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Should You Tell Your Siblings How Much You Earn?
Family Finance

Should You Tell Your Siblings How Much You Earn?

As the holiday season approaches, so does the inevitable gathering of family members, bringing with it a myriad of conversations, laughter, and, sometimes, uncomfortable questions. One question that can come up is,  "How much do you make?"

The motives behind this question can vary, and it is hard to predict making the decision of whether to be honest challenging. 

On one hand, there is the desire to maintain a degree of privacy and avoid unnecessary exposure of financial details. On the other hand, there is the need to foster open communication with siblings and relatives without casting an air of suspicion or distrust.

This article will explore the nuances of this dilemma to help you understand the context and approach this issue with thoughtfulness without compromising your personal boundaries or ruining the harmonious holiday season. 

Read Also: 5 Ways To Handle Financial Disparity When One Sibling Has A Lot More 

Why Your Siblings Might Ask How Much You Make 

Before deciding whether to tell your siblings what you earn or keep it a secret, you should first understand why they asked the question. Understanding the motives behind the inquiry can serve as a compass for your decision-making process.

The motives behind the question fall into two categories—those rooted in noble intentions and others that may stir a sense of caution.

Category One: Noble Intentions

  1. Concern for Your Well-being: Your siblings might be genuinely concerned about your financial situation and want to ensure you are doing well.
  2. Shared Responsibilities: If you and your siblings share financial responsibilities, such as caring for ageing parents or managing family assets, they might need to know your income for planning purposes.
  3. Assistance or Support: If your siblings know of any financial challenges you may be facing, they could ask about your income to assess if they can offer support or assistance. 
  4. Job/Career Insights: Understanding your income could provide insights into your career path or industry, helping your siblings with their own career decisions.

Category Two: Not-So-Noble Intentions

  1. Competitiveness, Envy, or Jealousy: Siblings may ask about your income to compare themselves to you, leading to unhealthy competition and envy or jealousy if they perceive you as more successful.
  2. Financial Dependence: If a sibling constantly needs financial assistance, they may inquire about your income as a precursor to borrowing money. 
  3. Manipulative Behavior: The inquiry about income might be a precursor to potential blackmail. Siblings seeking to exploit your financial information may use it as leverage for personal gain or transfer all money obligations to you because you earn more. 

Read Also: 7 Ways to Maximise Your Savings and Improve Your Savings Rate 

Should You Disclose? The Pros and Cons 

Benefits of disclosing your salary to your siblings 

  • It allows for transparency and can help siblings better understand each other's financial situations. For example, if you are underearning, your siblings can offer advice and support you need to increase your income. 
  • It can prevent misunderstandings related to financial matters. For example, if there's a fundraising, your family will know not to pressure you to contribute more than you can afford, effectively equalizing contributions.
  • Openness minimises the potential for tension or resentment related to financial disparities. Knowing each other's financial situations encourages empathy and understanding within the family. 
  • Income transparency can reduce stress related to financial secrecy. This can contribute to a sense of unity within the family.  
  • If you plan to invest together, discussing your salary facilitates planning for joint ventures or investments among siblings. 
  • Not disclosing your income allows the focus to remain on personal relationships rather than financial details. This can prevent bias and conflicts during family gatherings.

The downsides of disclosing your salary to your siblings 

  • Keeping your income private can prevent a potential judgment from siblings. Nobody will envy you for making more or feel sorry for you for making less than them.
  • Non-disclosure allows you to make financial decisions without external pressure. For example, you don't want to be peer pressured into buying a car or leaving your current job because of how much you are paid. 
  • Non-disclosure can discourage unnecessary financial dependency. If you make more than your siblings, they might start expecting things from you, e.g., “Jack makes Ksh150,000 a month, let him pay for dinner!” 

Read Also: 5 Ways to Help Someone Through Financial Instability Without Giving Them Money

How to Disclose How Much You Earn Without Being Explicit 

First and foremost, it's crucial to recognize that you don't have to disclose your income to anyone, including your siblings, if you're uncomfortable doing so. Your financial details are personal, and you have the right to keep them private. Setting this boundary may be vital in maintaining a healthy balance between openness and privacy within your family dynamics.

When faced with a direct question about your income, it's essential to approach the situation with grace rather than defensiveness. Here are some strategies to help you navigate the conversation without burning bridges or coming out as being rude: 

Express Your Comfort Level: Begin by acknowledging the question and kindly stating that you prefer not to share specific financial details. For example, "I appreciate your curiosity, but I'm not comfortable discussing my income. I've always felt that financial matters are personal, and I like to keep those details private. I hope you understand."

Redirect the Conversation: Politely shift the focus by steering the conversation towards a more neutral topic. You can say, "Let's talk about something else. How has your year been? Any exciting plans for 2024?"

Ask About Their Intentions: Inquire about the motivation behind the question. Understanding their curiosity can help you tailor your response accordingly. For instance, "I'm curious, what made you ask about my salary? Is there something specific you're wondering about?"

Highlight Industry Averages: If applicable, discuss your industry's general salary ranges without pinpointing your income. This helps provide context without revealing personal details.

Read Also: How Kenya’s Middle-class Families are Saying Goodbye to Black Tax 

To Disclose or Not to Disclose? Factors to Consider

Relationship Dynamics: Consider the nature of your relationship with the person asking and the level of trust. Is your family tight-knit, transparent, and open about each other's financial situation, and do you already know what your siblings earn? Consider how disclosing (or not disclosing) will affect this dynamic. 

Privacy Concerns: Evaluate your general preferences for keeping financial information private. Ask yourself, "how comfortable am I sharing how much I make?"

Financial Goals: Consider whether sharing income aligns with your goals and values. For example, if you make more than your family knows, will disclosing your income attract more responsibility that will lower your savings rate?

Occasion: Evaluate the context and circumstance prompting the question. For instance, if your family is considering joint ventures or investments, disclosing your salary may be necessary to ensure fair contributions among you and your siblings.  

Impact on Relationships: Consider how disclosure might affect your relationship with the person asking. Will your sibling look down on you (if you make less) or envy you (if you make more)?  Understand the motivations of the person inquiring and then decide whether to answer them. 

Read Also: Are You Unknowingly Digging Yourself Into a Deeper Financial Hole? 


Honesty is fundamental to any healthy relationship, especially those with family members. When discussing your salary with siblings, choosing not to disclose it can be a valid and personal decision. However, navigating this situation with integrity and openness is essential rather than resorting to deception.

If your siblings eventually discover the lie, it could lead to feelings of betrayal and damage the trust you've built over the years. 

Rather than resorting to lies when you want to keep your salary private, develop strategies for handling uncomfortable questions about your income. Redirect the conversation or express your feelings about the topic without compromising the truth.

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Farah Nurow is an experienced Content Writer who enjoys writing creative and educative articles meant to provoke readers' thoughts. He loves sunny weather and thick books. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

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