The big secret: Why I don’t reveal my true income

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What you need to know:

  • "My advice to other young professionals is, whenever you’re asked for assistance, offer a non-committal response like, "I'll try my best."
  • Promising to send them a specific amount builds expectation.
  • Keeping financial details private helps control expectations and ensures you don’t get overwhelmed by requests or added responsibilities," Jatoh Jemimah.

In the world of finance, transparency is king. Yet, where family and friends are involved, full disclosure can sometimes breed tension, enmity and unrealistic expectations. 

Money, like a capricious spirit, can alter dynamics in the most unexpected ways. For this reason, some individuals keep their earnings tightly under wraps, a personal boundary set not out of deceit, but from the desire to preserve the authenticity of their relationships.

Jatoh Jemimah, 28, is a data analyst
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Jatoh Jemimah, 28
Data Analyst 

I can never reveal my actual income. Disclosing such sets high expectations regardless of your financial commitments. People may not understand that your budget is tight and will expect financial help at any time.

From my experience, family members always expect financial support. Most parents assume their children are obliged to give them money. To manage this, I usually quote a lower income than I earn. When asked for an amount I don't wish to part with, I usually say I need to check my finances first, even though I know very well how much money I have.

I had a friend who was always ready to lend money. However, when she began facing financial difficulties, none of those who had benefited from her generosity offered help. This experience taught me to always be cautious about who I assist financially. People often exploit generosity, so I avoid revealing my wealth to prevent being taken advantage of.

My parents don't ask too much about my earnings, they are content with whatever I say I make. They support me through their prayers and only inquire about my financial well-being when necessary. They trust that I will be honest with them and honour my obligations.

My advice to other young professionals is, whenever you’re asked for assistance, offer a non-committal response like, "I'll try my best." Promising to send them a specific amount builds expectation. Keeping financial details private helps control expectations and ensures you don’t get overwhelmed by requests or added responsibilities.

Mukumba Edouard, 25, is an entrepreneur and investor.
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Mukumba Edouard, 25
Entrepreneur and Investor

I keep my income private because I realised it influences how people perceive me. With parents, I demonstrate self-sufficiency without disclosing any specifics. Among friends, openness varies. Some respect privacy, others do not. I noticed that discussing your finances openly among friends can introduce competition and make others start comparing themselves with you. It is a delicate balance where you need to share just enough and tactfully withhold the nitty gritty. This helps maintain harmony in relationships.

When discussing money, I often tell people that my income levels fluctuate depending on the profits we make. This shows that even I can't predict my exact earnings. It's about being realistic and also preserving personal boundaries. The way we present ourselves influences how others perceive and interact with us.

Managing personal finances can be hard, especially if there are people who rely on you for support. If you're assisting someone financially, they might keep expecting that help with little regard for your budget. For example, if they know you earn Sh100,000 monthly, they may wonder why it is so hard for you to support them with Sh10,000 every month.

In business partnerships, if one partner finds out that the other earns more, it could affect their commitment and contribution to the venture. One has to balance between being generous and maintaining good financial health. I know of a friend who instantly became the breadwinner of his extended family the moment he got a job. They all depended on him for support and this really drained him.

I have set strict financial goals for myself. I make a budget monthly to ensure I take care of my expenses and save, without exceeding Sh40,000. It's not about the amount you earn but the discipline to manage it wisely. Without discipline, you can't attain financial stability and independence.

Phancy Faisha, 24, is a videographer at CARE Kenya.
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Phancy Faisha, 24
Videographer at CARE Kenya

Adulthood has its own challenges, especially when you attain some level of financial independence. My parents have always supported me financially, but now that I earn from temporary NGO contracts, I have learned to keep my finances pirate.

Since I live at home, I am expected to contribute to household expenses. My family believes that because I earn, I am obligated to share my income with them. Thankfully, I have learned to balance between contributing to my family and maintaining my financial independence.

I also know that finances can strain friendships, particularly when expectations around spending arise. For instance, a friend might invite you to a party on a Friday night and expect you to buy drinks or food for everyone.

Failure to do so often leads to misunderstandings. Your friends will label you ‘stingy’ or ‘proud’, especially if they themselves are yet to find jobs. They may feel neglected or say that you've changed. This can significantly affect friendships especially if they don’t understand the boundaries and targets you've set.

