when I asked for a raise, my boss went through my bills

A reader writes:

I’ve been in my job for a little over a year. I asked my boss for a raise, and he asked if I really need it. It stumped me, seeing how I am barely getting by. I said yes. He went over my bills, and at the end he said, “You’ll have $4,000 at the end of the year saved up so no.” That $4,000 is just after bills, not having fun or stuff that needs to be done.

I talked to some other people who have been here for a while. One was here for seven years and hasn’t once got a raise. The other has been here a lot longer and does most of the stuff around here and if she left the company would fail. She said that she too asked for a raise a couple of months ago, and our boss went through her bills and said no.

I’m just kinda just over it, if you know what I mean. You put your best effort into something, make it nice, no complaints for the whole year and lots of compliments from customers, but it all comes down to “if I need it,” which I do.


I am in no way blaming you for what happened because you clearly work for a madman, but how has it come about that you and your coworkers are simply turning over details about your personal finances to your boss when he asks to comb through them?

This is not a normal thing that is done.

People don’t get paid based on their expenses. Your boss has no claim — zero, none — to ask to see your personal bills.

And what if your bills had shown that you had massive expenses? Would you have then received a correspondingly massive raise?

Part of me wants you to doctor up a bill showing tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and and see what happens. Obviously you shouldn’t really do that because it’s fraud, but would he then pay you more? (He wouldn’t. He’d instead give you a bunch of unsolicited and inappropriate budgeting advice.)

Raises aren’t supposed to be about your personal expenses. They’re supposed to be about paying you fairly because your contributions have increased, or the cost of living has gone up, or to keep you at market rate, or because the company wants to make sure it retains you.

Ideally when your boss asked to see your bills, you would have said, “I’m not asking for a raise based on my expenses. I’m asking for a raise because my contributions to the company have increased since we last set my salary — for example, A, B, and C. I’m hoping we can increase my salary to a level that reflects this new work.”

But this is a man who’s apparently used to asking for and receiving his employees’ bills, so I don’t know if that would have gotten you anywhere. You can still give it a try by using that language now. But you’re working for someone who’s incredibly out of touch with how business works … and, as so often happens when that’s the case, it sounds like he’s warping your and your coworkers’ sense of norms too, and leading y’all to accept as normal and okay things that are very much not normal or okay.

When you can get out, get out.

{ 537 comments… read them below }

  1. KayDeeAye*


    That’s it, really. OP, this is So. Not. Normal. You – and all your coworkers, IMO – need to find another job because you are working for a loon.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Wow! Just WOW! That is crazy and dysfunctional and toxic.

      You should never have to show your bills to your boss. Your bills do not justify your salary or a raise, the value your work brings to the company should justify your salary and raises. And it should be comparable to slaries of people doing similar work.

    2. Thursdaysgeek*

      Yes! Encourage your co-workers to find jobs too. They should get raises at another company, and if this one fails, too bad.

      1. Momma Bear*

        The coworker they can’t live without? I’d love to see her leave and let them figure it out. She must be awesome at her job and should go where they recognize that.

    3. Dadolwch*

      OMG. My mouth literally was hanging open in utter shock and dismay the entire time I read this post. Then I got angry. It makes me so insane that little people like this go full dictator when given a little bit of power over other people. I’m frankly worried for the emotional health of everyone who works at this god-forsaken toxic dump of a workplace. Get out ASAP, OP.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Get out get out get out get out get out get out get out get out get out….
        I started muttering this at the start of the letter and was almost shrieking it by the time I got to Alison’s reply. This actually made my blood run cold.

      2. Rose*

        Ugh, me too. I cannot imagine what would make someone subject themselves to this for seven years aside from being convinced they couldn’t possibly find another job. This is really really bad.

            1. Salymander*

              Yeah Quill, that always bugs me too. The old “just don’t buy those expensive coffees (because being poor is your own moral failing)” nonsense. When I called in sick with pneumonia, my former boss told me, “You would have been fine if you went to the doctor sooner. If you stopped drinking coffee and tea, never went out to eat and didn’t buy new clothes or books you could afford medical insurance. Then you wouldn’t inconvenience me.”
              She said this in complete seriousness and was angry when I started crying. She would be even more angry to know that I look back on it all and laugh at her ridiculousness. She had no idea just how bizarre and out of touch she was, and she is still just as awful now, 25 years later. But now I don’t have to deal with her. Thank goodness.

                1. Salymander*

                  I pictured Oldboss being slapped with dead fish and started giggling/choking on my tea. I really needed a laugh today, so thanks for that! :)

                2. Kat in Boots*

                  Oh man, I will absolutely use this mental image in the future when I have to wade through people in authority being ridiculous. The Fish Schlapping Dance is one of my favorite Python sketches of all time!!!!

                3. Kristina*

                  A friend and I once made a list of fishes for slapping, from the Mackerell of Miffedness to the Flounder of Disapproval all the way to the Halibut of Imminent Doom. We still use that as a scale for annoyance.

          1. Juli Ah*

            Forget fun. If this person wants to get extra groceries or gets a pet, that’s the average annual cost of a medium sized dog.

          2. amy*

            Except, in reality, that $4,000 would go to unexpected bills that come up because cars breakdown, you get sick/hurt and need to go to the doctor, and stuff in your house breaks and needs to be fixed.

      3. LTL*

        Lowkey, I kind of wish Alison was more mysterious in the title so that we could all have had the same jaw-dropping moment that I’m sure she did when she read the letter.

    4. Clisby*

      Yes, for heaven’s sake – your pay doesn’t depend on what you need. It depends on the market value of the work you’re doing, i.e. what’s the prevailing pay for that type of position in your area? What if you were married to a millionaire? Should your pay be $0 because, technically, you don’t “need” any more money?

      1. Greige*

        Right. That’s why it’s called compensation, not charity.

        Do you demand proof that he really needs your work done before you do it?

    5. Todd*

      After OP quits, they should ask the boss for money to move closer to their new job… then when told no, act confused because “I thought you were paying me for personal expenses and not work”

    6. Abogado Avocado*

      Alison and KayDeeAye are right on. Your boss is nuts. You’re never going to please a nutcase, no matter how you try. Please start looking for a new, better-paying job pronto.

      And while you’re still in this job, it’s quite all right to try to avoid the boss’ lunacy. So, e.g., if he tries again to breach ordinary boundaries, politely redirect him. “No, thank you (I don’t wish to share my doctor’s advice with you). I do need to discuss this client’s request.” And if does other things loony bosses also do (like screaming when they don’t get their way or when an ordinary request will do), remain calm (deep breaths help), lower the volume of your voice (which will cause him to stop screaming in order to hear you), and calmly ask him if there’s an emergency (because he’s screaming).

      Best of luck. Let us know what happens.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          I think we can write this one in pen (not pencil) for a #1 seed in the 2021 bracket for sure.

        1. Kat in Boots*

          Yes, my thought as well. We already have a strong contender for Worst Boss of 2021! Isn’t it funny how a strong contender often surfaces on Ask A Manager before the New Year gets well under way?

    7. willow for now*

      Yes. This guy is not your dad, complaining that you spend your allowance on baseball cards.
      And when you find another job? Give yourself a raise.

    8. Worldwalker*

      Add a little frosted coating and this boss could go in a box in the cereal aisle with the other flakes.

      All else aside, and there is so much else, his ideal of pay is that it should cover the employees’ bills and NOTHING MORE? Employees should never be able to take trips, buy books, even get a coffee and donut? Or, of course, buy clothes, meet sudden medical expenses, etc.?

      $4k a year … that amounts to ~$300 a month. Would HE think $300 a month is sufficient discretionary income? Would he be satisfied with just enough to cover his bills plus $75 a week for EVERYTHING ELSE? Somehow, I don’t think so.

      And he is also a delusional nutcase with a reality-warping field around him, but everyone else pretty much has that covered.

  2. dogmom*

    Um, woah. That is crazy, LW. At my last job that actually did raises and bonuses, the only time I received a raise/bonus that was tied to anything other than my performance, a month before we received our year-end bonuses I totaled my car, and my boss was nice (for once!) and gave me a bigger bonus than usual because he knew I had just had to buy a new car unexpectedly. But otherwise, yeesh. Please take Alison’s advice and get out as soon as you can!

    1. Rose*

      Even this is pretty weird though. It’s great for you but what about people with bills they don’t feel comfortable sharing? My partner has like $40k in medical debt from a heart surgery, but it’s not like he’s going to tell his boss that. I’d be frustrated by an office giving out bonuses based on personal details people are willing to share.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        Yeah, this is another reason why you don’t pay people based on “who needs it the most”.
        It sounds great in theory, but then you need to get all up in people’s personal lives and start judging who is more “worthy” of the money.

        1. JessaB*

          Or you develop a fund that people can ask for help from, with a committee and rules as to how to apply and what documents are needed. Lots of companies have funds through their assistance program. But to just indiscriminately give one person money because you know a thing and not others…that’s just really bad optically especially if there might be other factors such as race, religion or disability, or the appearance of playing favourites.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah, it suited dogmom because she had no problem sharing that she’d had a car crash (possibly had to explain why she was late to work that day), but the boss doesn’t know what other people might be dealing with if they don’t share. Being private shouldn’t mean not getting the money you deserve.

  3. Sandman*

    I had a boss who asked what I was paying in rent and how much my student loan payments were once. Then he cut my agreed-upon and negotiated salary and a few months later had me fired (a few weeks after an all-staff meeting where we were told me might all be laid off because they were almost out of money).

    Anyway, it’s always helpful when a boss makes it clear that there’s nothing healthy or good about staying in a workplace long-term. Makes it easier to plan.

    1. Ponytail*

      I like your attitude. It’s like when I loan someone something, including money, and then I never hear from them again – “Ah, so I paid [cost of unreturned loan] to learn that you are untrustworthy, it was worth it”.

  4. Weekend Please*

    This is insane. There is no response because you cannot reason with someone who is so divorced from reality.

  5. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    Not victim blaming, because working for a damned lunatic skews your sense of normal, but: OP, GET YOUR BILLS AWAY FROM YOUR BOSS IMMEDIATELY. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW THEM ACCESS TO YOUR BILLS AGAIN.

    If you give crazy an inch, they’ll swim all over you.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      And OP, please also let all your coworkers know that a boss asking for and/or reviewing their employee’s bills is cuckoo-crazypants behavior.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Hopefully, the LW didn’t bring in medical bills, because their fruitcake-nutty boss could have deduced WAY too much about their personal medical business from those as well.

      1. Elbe*

        This is a great point. I suspect that some people are agreeing to this because they’re so taken aback that they don’t have time to process it. The LW should let others know beforehand (and give them this link!) so that they can have a script prepared.

        It’s just speculation, but I also think that this guy is used to managing young, entry level employees. A lot of people really take advantage when they know their workers don’t know professional norms.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          This is a good point. I once worked at a bank that was dabbling in the insurance business. They hired a salesman who was based in our branch. He wasn’t getting much business, so our manager sent us all a memo telling us to bring in our car and homeowners insurance declaration pages so the salesman could run a rate quote for us. A lot of the younger employees did bring theirs in right away. Many of us older workers did not and were “reminded” often by the manager to remember to bring those in. I finally said I wasn’t comfortable sharing that personal information when I wasn’t interested in getting insurance from the bank’s subsidiary. Manager wasn’t happy, but who cares?

          Why do some people in management think they are ok asking about personal matters? OP, by now you realize that this isn’t normal. I hope you can get out of there. Do let us know how you are doing.

  6. Decidedly Me*

    That’s just crazy! I can’t imagine asking or being asked that. Is looking for a new job feasible for you at this time? If so, I’d start looking, as I can’t see you ever getting a raise here and your salary will have less buying power over time.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    We have another candidate for Worst Boss of the Year, and it isn’t even Valentine’s Day!

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        Nah, this boss hasn’t even threatened to fire someone or risked anyone’s life.
        Destroying all professional boundaries and underpaying people is unfortunately far too common to become a finalist for this coveted award.

    1. Finland*

      My heart just sank in my chest reading that! For some reason, “Valentine’s Day” + “Boss” = All Horrors!!

