With Julia Carpenter, Writer on gender and money issues at CNNMoney
Who Do You Talk To About Money Issues?
What do you do when you have questions about money issues? For example, how do you initiate a “money talk” with someone you plan to move in with or marry or when someone who does the same job as you is paid considerably more? To get the answers to such questions, Steve talks to Julia Carpenter, who covers the intersection of gender and money for CNNMoney.
Millennials Are More Transparent About Money Issues
Steve begins by asking how Millennials communicate about money today. Julia says that while people have their own ways of talking about money, millennials are a lot more open about money issues, often know each other’s salaries and budgets, and have no qualms settling bills down to the last dollar. She talks about a mobile peer-to-peer payment app called Venmo that even lets you see everybody’s transactions, something Steve says would never be the case in his generation.
The vast majority of millennials talk about finances fairly early in their relationships, and are open about their credit scores, and about what they can or cannot afford, well before they move in with each other.
What Is Your Price Tag?
Steve refers to a video he saw where a woman was telling another to make sure she knew the price tag of the person she was entering into a serious relationship with. Steve guesses she was referring to outstanding loans and things like student debt. Julia adds that when you are forming a household and combining finances, you should be aware of what the other person is bringing to the table, the good and the bad. So, it’s best to know each other’s salaries, benefits packages, and investments on the one hand, and the quantum of liabilities that each has, such as a hefty amount of student or credit card debt, and then have an upfront conversation on how you plan to manage your finances jointly.
The Gender Salary Gap
Next, Steve wants to know how women can address money issues that relate to the gender salary gap, such as when a woman finds out that a male colleague with the same amount of experience makes $30,000 more than her. Julia suggests talking to friends by first telling them how much you make and turning the conversation away from you and onto the subject of money in the workplace, salary discrepancies, job titles, job descriptions, etc., so each person is more knowledgeable going into a salary negotiation or a future job interview process. She says you will be pleasantly surprised by how forthcoming people can be with their financial information.
While Steve thinks that’s an easy conversation with friends, he wants Julia’s take on how to address this in the workplace. Julia cites Daniel Post Senning, an expert on business etiquette, who suggests that you open the conversation in a really forthright manner. For example, you could ask your boss, colleague, or someone else in the workplace if he or she would be open to talking about salary issues and see how the other person reacts. If they’re not interested, don’t proceed, and if they are interested, you’ve opened that conversation.
Though broaching the subject takes some courage, do not dance around it or be subtle but put a smile on your face, don’t be threatening and be direct. While some people may recoil from this request, respect their decision to not open up and understand that their approach to money issues may be different from yours. But don’t be discouraged, try speaking to others within your workplace, without being overly pushy.
So, Julia’s advice for women who find themselves victims of the gender pay gap is to talk to peers, know what they make, think about what you’re worth, and openly discuss this with your boss if you feel you’re getting short-changed.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: When you’re about to move in with someone, when do you start talking about money? When you find out that someone who does the same job as you is making $30,000 a year more, what do you do? Who do you talk to? And when you need to talk to a friend about these issues, how do you talk about money with them without losing them as your friend?
Well, I’ve invited Julia Carpenter, who writes about this and many other issues for places like CNN Money, Vogue, Washington Post, and many other outlets. And she joins me today to talk about this exact question. Hey, Julia, welcome to the show.
Julia Carpenter: Hi, thanks for having me.
Steve Pomeranz: So, here’s a question.
The old rules of money talk: pretending you have money if you don’t, pretending that you have none if you do, and never discussing it openly. That’s my generation. Does this way of communicating suit the millennial generation?
Julia Carpenter: Not really. [LAUGH] I mean, of course, there’s shades of gray and everyone has their own preferences and their own ways of talking about money.
But when it comes to talking about money with your friends or talking about money socially or even just talking about things like salary or the check you get at the restaurant, millennials are much more open to those conversations. In the course of my reporting, I came across one study that actually said millennials say there is no amount too small to Venmo, which I think was kind of shocking to people my parents’ age to think that I and a friend would go out to eat, and then, we would Venmo each other for $3. And we would say that on the front end. We would say, “okay, so I’m going to Venmo you after this, right?”
And also, my mom is always shocked that my friends and I know how much each other makes. And we’re very aware of each other’s budgets.
Steve Pomeranz: Just to explain, Venmo is this electronic service that you can move money back and forth from your phone.
Julia Carpenter: Right.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. I know it because I have kids. [LAUGH] But also in Venmo, I think you see everybody’s transactions. And I hate that. See, that would never be the case in my generation.
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, there is a way where you can make it private, you can select only the participants.
But, yeah, you’re right. I mean, the vast majority of people, you can go to Venmo timeline and see, okay, so and so went out with Jake for pizza-
Steve Pomeranz: I don’t like that.
Julia Carpenter: And it costs about $10.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. [LAUGH]
Julia Carpenter: I know. It’s a weird new world.
Steve Pomeranz: That’s right. And I’m sending my kids some money and they’re seeing that dad sent them money that’s-
Julia Carpenter: [LAUGH] My dad uses Venmo because he thinks it’s cool.
Steve Pomeranz: I see. [LAUGH]
Julia Carpenter: So, I’ll go to this store and he’ll be like, you know what? Can you pick up this?
