2 money-related questions

In Seinfeld, George onces acts like he’s mortally offended when Elaine calls him cheap. Is that such a big deal for people? I’m neither rich nor poor, but if someone calls me that it would rankle me with about as much force as an unexpected breeze. Yet George acts like someone just called his mother a slut.

The other money question is why people are so secretive about how much they make, and find such a question inappropriate. What’s the big deal?

How much do you make?

I get 2 checks a month for about $1350-$1450. You?

Because money, (how much you make and how much you spend) equals social status.

If you make a lot of money and you reveal it, you are likely to induce feelings of resentment and jealousy in others. If you make very little money and you reveal it, then you may induce feelings of contempt in others. Or at the least, they realize they are above you, socially speaking. Neither of these situations is good. Therefore better not to talk about it.

I tend to find these people who think they are better than me and berate them. Is that normal? I don’t make too much, but then again I don’t live by myself. I’m happy, I have what I want, and am really not wanting for much. Everyone who would ever think less of me for what I make turned out to be dicks, and they are that way even before they know how much I make. You’re probably right in why they do this, but they shouldn’t, and I’m plenty disagreeable enough to tell them that to their face

Come on! Anyone else want to post how much they make? I promise I won’t make a big deal about it unless you’re a dick over it :smiley:

I don’t much like being called cheap, either - I prefer “frugal.” I’ll spend money when it’s time to spend money (like replacing our clothes washer that’s leaking oil on the floor), but I don’t just throw it around willy-nilly. We were in Holt Renfrew this weekend, and I saw a purse there with a $2000 price tag on it. I found that damned close to offensive - nobody needs a $2000 purse. If I was rich, I still wouldn’t pay $2000 for a purse. Course, you don’t get rich by buying $2000 purses. :slight_smile:

Calling someone cheap is an insult and people tend to get upset when they get insulted. There is a difference between being cheap and being financially responsible. Calling someone cheap implies that they are saving money irrationally. Whether it should be a big deal to people depends on the context in which it is used. If a stranger calls me cheap, I don’t see many ways where I could interpret that comment in a way where it is not used as an insult.

As for why George got upset, well, George as made a big deal out of much less than that. Knowing George, I suspect that George was making a decision that would cause him or others more grief to save money rather than to spend it - and probably deserved to be called cheap.

In most of America there is a culture of competition. People try to show off that they are better than everyone else. It’s very grating because it is often done passively. Here
is the scenario people are trying to avoid by not disclosing their salary:

Someone at work might buy a new expensive watch and then let all the coworkers know about it. He’ll then ask about the watches everyone else wears even though he knows that his is the most expensive. Then he’ll comment on the poor quality of other people’s watches and why his is better as if he did not force the issue. Finally – an this is the most important part – the man will draw a connection between the cost of the watch and his superiority over other human beings. He will act as if his expensive watch makes his superiority over his coworkers a forgone conclusion. He might do this by telling one of the coworkers that if they had a specific quality that he had, that they would be able to own a watch just like his. The quality of his will usually be in no way connected to his success in buying an expensive watch, but will be something that he wants to validate because he wasted a lot of time on it (e.g., reading a lot of books by Deepak Chopra.)

You can see how this would play out if Expensive Watch Man knew everybody’s salaries. It’s just a hazard of our culture that people often grasp at money to prove their own self worth even if both qualities are not logically connected. It’s just good practice not to give judgmental assholes any ammunition.

As for me I make $0 and I 'm -$60,000 in debt, but I’m still better than all of you. :smiley:

When you want to insult someone’s sexual promiscuity, do you call them a high priced escort or do you call them a cheap whore?

Lakai, I got a really good deal on a cordless phone last summer - I was practically bragging about how much I saved to everyone. I guess I’m the anti Mr. Expensive Watch. :slight_smile:

(It was a really expensive phone, for like 75% off! I looooove bargains!)

I take such things as more proof (as if any were needed) that “a fool and his money are soon parted”.

I have an acquaintance who is cheap and admits it. In fact, it’s the one adjective everyone associates with him. When he buys something he has to tell everyone what he paid for it, and how much he saved by getting it on sale.

My mother and his father both turned 90 at about the same time. I made a big party for my mother in her favorite restaurant, and invited all of her friends and relatives. This guy took his father to the $5.99 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. That’s cheap.

Part of it is a cultural thing I think. My wife is Korean. We’ve got a couple of Korean posters on this board–one of y’all tell me if I’m misrepresenting things.

It seems like all conversations my wife has with her Korean friends come down to two things: what education level someone has reached and how much money they make. It’s all about status. The higher the status, the “better” you are as a person. It’s all about who’s husband is a doctor or a lawyer or who bought the latest Coach handbag or BMW. If I try to suggest that someone can be happy with being a plumber or store manager or whatever, if that’s what they love to do, she looks at me like I’m some kind of retarded bug.

Her son is 19 and enlisted in the Army. She’s convinced that his life will end up failure if he doesn’t either get out and go to grad school or end up an officer. Officer = “status.” Enlisted = level of fungus. Because, you know, only an officer will get a good wife. :rolleyes:

Ok, I’m harshing on my wife and I don’t mean to do so too much. But every time I tell her about my day–someone I met at the office, a consultant or contractor (I deal with them a lot), the first question is always “how much money do they make?” That’s her first question to start gauging this person.

