I would describe our family as having good communication on finances. Not great, but good. My Dad and I talk pretty regularly on stocks and certain strategies. He has provided not only an excellent financial example, but also has provided sound advice. Also, he got me hooked on Money magazine, which is now one of those things I look forward to every month. Let's just say that I am happy to have been brought up in my family.
There is one thing that hasn't been discussed often in my family and that is the salary question. I think I might have told my parents my starting salary at Target and maybe let my salary at Honeywell slip at one time. However, I have never once known what my parents made, which never concerned me as a kid, but now I find slightly surprising. It is one of those things that is not talked about and is a topic that makes my parents uncomfortable.
Why is that? Why is the topic of salary such a tough subject? The only reason I think it is such an important question is that people place so much importance on it. In some ways people can define themselves by their salary. They literally place their worth on what they are worth to a company. This shouldn't be the case for a number of reasons, but from a strictly financial perspective salary is only part of the total equation. Knowing someone's salary doesn't mean you know how much they spend, how much they save or what their parents have or have not provided for them. There are plenty of people that immediately come to mind who either don't have a salary or have a very small salary who live in expensive houses and go on wonderful trips.
One advantage to people sharing salary information is that it empowers you in salary negotiations with your current or future employer. If you know the going rate for someone of similiar background then you might be pleansantly surpised (your salary > friend) or might realize that you should ask for more money.
Of course the reason people don't do that is because of social norms. There aren't many people out there who want to make others uncomfortable. This is a real concern if the salary question might lead to answers of amounts that are very different. However, I think most of those amounts should be anticipated. A cashier at Taco Bell obviously makes less than than a dentist. If the difference is that large then it probably doesn't matter one bit if either knows each other's salary. Where it does make a difference is when people are in the same or similar fields. And for that I propose something unique: I will tell anyone who asks my salary as long as you also tell me your salary. I don't take great joy or discomfort in my salary and don't think I will have any problem disclosing that information to a trusted friend. Maybe I will? If I do have reservations then I will admit that I am wrong and as M would probably tell you that doesn't happen too often.