Don’t worry, I’ll Venmo you. I’m like, you don’t have to Venmo me. He’s like, no, no, no, I’ll do it.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, so when you’re dating someone, when do Millennials start talking about finances? You know, do they wait until they move in together and then discuss it? Or do they never discuss it, for the most part?
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, I would say every couple is different. But the vast majority of people I talked to for this story, it really comes up super early. So, in talking with relationship counselors or etiquette experts or money coaches, they all really advise you to bring it up on the front end.
Maybe not the first date, but pretty early on. But there is also just this increasing awareness of money, that people talk about their budgets. People say they can afford this, they can’t afford that. And it comes up so much earlier than the move-in date. I was talking with one couple who, they had even talked about credit scores on the front end.
They already knew the exact number of their partner before they moved in and it wasn’t weird.
Steve Pomeranz: I think it’s really good; it’s just, I’m breaking out in a little bit of a sweat just hearing about it. So, here’s something that I saw on a video on the site, a woman was saying, you want to know how big the price tag is going to be of the person who’s coming into the relationship with you. I guess that refers to maybe student debt.
Julia Carpenter: Right.
Steve Pomeranz: I never thought about, what’s this person’s price tag?
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a bunch of different things for different people.
The student debt question is pretty huge. So, you are uniting households, so to speak, or combining finances, or sharing a space in which money will be talked about all the time. And you have to be aware of what the other person is bringing to the table, whether that’s a salary that’s much bigger than yours, or maybe a greater acumen when it comes to retirement planning or benefits packages.
But there’s also that downside when maybe somebody comes with a hefty amount of student debt to the table. And you as partners figure out, all right, how are we going to deal with this? How are we going to talk about this? It’s a conversation you have on the front-end.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. So, Charlzee Neemack asked all her friends, how much money they make.
She said, two years ago, she found out a male colleague with the same amount of experience was earning $30,000 dollars more than her, and that gave her an ah-ha moment. And she said, “well, if no one at work is going to be my ally, I need to go talk to my girlfriends.”
So, she decided she would ask each of her friends how much they made. What transpired after that?
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, Charlzee’s situation is really interesting because she pointed out that it’s a two-way conversation. When she asked her friends how much money they made, she also volunteered how much money she made.
So, it became this greater conversation about money in the workplace. Money, especially when it comes to women and salary, talking about how much do you make? What’s your job title? What’s your job description? Okay, I make this. And sharing that knowledge back and forth, so that each person is more knowledgeable going into a salary negotiation or a future job interview process.
And I think what she said after that was that she was really surprised at how many people were so forthcoming with their information.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, so what about at work? I mean, there’s a certain amount of etiquette asking a colleague about their compensation. That’s actually, feels like a no-no to me.
Is there a proper way to do this at work with your colleague?
Julia Carpenter: So, I talked to Daniel Post Senning, and that’s “Post” of the Emily Post Institute. So really the experts when it comes to etiquette and how we think about these things. And something Daniel said that I thought was really interesting is that you open the conversation in a really forthright way.
So, you say, “Would you be open to talking about salary to me, to one of your colleagues, or to one of your friends, or maybe even to your boss. You say, “I’m interested in this. I would really like to talk about salary.” And then see how the other person reacts.
And if they’re not interested, you don’t proceed, and if they are interested, you’ve opened that conversation.
Steve Pomeranz: All right, so it takes some courage. But the idea is not to dance around the subject or to kind of bring it up in a subtle way. And hope that they give you a little bit of an inroad so you can ask the next question.
State the fact, don’t react, put a smile on your face. [LAUGH] Don’t be threatening, but be direct. Yeah, interesting, interesting.
Julia Carpenter: Right, right.
Steve Pomeranz: So, I guess the key here is that you would expect some people to recoil from this request and expect some friction.
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, and at that point, you acknowledge that as well.
You can volunteer the information on your end. And if somebody doesn’t want to, you respect that and understand that that’s how they talk about money and this is how you talk about money, but not to be deterred. If it’s something that you really want to add to your own knowledge about the workplace or to the office culture, then you kind of make a note that, all right, this didn’t work with this person, on to the next.
Steve Pomeranz: I mentioned a woman that was earning $30,000 less than her male counterpart. That’s a very sensitive issue. It’s a very important issue these days. What advice do you have for women that are facing that?
Julia Carpenter: Yeah, I mean, really the only way to talk about it, is to talk about it if that makes sense.
There’s no secret way to figure out how much all your colleagues make and estimate what you should ask next. It really comes from talking to your peers, knowing what they make, and then thinking about what you’re worth.
Steve Pomeranz: My guest is Julia Carpenter. She is a journalist writing for many, many different outlets.
CNN Money, I mentioned, Vogue, Washington Post. What are some of the other outlets you’re writing for, Julia?
Julia Carpenter: Well, I write for CNN Money full-time now. I’ve written in the past for Elle, The Hairpin, Esquire. Yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, and where can people find you?
Julia Carpenter: I’m @JuliaCCarpenter pretty much everywhere.
Steve Pomeranz: Julia C Carpenter, just Google you?
Julia Carpenter: Yeah.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, very good. To find out more about Julia, to hear this interview again, don’t forget to join the conversation at stevepomeranz.com. Thanks so much for joining me.
Julia Carpenter: Thank you, Steve.