Friday, July 18, 2008

How much do you make?

A couple workplace-related blogs I follow have had posts this week about salary secrecy -- the compulsion to hide your annual salary from everyone. I have always thought a reluctance to discuss money was a downfall of our society. What's the big secret?

Take housing prices as a comparison. MLS listings are public, as are annual assessment records, so I can easily look up how much anyone's house costs. That's a bigger indicator of wealth than salary, at least in my hometown. And if you know what someone does for a living, you can guess what what kind of money they might make in many cases. So what's the big deal?

I know, poverty is seen as degrading, and being overly wealthy is seen as elitist. But when you work in a company where you know how high up the corporate ladder you rank, why is it a big deal to know how much more or less the next gal earns?

I began my career working for the federal government, a unionized e where every job has a classification, and every classification has a salary range. So I knew how much every single person in my workplace earned. Then I moved to the private sector, where I wasn't allowed to share my salary with anyone, and no one shared with me. And I just didn't get it. It always seemed like a silly game to me -- hide your income from your cubicle neighbours.

As a freelancer, I have been open about my rates, and find that others are just as open. Asking around helped me set the right number for myself. I used to charge too little, until I started asking around, and then brought up my rates when I found others at the same level were charging more. In fact, I learned last month that I'm charging far too little for media training sessions, because I asked a couple other freelancers, so the next one I do will cost the client a more market-reasonable rate.

I'm not saying I run around telling everyone I meet what my annual income is, but I'm also not hiding it. If someone asked me directly how much I earned last year, I'd tell them. Although with all the deductions, and the whole incorporated business thing, I'm not sure I have a direct answer. I know how much the corporation made, and I know what I reported as net income on my taxes, but it's never as simple for someone like me to say how much we earn as for a salaried employee. But I've certainly got nothing to hide.

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