When discussing salaries with friends, I prefer not to disclose exact figures. Sharing such information can lead to comparisons and potentially affect the mood and attitude in the group. I choose to keep the specifics of my earnings private to avoid unnecessary tension or jealousy.

Frankincense Wesley, 24, is an employee at the Kenya Film Classification Board.
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Frankincense Wesley, 24
Administrative assistant at Kenya Film Classification Board

I once had this conversation with one of my parents. It was exactly a month after I had secured a contract. Requests for money followed and a friend explained that it is called black tax. I don’t have many responsibilities, but I feel burdened with expectations simply because I am a man.

In my opinion, the decision to reveal one's earnings is largely influenced by cultural factors. Revealing such information can make one feel exposed and vulnerable. People may judge your spending habits. Conversely, if you earn well but choose to be frugal, you might face pressure to spend more than you want to. The only time I have disclosed my income was to individuals who I trusted. I shared the details knowing there would be no repercussions, and nothing more would be expected of me.

Some individuals can be quite intrusive and eager to put their noses in your financial matters. Balancing transparency with discretion is key. I am fortunate to have friends who rarely probe, but when financial topics arise, we discuss them in general terms, focusing on ranges or tax brackets rather than exact figures. Although a tax bracket can hint at one's income levels, it still maintains a level of ambiguity due to its broad range.

As a young adult, I am careful not to reveal too much because I don’t want others to scrutinise my spending habits or financial decisions.

I believe there should be a balance that involves withholding some details. I wouldn’t want everyone around me to know exactly how much I earn. So, I usually tell them a quarter of the actual amount to ensure I remain with enough to sustain myself and afford what I want.

This way, I balance the situation, knowing that the amount they will ask for won't put me in a difficult position. I call this amount a ‘hustler fund.' It gives me some breathing room. It might seem like deception, but I'm confident they would understand the need for me to survive, despite their expectations.

Vivian Alusa, 25, is a businesswoman and a model.
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Vivian Alusa, 25
Businesswoman and Model

I prefer to keep my income levels and sources confidential. Many people are unaware of my profession, and I believe that before one can inquire about my earnings, they should understand what I do. I choose not to disclose where my income comes from because I consider it a personal matter.

Whether I am financially well-off or not, that's a private aspect of my life that doesn't need to be shared with everyone. Revealing one's income often leads to judgment based on financial status, which I prefer to avoid. My take is that financial matters are private and should be treated as such.

I once confided in a close friend about my income, believing she would keep it confidential. However, she felt jealous and inferior because I earned more. I never intended to make her feel that way. Generally, I am open about this with friends and family, but I've learned that money is a sensitive and divisive issue. You have to walk a tight rope between transparency and privacy.

Also, when an individual learns that the next person earns a significant amount but still relies on others for support, it may raise some very difficult questions. Full disclosure is good, but it leaves one vulnerable. I strive to protect my financial information for my own safety and security.

Caleb Mumo, 29, is an English and Literature Teacher.
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Caleb Mumo, 29
English and Literature Teacher

Privacy in financial matters is crucial. If relatives know you earn a substantial income, they may impose expectations or forget you have your own plans and challenges. Keeping some details of your income private keeps a bit of the pressure at bay.

I have also noticed that when some people get to know how much you earn, they may start spreading rumors that you are engaging in illegal or immoral activities. Additionally, if someone with a Bachelor's degree earns more than someone with a Master's, it could lead to disrespect or condescension, which could hurt professional relationships.

Some people are perceived to be selfish, but remember that the amount they can give depends on their financial situation and current needs. For instance, if I apply for a loan and get it, I will definitely not disclose this information because it can lead to unwelcome demands for money, and some may expect much more than I can provide, which may breed conflict and affect my goals and plans.

I don't feel pressured to share my income. Even when I choose to talk about it, I never disclose the exact amount. I always underquote. This way, I avoid setting unrealistic expectations. By being discreet, I allow others to form their own assumptions, thus preserving my financial privacy and autonomy.

Income disclosure is a personal choice, influenced by one's character traits and background. Allowing others to speculate rather than providing exact figures helps one set realistic expectations.