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.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.