      Anyway, OP, please, please, leave this job!!! Sidenote: are all your coworkers women? I’ve noticed that creep-o-men, like your boss, tend to prey almost exclusively on women. I acknowledge that I can be completely wrong about this, but it’s just a hunch.

  8. LDN Layabout*

    Aside from…everything, I’m fascinated by the concept of more than one person being OK with having their bills look at by their boss?

    Is this entry level? Is it a location where you’re a small enclave of co-workers so everything is by default in everyone else’s business? Is it a family business and your boss is also your parent?

    It’s probably just a very good example of how working for absolutely horrific people can warp your sense of normality.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        It’s amazing what people will submit to under color of authority. See the movie Compliance with Ann Dowd. Based on a true story, if this post blows you away, so will this movie.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Was that the one based on the Milgrim authority studies, with the actors pretending to be electrocuted to see how badly someone would be willing to electrocute another person just because they were told to? If so, I’ve read Milgrim’s book on the study It’s pretty horrifying.

          1. Caterpie*

            I think it’s based on a series of hoax phone calls where someone claiming to be a police officer or manager would call food chains alleging that one of the workers had stolen from the restaurant, and try to convince other workers detain (and in some cases strip search the accused employee) until law enforcement could show up.

            It worked multiple times.

            I think links go to moderation on this site, but the Wikipedia article on “Strip search phone call scam” is a good overview.

            1. Worldwalker*

              The employees of a fast food place that I’ve eaten at — though this happened after I moved away — got conned into doing everything from smashing the windows to peeing on each other. It was mind-boggling to read about that in the paper.

            2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              I recall that case – I believe that 60 Minutes did an episode about it. Later, Bill O’Reilly scoffed at the idea that anyone could fall for such an outlandish demand and dismissed the whole thing as a prank (denying that this had actually taken place.) Hmm..wonder why he was so eager to disbelieve a case of sexual harassment?

          2. Ryn*

            The interesting thing about the Milgram study is that their subjects were all white male grad students, so whether or not those studies are applicable to all of society is… questionable.

            1. PartyOnGary*

              The study has been replicated many times with more diverse subjects and the results are still scary. Authority makes people agree to crazy things

              1. Patty Mayonnaise*

                … that’s not totally accurate. Check Radiolab’s episodes about the Milgram experiments – I think the most recent is The Bad Show – because there’s a ton of nuance in what the experiments and their variations showed.

                1. PT*

                  The Milgram experiments are usually the first set of experiments listed in ethics training as an example of the sort of terribly unethical experiment that you should NOT do, so frankly I am not sure we should be taking any lessons from the Milgram experiment other than “Milgram was a bad scientist.”

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          I’m reminded of that letter where people were letting a coworker review their timesheets — she wasn’t authorized to do so, but they showed her just because she asked.

      2. ABK*

        Wasn’t there another letter a while ago about someone who asked for a raise and their boss asked for their budget and told them that they were spending too much? I can’t remember the context though.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Was that the teacher whose boss was trying to convince her that if she cut back on her personal spending she could totally afford to buy all the supplies for her classroom?

            1. Quill*

              The reason this won’t make it on the worst of ’21 is because this is an entire genre of letters, not a single instance.

      3. Been There*

        My guess is that most of these people are very young. This exact thing happened to me at my first job and I didn’t have enough experience to say no. They told me to stop buying my $1 cumberland farm coffee that I treated myself once a week, in order to save money.

        I later asked for a raise based on merit and showed what I had been hired to do vs what I was actually doing, and they updated my job description, but didn’t give me a commensurate title or pay raise to go with it. When I complained, I was fired.

        Better to get out while you can…

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oh, sure, because that $1 a week you were spending on coffee would go soooooo far if you saved it instead. Good lord those people have some nerve.

          1. Red 5*

            That’s my favorite thing when people latch onto stuff like $1 coffee.

            Like my dude, I once spent $2,000 on medical bills in January when I had health insurance. What makes you think coffee is my problem?

            1. DerJungerLudendorff*

              Why, your coffee will pay for that in a mere forty years!

              And since most people only have one single and non-recurring medical problem in their entire life, you should have all your medical bills covered that way!

        2. pope suburban*

          Yes, I think that’s it. I worked in a similarly dysfunctional environment, and I was the only person who had outside professional experience. Everyone else had been hired on right out of school, and only had retail or food service experience- so when the boss told them that his practices were normal, they had no basis for comparison. It was absolutely infuriating to deal with, and while I did my best to let people know that, no, it’s not normal or okay to be crying in the office because the boss has personally insulted you, that conditioning ran deep, and nothing every really got a foothold. The only way to deal with a place like this is to leave it as fast as you can.

        3. Quill*

          Even the pig lab from hell didn’t ask me about my personal finances!

          (I did spend a ride being interrogated about why I bought a ford not a lexus, but uhhh… it was less unpleasant than the sous vide meat lecture or the ‘I ate a protected species, also I got poisoned by it, lol’ lecture.)

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I did spend a ride being interrogated about why I bought a ford not a lexus, but uhhh…

            I get the opposite; I’ve driven a Toyota or a Honda my whole life; I’m the eldest child of a Toyota salesman. I get the “why didn’t you buy American?” lecture over and over, and then get to explain what the VIN on my car beginning with “1” means…

            1. Quill*

              This guy KNEW he was not paying me ‘lease a lexus’ money, or ‘buy a sus vide to cook steaks’ money too!

              (The “I ate a gar and got violently sick on its eggs” story just made me dislike him and distrust his judgement.)

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I apologize; in the used car market, you can get a Ford or a Lexus for the same price (granted, they won’t be the same age, mileage, condition, etc. At one point, I was literally deciding between an LS and a Civic on the same budget). I read it the same “a Lincoln instead of a Lexus” or “a Ford instead of a Toyota,” not realizing that isn’t how you meant it.

                He sounds like a cad.

                1. Quill*

                  (As an explanation: it means my name is on the patent and I’m allowed to talk about the patent, great on the resume and it means people don’t bother calling HIM about my work history.)

          2. Red 5*

            I once worked for these super sketchy guys who were pulling some kind of real estate scam (I never did figure out what exactly the scam was, or I would have turned them in) and they both used to be car salesmen, they were obsessed with cars, they leased new cars every few months.

            They were both actually horribly offended when they realized I’d bought a new car without talking to them or asking for their help or letting them do all the negotiating for me. Because then they could have gotten me a BMW or a Cadillac instead of a Honda.

            They really couldn’t understand that I actually wanted the Honda.

            Meanwhile I couldn’t understand how they hadn’t been caught cheating on their taxes yet.

            1. Self Employed*

              Hondas are known for having much lower maintenance costs than fancy cars. The only car I’ve purchased new was a Honda (1991 Civic HB 4-speed) and I adored it. I was so bummed when I couldn’t afford to replace it with another Honda when it was totaled and had to downgrade to a Nissan Sentra (and I will never buy another sedan).

        4. Liz*

          This is kind of my impression too; young and not a lot of life or work experience to know this is NOT anywhere near a normal or appropriate request. But wow.

        5. Insert Clever Name Here*

          My husband used to work at a private school where faculty were required to send their children to the school, but they didn’t offer a set discount for faculty (faculty tuition discount is standard at private schools in our area). When my husband said we couldn’t afford tuition, his boss told him to 1) stop contributing to our retirement funds, 2) stop saving for our kids’ college, 3) stop going every other year to visit my family out of state, and 4) SELL OUR BIG HOUSE AND BUY A SMALLER ONE. “That’s how others on the faculty afford tuition without a discount. Why are you special?”

          He quit.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Frankly, it sounds as if they treated hiring teachers as a scam to get full-tuition-paying students. What on earth did they think they would have done if somebody’s kid had a type of special needs that they weren’t equipped to teach?!?

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Their philosophy was that it was the best school for every child regardless of any other factor. There were lots of things wrong with that school, tbh.

          2. WS*

            I worked (not as a teacher) at a private school where they gave the teachers a steep discount on tuition for their kids but if the teacher left before the child had graduated, they had to pay back the entire difference. I lived in a town with an air force base and a lot of offshore workers, so it was pretty common that one spouse could be suddenly transferred with little notice, so there were a number of families that had to split up until the last child was through school.

            The only time they waived it was when a spouse or the teacher died.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Possibly, if the writer is based in a country where this could somehow be the norm. (Not that I can think of any.)

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Is it a cultural issue?

          In the sense that Boss isn’t cultured? Possibly.

        3. Koalafied*

          I also wondered this. Maybe in some other regions there’s more of an expectation of paternalism from your boss? Can’t say I know of any in particular, but there are many cultures I don’t know.

          1. Eliza*

            There are countries where there’s more of an expectation for a boss to be enmeshed in their employees’ personal lives than in the US, but I’m not so sure that there’s anywhere that THIS would be normal.

    1. Observer*

      It’s probably just a very good example of how working for absolutely horrific people can warp your sense of normality

      This is completely true.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Without a raise and was just all “well I guess the Boss looked at my bills and says I don’t need one so I don’t need one.”

          Just UGGGGH. And he is ALREADY giving unsolicited financial advice — after looking at the bills he told her she could save $4000 so no raise. He is basically saying — cut back on the Starbucks and you will be fine.

          Just UGGGH.

          OP get out. Just get out. Your boss is crazy and is not going to suddenly wake up.

          Did I mention Just UGGGH?

          1. The Rural Juror*

            Seriously. Does he want to see her medical records, too? Any advice on how she could save money by cutting back on her health care? What about checking her odometer on her car to see how much she drives. I’m sure she could save some gas money by taking the bus.

            This is is just…so unreasonable…

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            “Boss looked at my bills and says I don’t need one so I don’t need one.” Sounds a lot like a cult. Scary.

          3. Alex*

            Also saying that saving $4000 a year – even IF you had spendings for fun and vacations and what not – is not much at all…

            1. Koalafied*

              +1 I don’t know what OP earns, but I’m guessing it’s more than $8k/year, which means having $4k in savings at the end of the year isn’t even the minimum recommended by financial experts as a liquid emergency fund. To say nothing of the fact that she may have the audacity to want to retire someday.

              1. RoseDark*

                Wait… Can you expand on this thought? My emergency fund is currently sitting at :checks notes: $3k, and I make about $20k/year. Honestly even just getting to that point was shoestring-budget-level saving.

          4. PartyOnGary*

            So if she had taken out a bigger mortgage or had a luxury car payment would she have been able to get the raise since her expenses were higher? The thinking behind this is so bananas.

            1. Capt. Dunkirk*

              By this logic, LW should go out and buy a bunch of expensive electronics and things to rack up a huge credit card bill and then the boss will give them a raise to pay it off.

              If their boss is only going to give more pay to cover bills, LW might as well have the fun stuff that the bills are for!

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I was wondering this, too. I had a family member who moved to a small town for a teaching job where most of the young teachers lived in the same two apartment complexes and their expenses were quite similar to each other – I think there was less of a sense of privacy around finances because everyone was in the same boat.

      But even there, this would still be Not Okay.

    3. PolarVortex*

      Thinking the same thing! I mean, I wouldn’t even be okay with my parents seeing my bills because that’s just not their business to know how much I spend on whatever.

      And seeing these bills, is the boss able to actually see what they’re spending on the credit card? Like, judging how much I spend on Fire Emblem Heroes and some such rot? That is only information to be known by me and the google algorithms watching what I click.

      1. The Original K.*

        I submitted credit card statements to a previous employer because one of the benefits was a physical fitness reimbursement up to a certain amount per year. My boss encouraged me to black out everything on the statements except the expenditure for fitness (a gym membership, in my case), because the only thing relevant to my employer was that expense. And that was fine! I got my reimbursement every time.

        1. Captain Raymond Holt*

          I’m permitted to reimburse my phone plan as a work expense and I black out the list of calls I’ve made. It’s none of their business how much time I spend on the phone and with whom. They’re just paying for the bill.

          1. The Original K.*

            She was. We’re still in touch years later, though neither of us work for that employer anymore – I actually spoke to her just a few weeks ago.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          hunh – when we had programs for gym / phone:
          Gym was based on an avg cost of membership at local gyms, and all we had to do was show the initial sign up. No more proof needed for the year.
          Phone, we could just give the summary page. All they needed was a date and a total.

