries at the negotiating table next year. 

Why don’t we share our salary information?
•    Purposely told by our bosses not to discuss salaries, the work culture is hostile to transparency. 
•    Work for the government so salaries are posted online. If we want to see coworkers’ salaries, it’s possible to look it up via public records. But we don’t talk about it at work. 
•    It’s too awkward to ask coworkers personal information like salaries. How do you know who to trust?


The group ranged from no debt to $500K of debt.

The debt varied: Credit cards, student loans, car payments, mortgages, co-signing for sibling student loan debt. 

Why don’t we tell our friends about our debt? 
•    Feel judged for our spending choices. 
•    Feel a family obligation. 
•    Shame. 
•    As a college freshman, got a credit card with a $40K spending limit that felt like free money. 
•    Had the grades for a school with an extremely expensive price tag. 
•    Moved to a different country where a credit score wasn’t recognized and needed 10 different credit cards to build up credit – fell into debt in the process. 


Our checking accounts had between $1,200 to $11,000.

How do we decide how much money to keep in our account?
•    I have to move from checking to savings automatically, otherwise I’ll spend it. 
•    Automatic payments for credit cards are 100% necessary.  
•    Alternatively, if I don’t make the payment myself, I feel like I’ve lost control. 
•    Only getting paid once a month means harder budgeting than every two weeks. 
•    Getting paid once a week feels like I have more money than I really do. 


Our credit scores ranged from 630-850. 

How do friends and partners influence your money mindfulness? 
•    I downplayed my income with a new partner but now we know all about each other’s financial information. Both of us are FG clients. 
•    I’m the “Frugal Friend” that’s always looking for deals. I was in a 4.5 year relationship and we never talked about money. I can’t think of one conversation we had about finances. 
•    If you think credit cards are magic money, this isn’t going to work. You’re not dinging my credit score. 
•    I’ve been dating someone for 1.5 years. He inherited $100K and blew it all in a couple years in his late 20s; he says that’s why he’s non-committal. I think shame has a big part of this. This isn’t a deal breaker for me because I have money issues too - but if this happened now, I’d have a problem with it. 
•    My boyfriend is putting too much money into his 401K instead of planning for our future wedding. 
•    I don’t want to get married until my boyfriend’s student loans are paid off – I don’t want his debt.

What could you share if you weren’t afraid of judgment? 

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