You may have been in a situation in which another person suddenly wants to know how much money you are earning every week or for an entire year. This type of question tends to make many people feel uncomfortable for various reasons.
If you are having a casual conversation with a close friend and the question comes up, it might not be bothersome to answer it honestly. Wage etiquette may come into play in terms of who is asking the question. There are a large variety of reasons to avoid answering a personal question about your household income. Transparency in wage earnings does not apply to everyone and at all times.
This is not referring to answering a legal question about earnings such as in an installment sale real estate. Transparency does apply in some cases. In some other cases, keeping quiet about wage earnings may be viewed as setting a personal boundary. In some cases, people may be nosy about your earnings and if there are no valid reasons for others to be informed of your earnings, being quiet may be the best answer to give.
Three Valid Reasons: Avoiding a Question
“How much money do you earn on a yearly basis?” might be a question that many people will avoid answering. The context of this question may come into play in terms of avoiding to answer it honestly and boldly. Some things in life are just private and personal. When this question is not answered, there are some people who jump to the conclusion that there is something to hide.
If a nosy neighbor wants to know your earnings, this is a different context and there would be sound reasons to avoid answering this type of personal question. The following three reasons are viewed as valid for avoiding a question about earnings:
You do not know the person that well – it is never a good idea to provide too much information to a person you do not know that well. This is because you may not know their intentions and you do not have a trusting relationship with them
An untrustworthy family member wants to know – some families are hard to navigate through. Not all family members can be trusted with personal information because loose lips tend to sink many ships
Avoiding an unnecessary fight – some people might have a gripe with a higher wage earner and if an answer is given, in a straightforward manner, it may cause a rift or a full-blown fight. The person who is asking may want to borrow money if you have a higher wage than they do. Not answering this type of question might help a person to steer clear of conflict with others
A Job Interview
Is it intrusive for a prospective employer to inquire about previous earnings? The first item to know, if a person is interviewing for a job, is that there is no need to answer intrusive questions because this is not a place to pry into someone’s personal life.
There are various ways to deflect personal questions that involve personal finances. Answer their question by asking them the same question is a useful technique. If that does not work, simply inform others that that subject is off-limits to everyone. Some people refuse to answer this question because, in some areas, it is illegal for a prospective employer to inquire about past payment history.
Legal Avoidance: Withholding Wage Information
If a person is withholding their past wage information and it is needed for legal reasons, this is a whole new ballgame. This may be an indication that the person is indeed trying to hide information in order to avoid legal problems. This involves a legal context and it is unlawful to avoid this question when asked.
It is not a personal privacy issue that can be avoided if the question, “How much money did you earn last year?” is asked in a legal way. The subject of money tends to push many people’s hot buttons. Sometimes it is necessary to answer this question. Other times there are very valid reasons that people avoid answering this question. Sometimes silence is clearly sending the message that a person has something to hide. Other times this type of question is undeserving of an honest and direct answer.