          To me, even this credit card / blacked out calls is intrusive.

          1. The Original K.*

            The fitness reimbursement was for anything fitness – you got $X (I forget the amount – I think it was $500, so let’s go with that) per year for anything fitness, not necessarily gym memberships. If you bought a treadmill or a Peloton bike or a regular bike, you could use the reimbursement toward that. You just had to tell the company what fitness-related thing you spent money on.

              1. Krabby*

                I think you’re pretty determined to read malice here where there is none. Lots of companies take credit card statements when no receipt exists/it was lost/etc. I don’t think The Original K’s company was refusing to look at receipts if they were provided, just that in this case the credit card statement was the only option.

                1. The Original K.*

                  Right – they asked for proof of payment, not credit card statements specifically. I paid for my gym membership with my credit card so that’s how I could show proof of payment. If I had bought a treadmill, as one of my colleagues did, a receipt would have been fine.

          2. Loredena Frisealach*

            My company reimburses for gym but requires a receipt of some sort. Screenshotting just the line in my bill that shows date/name/amount has always sufficed. I don’t have an issue with that, but anything more would absolutely be intrusive!

            It does irk me that they ask for the detailed, not summary, cell phone bill but since no one is going to be bored enough to read them I don’t get too bothered by it.

    4. Rosie*

      Sometimes difficult people can browbeat you into things like that without you even realizing, especially if workplace norms are so bonkers that something like this would seem normal. It makes me really sad that multiple people are so damaged by this awful boss.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Reading this column I think has brought to the light the issues people have with work boundaries (for me) and how crazy places can warp your thinking. I am willing to bet this is a small business. I know not all small businesses are bad, but I have worked for a few and they were all shit shows.

        1. HungryLawyer*

          Yeah, this reeks of a small business that loves to brag “we’re all family here!” *shudder*

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            Very much so. In my twenties, I worked for a place like that. Husband was regional manager, wife was manager, three daughters were office staff, sons-in-law were assistant managers. Other older employees were made to join same organizations as boss, or to do personal chores for them on their days off. Younger employees were treated like wayward children or indentured servants – and from day to day, you never knew which it would be. The management couple crossed EVERY freaking boundary imaginable, but most employees were very young or had sketchy work histories and were desperate.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      Maybe the boss makes a habit of employing young people who have never had a job before? So he can shape their perceptions of what’s normal? However he’s doing it, it’s disgusting.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Sounds to me like this boss definitely hires people who (sorry, OP) don’t know what appropriate boundaries are and/or how to enforce them. Probably intentionally.

    6. Sara without an H*

      This sounds to me like another example of a Small Dysfunctional Organization, where “normal” includes a bunch of things that would be unthinkable anyplace else.

    7. DarnTheMan*

      This could absolutely be my old organization; it was tiny and toxic and so much stuff happened there that would never fly at a ‘normal’ office but after a while you just kind of went with it because it was what everyone else was doing – thankfully not to the point of looking at our bills but at one point senior management regulated how we could go for lunch because they were concerned about “cliques” forming.

      1. Liz*

        Yes! It also sounds like the small a/c equipment company i worked for one summer. I have always had to use the ladies room frequently. and in the summer, when its hot, i drink a lot of water, so sometimes I need to go more frequently. I actually had one of the admins come to me because one of the higher ups noticed I was taking more frequent than I guess THEY thought I should be taking potty breaks.

        never mind to get there I walked down a hall, in plain sight of EVERYONE, to the ladies room, and back. never stopping. It was ridiculous and I was taken aback when she came to me and said this.

        This was the same place where one of the ladies had to get special permission to ahve a cup of water at her desk when she had laryngytis as NO food or drink was allowed at anyone’s desk.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Wow, that sounds like a nightmare. I also pee frequently to begin with for a variety of reasons. But now I’m pregnant and the baby constantly kicks my bladder from the inside, plus I’m taking a diuretic as a substitute for my usual medication that I can’t take during pregnancy. Sometimes I can barely make it an hour between bathroom breaks. I’m certain that bathroom access is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, but it doesn’t seem like that company would care.

    8. Working Hypothesis*

      I didn’t assume they were okay with it, only that they felt — almost certainly correctly — that it was their only remote chance at getting that raise, so they reluctantly went along.

    9. GothicBee*

      To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprised if the boss made it clear they wouldn’t even be considered for a raise otherwise, so the LW figures at worst they’ll show boss their bills and get nothing, but at best they show their bills and do get a raise.

      1. Heidi*

        I figured this had to be the case. He probably tells them no raise unless you agree to submit your bills for review. It’s really messed up. Under that logic, he should be paying an employee with lots of kids more than an employee with no kids.

    10. Lacey*

      It’s got to be entry level. I remember being young and not really knowing what office norms were like. I can see it happening to very young adults. Still.

    11. Jay*

      Sadly, some places in the US (I assume from the letter writer is from the US based on language) the boss/employee dynamic is so skewed in favor of the boss that people just assume that you need to do whatever they tell you to do.
      Look at some of the employment laws throughout the South (where I used to live and work), for example. No sick or vacation time, no
      time-and-a-half overtime pay for some jobs, comptime, etc.
      In North Carolina (at least as of 15 years ago), if you were on the low end of the social scale, and your boss told you to come over to his house on your one day a week off and cut his grass for free, you did it and said “thank you for the opportunity, sir” when you were finished.
      Demanding to see your bills?
      He pays your salary.
      Of COURSE he has the right to know what you are doing with it.
      When I finally left the state and got a decent job elsewhere, the culture shock that came with being treated like an adult and a real human being for the very first time nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown.

      1. Anonfor Dis*

        As someone who is very much not in the southern part of the US, I’ll tell you no sick pay, vacation time, or even time and a half for overtime is also a thing in the north…

        I can’t speak to the rest as it is very anecdotal.

        But I will say, that I don’t see how an licensed law enforcement position doesn’t qualify for time and a half just because the state organization running it is related to agriculture…but in my state, agricultural work does not have overtime pay (as well as a few other defined roles).

        The reality is it’s not a location based problem, but a company or union based problem. The business and/or union gives you nothing and tells you to be happy about it, and you either accept it (for various reasons) or you don’t. Warped sense of norms is just a bonus.

    12. RyanA*

      It’s about power! When your boss, someone who has power over you and can dictate whether or not you keep your job, asks for this information, many people will give it without question because they don’t want to be a boat-rocker or be seen as someone who’s dispensable because they’re not always compliant. We’re taught in many professional circles that it’s disrespectful and unprofessional to question or set boundaries with the people who supervise us. This kind of abuse is what it leads to.

      (I say this as someone who could have written this letter mere months ago when I asked for a raise and my boss tried to have the same conversation with me because I told him I was considering leaving for financial reasons. “Well if we’re talking financial reasons for you leaving, let’s see what we’re talking about! Tell me about your personal finances.” NOPE.)

  9. The Original K.*

    When I tell you my eyes bugged out …

    I wish a boss would ask to see my bills, I really do. I would invent new words for “no.” This is not normal. Make sure you take that to heart – this is not normal. Your boss does not get to look through your personal expenses just because he asked; this is an unreasonable request. He is asking for information to which he is in no way entitled. Leave as soon as you are able.

    1. Nesprin*

      No, joe
      I refuse, Ruth
      I’m not gonna do that, Matt
      No way, Jose
      Maybe not, Scott
      Some other time, Simon
      On the contrary, Mary

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        Get off my back, Jack.
        I’m not going to be coy, Roy.
        Get a new plan, Stan.
        Can’t get ’em from me.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        You’re makin’ me cuss, Russ.
        I’m filled with disgust, Gus.
        I’ll get a new job, Bob.
        And walk away free.

          1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

            Ok. The internet is closed for the day. No more posts or comments will be accepted.
            Suck it, Tom Brady.
            You are old news

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m going to have to go up to the roof to collect my eyebrows.

      OP, your boss is never, never, NEVER entitled to see your personal finances. Not ever. Please tell your coworkers this.

      And you know what? Alison’s 100% correct that if your boss’s search through your bills had shown you were financially struggling, he still would not have given you a raise. He would have given you a Dave Ramsey book or a printout from the internet about “15 ways to be a millionaire by the time you’re 40.” This guy sucks and you shouldn’t work for him anymore. Start searching now for a job where you’ll be respected and adequately compensated.

      1. Jean (just Jean)*

        >I’m going to have to go up to the roof to collect my eyebrows.
        Great line!! And yes, also great advice. Get outta there. For more ideas re how to do that, keep reading AAM.

      2. KD*

        I read that entire letter in complete certainty the OP works for Ramsey. They actually require potential employees to share their budget before being hired.

        1. sasha*

          I read a REALLY damning article recently about how bad of a place Ramsey Solutions is to work for so I can totally see this.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I’m really torn between that and “I’m going to have to go up to the roof to collect my eyebrows.” Commentariat is ON FIRE today.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I am completely in love with “I’m going to have to go up to the roof to collect my eyebrows.” New words for no is damn good, but the eyebrows line made my week. :)

    3. Lucien Nova*

      > I would invent new words for “no.”

      I can say “no” in at least seven languages. I think I would spontaneously learn more were I in this situation.

  10. CeeBee*

    Come on, please, there are times when you just need to say NO! and this is one of them. NO boss should be going through the bills – can you go through his and find your raise in there? can you meticulously go through the company’s books and find the money there? He’s ridiculous….don’t get roped into being ridiculous with him.

    1. Courageous cat*

      I’m gonna have to agree here. I know we’re all about how it’s never anyone’s fault for stuff like this, and it’s DEFINITELY the boss who’s the asshole here – but also you gotta take responsibility for yourself to some degree. Hopefully OP will read this blog more, determine appropriate workplace boundaries, and hold fast to them going forward. Don’t let people make you think you have to do crazy things.

  11. Excel Jedi*

    Y I K E S.

    Could you imagine if that boss did the same thing when negotiating with a new person joining the company? All counteroffers replied to with a demand for personal finances?

    Obviously it wouldn’t fly. And he would know better than to try.

    This boss is only getting away with this because he’s messed with his staff’s sense of normalcy so much, he knows he can get away with it.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Actually, I can see a sufficiently terrible boss try this during initial negotiations. It would filter out all but the truly desperate. Some bosses like this. As it is, any sensible employee will go through this process once at the most, and start looking for a new job. That’s what you get for letting the non-desperate slip through the hiring process.

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        I swear to god o read that here. And there was another letter writer whose boss asked for finances but I think the OP hit Alison first.

      2. MathBandit*

        That seems similar to what I’ve seen commented about e-mail scams that have incredibly farfetched premises and horrible spelling/grammar – that it serves as a way to self-filter only the most gullible people so that the scammer knows anyone who responds is probably prone to falling victim.

    1. Todd*

      Or if minimum wage kept up with increased productivity it would be like $23!

      (Also the dems put the $15 min wage into their house proposal!)

      1. Self Employed*

        Where I live, you need to make $44/hr to rent a 1-bedroom apartment.

        Then people wonder why there are 2-3 people living in all the 1-bedroom apartments, or a different family in every room of a house, and if one person loses a week’s pay it’s eviction time.

        “Save 6 months worth of expenses” How do you even do that when you are paying all your pay to share a bedroom with a stranger?

        “You can live on rice & beans for pennies a day instead of buying fast food!” Because of course everyone has time to cook from scratch when they’re working 2 jobs.

        “Learn to code and work for Google” Not everyone is skilled and somebody’s gotta sell your groceries, clean your office, and serve your food/coffee. Why should they have to commute 3 hours each way? Why should they burn 6 hours worth of gas each way? No, they can’t afford the $30 each way for commuter rail, that’s half their pay.

    2. meyer lemon*

      Although according to this boss, only your bills (and rent presumably?) count as expenses. Groceries: frivolous extras.

      1. BubbleTea*

        The fact that he thought $4000 a year showed the LW didn’t need more money… I mean, even if that was after groceries and other regular expenses, that is one major car repair or a big medical bill. No way is “you should be able to save $4000 over the course of a year” indicating that LW doesn’t need more money, if anything it is showing the opposite!

