Joint Accounts

Do I Have to Tell My Co-workers How Much I Make?

I know it could be helpful, but sharing something so personal makes me really uncomfortable

Kristin Wong
Published in
3 min readSep 23, 2019
An illustration of a woman holding numbers in her arms, as her coworkers surround and stare her down.
Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Dear Joint Accounts,

There’s been a big push among my co-workers lately for more financial transparency. And I get it: The goal is making sure we’re all paid fairly. But I’m uncomfortable with the whole office knowing my money situation, especially because I’m pretty sure I make more than most people I work with.

Is it wrong if I don’t want to share my salary when asked? And Is there a way I can help them out without doing so?


Financially Guarded

MMoney is a tension point for a lot of people, and discussing your finances openly can still feel taboo. But the only way to end a taboo is to talk about it. Your co-workers are right that financial transparency is important. When no one in an office knows how much anyone else is making, racial and gender-based pay inequities flourish. Creating a culture of openness around pay makes it easier for people to recognize when they’re not being compensated fairly.

You say you probably earn more than most of the people you work with. I don’t know what makes you think that, but if it’s just a hunch, not something you know for sure, you may be worrying for nothing. Even if you do out-earn many of your colleagues, making them aware of that fact does more good than harm. It might breed resentment, sure, but on the other hand, it might be a valuable tool for them. The more information employees have about what kind of salary they can command, the more they can negotiate and advocate for themselves.

And there’s a middle ground between reinforcing pay secrecy and offering your colleagues printouts of your bank statements. Financial transparency doesn’t necessarily have to mean sharing exactly how much you make, save, or spend. It’s not voyeurism. You can provide helpful information without getting into specifics that make you feel too uncomfortable.

For example, instead of saying, “I make $72,000 a year,” you could share with a colleague that they can make somewhere in the ballpark of $70k to $75k a…



Kristin Wong
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.