Save. Spend. Splurge.

Hiding how much I make at work and in general

Making the kind of income I make is unusual.

I know this, and I have been on the receiving front (at work) of the kind of sharp remarks about how if I’m rolling in the dough it would be chump change for me.

These people don’t actually know exactly what I make (it goes through a third party who takes a cut) but can make educated guesses.

Why the difference in earnings?

Many freelancers themselves don’t know what to charge but based on what brokers offer me as an hourly rate I can imagine the rough ballpark of what is being offered.

Suffice it to say, these freelancers on the cheaper end still pull in an insane amount of money for what they do and we all own Apple products which is the #1 check for me if they make good money.

An iPad Pro is not cheap and not is an Apple MacBook Air (we all own one for work, if not an Apple MacBook Pro). Where I may differ from the rest is that I own a ton more Apple products.

We don’t discuss rates amongst ourselves when we work together (honestly, it is so we don’t feel bad when someone makes more or feel awkward when they know YOU make way more), but we all have a mutually agreed upon silence of income.

It also isn’t great as a freelancer to make TOO much more money than other freelancers because you’re the first one to be cut when budgets get tight.

“Why don’t you want to be an employee?”

Now that you have a bit of background, I’ve received a number of comments lately bluntly asking me why I don’t want to be an employee.


I don’t want to say it is because I only want to work for myself which indirectly implies that employees are in a lesser position and I don’t want to say the real reason is money and the flexibility that comes with it because then it just makes them look and treat me differently.

I’ve started downplaying my income as a result.

I guess I’ve gotten good at this because of the other parents in the playgroup I went to, who do not make our kind of income and I was very acutely aware of it by what they wore, bought, and talked about as being pricey (vacations, things they buy, price points, etc).

For instance one mother said she could NEVER imagine paying more than $20 for a pair of jeans.

I was very quiet and nodded silently, agreeing with her CHOICE and VIEWPOINT but not applying it to myself because I know what goes into $20 jeans versus $100 or even $200 from the quality to the fabric to the people who made it.

Instead, I say things like:

“Oh that is too pricey for me. Who can afford that?”, when talking about anything over $100.

“I can’t afford that with a mortgage and a family!!”, of which only the latter of that statement is true.

I also check my outfit nervously to make sure it doesn’t look too expensive.

My partner chided me once as I left the apartment and said: “You look too nice today, they’re going to get jealous and then not want to keep you on because they hate it when you make more money.

To which I replied: “And that is why I drive a crappy car, so that they think I’m thousands of dollars in debt up to my eyeballs in a mortgage with a credit card bill to match for my shopping addiction and I’m just one of those poor fake rich people if they go only by my clothes.

He laughed but he is not wrong, folks.

If there was a true fashionista where I work (luckily no, I’m surrounded by clueless fashion-mute men), they would be eying my clothes and things pretty sharply.

Isn’t it ironic?

I’m debt-free, making a good income, saving a reasonable amount of it (although it just feels like I’m bleeding cash lately and that stress doesn’t help when I then turn to shopping to alleviate the stress), and I have to be careful not to show off or enjoy what I have earned.

I am not even SHOWING OFF in a conventional sense. I do not own any logo’d bags, and any really expensive stuff I own is hard to discern just how pricey it was.

Other folks, have debt up to their eyeballs but drive luxury vehicles, and want to pretend like they have more than they do.

I’m the opposite to a certain extent.

Maybe it is also because I’m very sensitive to the fact that I’m a freelancer and I can’t show off too much in obvious ways.

Still, I still want to wear really nice, comfortable $200 jeans that feel like pyjamas and silk blouses with interesting handmade jewellery because I ENJOY IT.

I just have to be careful.

Very careful when it comes to income and money.

The funny thing is that a guy I work with (my age) is not like this at all. He BRAGS about his income! Saying things like: “Well I’m a freelancer so I make a ton of cash and can go out to splash on fancy dinners and things. Got lots of money, all invested in 6 properties….

I smile, and say: “Wow!!”, but secretly suspect I have a better chance of retiring earlier than he does.

He just recently purchased a $75,000 luxury vehicle. I haven’t yet dared to ask if it was in cash or not. 😉


I would have to do some snooping and turn on the charm to figure out his rate, but ultimately at the end of the day, you can make a ton of cash but if you don’t budget it wisely and save it, it’s nothing at the end of the day.

It’s even worse when you meet people who have a ton of cash and don’t have it invested. It is SO EASY TO INVEST, it is insane!


  • Kristi

    Okay. I’ve been wondering for years – what DO you do. In other words what field do you work in?
    $23K a month is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe I need to switch careers! ; )

  • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

    I thought you were done reading my blog x 2.