          1. Red 5*

            Seriously. I once paid $800 for a single test that took me less than a half hour. And I had insurance!

            The test revealed I have an incurable condition that requires daily medication, which at the time my insurance didn’t cover and would have cost me $400/month if the doctor hadn’t found a coupon program.

            And I have no doubt this company does not offer good medical insurance.

        1. Renata Ricotta*

          Not to mention saving for retirement, which is super important and something we societally need to incentivize/make as easy as possible for people to do!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        And what are “bills?” If you mean those things I get in the mail requesting the money I owe, then you’re obviously not including groceries and other necessary expenses that don’t involve a piece of paper I can show the boss that proves how much I spend.

        1. Quill*

          $4,000 per year is $333 per month. You could very easily be spending half that on gas, toiletries, and groceries

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            My family of four spends significantly more than that per month on groceries. This leads straight to “you should get paid more if you have a family to support” which has been the basis for a ton of pay discrimination.

            1. Quill*

              Frankly the boss needs to butt out of employee’s “leftover” money along with all the rest of their finances!

              The low estimate here is just to illustrate that even if you’re already very frugal with that 4k, you’re probably only able to save approximately $100 out of that monthly 333, if anything at all, because on top of the boss’s many other crimes he apparently thinks that if you have a cent left over after your bills you’re swimming in it and undeserving of a raise.

    3. Renata Ricotta*

      I’d be quite fine with some sort of maximum salary on the basis that nobody “needs” to be a billionaire (or tens-of-millionaire either) and the marginal utility of those dollars would be way better used almost anywhere else.

      But I’m guessing that doesn’t apply to OP.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I oppose the maximum because I don’t want Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and the like building Scrooge McDuck style money vaults to swim in because there’s little else they can do with the money. I want them lending it out, to businesses and individuals who will put it to good use.

        Just phase out the tax deductions and credits at some magic number. Bazillionaires can earn an extra million every day as long as they ante $100M to the tax coffers.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Once again, I am asking you to stop calling the Japanese Giant Hornet murder hornets. On average they kill less than thirteen people a year in Japan (NOT 50!) while yellowjackets kill about 3o people in the US annually, but we don’t call yellowjackets murder wasps.

      I mean, maybe we should. But we currently don’t.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        I thought they were called that because they murdered bees (not humans) in a particularly gruesome way. From the NY Times article:

        “With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young.”

        Sounds like murder to me.

      2. PT*

        The sting of a Japanese Giant Hornet damages tissue and nerves and causes severe pain lasting over several days. I think that is enough to merit calling it a “murder hornet” without it having to actually, literally murder people.

      3. Juneybug*

        I hear ya KoiFeeder (love the name!) but here in PNW, that’s what the news media calls them so often that I forget there is another name for the nasty buggers. Does it take the sting (pun intended) out of the situation if some of the articles mention the fact that they are not as dangerous as yellow jackets?

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Beekeeper here. A hive of honeybees is able to regulate its inner temperature independent of outside weather. As far as I’m concerned the hive itself is effectively warm-blooded. And those giant hornets can take out the hive.

      5. HungryLawyer*

        I formally move that we, the commentariat, start calling yellowjackets “murder wasps.” All in favor say AYE!

  12. Alex*

    “Hi Boss, Since we last spoke, I have incurred a $20k bill that I will need to be paid. Since compensation is correlated with the content of one’s bills here, I will expect a $20k increase in my next paycheck. Thanks!”

    1. Alex*

      Or, “Hi Boss, I hadn’t realized that compensation was based on bills. I’d been doing my best to live within my means, but since you let me know that raises were based on bills, I’ve now moved to a luxury apartment that is an extra $2k per month. Just letting you know so that you can increase my salary commensurately. Thanks!”

    2. Ashley*

      I was actually thinking of a bill regarding transportation / car maintenance / car replacement. Showing the bills aside (as noted this is bonkers), but one thing people often miss when budgeting are the annual or semi-annual expenses. One of my major ‘bills’ is saving for house repairs and replacing my vehicle in a few years. Also how do you show food bills? I mean does he get to tell you what you can afford at the grocery store?
      This is so far from normal OP.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’ve been saving for a house for years, and will either get a promotion or big raise at my current place of work within the next year (Covid made my responsibilities explode, I am understanding about the fact that increased compensation will be delayed, but my understanding only goes so far), or take my extremely qualified resume to a place with a lower cost of living to finally fulfill my goal of homeownership. Being told that I am fine and don’t need a promotion or raise because a maximum of 4k saved towards a house every year, and that without spending anything on myself, is good enough, would have me actively job hunting during work hours.

    3. irene adler*

      Yeah, I wish!
      Bosses like this have 1001 ways to dodge the salary raise topic.
      They should be rewarded with 100% turnover every 2 months.

  13. The Prettiest Curse*

    WTF? Your boss is a grade-A arsehole. If he asks you again for your bills, ask him if he’d let HIS boss look at his bills. I wish you the best of luck getting away from this hellhole, because you are clearly awesome and they don’t appreciate you if they treated you this way.

  14. Phony Genius*

    If I worked in HR, and a manager was routinely looking at employees’ bills, I would want to know about it.

    1. Bertha*

      Just a hunch, but this place sounds like it doesn’t have HR. But indeed, if it DOES have HR, it should be reported.

      1. Managing In*

        Yep. Places like this don’t have HR, they have an HR folder in Dropbox that has everyone’s important documents in it and that everyone in the small company can access. Or something.

    2. D3*

      This sounds like a small owner-run company. This guy is used to and feels entitled to complete power over the employees he “gives” jobs to.
      They should be GRATEFUL!

  15. Crivens!*

    If I ruled the world, bosses and companies that had any resentment whatsoever about paying their employees what they’re worth would be fired/go under. This guy does not deserve to be anyone’s boss.

    1. Juneybug*

      So true Crivens! I wonder what would happen if LW started their own company and took all of the good employees with them.
      Yes, I watch too many movies…

  16. BeenThere*

    “ … and, as so often happens when that’s the case, it sounds like he’s warping your and your coworkers’ sense of norms too, and leading y’all to accept as normal and okay things that are very much not normal or okay.”

    This is so scary and true. I had no idea how dysfunctional my first job was and stayed there way too long because I just assumed it was normal and all jobs were that way.

  17. bees*

    holy crap! that is definitely not normal or okay, and i hope you get out of that environment and into one where your boss gives raises based on performance!

    honestly, this is a strong contender for worst boss of the year, an early frontrunner.

  18. ChemistryChick*

    …wooooow. Your boss sucks, OP. Adding my voice to the “get out ASAP” crowd. This is not normal.

  19. Ama*

    OP, there is no reasoning with a guy who thinks raises are only for people who “need” them, but when you are (hopefully) in a more functional workplace, the next time you ask for a raise, remember that raises SHOULD be based on employee performance and market value for that position — if you are an employee who does good work, a functional company will know it is worth paying more to keep you rather than risk losing you and having to find as good an employee to replace you. Any manager or workplace that responds to a raise request with talk of “need” has a very wrongheaded idea of how employee-employer business relationships work.

    Granted, even a functional employer will not always be able to say yes to a raise request, but they should be explaining that in terms related to the business (“we don’t have it in the budget,” “I need to see some additional growth from you in X area”), not your personal finances.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Speaking of employee performance, I suspect the collective response to this “policy” is to do the bare minimum to not get fired before the job search is complete.

  20. Dasein9*

    This makes me really wonder about other ways this boss fails to respect boundaries between work and personal life. This is unlikely to be the only way he demonstrates contempt for his employees’ autonomy.
    This is a huge sign and the words on the sign say “Quietly Look for Work Elsewhere.”

  21. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

    At the end of the year, its not even enough to cover putting away the max amount in a Roth IRA.

    What is this man’s reasoning? You should live on a shoestring budget? An extra 4K at the end of the year could EASILY be eaten up by unexpected expenses, like a car issue, medical problem. Or hell, what if you wanted to enjoy life and take a vacation??

    Ugh. This dude sucks. As much as I am loathe to say it (because I think it is too frequently recommended), I’d try to get out of there and find a new job.

    1. londonedit*

      It totally reminded me of the sort of people who say ‘Can’t afford a house? You just need to cut your expenses! Stop buying all those ridiculous takeaway coffees! Stop going out for brunch!’ As if a) people haven’t already thought of cutting their expenses as much as possible and b) stopping buying coffee is going to magically make a deposit for a house appear in your bank account.

      1. IdahoSmith82*

        My mother is one of those people. We had to actually move to another state for a few reasons- and one of them was that we’d never be able to buy in the area(s) we previously lived in. She actually said “can’t you just find somewhere cheaper to rent, and live on (even) cheaper food for a few years? Your husband doesn’t really need to finish going to school.”

        If she owned a business- she’d be a toxic boss like this- and is part of the reason my view of “authority figures” was warped until I’d finally had enough.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Exactly. Around here coffee costs maybe $4 at the fancy place. The down payment on my house, nothing extravagant or expensive asked on the area, was $12,000. It would take over 5,000 coffees to save that much. I don’t drink coffee every day, but even if I did it would take years of not buying them to make a difference in my ability to buy a house.

        The best way to be able to afford a house is to have a high income. If you just don’t make enough, saving $5 or $10 here and there won’t be enough to drastically swing your financial situation. There are some borderline cases where people have almost enough and could make it work with stricter budgeting, but those people generally already know that.

        1. Elenna*

          Exactly! Around here a one-bedroom apartment costs at least 400k-500k. A 20% down payment would be close to 100k. Meanwhile, buying a $5 coffee every day is less than 2k a year. These numbers are not remotely comparable.

          If someone says “just stop buying coffee and you’ll be able to afford a house”, I’m forced to assume that either a) they’re so financially clueless that they have no idea what houses and coffee cost, or b) they’re incapable of doing basic math. Either way, they shouldn’t be giving anyone financial advice.

          1. Liz*

            Yes! that sounds similar to my area, although not quite that pricy. But even on a 300K home, 20% is 60K.

            Not only that, but IF i were ever able to afford to buy something, I’d be living on raman noodles because I’d be majorly house poor. ideally, i’d like to be able to buy something AND save a decent amount each month, but on my current salary, decent as it is, its just not quite enough

            1. Cat Tree*

              Ugh, yes. Years ago, there was a really toxic acquaintance in my friends group. He knew I made significantly more than him because he weedled it out of everyone, and he was clearly resentful. One time we were all chipping in for food delivery, and I didn’t have any small bills. So I contributed a few dollars more than my mathematical share, thinking I was being generous to my friends. He snidely told me that that’s why I couldn’t afford to buy a house yet (as a single 20-something). Not that it’s any of his business, but while I probably could have been approved for a loan and scraped up enough for a down payment, I wanted to wait until I was financially stable and would have some extra leftover each month.

              Not that this really matters, but the petty part of me enjoys the irony. He actually bought a house a few years before I did, and struggled to make ends meet every month until he eventually sold it. It’s amazing how much banks will let you over-extend yourself if you have a good credit score.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                It’s amazing how much banks will let you over-extend yourself if you have a good credit score.

                When we found out how much we were (potentially) able to borrow to buy a house, I was flabbergasted. I hope no one counts on that number being “affordable” rather than looking at their own income/expenses.

                1. EchoGirl*

                  My mom told me that back in the 90s, they actually tried to charge her and my dad some kind of additional fee for taking out a house loan that was less than half of the max number they’d been approved for. Fortunately my parents had a good real estate attorney who, in polite legal terms, told the bank where they could shove that idea.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            It almost seems like some of them are caught in a weird time loop where your daily coffee costs $10 (um, no) and houses still cost $30K (um, again, no).

      3. Bee*

        Yes, I PROMISE you, if there is a trick to save money the people living on a shoestring have already thought of it. When I was new to NYC in 2011 and living on $30k, I kept reading all these articles about “simple ways to cut down your budget,” and inevitably they were things that I’d never even dreamed of doing because I couldn’t afford them.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Nobody is more aware of how to save money than poor people, which is ironic since it’s actually more expensive to be poor.