And I think that’s ridiculous. I don’t know how much money they make and I would never think to ask. I don’t care. It’s nowhere on my radar screen as to how to evaluate this person. My wife is oh so curious as to how much my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband, who is an accountant) makes. I tell her I have no idea. And it’s true. I don’t.

She just can’t comprehend that. Everyone in Korea seemingly knows what everyone else’s salary is upon first meeting. Or they’re sure to find out.

No, it is not. But it is common.

Besides, you do you know they think they are better than you? Are you psychic?
The reason people get weird about money is that it creates feelings of resentment, shame and jealousy.
If I casually mention that my watch costs your entire year’s salary (don’t worry, it doesn’t;)), do you think I am a) extravagant b) boastful c) flashy? Maybe I’m worried that you are going to think that I think I’m better than you just because I have a high paying job and enjoy nice things and that you are going to berate me.

People don’t like revealing their salary information because they don’t like people like divemaster’s wife reducing them to their 1040 form.

Also, people who ask are usually the same kind of people who will refuse to believe your answer. They’ve extrapolated your income from data which may or may not even be relevant (stuff like, I kid you not, your lastname) and any attempts to convince them of their error will work about as well as an attempt to teach classical ballet to a sperm whale. If you tell them how much you make and it doesn’t match what they thought, you’re lying. If you show them your tax paperwork and they don’t match their preconceptions, it’s because you’re commiting tax fraud.

And judgment. “There must be something wrong with him if that’s all he makes”, “If I made as much/as little as she does, I wouldn’t waste it on booze/Coach purses/whatever”, “What’s wrong with him, that he makes that much and doesn’t live better than he does”. Some people feel entitled to judge others’ financial and career choices. If you don’t talk about how much money you make, that’s one less opportunity for that kind of person to judge you.

I think it’s extremely distasteful to rank people’s worth as human beings by their income. I know there are people out there who do think you can do that. I refuse to help them play that game. I didn’t get a diamond solitaire engagement ring, partly because I think they look boring, but also because I don’t want people sizing me up socioeconomically by the size of my engagement ring. I don’t want them doing that by my income, either.

George in insane. He doesn’t take any sort of criticism well. Elaine didn’t even use the word “cheap” - she said he’s “very careful with money”.

And cheap is an insult because there’s an implication that a person isn’t paying their fair share as well. Like the guy who comes to the bar and happily drinks from the pitchers of beer others ordered, but manages to leave before his turn comes up. Or the guy who makes donations to a fake charity as gifts for his coworkers. Or the guy who goes with a group to a restaurant, but won’t put money in the pot for a tip because he doesn’t believe in them. Or the guy who joins the coffee club at work, but buys the cheapest crap supermarket brand coffee when it’s his turn to bring in supplies.

IMHO there is good cheap and bad cheap. Good cheap is when you avoid spending too much money on yourself. Bad cheap is when you avoid spending money on others, even though they show customary generosity toward you. You will usually know which one you are dealing with if you split a check with someone at a restaurant. On a date, if the guy is just prudent with money, he doesn’t drive a fancy car. No problem. But if he refuses to pay a few bucks for parking when his date is in high heels and a fancy dress and it’s raining and they wind up walking 6 blocks through a bad neighborhood (things that presumably bother her more than him) so he can park for free, because on principle he never pays for parking, that’s bad cheap.

The character George on Seinfeld was written consistently as an example of “bad cheap.” So his getting upset about being called cheap is because someone is hitting the nail on the head with respect to his selfishness. Most people get upset when someone hits the nail on the head with regard to the worst aspects of their personality.

Cultures have different definitions of what they consider personal. In the US, how much money you make is one of those things. Kind of like how, unless you know people really well, politics and religion are not OK topics for group conversation. I will note that the US has more diversity in all of these aspects than many other cultures, and perhaps that is part of what makes them unsuitable for casual conversation.

[confession]I have had moments of bad cheap in the past. I’m really trying not to be like that any more.[/confession] It’s difficult to be frugal for yourself, and not apply those same standards to gifts and other people - not because they don’t deserve it, but more because of the habit of conserving money.

They still make assumptions and judge you…but they are uninformed.

And knowing someone’s salary is imperfect information anyway - not enough to do much other than stick your foot in your mouth. Unless you know that they send $1000 a month to their mother in Mexico City, or that they get an extra $1000 a month from their trust fund…you really don’t have useful information.

I saw a thing on 20/20 once about how the only people who benefit from keeping your salary a secret is the employer.

All too often do the better workers get stiffed on pay because well, they’re a team player and if management says we can only afford to give you a 3% raise then, by golly, you accept it because that’s what team players do.

On the other hand. If you’re a whiny little tard, you might get more like a 5% percent raise because even tho you’re a pain in the ass, it’s still cheaper to give you a raise, (The aforementioned person’s raise to be exact) than it would be to train someone new.

Aint life a bowl a freaK’n cherries?