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By Kirsty Wareing / PayScale
December 22, 2015
businessman and a businesswoman drinking water in an office
George Doyle—Getty Images

Information about your salary is probably something you don't care to share with too many people. Among friends, though, more and more of us are opting to be open about how much bacon we bring home. Here's why that might be a good thing.

Knowledge Is Power

For most people, particularly women and people of color, knowing how much our peers earn can be empowering. The sad truth is that women still earn less than men, and the gap widens even further for women of color. This is not to say that simply knowing what a co-worker makes will result in a corresponding raise for you. Nevertheless, having that information might encourage you to negotiate with more confidence during your next review.

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It Is 100 Percent Legal

Nobody's saying that just because something's legal, it's a good idea. Revealing this kind of personal information should always be voluntary and thought through. However, there can be a lot of misinformation around whether it is appropriate to share these details without risking your job. You might have been led to believe that your job is on the line once you clue in a co-worker, but it's not at all the case. Many companies aren't likely to encourage you to shout it from the rooftops, but this is largely due to the reason discussed above.

It Can Resolve Misunderstandings

Remember that episode of Friends where the three with more money want to hit up the fancy restaurants and spend lots on concert tickets? The reason the show resonated with its audience was because we have all been there. Whether you were the struggling soap opera actor or the flush paleontologist (really?), it is highly likely that at some point you've had an awkward moment with a friend who makes much more or much less than you. By being transparent about what you both make, it's easier to avoid those miscommunications.

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Honesty Has Its Consequences

While the above points indicate that sharing your salary information with trusted friends can be a good decision, there are some potential side effects to consider. Depending on the relationship, being suddenly made aware of a friend's earnings might inspire resentment, jealousy, or even pity.

One person in a friendship may be expected to pay for more than their fair share, if it's obvious that they have a bigger bank account. Even if that's not the case, the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality will still emphasize what one person has and another does not. Only you can decide whether the relationship is strong enough to handle such a persistent taboo being broken.

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The bottom line is that you should think carefully before telling friends what you make. If you're on similar career paths, it could be beneficial to know whether one of you is being underpaid or taken advantage of. Be prepared for possible feelings of jealousy, though – their revelation might be bigger than you're expecting.