          1. BubbleTea*

            How to save money when you are poor:
            1. Be less poor
            2. Try all these clever tricks
            3. Claim you did it all by yourself
            4. Write smug articles on the Internet

          2. Cafe au Lait*

            I still remember the relief I felt going from one tax bracket to the next. All of a sudden I had MORE money left over every paycheck.

      4. Liz*

        OMG yes! While I make decent money, I live in a high COL area. And yes i do have some debt I’m working hard to pay off. BUT even if i had none, it would take me years to save enough for a decent down payment on a house or condo, since a decent sized, not at all fancy house or condo would be at least 300K, so 20% is 60K. Comments like that irk me to no end. Usually made by people who have absolutely no clue.

        The other is “well why don’t you move somewhere else where housing is much cheaper” and don’t get that my salary will also be much cheaper!

        1. Self Employed*

          Yes, high COL places generally have industries that drive high salaries–the same job might not be available in a small town in the middle of nowhere. And if you have a fairly broadly applicable job function (say purchasing or HR, not software developer) the pay scales will be WAY lower.

    2. Mellie Bellie*

      Yeah, setting the bonkers concept of your boss looking at your bills to evaluate whether you need a raise aside, it’s quite telling that this boss thinks an extra $77 per week after bills is indicative that he’s paying his employees fairly.

    3. Elenna*

      Plus, apparently he’s only looking at bills. Most or all of that 4k is probably taken up by food, clothes, miscellaneous necessary expenses…

      Not that his “logic” would be okay even if OP was a billionaire, anyways.

    4. West*

      I once had my catalytic converter stolen on my 2008 Prius a couple weeks before Thanksgiving last year, and it would have costed me over $3K. My comprehensive car insurance luckily covered it, but if it hadn’t that would have eaten up more than 75% of my yearly savings if I were in the same situation as OP. It’s just ridiculous.

  22. Asenath*

    This is crazy. I’ve never heard of a boss making such a request, and so, obviously, never heard of anyone agreeing to it. There ARE people who like to speculate and gossip about how much co-workers and other acquaintances earn or spend or need, but this is in a whole new category of bizarre over-stepping on the part of the boss. OP, you’ve been there a year, start looking for something else, even in this bad economic climate. I would be willing to bet equivalent jobs with other employers pay more than you are getting. I don’t think someone who sets his employees’ pay rates using this method is likely to pay whatever the usual local rates are for the job.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This, this, and this. Requesting to review your employees’ finances to assess raise requests is NOT normal and NOT what functional bosses do. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, OP.

      Never, ever open your personal finances up to your boss’s scrutiny. It’s none of his business and has no bearing on market rates for the work you’re doing. None.

  23. Almost Empty Nester*

    WTF just found a new level. Oh my goodness. Please get out. And encourage your coworkers to also start looking.

  24. Observer*

    I’m just kinda just over it, if you know what I mean. You put your best effort into something, make it nice, no complaints for the whole year and lots of compliments from customers, but it all comes down to “if I need it,” which I do.

    OP, I want to highlight something. THIS IS NOT NORMAL! This is not the kind of treatment you should expect or find acceptable. As Alison says, pay is not about what you need but about being fairly compensated.

    Please start looking for a new job TODAY. And once you find something (and it’s possible even in this economy!) please encourage your coworkers to do so as well. Maybe even show them this post. If it’s really true that the business will go under if this one coworker quits, that is all the MORE reason for you both to look for new jobs. It’s never a good thing for a business to the THAT dependent on a single EMPLOYEE. This is a business that is not solid.

    Also, neither you nor your coworker owe fealty to your boss. You owe it to him to give your best work while you are there. But you have absolutely zero obligation to stay in a position that underpays you, no matter what the ramifications to the business if you leave.

  25. Bex*

    I’m going to leave aside that your boss asked for your bills – it’s been covered already – and instead focus on the fact that your colleagues apparently haven’t received raises either (one for seven years! Seven!!!).

    This is not normal and not okay. Leaving aside merit-based increases, the cost of living has increased and there should be regular commensurate increase in pay (unless you’re all earning the kind of money where cost of living doesn’t matter, but considering $4k annual savings if you live the life of a monk, it doesn’t seem like it). This is a workplace that will continue to pay you as little as it can, as long as it can – and it will influence your pay negotiations and potential moving forward if you let it.

    I know times are tough, so I’m not going to say just leave the job. It’s not that simple and many don’t have that luxury. But I would strongly suggest you work on building skills and accomplishments that will help your resume stand out in a year or two.

    Also … “do you need it?” Yes. Yes you need the money – it’s why you’re working. The money is what you get in exchange for work.

    Is there a way that, if your boss isn’t willing to increase pay, you can negotiate benefits or perks – extra work from home (although idk what that even means these days hahah), extra vacation days, a flexible schedule? I know it’s not the same as money, and two more vacation days won’t fix your car engine if it breaks. But it’d be something.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I second this. OP, if they haven’t given your colleague a raise after seven years, they are never, ever going to give one to you, no matter how great a job you do.

  26. Reluctant Manager*

    There is a helpful side to this: a reminder never to negotiate or expect a raise based on your expenses–not only to avoid this kind of shit show but also because it’s connected to the well documented trend of married men being paid more and married women being paid less, based on a cultural expectation that men support the family and women’s salaries are extra. It’s the difference between a salary and an allowance.

      1. Momma Bear*

        And is he also treating her like a child in other ways? Preying on lack of other job experience, maybe?

      2. Domino*

        (Actually, I just realized that the LW doesn’t specify their gender, so it might not be a “she”. It’s telling that we’re all defaulting to it being a woman, though. This is definitely the kind of thing male bosses get away with more easily with female employees, since women are often subtly conditioned by society/patriarchy to be grateful for what they’re given, not stick up for themselves, not rock the boat, etc.)

        1. EchoGirl*

          FYI, using feminine pronouns for an OP whose gender is unknown is default for this site, so I wouldn’t read too much into it.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes, I was thinking this too. Where does this boss draw the line? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at ‘Well, Dave has a wife and kids at home to support, you know. You don’t have a family, what can you possibly need to spend money on?’

      1. Observer*

        Where does this boss draw the line?

        I think a better question is whether the boss ever draws a line.

        t ‘Well, Dave has a wife and kids at home to support, you know.

        I doubt it. On the one hand, I doubt that a lot of competent parents are going to stay with a company this crazy. On the other hand, this is a boss looking for excuses to not pay a fair wage. What makes you think he won’t find an excuse to not pay “Dave the Dad”?

    2. Super Admin*

      I just received my annual compensation review, and it clearly states at the top “Llama Teapots Inc. is a pay-for-performance company. Performance is the key factor driving compensation decisions.” I’d never thought about it before, but since I literally have it in front of me while reading this letter from OP, it struck me – I am working for a company that respects my work and pays me accordingly. I wish everyone were so fortunate.

  27. Anonymato*

    Oh, I see – so by this logic now it’s the boss’ turn to show you their bills so you can tell them how much $ they have left over so they can pass those on to you.

  28. el knife*

    please start appplying for other jobs immediately. if this dude is going through your bills he’s almost certainly underpaying you too. time to start applying friend!!

  29. Guacamole Bob*

    My reaction is from a place of relative privilege because I have a reasonable amount of recurring discretionary and semi-discretionary spending, but one of my first thoughts is what even counts as a “bill” to your boss anyway? A gym membership? Hulu and Netflix? The regular date night babysitter? The reimbursement I send to my relatives because we’re on a family cell phone plan? The monthly cleaning service? A biweekly landscaping service? Contributions to a kid’s college fund? Retirement savings? Supporting an elderly relative on a fixed income? Tithing, if you’re a member of a religion that requires it? Monthly savings to replace a paid-off car that’s about to die?

    Which just emphasizes how bonkers it is to have a boss get involved in your personal finances.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      YES! We all prioritize our spending differently, and pay should be based on the market value for the position, not someone’s personal expenses. My husband and I chose to purchase a more modest home that we can easily afford rather than a newer, larger one – should we be paid less because our expenses are less than people who chose to go bigger on housing costs? It’s just an insane metric for salary determination.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Also, the idea that Disbelieving says “set boundaries,” as if that’s helpful advice kills me here. If it were that easy, wouldn’t people be better at it all the time?

      There are so many things in play here: someone who has been working at a toxic job and has a warped sense for normalcy, the inability for LOTS of people to challenge authority figures, gaslighting from the boss, etc. OP wrote in because s/he recognized s/he needed help. Let’s be kind and make it as easy for OP to succeed in that as possible!

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is entirely uncalled for. Being inexperienced enough to not know how raises are typically evaluated does not mean a person is incapable of doing their job well. This person is already being mistreated by their boss, there’s no call for random internet strangers to mistreat them because of it.

  30. Shocked*

    OP once you’re out please leave a note on GlassDoor about this behavior I feel like he should be reported somehow for this.

  31. Amber Rose*

    OP, I get that toxic jobs warp your perception of normalcy, but… PRIVACY. Don’t just hand over your bills to whoever! That’s literally nobody’s business but yours. Besides, raises are based on merit not need. If we paid people what they actually need, minimum wage wouldn’t be so low and CEOs wouldn’t make millions to billions of dollars.

    This is appalling. I think we just found our first contender for 2021’s Worst Boss competition!

    1. SeluciaMD*

      This is SO TRUE. It’s insane to me how good our capitalist society (here in the US at least) is at behaving like poverty wages for lots of occupations in companies where the leadership are often multi-millionaires (or billionaires) is normal and somehow an appropriate distribution of wealth. And that if you aren’t making millions it’s simply because you are not smart enough/educated enough/working hard enough.

  32. AdAgencyChick*

    Oh my goooooooddddd.

    I strongly suspect that his response, should OP’s bills have been higher (not that he had ANY f’ing business seeing them!!!!) would have been to scold OP about her money management, not to give her a raise. This is not a game it’s possible to win. Or a person who should have anyone working for him, ever.

  33. IJustCan't*

    This reminds me of my first job… where I found out the guy they hired at the same time as me, to do the same job, was offered a significantly higher salary. When I brought this up, management said many things that didn’t make sense, but the one that really stood out was when my boss commented on how when she was younger “young ladies didn’t entertain in their bedrooms” and so she and her friends were able to save on rent by sharing rooms. I was like, I don’t see how my rent plays in to paying me fairly.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Well, naturally because young men like to ‘play the field’ and engage in lots of nookie but a young woman who does that would be a *extremely offensive word*.

        (Ick I nearly barfed writing that)

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      Saving on rent by sharing rooms reminds me of Three’s Company.

      Also, GROSS. Boss, keep your sexist assumptions out of my personal life.

    2. Evan Þ.*

      When I read this, my first reaction was, “Wait – if young ladies didn’t entertain in their bedrooms, that means they’d need more other rooms in their apartments to entertain in, which means they would’ve been paying more for rent, right?”

      Then I picked up on the implications.

  34. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There was (no longer in business) a company I worked for way back that did this. Want a raise? Show us your bank statements so we know you actually need it.

    I was 20 at the time and flippin’ clueless about how jobs worked, especially my first proper one after graduation. So I just bided my time and said nothing, because I knew if they saw that I brought cigs (I quit 10 years ago) they’d have said I was not spending my money wisely. The only people I think got raises were ones with large families.

    Herein lies my advice from having worked for some utterly BONkERS managers in the past: never pass on your personal financial, medical, home information to anyone who doesn’t have a really good legal reason for having it. And should you find yourself working for someone who has no sense of boundaries:

    Accept you can’t change their personality and look to get away. Because it does not get better, it often gets worse.

    Love and support to you mate, I know this is really unsettling.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Well, they went under about 10 years ago so at least there’s one less company that does this!

        (Not for treating their staff like crud, they just had zero business sense in general. Like getting their target markets completely and utterly wrong, thinking laws like health and safety were ‘opt-in’…that kinda thing)

  35. Nonprofit Bean Counter*

    This is so nuts, I don’t think I would even know how to nicely respond if my boss asked to see my bills. That said, I’ve seen a less extreme version of this happen where I work when I’ve asked about raises. I get a lot of “well your household income is already higher than the single people that work here because of your husband” (we don’t even work at the same place, why does the fact that I have a two income household matter?), “you bought a house last year, so you should be able to afford it on the current salary”.

