On A Case Against Telling Your Coworkers What You Earn

I work for a government agency in the state of Texas. A few years ago, the Texas Tribune started the Government Employee Salary Database (http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/government-employee-salaries/). They file open records requests on salary information with most agencies in the state, and then they publish that data on their website. You can search by name, agency, job title and departments within agencies. Generally, I think it's a good thing as I do think it results in better equity and generally higher salaries, but there are some problems. First, the data can get dated pretty quickly. My salary is listed from early 2012, and I've had two raises since. If a potential employer looks me up, they may think I'm used to making a certain amount and may try to lowball me in salary negotiations. Second, titles aren't exactly descriptive of what someone actually does. Someone in one agency may be an Administrative Assistant II with vastly different qualifications and skills required for the Administrative Assistant II in another agency. Within an agency there may even be discrepancies in titles what the titles mean. Also, as I understand it, this is just base salary information. Bonuses and other forms of compensation aren't included, which may make some people (especially in academics) look like they make much more than they do. As far as I know, I still make less than a male colleague who got his degree two years after I did (I'm female). He also had a more senior title than I did for many years. The argument I've gotten is that he a) worked at the agency albeit for a different department for 10 years before getting the degree, and b) he worked in the department while he was getting the degree and for some reason that counts towards his seniority for the title.

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm 0

On When One Person Earns More Than the Other in a Relationship

@The Mole That's how we approach it too. My husband is in the music industry, and our life is pretty similar to that described above. He's also in school. We have to look at is as a team approach or else we're going to be snapping at each other. Last week, my husband was turned down for a full time, benefits type job, and we were relieved. Sure, the money and stability would have been nice. But he would have had to give up school and it would have derailed his music career quite substantially. And it wasn't the type of job that would lead to something else, something better. He has a regular gig that's been on hiatus for a few months as the club relocates, but it's something that he can build on and it also allows for school. If we were just looking at the here and now, it would have made sense, but we approach it looking at the future and laying out plans.

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 11:00 am 0

On Are the Suburbs Worth It?

@Josh Michtom@facebook In Texas, the top ten percent of every high school class gets in to UT or A&M. That was the compromise after the Hopwood decision to get race out of the selection criteria. There are advantages to doing well in a crappy school. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_House_Bill_588

Posted on March 31, 2014 at 3:37 pm 0

On The Specter of Our Horrible Bosses

It's been nearly a dozen years since I left my horrible boss. He was a Jekyll and Hyde type. One day, I was brilliant and he wanted me to have equity in the firm and be a partner. The next, I was lazy and shiftless and just awful. He was a "as I say, not as I do" type, making up his timesheets off of everyone else's at the end of the month. There wasn't enough work for 150 hours of billing every month, but somehow I still needed to come up with it. At some point, he changed my compensation from a set amount to eat what I kill, which meant I was really hungry for the last half of my working there. The breaking point was, about a week or two after 9/11, he brought everyone into the conference room. We all thought it was finally an opportunity to talk about what we were all going through. Instead, he yelled and told us all to stop procrastinating. The country was falling apart financially, and especially the Bay Area (where we were working), but it was somehow our fault that there wasn't much work. There were five attorneys that worked in the firm, including him. Shortly after that we started looking for new jobs. In a six week period in early 2002, three of us had left. The other was on a visa and couldn't leave. I felt terrible for her. Leaving felt like leaving an abusive relationship. I really couldn't believe what normal, sane bosses were like for the first year or so afterwards. It was just strange to come to work and not have to jump every time my boss came into view, wondering which version I'd get. Just a few months into working there, I checked out the letterhead when reviewing some file that was pretty old. It changed almost every six months. And it wasn't just attorneys. In the 26 month period that I worked for the firm, I think 20 people left it's employment. It wasn't a big firm. My boss hadn't been able to work with anyone else for years and years. Every now and then I go to his firm's website just to see what's going on, and almost every time there's someone new and someone else has left. A few months ago, I was interviewing for a new job, and they were looking for references. I was in a bit of a pickle, since I've been at my current employer for a dozen years and the people who know my work best are all people I didn't want knowing that I was looking elsewhere. The recruiter asked if there was anyone at the old firm. I laughed, and then very quickly said "no, absolutely not."

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 12:31 pm 1

On Let's All Quit Our Jobs And Become Cat Trainers

I saw this a few weeks ago. If it rolls through your town, I highly recommend it. http://www.circuscats.com/

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm 0

On What We Give Up to Live in the San Francisco Bay Area

Oh wow. This is really interesting. My sister left San Francisco (one bedroom in the Mission, rent controlled, just under 1K) right around the time that I was entertaining a job offer in Palo Alto. She'd been in the Bay Area for 15 years, and in San Francisco for 8. It wasn't until the last two or so that she started feeling negative about it. A good half of her friends have left or are in the process of leaving. She'd read that her apartment doubled in rent since she vacated in August. My offer was very generous. It was about 60% more money than I'm making now in Houston, Texas. But when my husband and I ran the numbers, we realized that we'd never be able to replicate the lifestyle we enjoy now (20 minutes from anywhere we want to be in the city, own our own home in a neighborhood we like, family support network) in the Bay Area. Living in Palo Alto was out of the question, and the more we discussed our options (and ventured onto real estate websites), the more we realized that even at an incredible salary, it didn't cover the change in the cost of living. I never thought I'd decline that offer, but I found myself saying no and staying put in Houston.

Posted on December 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm 0

On How Some Women Said Yes to the Dress

I paid about $700 for mine. I saw a designer I liked on Offbeat Bride, and I stalked her website for about six months deciding out which one I wanted. I e-mailed her my measurements and a deposit, and she sent me the dress six weeks later. I had some alterations made locally. I loved it. Hassle free, easy experience, and exactly what I wanted. Plus, I can wear it again. This is the dress: http://wai-ching.com/content/bliss-dress and this is the dress on me: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stinapag/7490025638/in/set-72157630516593470

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm 0

On A Locally-sourced, Handmade Grocery Store With Prices to Match

I think Revival Market in Houston is similar. http://revivalmarket.com/

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm 0

On Food Stamps, Obesity, and Hunger in the Rio Grande Valley

What's interesting about the Rio Grande Valley, though is that the health outcomes aren't what one would expect from the population demographics. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispanic_paradox Is this really a problem that needs addressing given the low mortality rates?

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 8:21 pm 1

On When Public Universities Were Free or Affordable

In the mid 90s, I payed about $1000 a semester in tuition and fees to go to a mid-tier public law school. And book were about $400 a semester. I had a scholarship that kicked in another $1000 a semester, so my bill was roughly $2000 a semester/$4000 year. My law school's website says that residents pay $29,748 a year now to go to the same school. (And I'm pretty sure the school has gone DOWN in the rankings since then.) This is an insane increase in 15 years.

Posted on November 20, 2013 at 10:43 am 0