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Talking about your salary could be good

June 14, 2012|By Megan Crepeau | RedEye

Dear Miss Manners: Don't read this column. Everyone else: I have some real advice for you.

You talk about sex, right? You probably argue about politics. You might even get into some smoke-filled-freshman-dorm talk about religion. These aren't taboo anymore.

But are you talking about money? You should be. Here's why.

When you talk about money, you can advance your career. I know we all like to pretend this isn't how it works, but this is capitalism, baby: What they pay you reflects exactly what they think of you. Or, more accurately, what they think of you relative to your peers.

If you don't know you're being paid less than you're worth, your employers have no incentive to pay you more. And that's why talking about money is such a powerful thing. When your coworker makes more than you for doing the same work, you can use that as leverage for a raise or a promotion.

You could hack into your company's payroll files (not recommended!) or you could start a cross-cubicle conversation about salaries. Up to you.

When you talk about money, you learn how to handle money better. Wouldn't it be nice to have your own personal group of amateur financial advisers? People who are in the same boat as you are, who can point out the best happy hour specials or where Diet Coke is on sale? You won't know if you have friends with great tax skills or hints for dealing with Sallie Mae. Not until you ask.

Which brings me to my next point: When you talk about money, you realize you're not alone. Feeling broke makes you feel vulnerable, or embarrassed. Don't pretend it's not a problem – talk it out. You might find support, and you might realize just how good you have it.

We're all grown-ups here. We can use some common sense. Don't be insensitive, don't harp on anything, and if your friends want to keep their business private, don't pressure them. But remember that we'd all be a little better off if we were less anxious about who has what.

Megan Crepeau is a RedEye special contributor. She's a twenty-something college grad navigating this dumpy job market just like the rest of us.

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