    Similar to what others have said, my finances are not the reason I deserve a raise. I deserve a raise based on the quality of work I do and expecting to be paid a market rate for that work.

    I am very much looking for a new job and stuff like this is why. It’s not normal and I’m not going to let them try and convince me it is.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I had an old boss who liked to argue PTO requests because she felt that since I was not a single parent my spouse should do everything and I should never take any days off for sick kid care and the like. It was one of the reasons I left. Your value should not be based on outside conditions and resources.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh (not) fond memories of arguing with a boss who refused annual leave requests for time off (especially around holidays) if you didn’t have kids. Judging time off requests by people’s home circumstances is not on and if anything just creates hostility in the workplace. She also said similar things about people with spouses and childcare.

        Wish more managers would get that through their heads.

      2. Jean*

        Ugh, my ex-spouse’s old boss used to pull this one too. “Your wife should be the one staying home to take care of a sick child, why are you calling in?” Um, because I work too. And my company offers less PTO. And I make more money, so I’d like to avoid having to take an unpaid day. And also it’s just a bad look to ask why a parent feels the need to take a day off to care for their own sick child.

  36. Beth*

    1) just to second what everyone else is saying, this is nuts. Your boss is so far out of line here!

    2) Even if he’d just said no without the truly absurd part of this, you should still be job hunting. You’re at a place that doesn’t do raises, which means either your compensation is already under market value, or it will be in a couple years. Time to find an employer who’s actually interested in retaining their employees.

  37. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Wow. I’ve seen some really bad boss behavior on this site, and thought I was jaded. But this boss made me gasp out loud, his behavior is so outrageous.

    OP, your boss is a very bad one. Extremely bad. Please do what you can to find another role. There are sane bosses out there, I promise.

  38. Momma Bear*

    OMG, I’m with everyone else. Run as soon as you can! Raises should be based on things like quality of work, education, and length of time in office. It may be about whether or not the company can afford it. But NO WAY should it be about your own bills. If you managed to save a few dollars that’s your business. You SHOULD be saving money! If 2020 taught us anything, you have to plan for the sky to fall. $4000 is not that much if you have an emergency. This is shocking behavior. People need to know about major debts if you work in certain industries or if you have a security clearance, but it sounds like neither is at play here. He’s just being a jerk.

    Please, find another job. This is toxic. Is there anyone above him you can appeal to in the meantime?


    Also, review AAM advice on how to know your worth and negotiate your start pay. I strongly suspect you are being underpaid and need to know your worth for the next job.

  39. Myrin*

    Just so I can get the full picture here as a non-native speaker of English: What exactly does “the bills” mean in this context? OP’s bank statements?

    1. Bex*

      I’m guessing bank statements and/or physical copies of bills/charges for things like housing, food, insurance, etc. All of which is bonkers and has zero relation to the OP’s worth and contributions in their role.

    2. ElizabethJane*

      Honestly without knowing it could be bank statements or it could be showing the monthly statements from each utility provider (a statement from the electric company, from the gas company, from the internet company, etc).

    3. londonedit*

      Not necessarily bank statements (though I wouldn’t be surprised) but definitely monthly expenses. So, ‘Right, tell me how much you spend each month on rent/electricity/water/gas/phone’ etc. And then ‘Well, we pay you $1200 a month and your expenses are $900, so no, you don’t need more money’.

    4. West*

      Not just bank statements. How much you pay for cable, internet, phone, electricity, water, mortgage, rent, car insurance, car loans, student loans, etc. – per month individually.

      1. Myrin*

        Okay, I seem to be having even less of an understanding of how bank stuff in other countries works than I previously thought – all of the things you listed would be visible on the bank account statements here because they work using direct debit (? such a weirdly constructed sentence but I hope it’s clear what I mean).
        That’s exactly why I was unsure – did boss ask to see her bank statements with every expense on them? Or did he make her physically bring every single bill from every single provider and look through all of those?
        It obviously doesn’t matter at all because he’s a huge bananacracker but all through reading, I was having huge troubles imagining how this even went down.
        Thanks all for explaining!

        1. londonedit*

          It’s the same in the UK, but some people do still get paper bills through the post for things like electricity and gas, or phone bills. So the OP may have been able to get away with not physically going through a bank statement line by line (though with this boss, I doubt it…) but they’d have either given a verbal breakdown of how much they spend, or shown the boss paper utility bills etc.

          1. Myrin*

            Oh yeah, you very often get paper bills here, too (although you can choose to receive them via email with basically every provider), but the money would still be paid from the same bank account (unless you have several different bank accounts but I’m willing to bet this boss won’t be “fooled” by something like that). But I don’t want to derail on something that is ultimately not important, I was just curious!

        2. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

          Both ways are available in the US. I have all my monthly expenses (that I can, not car payment or rent) auto-paid by my credit card because I get cash back. So my bank statement shows three monthly payments. But credit card Bill shows utilities, insurance, cable, phone, etc.
          So boss wants to see where OP’s money goes.

        3. Asenath*

          For most people, yes, everything would be paid through a bank account, but you can also usually download pdfs for your own files, or print them out. The option usually exists to get paper copies by mail, too. For major bills, yes, the bank listing is clear, but sometimes you get bills that are listed under some variation of the company name. I’ve stared at a charge on my bank account once or twice that took me a few minutes to figure out where it was from! I’ve encountered requests for actual paper copies of bills once or twice – it comes up usually if you don’t have a driver’s license (usual ID showing your home address) and need to establish exactly where you live, for example, to get on a voting list for a particular area.

          1. Myrin*

            Ha, that’s exactly how it works here, too, cool! And I feel you on not knowing immediately where a charge came from – that’s actually what annoys me about using Paypal! Sometimes it says somewhere hidden between a million numbers and letters that this was my payment for IDK Ikea or something but most of the time, it just says “Paypal” and I have to figure it out from comparing the amount deducted to my physical/virtual bills.
            I mean, I know that if there’s a Paypal statement, I must have authorised it, and if I haven’t, there’s something very wrong going on, but damn if I always know from the top of my head which of the three companies I ordered something from a specific amount belongs to. Thankfully I’m a “files” person (both phyiscally and virtually).

        4. Clisby*

          I’m in the US, and a some of that would have shown up on my bank statement (mortgage payment, utility payments, etc.) However, I pay for a lot of things with a cash-rebate credit card. The bank statement would just show that I paid $X on my credit card; you’d have to look at the credit card statement to see what I actually spent it on. This would include, for example, almost all of my purchases at stores (grocery store, pharmacy, home improvement/hardware stores, etc.)

    5. Four lights*

      Presumably. Also water bill, heating bill, credit card statement, rent bill, car payment, loan payment.

    6. Volunteer Enforcer*

      Yes, it does. Bank statements show all the money received, and bills paid from that account for the month.

      1. TiffIf*

        I mean mine wouldn’t–I have almost everything auto charged to my credit card and then pay my credit card off every month from my bank account–except for rent, that comes directly from my bank account. (Worth it to me to earn the points on my cc as long as I am charged no interest by paying it in full each month.)

        1. pancakes*

          Bank statements also wouldn’t necessarily show money going in and out of apps like Venmo. Just one more thing this boss is ignorant about.

    7. PT*

      It could also mean they scribbled down their expenses on a sheet of scrap paper. When I worked a crappy job, it was really common to find these scraps of paper tucked into the staff clipboard, because someone was using the downtime to run their budget by hand.

      You’d find a list or two of hours lined up in a vertical row for manual addition, multiplied by an hourly rate (or two), divided out by a tax rate, then another row with estimated rent, phone bill, utilities, subway pass, etc. as they calculated out if they had enough money to make it through the month or not.

  40. beanie gee*

    I would be very surprised if this company was paying competitive wages. OP, start looking since it’s very likely you could be doing the same work for more pay, and maybe with a sane boss!

  41. pcake*

    Getting paid based on your expenses is not only unreasonably intrusive – it’s also stupid. If paychecks and raises were based on your expenses, everyone with a mortgage, college loan or car payment would get paid more than those who didn’t carry those payments. And what would the company do after you paid off your car – lower your monthly pay accordingly?


    1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

      That used to be the argument for paying men more–“He has a family to support”.

  42. West*

    I had a boss that did this, paid me so low because I was living rent-free with my aunt in a very expensive part of the United States – the San Francisco Bay Area. And when I asked for a raise, he had said no despite my pay being 40% percent less than my coworkers at the same level and company profits tripling in the past two years. To be fair, this was 2017, way before COVID, so there was no excuse for his behavior.

    Your boss is crazy. Simply reading the title made my eyes roll. You raise and pay should based on what you are worth and your quality of work, not based on your personal bills that are clearly none of his business. Leave as soon as you can. This is not normal.

    1. Mx*

      I hope from now on you won’t disclose to your boss/coworkers if you have a free rent. It is none on their business anyway. It is always better to be discreet about financial situation.

      1. Zillah*

        I think that it’s totally reasonable to have a hard line on not discussing any financial situations to bosses/coworkers, but I don’t think that “it’s always better” is really fair – there’s nothing inherently wrong with people who are just naturally a little more chatty and open about something as general as a living situation, either. They’re just different styles.

        1. Managing In*

          Exactly. The issue isn’t really that West mentioned their living situation, it’s that their boss is terrible. You could just as easily say “I hope from now on your bosses aren’t jerks.”

  43. not neurotypical*

    I can think of only one way that you and your coworker might get raises (even as you continue to seek work elsewhere): Look up the inflation rates, and show that what you are earning now is –in terms of spending power– literally less than when you started. Figure out the aggregated raise that would make this right — use the fed COLA for each year, compounding that year on year — and demand that.

  44. SJJ*

    Do not let this warp your view of yourself and your value as a person and an employee.

    Now flip that hair, check those nails, and go get you a new job, baby.

    1. Foxy Hedgehog*

      Seriously, though; LW is working in a madhouse and I agree should really leave at their first opportunity, even if it’s for $4000/year less money. There is no way that this is the only awful thing about this boss, or this office.

    2. Generic Name*

      Except this place is probably more like Animal Farm in which some animals are more equal than others.

  45. Mx*

    OP I truly hope you are seriously searching a new job. Not only for a better pay but also for a better boss !

  46. The Magic Rat*

    My company openly (and I mean “says this out loud with no trace of guilt at company-wide meetings”) underpays pretty much everyone by about 30-40% compared to the national average for our jobs “because the cost of living here is very low, so you’re fine, and it’s good for the company! Don’t you want what’s good for the company?” I’m pretty sure if they could see our bills they’d pay us our annual expenses plus 5%. What I’m saying is, this country needs more unions.

    1. pcake*

      Your post reminded me of something that happened 10 or 12 years ago.

      I work in a pretty small industry, and when a job became available this one company posted it on an industry forum. They wanted someone with years of experience, skilled at writing marketing text, the ability to bring in high performing affiliates, a degree plus some tech knowledge regarding creating web pages and databases. The pay they offered was $24,000 per year with no freaking bonuses on the money those high performing affiliates brought in. I immediately queried whether the salary was correct, because it’s under half of what someone with less experience, no whales and little tech skills would earn.

      Their reply was that the required the person to move where they were in Oklahoma, and since the cost of living there was low that $24,000 a year was fair.

      This turned into a discussion that ended with them giving up and deciding to do without filling the position rather than paying a fair rate for what they wanted or hiring someone with less qualifications. Unsurprisingly, they went out of business a couple years later…

  47. Amlan Gupta*

    Allison, I’m sure you have been asked this before but are these really true letters? I simply can’t believe this one. Reminds me of my much younger days when a certain nameless magazine of interest to young men would publish letters that just did not seem plausible. Of course, I only heard about this magazine :-).

    1. anon for this*

      I had a boss who was doing a very similar thing to justify very low salaries (calculating barely adequate living costs and daring individual workers to deny that those numbers were “correct”). This was a strategy used to antagonize the entry level workers, who often didn’t know it wasn’t acceptable.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Read upwards, I know I once had a boss who pulled this exact same crud. Believe me, it’s real, it happens and sometimes it’s even worse.

