It’s the Friday 5, that time of the week when I try to summarize my favorite stories of the day without ruining lifelong friendships. Harder than you’d think!
1. Gordon Keith writes about why you shouldn’t know how much money your friends make.
Keith has a column in the Dallas Morning News today about how knowing your friends’ salaries (or how much anyone makes) can be cancerous. He leads with an anecdote about how I, he, and two of our friends had an awkward moment when a few of us started comparing salaries.
Like a Bob Woodward tale, the recounting is mostly true but at least part of the human dynamic is missing. First, we weren’t drunk. It was happy hour, and if we weren’t on our first beers, then we were on our second. It’s important to note that we don’t need to be soused to ball-bust each other in a manner that could lead to hard feelings. That can happen over breakfast.
Two, even though Keith is exactly right about the corrosive nature of income discussions, it’s not just junk-kicking that leads to such exercises. In fact, I’m pretty sure I started the whole thing, because — besides fostering tension among friends — I think there’s something worthwhile and helpful in being open about money and the hurdles we place in our path no matter what that annual salary figure looks like.
For example: I’m fascinated by how much radio pays its media stars. It’s an industry that, like television but unlike writing for print, values talent and pays the suits much less than the people who drive the ratings and profit. (Generalizing wildly here.)
And I believe there is something very useful in being open about such things Keith ignores here. I think it’s helpful to see how someone can be frugal and take a modest but not spectacular salary and make it work for him or her. I think it’s instructive to see that someone can make several times that and still struggle to make ends meet. (Here’s a fascinating story about how semi-famous writer Neal Pollock crapped away all his money with poor decisions.)
I think most of us have no idea exactly what we’re supposed to do when we go from making $18K out of school and one day are making $30K or $50K or $110K or $250K or $600K annually. Often that uncertainty leads to problems that perhaps could be avoided if friends were more open about the decisions they make.
I have a very rich friend whom I regularly grill about his finances, because it’s fascinating to see how someone who makes millions every year could be strapped for cash. As well, it’s fascinating to see people who make much less spend and save wisely, and I’m thankful for their advice and counsel. (It hasn’t done me any good, but I’m thankful.)
I’m not saying we need to wear a pin on our shirts that declares how much money we bring in. It’s true salary discussions are probably best left to job interviews. But I think finding a way to talk openly and honestly about money can be useful.
For example: It can motivate the person at the table who made less than everyone there to be more aggressive when negotiating future salaries. I think it’s fair to say that neither of the two writers at the table want to play the salary-guessing game with him now.
2. More stuff about the Dallas DA Craig Watkins.
3. Ted Cruz says Obama meeting gave him hope.
That won’t last, but, okay.
5. The Mercantile Continental is open for renters.
Downtown gets even awesomer.
Watch these hung over, so it feels like you were there.