One of the first things I did after my first job offer was call my parents. I ran through the pros and cons, expounded on how it would help my career and marveled at the thought that I’d somehow landed a full time job in journalism, with benefits and everything. It seemed too good to be true.
We also discussed the salary in-depth. We’re fairly open about money and money problems, and I wanted to get their opinion on whether or not I could live off of what was offered. We’ve discussed every salary bump since.
Some friends I talked to felt similarly. They said it was helpful to talk through salary negotiations with parents who had been in their situation before, or to help them budget when they were between jobs.
But not everyone feels comfortable. One friend said it was a sensitive subject that just wasn’t comfortable to bring up, and another said hers just wouldn’t really care to know. A Lifehacker staffer said hers didn’t know, not for any particular reason except that it felt taboo, a sentiment others shared.
It’s normal, and encouraged, for parents to talk to their kids about money. “One of a parent’s many difficult jobs is to help their kids develop a healthy relationship with money,” writes Brianna McGurran, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, in an email. “That includes talking about budgeting and saving even when they’re little — and sending the message that money isn’t either the most important thing in life or something scary to avoid.”
The reverse situation can get complicated for a number of reasons. There’s the stress of not measuring up to your parents’ expectations for some people, while others may not be comfortable earning more money than their parents did.
But it’s likely a good idea to discuss your income with your parents, particularly when you’re just starting out in the workplace. Alexander Lowry, professor of finance at Gordon College, encourages the idea, saying more people need to have open and honest discussions about personal finance. If you have a close relationship, they may be able to provide insight or offer an alternate perspective on money management you may not have considered.
“I see it as a natural role for parents and children to be each others’ advisor and help each other out,” says Lowry. “And this role is particularly valuable about things that are sensitive enough that you may not feel comfortable discussing them with strangers.”
That said, Lowry, who is the director of the school’s Master of Science in Financial Analysis program, acknowledges that there are situations in which you won’t want to share, like if your parents are intrusive or “reluctant to let you be autonomous.”
“The main situation where I’d recommend not sharing this information is when your parents have very different attitudes to money than you have, and talking about the topic might thus be more likely to lead to conflict than to any new understanding,” he adds.
It can also get complicated if you make more money than your parents, or if they have asked you to bail them out in the past. In that case, it may make more sense to play down how much you earn. And if they’re just not involved in your life, you’re probably not discussing finances.
Karen J. Lee, a Georgia-based Certified Financial Planner, says you’ll want to be careful, too, if you grew up in a house that was super competitive about money and success.
“If you have siblings that are financial train wrecks and your parents find out how well you are doing for yourself, your phone might start ringing asking for help,” adds Lee.
But if your parents are supportive and understanding, discussing money early on can make later financial discussions — like if they need to ask you for money at some point — easier. All of you will know what to expect, and having open and honest conversations with them about money can lead to less anxiety and a healthier relationship for everyone.
This article has been updated since its original publication.