One not so great thing about working for the government is that everyone knows how much money you make. Well, not everybody, and not exactly how much, but at least a range, but you get my point. Depending on where a person works, their salary data might be available online. Mine is not, so don’t bother looking.
Either way, in my office, everyone knows what everyone else in the department makes. Our organizational chart gives our pay grade, and if you know that and approximately how long someone’s been in the government, you can figure out a salary. Which means that we all know a little too much about each other.
The standard salaries are nice for fairness and equality, of course, and I’m not complaining. But the availability of this data led to an interesting conversation the other day.
First off, it’s important to note that knowing someone’s salary doesn’t mean you know their financial situation. You don’t know what kind of school debt they have, what they owe on their mortgage, or what sort of other expenses that they have. And a person with four kids is probably in a very different situation than someone like me, who doesn’t have any children.
There are a group of people who often go out to lunch together, but it’s not unheard of to hear someone say “Thanks, but not today. Trying to save some money.” And everyone nods in understanding. Well, apparently, someone said this the other day, and it turns out that this particular person has a whole lot of money. Family inheritance or something. I’m not sure how people know, but anyone involved in contracting has to reveal stocks in excess of a certain amount, so it may have come up that way. This person doesn’t seem the type to reveal that sort of information voluntarily, so I’m just guessing.
Either way, there were some snarky comments made behind this person’s back. “She can afford it. What does she need to save money for, anyway? Heck, she should be buying us lunch!”
I was pretty surprised to hear this. First off, I’m assuming this woman’s money is in stocks. Which means it’s probably a long term investment. To me, that means she has a higher net worth, but that doesn’t mean she has money to spend. And what if she does? Even if she’s a billionaire, if she wants to not go out to lunch one day and save some money, that’s her choice. Aren’t there a bunch of people out there who made their first million by doing things like bringing their lunch and using coupons at the grocery store?
It would be one thing if she was cheaping out on something – like refusing to pay her share after agreeing to go in on a group meal, or my personal pet-peeve, splitting a check and not putting in money for tax. But this seemed like a pretty reasonable situation to me. In fact, I think she’s the smart one here. Another member of that lunch group always laments the status of her credit card bills. She might do well to eat out less and put that money towards those bills. But I would never say that to her, nor would I say it to coworkers (blogging it doesn’t count – you all have no idea who I’m talking about). We might be in a much better financial situation as a whole if we all just worried about ourselves for a while.