How much cake do you make?

Currently, only four individuals on the entire planet who know how much money I make:

  • my boss
  • the payroll guy at work
  • my gentlemanfriend
  • my accountant

No one else – not even God (mainly because he/she is too busy watching the Republican primaries right now to give a s–t) – knows what I take home every month.

If you asked me how much money I make, I’d blush. I’d stammer. I’d change the subject. And then I’d text my best friend to tell her how rude you are.

It’s odd how much this particular question offends us. I’d rather tell you when I lost my virginity*, what religion I am**, or who I’d vote for in a federal election*** , than tell you what I pocket from my employer.

But why? Why is it so hard to utter this number? Are we trying to protect ourselves from embarrassment/ridicule/aggrandization? Or are we trying to protect the other person from experiencing this internal roller coster?

I live in a city where the culture is, debatably, money-oriented. You’d think this would be the first question we’d ask. But even we, with our uncouth ways, are too polite to pop this question. At least not directly. Because we’ve found a very clever way around it. Find yourself cornered at a party, in a bar or on an internet date in this town, and the first question a person will ask you is this:

“So, whatta’ ya do?”

They aren’t trying to stimulate conversation, and they aren’t inquiring about your hopes and dreams, or your favourite pastime. They want to know your occupation, and they’re asking you so they can do some quick math in their heads and judge you on the resulting number. Wouldn’t our lives be a whole lot easier, and more honest, if we could simply ask:

“Hey you, how much cake do you make?”


**a confusing, yet convenient, mix of Catholicism, Buddhism and What-My-Horoscope-Says-Ism
***Jack Layton’s NDP, so I’m a bit adrift right now honestly. Any suggestions? 

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5 thoughts on “How much cake do you make?

  1. Kathy says:

    So true – only my boss, my payroll person, my husband and CRA know how much I make. And I only know my husband’s salary because I do his taxes.

    I have a friend who switched employers last fall and she said her salary doubled. I told her how proud I was of her and how that would be life-changing for her family. But at the same time I was racking my brain with quick math calculations, “Okay, did she make $40,000 before and now makes $80,000? Or was she making $50,000 before and now makes $100,000?”. It’s totally none of my business, but I was still dying to know. She never told me. I never asked. I was just happy for her.

    My first job out of university, I made $32,000. Now I make more. And that’s about all I’ll say on that topic.

    • cashgab says:

      My guess is that she was fibbing…just a bit. By that, I mean that she probably made something like $32,000 in her old job and got bumped up to $52,000. Not quite doubling, but we all round up when it suits us (income) and round down when it doesn’t (debt load). You should have asked her exact numbers! 🙂 She started it, so I think that opens the gates up. Scandalous, I know!

  2. Cleatus says:

    I am the only one that knows what I make, although it is not that tough to figure it out nor is it that tough to figure out what the people make around you. The good part about living in Canada is that folks who generate an income, of any type, generally file a tax return and the government is all to happy to publish the stats. On average, most Canadian households make less than $70k (the last median income published is around $65k for married couples or those living with a life partner, however you wish to define this). Income for single people is low and the lowest is single women. Men still make more. Favoured by trade work, that tends to pay higher, and I still think men pay men more then they do women for comparable work. At least that is what the stats say and anecdotally it shows up every morning. Look at your neighbourhood bus stop. Typically it is women that are standing there. Men drive. Men are also more likely to be irresponsible with their cash, but that is a different blog.

    If you agree with the figures published by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, then only 5.7% of the population earns $100k a year or more, 2.1% more than $150k, and 0.7% more than $250k. At $250k you likely have a nice house, multiple cars, multiple credit cards, clothes, trips, RSPs, TFSAs, a banker who knows your first and last name (including how to spell it correctly) and other buzzword lifestyle things that most folks have experienced. Hear someone talking about this regularly and you know they are in a higher snack bracket or their a poser, which is easy to sniff out when it comes time to head out for dinner and they pull out a coupon for the food court at the mall.

    For the rest of Canada, more than half (55%) of Canadians still make less than $30k a year and the next 22% only make between $30k and $50k a year. That means 3 out of 4 people you see are walking around are making $50k a year or less. While the incomes are highest in Alberta, and then Ontario (so these figures are maybe a bit better there), in most places they are not that great.

    So…what’s the problem with talking about it? Well I am sure there are lots of explanations, established as part of some sort of cultural way over many years, yet in reality it really does not matter. It is impossible to get over the obstacle of money if we aren’t able to talk about it. And rest assured most of Canada us just making it work at $50k a year or less.

    Still itching to know what your friends and family make. There are a couple of ways to figure it out on the back of a napkin. If someone you know just bought a house and does not come from money nor have they been working long, odds are you can look up the tax value on the local city website for free and divide by 3 or 4 to figure out what they make. Same holds true for credit card debt. Most limits are around 25% of what people make, until the card hits the $50k mark and then they cut things off. When people talk about their limit, shave a bit off for exaggeration and do the math. Rent works a bit the same way as well. If they live by themselves, most of the time you want rent to be no more than 25-30% of your pre-tax income. $1500 a month in rent means they (hopefully) are making $50k a year or more.

    And…hopefully by now…if you are reading this and making more than $50k you are feeling pretty good about yourself. Just be sure to do something good for yourself and sock a bit away. It is surprising how banking a latte a day can turn in to something sizeable down the road. And if you are a lady, start now. Don’t rely on any man to ensure you have enough at 55. Most are just not that responsible about it. I know. I’m a man and hope to marry a women that knows how to save!

    • cashgab says:

      Cleatus! You’re so smart. My guess is you work for a bank, no? 🙂
      Where can I find the stats about men being more irresponsible with their cash. I am in the process of writing about this very thing, and I want to site those stats.
      What I have right now says women are worse at paying bills…
      ~ HS

  3. Cleatus says:

    StatsCan, HRSDC, taxpayers federation, and some Econ reports on bank websites are your best bets for info. Women’s week happened a couple of weeks ago and most banks published articles as well that may help. Normally the data is a year or two old, but that really does not matter. Income levels, consumer spending, and savings habits don’t change dramatically. Changing behaviors takes real work. Let me know if you need a link or two and otherwise good luck!

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