  • Mia

    I’m not used to this dynamic because of the types of places where I’ve worked… there really isn’t too much mystery if you work at a large employer or in something like investment banking or law–even if you make a ton– because websites like Glassdoor, Vault, Above the Law, etc. provide so much data. Like a 6th year associate at one of the top 50 law firms or a first-year VP at a big investment bank–you can pretty much figure out what they make within a range. You can figure out what bonuses are like for the most part especially if you go on certain message boards and are connected in the industry (which everyone is). So people know who makes a bunch and interestingly the thing I’ve found is that they mostly dress the same as everyone else and use the same transportation and use similar technology, etc., except they might have one or two oddball expensive hobbies (but they don’t share that information widely, typically)–like one guy spends a lot on collecting a very niche type of art and one guy has a bunch of custom motorcycles he rides on weekends.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Where I work, it’s a mystery and it’s not. We all go through brokers but what we negotiate with the brokers is another story, individually. When people stay or go on contracts, and are ALWAYS working, we suspect they are undercutting their rate.

  • SP

    It is pretty easy for me to hide it, because I don’t really care for expensive things. Well, I don’t really care to spend on expensive things. Not much, at least. I do use apple products, but so does almost everyone (down to the students). My clothes are average (at best). It doesn’t seem like I make a lot because we prioritize saving A LOT.

    Unlike you, most of my colleagues in similar roles make similar amounts. There is a second group of employees that generally make significantly less than my group, and I work with some grad students too. So I’m still sensitive, even though they know about how much I make.

    The one giveaway is our house. It is a quite modest house, but very close to work (and thus, expensive). Few people who didn’t buy 10-20 years ago live so close, and even a house further out is expensive these days. I didn’t realize it was something that people noticed until one day I mentioned my husbands job, and someone responded “oh, that’s how you can afford to live there” (meaning dual relatively high income). Now I’m a little more subtle about it, but it comes up now and then. I don’t advertise that we bought, but because housing is nuts in this area, people aren’t shy about asking.

  • Mia

    I don’t know if Apple products are a signifier of wealth. My friend is a doctor and you’d be surprised how many totally broke people, no health insurance (this is the US), no job, etc. come into his office with the latest iphone, the latest MacBook, the latest everything. Likewise, every starving “artist” I know has a massive suite of Apple products.

  • Leigh

    I feel really conscious about this being a grad student. I use the word “apartment” instead of “condo” most of the time now. Like the other commenter, I also felt somewhat awkward about buying my condo at 23, but I’ve had it so long now that most people don’t realize by default that I own it. When I volunteer at the library preparing taxes, I leave my engagement ring at home. I try to avoid talking about where my husband works. The fact that I bought my car new doesn’t mean much now that it is seven years old.

    I’m a terrible liar though so if people start complaining about how bad the housing market is here, I usually end up excusing myself from the conversation. Perhaps I should instead talk about how we don’t really want a house. It is at least partially because they’re too expensive, but mostly that we don’t need the space.

  • Budgeter

    You could always just tell them some of your clothes are second hand thrift, u dont have a bed, or couch, and u only live in an apartment bldg with no land and can pack all your possessions within a day because u have minimal belongings. Many people definitely tend to associate that with oh u can’t afford /you have nothing to show for/youre a nomad out of necessity look. It’s very convincing. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a line where one becomes humble to a fault…

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      There is certainly a line. I should show them pictures of how we have nothing, no TV, and hide all of our electronics. I just don’t talk about what I buy. I try not to mention brand names or things, and if people mention how expensive some $100 item is, and I know I paid $1000 for a raincoat for instance, I just nod sympathetically.

  • Yet Another PF Blog

    I remember feeling sheepish about telling people I bought a condo when I was 23. I was worried people would think I was flaunting my wealth and showing off. For the most part I think that was pretty unfounded. Everyone I told was supportive about it and my friends who weren’t necessarily at the same level of income seemed happy for me. It does feel less awkward talking about money stuff with friends who are similarly comfortable in their wealth/income though.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    For that braggy freelancer – men can say almost anything obnoxious and still get away with it. I worked with the female version of that dude – she didn’t brag about her stuff or money but she lorded it over those of us without director roles and very ostentatiously cut me out of conversations that were my province. I can only assume she assumed that a petite Asian woman working for a loud white male wouldn’t have a large swath of responsibility or authority where I had both.

    Unfortunately for her, my director and I worked very closely together and she was tone-deaf not realizing that offending me by pretending I didn’t exist meant she was offending my director so together we made sure she didn’t hire on permanently. (I never did understand why she wanted to hire on permanently anyway considering she brought home at least $200k in a year.)

    A male director of the same variety was completely useless, stole work credit from other women (directors and below), and it still took almost two years to get him fired – and the reasons for the firing had nothing to do with all his obnoxiousness or work theft. Men can get away with just about anything in the workplace, it’s gross.

    I do wonder if you couldn’t get away with most things you like, though. I worked with a dude who did wear $200 jeans and I never ever noticed the difference until someone spilled a glass of liquid on him and he jumped exclaiming: these aren’t your $20 jeans! They’re $200!!

    We are terrible people for laughing at him. It’s just the look on his face was priceless, and til that day, I didn’t know jeans existed that cost $200 😁

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.


      Oh that jeans story is priceless.

      At work, the Mate Poacher said: I drive up in my BMW and people are all like — who is this guy!?…

      I’m just staring at him with a strange awkward smile on my face because… he thinks BMWs are a sign of wealth. Drive a Maserati, Porsche, Bugatti or something in that league and we’ll talk.

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