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When I'm at social gatherings/parties, people would inquire about my job and, because I'm an app developer, they think I earn substantially more than I do. (Oh, the joy!) They then follow up asking about my job with something along the lines of

"So, how much do you earn then?"

What would be a valid response when someone asks this question, as this information isn't something I feel comfortable giving out.

Note: I don't care too much about where data protection/professionalism is involved, i.e. a recruiter asking me how much I currently earn for them to gauge how much I would like to earn in another job or when applying for a loan (as a couple of examples).

See a related post address why people are unwilling to share information about their salary.

closed as primarily opinion-based by avazula, Arwen Undómiel, Ælis, Crazy Cucumber, Tinkeringbell Oct 11 '18 at 18:19

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Why do you not like to get asked the question? Because people start to get jealous? – Blaszard Aug 15 '17 at 11:46
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    @Blaszard I really don't think people would get jealous of the answer, it's just abit too personal for someone I wouldn't consider being very close to. To me, they don't need to know. They can't do much with the information after they know anyway. – Bradley Wilson Aug 15 '17 at 11:48
  • Do you want to talk about your job at all? Because if you don't, the easy way out is just to say 'I don't really like to talk about work in my personal time'. – Zibbobz Aug 15 '17 at 13:06
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    @Zibbobz I literally have no qualms at all talking about work or work related topics outside of work, as I know some people are every interested in coding or know about it (as I like talking about it, too). It's just the money element of it, no one really needs to know except officials. – Bradley Wilson Aug 15 '17 at 13:09
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    I answered this some time ago on The Workplace: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/27166/102 – Kate Gregory Aug 17 '17 at 13:35

11 Answers 11

138

How I would normally respond is:

"Enough to pay the bills"

This way, they'll get that you're unwilling to disclose this information, they'll also know you earn enough to get by.

You should reply with a polite undertone which insinuates that you're saying it in a way that you haven't taken offence to the question, either.

As @Emrakul rightly points out in the comments. Your body language can change this response from a light-hearted and friendly one to a hostile one. So, as recommended a "Smile, grin and shrug" alongside the speech, should suffice.

74
+100

I'm always reminded of my sage uncle's answer to such rude, inappropriate questions:

If you'll forgive me for not answering, I'll forgive you for asking

This answer is on-target because it clearly advises the "asker" of the question that it was not appreciated, and simultaneously yet implicitly explains why you won't be answering

32

In the UK, it is incredibly rude to directly ask someone how much they earn. I wouldn't even expect to be asked by my own parents. It's not necessary to make light of the situation or play it off with humour. You can just respond with

I prefer not to say.

Or

That's not something I talk about.

You wouldn't be considered rude by refusing the answer the question, the person who asked the question is the one being rude.

23

I'm a physician, and people often think that as a result, I make a ton of money. Some people let their curiosity get the better of them and ask me how much I make. I usually say,

Not nearly as much as you'd think; enough to get by and to take a decent vacation once in a while, but not enough to have saved for our kids' college tuitions! That's gonna hurt!

That usually is all that is needed, and from there, the conversation can be steered to kids, colleges, recent vacations (recommendations?), etc. Also, the answer is true.

Farming takes a significant amount of money. I've had two colleagues who were also farmers. One of them would answer that question with, "Enough to keep farming."

13

Being a developer myself I'm often in this situation and it all depends on "who's asking" maybe it's someone who doesn't think it's a big deal because of their culture.

In any case, it's custom that the person asking provides their information first (Asia for example) so just ask back

"Why, how much do you make?"

that way they can answer honestly if not that will defuse the situation.

Of course, if they are being friendly just humorously say:

"not enough man, why? you got an offer?".

11
Enough to get by, but not as much as I'd like

This is a slight variation to yours, but often the one I would use if I am not comfortable disclosing pay to strangers, friends or family. It has a nice

"I am doing good, but not Bill Gates rich"

feel to it.

Alternatively, a friend of mine loves using:

Not enough to sort from high to low

Explanation:

It's a joke about online shopping. When people go online shopping they often sort prices from "low to high", because you want to buy what is cheapest and not most expensive. My friend is implying he does not make enough to have the luxury to always shop and start with the most expensive option

8

A clever quote I had often used in a humorous way is

You might very well ask that; but I couldn't possibly comment.

which is one of the many variants of a quote from House of Cards. It's used as a plausibly deniable way of agreeing with people and/or leaking information.

Watch on Youtube an example, and another.

NOTE: Use with caution, and only to friends who will "get" it. And as always, your body language will be a factor.

5

I haven't been asked very often, but for sure have been asked. Sometimes I answer if I think there is a legitimate reason they are asking. If I do not wish to answer I have several variations that are likely similar to one another.

"I make enough to get by, but not enough to brag about it"

I think it conveys that I am not going to say more, but that I am doing okay. I have been asked at times where things weren't good & I'd say that.

"Not enough, but I am looking at other options now because I am not keeping on like this."

I also had a job that paid great but totally sucked up my life, so at that point, I did get asked often (I think people inferred the pay was amazing). At the time I would often say:

"Oh the money is great as long as you don't mind handing over every waking moment and all your personal life. I can get you in, it only costs you a soul or two".

3

Evident by the number of varying answers here, you certainly have a lot of directions you could go with a response. Whatever you choose to say should take into account two related but distinct considerations.

It should:

  1. Suit your personality
  2. Factor in what we in the community organizing community would call your "organizational considerations" – think of this as how you want to leave things with the person asking.

The first part is easy: if you're a smart aleck, you could throw out some witty, flippant, or humorously evasive answer (see numerous possibilities above); if you're more the brooding or quiet type, you could be more direct about how you feel it's inappropriate for them to ask; etc. I don't know your personality beyond your wording of the question and various comments throughout the page, but what I can guess of your personality is factored into my answer below.

The second point is probably due more consideration on your part. Can the person in question be of help to you in the future or do you have other reasons to not respond in a way that might otherwise, based on your personality alone, be flippant or dismissive? As the question is likely asked by numerous different people, with whom you have numerous kinds of relationships (and so, you'll have to figure this out every time), I cannot really go much further. Please advise in comments if you need more clarification about how this works, but I think you get the idea.

In any case, I advise the following, to be adjusted as need by the two points above:

To be honest, it's probably less than you'd expect. Beyond that, with respect, I would rather not talk specifics.

You could add that ranges can easily be found online and maybe specify your specialty or some field terminology to give them a nudge in the right direction – querying Dr. Google can be challenging without specifics. And if your answer feels like it needs some upbeat follow-up, you could add, "but if you want to talk tech, I could go around with you for hours!"

2

Yes this can be quite awkward.

My go-to is to turn it around on them.

Question: "How much do you make?"

Response: "Yeah actually I was just wondering how much you make?"

Then you can determine a good response from there. If they aren't willing to tell you what they make, then you certainly shouldn't feel obligated to tell them what you make.

From here, if they do share their income with you, you can either share yours with them, or, if you still don't want to do that, you can say,

"Oh well that's not too different from what I make." (Even if it is.)

And don't forget you can always just change the subject.

Hope this helps.

0

Many people compare themselves with others by asking the salary question. If our salary is less than theirs then they become happy or if it is more then they become sad. This comparison does not become always healthy. So, here we can reply them with happy manner,

Not much ! but usually I don't need to look at the right side of the menu while ordering

Explanation - Many people are not comfortable to give the answer of this question irrespective of their high or low package. Blunt or straight forward reaction of your real mind set at that time is also not healthy for the scenario. This answer I find suitable when there is no any urgent need of exact salary figure.

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