Personal Finance

When it comes to your income, consider oversharing

Key Points
  • Just 18 percent of baby boomers share their salary with coworkers, compared with more than 30 percent of millenials, according to a new survey by personal finance website
  • That openness can improve pay equity, experts say.  
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Millennials get a bad rap for oversharing.

Yet they might take home a bigger paycheck because of it.

Just 18 percent of baby boomers discuss their salary with co-workers, compared with more than 30 percent of millenials, according to a new survey by personal finance website (More than 1,000 people were interviewed in early October. The margin of error is 3.72 percent.)

When people's incomes aren't shrouded in secrecy, pay equity improves, experts say. "It can help people find out where they stand relative to others in the office," said Amanda Dixon, senior reporter at

Negotiation consultant Devon Smiley said she had a client who was about to change roles at his company. The man spoke to a person in the same role he would be assuming about his salary.

Later, when the company suggested keeping his salary the same, he knew he would be making nearly $8,000 less than the other person — even though their responsibilities would be identical.

"He asked for the figure to be matched — and got it," Smiley said. "Knowledge is power in being able to speak up."

Thanks to the National Labor Relations Act, employers may not forbid employees from discussing their pay and benefits, save for a few exceptions. Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share their compensation.

To be sure, there are some workers who find they pay a price for their openness.


As a result, you should pick people whom you trust to have these conversations with, said Lisa Gates, negotiation consultant and co-founder of She Negotiates.

She recommends saying to such co-workers: "You are someone I admire. I am wanting to grow my career, make the best use of my strengths, but I'm feeling a little insecure about what kind of a raise to negotiate for because it seems taboo. May I share my salary with you and ask for your direction?"

You can make your co-workers more comfortable by asking for an estimate of what they make, Smiley said. "'Around $65,000' would suffice to guide you in your negotiations," she said.

If your company is hiring people for the same role — or a similar one, Gates suggests inquiring with the hiring manager about what the new hires will likely be offered.

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If you're up for a promotion or a new role, Gates said, you might say to the hiring person directly: "What assurances can you give me that the compensation you're offering me is in alignment with others in similar roles?" For women, you might want to add the phrase, "including men?" (Women still earn around 80 percent of what men do).

Don't rely on internal research alone.

Check out salary sites such as LinkedIn,, and Insert the data into a spreadsheet and bring it into your negotiation.

Finish by saying, "I'd like to partner with you in bringing my salary into alignment," Gates said.

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