    3. londonedit*

      I can well believe that there are bosses who think pay rises ought to be based on who ‘deserves’ them most, and there have been a few letters to Alison from people whose bosses have wanted to be all up in their bank statements or other aspects of their personal lives. There are a lot of toxic workplaces out there! You’ve even got people in this very comments section describing their own similar experiences.

      1. Momma Bear*

        In the comments you’ll see a few similar experiences mentioned. I think it’s completely legit, especially if it’s a small company.

      2. AGD*

        Yeah, I think a lot of abusive and exploitative behaviour uses disbelief as a shield. I’d say incredulity is for “Hey, did you hear that my boss rented a volcano?” or anything on April first.

      3. The Rural Juror*

        Right. And even if for some reason it wasn’t real, there’s benefit for a lot of people to read something outlandish and Alison (and the commentators) to point out how how unbelievably unreasonable it is. Sometimes we all need a baseline for what is and isn’t ok, especially since there are a lot of toxic workplaces that push the boundaries…and get away with it…

      4. Robin Ellacott*

        It’s pretty common to hear that employers think staff “with families” need more money so pay them more, so this isn’t too big a departure from that.

        In my late teens I had a boss who wanted to give my peer a raise, but not me because the peer was a churchgoer who paid tithes so “it’s like she is making 10% less”. (boss went to the same church) Luckily it was a retail environment in a big chain where such things were not discretionary, because at 18 I would have thought it was massively unfair but wouldn’t have been nearly angry enough.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Absolutely – I worked for a small and very dysfunctional nonprofit where the (barely functioning alcoholic) director and his henchman would routinely offer lower salaries to women than to men on the justification that the women “needed less” because they were married and their husbands probably had jobs.

          Not that it should be considered, but the new hire they did this to was indeed married but her husband was almost completely disabled because of a serious chronic illness.

        2. Gumby*

          It is still common practice in at least one country that I know of for employees to get a raise upon marriage and upon having a child. Or at least the English conversation partner that I had seemed completely unfazed by getting those raises.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      Some people are better than you think.

      Some people are worse than you think.

      I’ve been around long enough to have seen a lot of stuff like this.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have no idea — I’m sure all advice columnists get punked now and then. As long as there aren’t obvious signs of a fake (in which case I would not answer), I don’t really care that much as long as the response will be useful to people.

      But I don’t see any reason to doubt this one; I hear of much weirder things all the time.

    6. Delta Delta*

      I 100% believe this. I worked for a bad boss (not an evil bee, just not good at business) who frequently talked about wanting to pay people more if they complained about their bills/expenses. Once he made a comment that he wanted to pay Fergus more than Wakeen because Fergus has kids and Wakeen doesn’t even though Wakeen had about 5 years more experience and brought in more business.

      Also, neither Fergus, nor Wakeen, nor I work there anymore. Because obviously.

    7. Student*

      I think it’s believable. I grew up in a poor area of the US. Poor people put up with a ton of bullcrap from employers because they can’t go without pay for long (if at all). This, while certainly bad and absurd, would not rate in my top 50 bad job stories from myself, family, and friends.

    8. Ryn*

      I think Alison has said before that even if letters aren’t real, they often need advice that can be applicable to others. I believe this letter, but even if it isn’t real, the lesson of “a boss asking about your personal finances isn’t okay and you should say no” is probably important for someone out there to hear.

    9. The Latte Factor*

      Sadly, I can assure this behavior happens. In fact, I know of one company in particular who asks for an interviewee’s household budget during the interview process to determine how much to pay them. :(

      If anyone is wondering, its Dave Ramsey’s company.

  48. CatCat*

    Ohhhh nooooo.

    Reminds me of an article I read about Dave Ramseys’s company where you have to show your personal budget before you get hired (among other nuts things like your spouse has to be interviewed.) This is the behavior of an abusive jerkwad. Not okay.

    Get out.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      And in this case, if you can have a savings account (the point of a job), you can’t get a raise?

    2. Box of Kittens*

      YES this made me think of him too. I read a few articles about him recently and that was one of the most fascinating and horrifying rabbit holes I’ve gone down in awhile. He feels entitled to EVERY aspect of his employee’s lives.

  49. The Crown*

    If you showed giant expenses he would tell you you dont have money becuase you dont spend your money right.

    I’m so horrified for you.

  50. Picard*

    I am also picking my jaw off the basement BUT…

    the only thing I can think, is it at all possible this cold be cultural? I would be curious to know what country the OP is from. Not because I think this excuses it but it might explain it. For example, I know in many Asian cultures, family gets ALL UP in your business in a way that most Americans would find hard to deal with but it IS perfectly normal for them.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I would not be surprised AT ALL to learn this was a US based employer. Think about how hard our society works to push the narrative that people who are rich deserve it and people who are poor are lazy/just aren’t trying hard enough. That kind of thinking is pervasive and I’m sure it’s made more than one boss decide that something crazy like this was their business and 100% relevant to determining wages.

  51. Zillah*

    I think others have covered how absurd and intrusive it is to look at your bills at all, so I want to also point out that $4000 after fun stuff/other things that need to get done is still not a lot of money, anyway! I mean, like… seriously?? One big expense could wipe all of that out.

    1. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Exactly. And if the number he came up with was $2000 or $3000 would that entitle LW to a raise? So many levels of messed up.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Plus, that $4000 was *before* fun stuff.

      Poster says “That $4,000 is just after bills, not having fun or stuff that needs to be done.”

  52. Team Tom*

    There is one, ONE time in Ask a Manager history I can think of where a manager was almost/sortof/kinda/a little bit entitled to the employee answering personal financial questions: where an employee had gotten himself into massive debt on the company credit card and basically threw himself at the mercy of his employer to ask for an arrangement to get the debt paid off. And as I recall the boss didn’t ask for bills, but basically asked the guy to go come up with a budget for personal expenses to see how much he could pay off each month. And the boss adjusted his budget *up* because he didn’t want the employee struggling too much.

    Leave, LW. Leave now. And take your co-workers with you.

  53. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I think my boss is one of the smartest and most trustworthy people I know – and I still cannot imagine any scenario in which I’d willingly allow him to look at my personal finances, for so many reasons – not the least of which is that I have no interest in unsolicited financial advice from someone who earns many times what I do.

    As Alison said, your personal finances (and what your boss judges your financial need to be) should never be a factor in determining whether you get a raise. There are so many other factors that could go into making that decision – what you’re responsible for, who you’re responsible for, the quality of your work, how much they want to keep you, and maybe (maybe) the financial stability of the company. But yah. This boss is so out of touch with business norms that I don’t this can be “fixed” in any other way – start job hunting!

  54. JustMePatrick*

    This really sounds like an article I recently read in the Tennessean about a well known Financial Advisor and his company but won’t name directly here. This sounds oddly similar.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      That office is MADE of bees. The bees have fully encased the office in a hive of monstrous proportions. Evil honey is dripping from every conceivable surface.


  55. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “Obviously you shouldn’t really do that because it’s fraud…”

    Is it, though? The typical definition of fraud is a lie perpetrated to get some sort of illegal gain. I’d think there’d be a pretty good argument that a raise based on information your employer has no right to look at in the first place is not illegal.

    ObDisclaimer: I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer. Absolutely don’t do this unless you’re sure it’s okay…but I’m not as sure as Alison is that it’s not okay, either.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It would definitely be forgery and my understanding of fraud is that the gain itself isn’t necessarily “illegal” but is about obtaining a financial advantage through deception…. that’s why it is mortgage fraud to give falsified pay stubs in order to borrow more etc (probably doesn’t happen so much now).

      1. Self Employed*

        My apartment building has income qualifications for residents that need to be renewed every year. After my first year, the manager at the time said that she had needed to evict a couple of tenants for “committing fraud” because they had said on their applications they’d get child support–but their ex stopped paying. Reviewing their bank statements showed they were not receiving the income they had claimed and no longer had 2X the rent in income (which is already lower than the 3X the rent standard here). So they were evicted. I guess they’re supposed to notify management of the change in income when it happens, but it seems awfully intrusive to police income fluctuations–they probably thought they’d collect retroactive child support when the court found his new employer or something.

  56. Just a Thought*

    Good for you having a budget for saving $4,000! I know it is not a lot – but it is something. Start looking forward to when you can save even more because you are at a company that gives raises (and it is completely your own business how much you save!).

    And adding to the chorus above. Your boss has no business asking to see your bills and your budget — and from that saying you make enough money! AUGH! I recommend doing some research on your skills and market value — also a good step when considering a job change (which we are all recommending!).

    1. Domino*

      So many things about this situation are messed up, but the fact that the boss is like “Modest savings? You greedy employee! Come back when your financial situation is dangerously precarious!” is so… like… what. the. actual. eff. (Does he have a background as a welfare payment administrator, by any chance?)

    2. SeluciaMD*

      But that’s not what this letter is saying! They are not actively putting $4,000 away in an account, that figure is all of the money the OP has leftover IN A YEAR after paying bills. That’s $77/week for any other expenses. Think about that!

      This boss is a horrible person and I hope OP is madly searching for a new job because there is nothing about this entire situation that isn’t a horror show.

  57. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    May this place be blessed with a mass exodus, followed by a slew of Glassdoor reviews that explain why no one working there ever gets any raises.

  58. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    So is my understanding correct that the boss has seen everyone’s bank account and credit card numbers? That’s a big yikes.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Aaand now I’m thinking about this too and I’m gonna have IT Security nightmares tonight *shudders*

      (And I’ve seen managers put people’s credit card details in unsecured excel files and email them out…)

  59. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

    OP. look for a new job.
    When you find one, give your boss two weeks’ notice.
    Do not discuss where you are going with your boss. Do not discuss why you are going with your boss.
    Do not tell your boss your new salary or benefits.
    Do not agree to train anyone, answer questions or be in available in any way after you leave.
    These things will happen.
    If you get a letter a year later stating you failed to provide information at your exit interview (and please, fail to give info at your exit interview)
    throw it away.

    1. generic_username*

      It would be worth telling her boss she’s leaving because she didn’t get a raise and didn’t see a path toward getting one. Hopefully if enough people do that to him, it’ll jar him into realizing he needs to pay people fairly in order to keep them. I completely agree that OP should put up a strict boundary and not allow her boss to get any free labor after she leaves (to include conversations about why she left), but it could help others after her to be honest in her exit interview or while giving her notice.

      1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        Agree. OP can say that the company not giving raises was a real issue.

  60. Amethystmoon*

    I suppose it never occurred to boss that people often pinch pennies when they are trying to make ends meet. That doesn’t mean they might not need a raise.

  61. MSSWAN*

    “People don’t get paid based on their expenses.”

    Agreed. But that is the rationale for a $15/hr minimum wage.

    1. Chilipepper*

      The minimum wage rationale is that we need a living wage for our entire system to function well. Its not good if you make great widgets but no one can afford widgets because they earn less than a living wage.

    2. generic_username*

      The rationale for the $15 minimum wage is not actually not based on any one person’s expenses though. It’s based on what is believed to be the minimum amount someone needs to make from a full-time job to survive. It’s meant to be applied to every person regardless of their personal finances. The minimum wage isn’t lower for people who for some reason don’t need the job to survive (people who live at home rent-free, people who are married to high-earners, people who have trust funds, etc…)

    3. BubbleTea*

      I’d say the more compelling rationale for a decent minimum wage is that people’s time and labour have a basic fundamental value entirely separate from what their needs are. People deserve to be paid properly because they deserve respect and dignity. It’s like any other right in society. A unit of labour-time has a value in a capitalist society and that should be recognised.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      “A person shouldn’t be paid based on their own specific personal expenses” does not in any way contradict the equally true statement that “any person working a full time job should be paid enough to afford to put a roof over their head and food on their table.”

    5. Elbe*

      I think you’re conflating “Expenses” and “Cost of Living.” They are two very different things.

      It’s actually common practice for employers to increase wages as the cost of living goes up. The issue is that there’s no regular cost of living bump on minimum wage, so the wages haven’t kept pace. In fact, they’re drastically behind and it’s causing a whole lot of problems in our society.

    6. Observer*

      In addition to what the others have said the idea of ANY minimum wage is not about a single person or family’s expenses. Rather, it’s a means to shift the labor market, and to ensure as a society that people in reasonable health have the reasonable likelihood of being able to meet their basic needs through employment.

