I've been exposed to income inequality for as far back as I can remember.
I grew up in a small historic town that had only been a desirable place to live since the 1980s. Prior to that, the center of this once prosperous shipbuilding town had fallen into disrepair. During the 1950s and 1960s, the historic downtown district struggled due to increased competition from strip malls and the growth of the automobile. By the 1970s, the center of town was on the verge of being razed.
Fortunately, some forward-thinking civic leaders fought to preserve the city's history and properly embrace its riverfront location. The revitalization over the coming decade resulted in an influx of wealthy transplants.
There was always a clear distinction between the affluent new residents and working class families who had resided in the town for generations.
Seeing a disparity between my middle class family and the families of my incredibly wealthy classmates, I remember having an uncomfortable conversation with my father. One day, I asked him how much money our family made. He explained that it wasn't polite to ask that question, but shared the number with me anyway, making me take a vow of secrecy.
He also took the opportunity to warn me never to share my financial information with anyone. Obviously I hadn't accumulated much at that age, but his advice stuck with me as I grew older.
To this day, I've never revealed my earnings, hourly rate, or salary to any co-workers I've ever had.
Even when I was working in restaurants as a server, I would never talk about how much money I had made at the end of my shift. I worried about jealousy and resentment from the other waitstaff, even if I had volunteered to wait on the parties that arrived near closing or consistently sold more higher priced meals and drinks.
This may sound contrary coming from someone with a detailed net worth section of her website. But I've blogged anonymously for a reason.
While safety and privacy are important to me, the primary reason I've continued to keep my identity a secret is the fear of jealousy and resentment from friends and co-workers in real life.
Prior to my recent change in employment, I intentionally allowed everyone to think I earned a very low income. Despite receiving several raises, I never allowed lifestyle inflation to occur and my frugal lifestyle choices were hardly ever questioned.
While acting with stealth can certainly have its advantages, I've experienced the negative aspects of this behavior, as well.
For one, it's hard to turn off. Prior to this blog, I hadn't revealed the details of my personal finances with anyone ever. Even partners. Eeek!
I've managed to reject the notion that acquiring large amounts of money represents success and status, but I oddly can't shake the feelings of shame and guilt about what I've managed to acquire.
I've never been a high earner, but I've saved better than most people I know. Why should I feel embarrassed about that?
I wish there was an easier way to openly discuss money with family and friends, but discussing money always seems to induce such a visceral response. We're missing out on learning from each other, sharing ideas, and supporting each other in times of distress.
Readers: How comfortable do you feel discussing your finances with partners, friends, and family?