I still sorta act broke

My workplace skews way older than me and a few years younger than me.  At 28, I don’t think I’m unreasonably old, but most of the younger people are about 3-5 years younger than me, which feels like a lot.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the older people really want to give advice.  Usually it’s for something I’m already doing (don’t they know who I am?!), like contributing to my 401K or saving for a house.  This doesn’t go unappreciated, since I know many of my closest coworkers are millionaires, at least in terms of the worth of their (sadly discontinued) pension plans, but also because they’ve all been working for 30+ years and you tend to accumulate money in that period of time.  One guy always tells me to buy gold.  Another one tells me what a bad idea it is to get married or have children.

Mostly, I don’t talk about money, unless I’m throwing in a little joke about being broke or how puny my paycheck is compared to theirs or how we’ll have to give up groceries to pay for our new smartphones.  Every once in a while I’ll share some of my nerdish leanings, like how at the end of last year I couldn’t work any extra graveyard shifts because the overtime would screw up my 401K contributions. (“Why do you even know that?” asked my boss.)

With the younger people, I try to take a bit of a guiding role.  I spent an afternoon waxing poetic about my Roth IRA to a good friend of mine.  I dragged her to a retirement planning seminar where I dozed as she scribbled down notes.  I’m planning to loan her my copy of I Will Teach You To Be Rich.  Still, I just nod along when someone says, “We had to take out loans to pay for it.  No one has $4,000 just laying around, right?”

It’s easy to pretend that we’re not doing as well as we are, because I keep setting excessive goals for us (I still don’t have complete confidence that we’ll make our savings goals for the year…) and thus I feel squeezed even if the only thing suffering is our savings.  I don’t dress as well as some other girls, and no one was impressed when I got my iPhone because it’s been out for a couple years now.  What I mean is, I’m not projecting an image of wealth.  And because I’m still relatively young and making a very good salary due to my degrees & some lucky jobhopping, no one really knows how much I’m making.

Or maybe they all read my blog and just shake their heads when I pretend I don’t have an emergency fund.

Do you hide your financial nerdiness, or are you loud and proud about your savings prowess?  Do you think people would treat you differently if they knew what your net worth is?

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9 Responses

  1. I haaaaate men who think marriage is a financial burdern. Pet peeve of mine.

    I think most of my coworkers, even the…. one… who is younger than me, are financially smart. But I work with mostly older people, and if they are financial screw ups at this point, they probably are also good at hiding that fact.

    We don’t talk money much, except when I get advice that I disagree with (BUY A HOUSE ASAP!!!) or that I’m already doing (be sure to save for retirement!)

  2. My husband and I keep our actual financial status under-wraps (i.e. salary, 401k balance, debt -student loans *sigh*), but we do like to share some advise with our friends… we’re both young, I’m turning 25 in December, he’ll turn 24 in August. Just this past weekend, I discussed the type of auto insurance my BFF should carry and tips on shopping around. It’s nice to share what works for us, but at the same time, we’re not experts.. so we try not to butt in too much. I do enjoy reading other people’s tips though!

  3. I think I act broke because I always feel like I should be saving more (and started saving too late!). I don’t talk too much about money but try to give helpful tips when asked. I think the only hint I give that I’m fairly saavy about money is that co-workers know I paid for my cars in full. However, I also don’t own a home which is the benchmark of wealth/adulthood in most people’s eyes.

  4. […] I Still Sorta Act Broke.  Via Paranoid Asteroid. […]

  5. Yeah, my DH and I also sorta act broke too, and I generally hide my financial nerdiness. I nod along about people’s stories about being broke too. I don’t really talk about finances much at work, aside from the occassional conversation on deal shopping, which at least some others seem to relate to (paying for a car in cash or maxing out your Roth IRA does not typically fall into this category). After graduating, paying off debt and then saving over half our income for two and a half years, we have just recently started to increase our standard of living, getting iPhones, a flat screen TV and HD cable, plus a modest low mileage used car to replace my old clunker from college and a nice vacation this summer. The specifics of our finances are not something we really talk about with anybody. And like another commenter says above, we don’t own a home, and this seems to be a standard for wealth, so I doubt people think we have much in savings.

  6. I act broker than I am… too easy to give in to lifestyle inflation as I earn more, so I don’t let others know my income, IRA contributions and savings rate, or student loan payoff goals. These are personal goals and I do not want to make any one person feel bad about their personal habits just because I recently decided to become better at money…
    BUT I am glad that the financial blogging sphere allows us all to share more and talk about it while maintaining privacy!

  7. I think it’s wise to act like you don’t have money. It doesn’t seem like anyone else has money either … unless they are all acting broke too?? People always seem so judgemental when it comes to seeing others with money. It’s very sad.

    Wasn’t it not too long ago that it was determined that 25% or less than 50% (depending on the study) of Americans could not come up with $2000 in a month.

  8. I rarely ever talk money at work other than making comments like I won’t pay extra for things like phones/iPhone plans since my staff were wondering about my new phone (I switched to an Android – free phones and cheaper plans through T-Mobile). So since I dress conservative/professionally but not stylishly, and mention that sort of thing, I probably come off as a skinflint. 😉

    Then again, I do get them small gifts regularly which I doubt they ever really realize adds up considering how many of them there are.

    Most of my group are my age or younger, so I do refrain from talking about it anyway because I know I’d just be tempted to dole out advice and that’s just unsolicited!

  9. […] I Still Sorta Act Broke I bookmarked this ages ago, because I related to the paragraph where Paranoid Asteroid talks about not having the nice clothes or gadgets that her co-workers have.  But now, since starting law school, I love it in a whole new way.  At home, several of my friends knew my net worth and many of them came to me for budgeting advice.  Now, I find myself biting my tongue, because I don’t have that role with the new people I have met. […]

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