I had a lot of awkward conversations when I was pregnant, but there is one I simply cannot forget.  Let’s start with the back story, shall we? 

It was 2009, and I was 7 or 8 months pregnant and working as the Family Services Director at the locally-owned funeral home. We weren’t living a life of luxury by any means, but we were happy, healthy, and extremely excited about having our first child.  We were also bringing in about $90,000 per year, which is a huge chunk of cash for a small family living in the rural Midwest.

Here’s How to Get On Government Assistance

I was talking to one of our vendors one day when the topic of discussion turned to my pregnancy.  Feigning interest in my bump, she started asking the regular pregnancy questions.  You know, things like “are you excited?” and “is the baby’s room ready?”

Then she told me how to get on government assistance.

“You know, you have it easier than I did at my age,” she said.  “At least you can sign up for WIC and get your formula for free.  They’ll also give you tickets for free groceries like milk, cheese, and cereal.  Your income is definitely low enough.”

After her opening statement, she went into more detail about how to apply and where exactly where the local WIC office was located.  “The paperwork is simple,” she said, “but you’ll have to prove you are in need of healthy food.”

In case you don’t know, WIC is a government program that helps low-income families provide proper nutrition for babies and children.

“The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.”

-USDA.gov

I listened intently to what she was saying and thanked her for the information when she was done.  However, the whole situation left me really confused.  On one hand, I think the WIC program is great and I am glad that our society has chosen to provide nourishment for pregnant women who really need it.  On the other hand, did she really think we would qualify?  Seriously?

Do You Feel Comfortable Sharing Your Income?

At the time, I didn’t feel comfortable telling her we made too much money for a multitude of reasons.  But most importantly, I didn’t want to insult someone who was trying to give me helpful advice.  I can’t think of any response that wouldn’t make me look like an asshole either, so it was probably wise to keep my mouth shut.

Fast forward five years and I am no longer an employee whose job is to make other people feel cared for and comfortable.  Now that I write for a living and share my income for anyone to see, I wonder how I would react if something similar happened to me today.  Would I tell her I make too much money?  Or, would I just let her assume we don’t make very much?

Choosing to Keep it Private

I obviously don’t mind talking about my income now, especially since one of my goals is showing other people how it’s possible to earn a living online.  However, the same cannot be said about my husband.  One of the reasons I don’t share his income and savings in my monthly income report is that he still works a regular 9-5 job with other people who may make more or less than him.  I wouldn’t want any of his co-workers to feel angry if he does in fact earn more, and I would be crushed if he didn’t get a raise or promotion because of some financial details I shared against his will.

oprahIn a lot of ways, I feel as though we need to keep his income secret and private even though a lot of our financial details are shared here and all over the web.  After all, what do we really have to gain by sharing his income in addition to mine?

Obviously, sharing your income is a personal decision.  Sometimes it might make sense to be honest with someone in order to help them understand something or motivate them to reach their own goals.  Other times it makes a lot more sense to keep your yap shut. 

Have you ever had an awkward situation where someone assumed you earned more or less than you do?  Do you feel comfortable sharing your income?