    7. Rusty Shackelford*

      “I should get paid more because my expenses are higher.” – not good rationale

      “You should get paid less because your expenses are lower.” – not good rationale

      “The minimum wage is so low that no one can actually live on it, even if they keep their expenses to an absolute bare minimum.” – good rationale

  62. Cat Tree*

    The petty part of me hopes that as soon as the economy picks up, all three of you will leave at the same time for better opportunities. Then this boss can either let the business fail and be out of a job, or pay twice as much to replace all of you.

  63. generic_username*

    Worth saying: It’s responsible to keep your bills low enough to afford them under your current salary. As you get raises, then you upgrade (better car, bigger house, more in savings, etc). Under this system, it sounds like he would reward you with a raise if you were more irresponsible with spending….. So bizarre.

    OP, find something else ASAP.

    1. Argh!*

      This is impossible given annual cost of living increases and rental rate increases. I have not gotten raisees in 3 of the past 4 years. I have purchased a cheaper parking space, moved to a cheaper rental, and stopped taking medicine with a high copay. If you’re not getting any raise at all, you’re getting behind.

      1. generic_username*

        Completely agree! A lot of big organizations have Cost-of-Living raises of 1-2% annually just for that reason.

        (to be clear, my comment about keeping expenses low enough to afford was not in judgement of anyone who is unable to do so, but more to point out the absurdity of the boss thinking that she doesn’t deserve a raise just because she is able to afford her bills and have a little leftover for savings now)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. “You’re being fiscally responsible! So now you get punished!”

          (But also, him assuming she actually has that amount leftover for savings is ridiculous.)

    2. Magenta Sky*

      It’s a good theory, but very few people live in theory, they live in the real world.

      Take, for instance, Los Angeles, where the average one bedroom apartment rents for more money that the pre-tax income of someone making minimum wage. There is no “keeping your expenses low” that makes that anything less than hell, and your rest ill be going up every year whether your wages do or not.

      Not giving at least cost of living raises is telling employees “You’re worth less this year than you were last year.” So why are you keeping an employee around who is worth less every year? Maybe because good employees won’t work for you?

  64. Chilipepper*

    I only came here to say that I have been enjoying watching the comment count go up and up and up (as regular readers could have guessed). OP, it is very clear from all the comments, this is not normal, a skewed workplace skews your thinking, take care of yourself while you stay, and make getting out your priority.

    Best to you!

  65. Argh!*

    I suppose trying to get reimbursed for career counseling, resume printing, and psychotherapy would be pointless, but worth a try!

  66. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    It is very early in the year to be nominating Worst Boss candidates, but…I mean.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      Hard agree. This one’s got my vote at the top of the garbage heap of nominees. At least for now – but it’s only February so one shudders to think what might lie ahead……

  67. PT*

    I’ve worked with a lot of people in crappy jobs, who were young and working through school in a part-time job, or were older and just not able to get a better job. Anytime someone put me in the position of the boss- “I can’t afford my bills on these wages!” I would explain to them that your wages have nothing to do with your bills. I would go over ways they could earn more money within their existing job (pick up more hours, cross-train to do higher-paid duties if possible.) I would tell them what opportunities for outside jobs we sometimes received, since a lot of people often contacted us when they were recruiting or had a one-off gig that paid cash. And finally I would remind them that they should ALWAYS do what is best for them in their career, because while they were fortunate to have direct supervisors who cared and did their best to look out for them, the company 100% did not care about them, it only cared about itself.

    This boss is super out of line.

  68. Robin Ellacott*

    Echoing the others that this is insane, and NOT THE WAY IT WORKS.

    If it were less insane I might suggest banding with your colleagues and all presenting market info about usual salaries in your field and how raises work, but he is being so unreasonable that I think it’s just a case of “look for somewhere non-crazy to work.”

  69. boop the first*

    This is the kind of workplace I’d like to see find a *decent union they can join up with. If enough people send application slips before the boss catches on, it becomes literally illegal to retaliate and then you have long-established union lawyers handling the drama.

  70. Delta Delta*

    I don’t know if others have mentioned this, but what if OP didn’t have a lot of expenses? Suppose she lived in a home with no rent/mortgage, or took the bus instead of having a car, or didn’t have student loans. Would she then find her pay reduced because the boss didn’t think she’d need as much? Or would the boss start to go over her spending and “encourage” ways to reduce her expenses?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I know someone who didn’t get a scholarship in the 60s because his wife had a job, so he didn’t “need” it as much as the other person vying for it, who had a stay-at-home wife and a car payment. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a needs-based scholarship.

  71. Domino*

    This guy’s management style is basically “pre-haunting Ebenezer Scrooge” — and sadly, ghosts don’t exist. Run away from this dude and don’t look back!

  72. Llellayena*

    “My personal finances are private but I’d like to discuss my salary as compared to market values and my contributions to the position.”

  73. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Very first thought in my head when reading this letter was Captain Awkward’s brilliant tag: This Fucking Guy.

    1. SeluciaMD*

      We owe so much to Captain Awkward. TFG is a great one as is – the oft mentioned here “House of Evil Bees”. My personal favorite though is the “Field of no effs given.” I literally want someone to put that on a pillow for me. I keep meaning to print out that image and frame it since I can’t sew for anything LOL. :)

  74. YetEvenAnotherAlison*

    OP – please get out of this situation if you can. This request is one of the most unprofessional things that I have heard about in a long time. I am concerned for you because you did bring in your bills (not blaming you – read on) and because you did that – apparently you think this is okay? This tells me that you need to get out of this situation post haste because it is likely warping your thinking. Hold your head high, no one, and I mean no one has the right to disrespect you like this. What your manager is doing to you is a form of gaslighting – not okay. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-gaslighting-how-do-you-know-if-it-s-happening-ncna890866

  75. Essess*

    Do your customers/clients look through the company’s bills before deciding whether to pay the amount on an invoice to decide if they think they are being overcharged? No.
    Go back to the boss and let them know that wages are not related to personal expenses. Wages are based on equivalent salaries doing the same job at other companies.
    Seriously, you need to look for another job and quit as soon as possible. Take your coworkers with you. Never show your personal finances to your employer. It is literally none of their business even if they ask. If they insist on seeing them, you tell them that personal finances are private. If they refuse to discuss raises without seeing your finances, look at the internet and find the salaries being paid by other companies in your area and give THOSE to your boss in place of your bills.
    If your boss is not the owner of the company, then you should be escalating this breach of privacy to your HR and to that boss’s boss immediately.

  76. Me Too*

    This happened to me! When I worked for a religious organization which exacerbated the already pervasive sexism for me, female and at the time early in my career with a (white) male boss. They actually used my single status to justify paying me under minimum wage (by putting on my time sheets part time when I was full) so I could “prove myself.” It took me a few months to find an only less slightly bad job to flee to but I’ve never looked back and learned my lesson (from that job and two others) about working for evangelical Christians of any form. Oh and before I left I had just barely gotten engaged – I was told to have a baby as soon as I was married so I would qualify for WIC/Medicaid/etc so that they could pay me the same or less but “it would stretch more.” And I know many similar stories, or worse, from churches and Christian nonprofits. All that to say – not normal anywhere else other than in religious circles – totally normal there because the environment is that you’re working for The Higher Purpose and only getting paid to (barely) pay your bills – anything more would be greedy and undermining The Mission.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      This is stunning. I thought churches would treat their employees better, particularly White Evangelical Churches — so many people see the church as a key part of their social safety net with a mission to do good.

      1. Quill*

        I suspect it has more to do with the “for the mission” and the zombie cultural idea that more feminine / caring jobs are often undertaken as “charity” by women whose menfolk, lifted straight out of the 1800’s, are already providing for them, which tends to taint nonprofits.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        My non-evangelical church pays our admin (our only non-clergy employee) as much as we can, and gives her a raise whenever possible, but I’m not surprised that other churches would take advantage of their “status.”

    2. Mx*

      Well, there is a lot of hypocrisy.
      They stole from her, which is really “funny” when you think of what they preach !

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      Yikes. YIIIIIKES. What a wheelbarrow load of YIKES. I’m glad you fled as soon as you could.

      WWJD? Well, for starters, he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” so I think he’d pay at least the prevailing minimum wage.

  77. J.E.*

    Is this one of those small “we’re a family” or run by a family companies? Often “family” means they use that as an excuse to have no boundaries and try to guilt you into doing way more than you’re compensated for.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      To some, family means “You have to put up with whatever abusive behavior I feel like, but I don’t have to put up with anything from you.” It is, fundamentally, a bully attitude.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      “We’re faaaamily” = we’re actually the Manson family.

      If anything can be said to be a giant red flag with a Jolly Roger on it, any phrase like “we’re like family here” or “we’re a family” or etc. is it. No, I’m not your “family,” I’m an employee who is working for a paycheck. The IRS and the county won’t accept tax payments in warm fuzzies.

  78. Detritus*

    Hi Allison, this raised a question for me: if I move to a lower COL state my employer will adjust my pay — isn’t that tying compensation to expenses?

    At the same time I get it, because I’m being paid San Francisco tech wages and it sure would be nice to carry it over to, say, a much lower mortgage in OR or WA.

    1. Lizy*

      I moved from a fairly high COL area in the midwest about 2 years ago, and took a paycut at NewJob because my living expenses are literally half of what they used to be. BUT – it was also a lateral move (one might even argue a slight move down), and it wasn’t a paycut by half, and when I worked remotely for OldJob after I moved, they didn’t cut my pay.

      I think it depends on the area and your work. Could you find a similar job at the same rate you’re being paid now? If so, then they shouldn’t change your pay. I knew I wouldn’t be able to find a similar job at the same rate, so I knew I would have to accept a lower salary, but for numerous reasons, it was the right decision for me.

    2. Gumby*

      Isn’t that basically how government salaries work? Base pay + locality adjustment? (I do not work for the government, but a former roommate did. In the SF Bay Area her locality pay was a sizable portion of her full compensation.)

      1. Self Employed*

        From what I know of government salaries, they’re paying the locality adjustment to people who work at THEIR offices in either high or low COL areas. I don’t know what they’d do if someone whose assigned office was in the SF Bay Area but could do 100% WFH decided to live in Eugene, OR even though they weren’t working for an agency office in Eugene. I don’t think they’d pay a locality adjustment if someone whose home office were in Eugene decided to move to SF and work remotely!

  79. Minocho*

    Yeah, maybe I’m just old and have experienced enough crazy bosses and toxic workplaces to stop caring, but that request would get a big old “Hell no!” from me. Yikes!

  80. Nice Try, FBI*

    I once had a boss who was paying my assistant more than me. When I found out, I questioned why someone with less experience and education, who is my assistant, is paid significantly more than I am. He told me it was because she was a single mother to two young children and needed it more than I did.

    I don’t work for him anymore.

    1. CW*

      I am stunned. That was just wrong. Glad you are no longer there – he doesn’t deserve to be in business.

  81. Magenta Sky*

    Not giving raises is literally telling employees “You’re worth less this year than you were last year by whatever inflation has been.” It’s a sure sign that it’s time for a new job.

  82. Jean*

    Calling this sort of boundary annihilation “outrageous” would be an understatement. There are flames on the sides of my face on your behalf, OP. Get out of there, and blab your head off to anyone and everyone who will listen on your way out the door as to EXACTLY why you are leaving.

  83. Phoenix*

    This reminds me of my first job out of college, including a few specific details…

    If this is a small company in a college town in the upstate area that goes by a three-letter acronym, get out ASAP.

    Actually, probably just get out ASAP regardless, as Allison said.

  84. Anon for this comment*

    This reminds me of the time about a month before I married my now husband when his controlling mother asked to see my debit card and credit card statements to “make sure I knew how to budget money before I married her son”. We were 29 and 31 at the time. I laughed in her face. I mean obnoxiously howling with laughter before I said “nope”, and walked away.

    I won’t even show my own parents my bank statements, never mind my in laws and CERTAINLY not my boss. Run far.

  85. Quill*

    Ruuuuuuuhnnnn before he picks out your clothing and asks you to give up your posessions to help keep the company afloat.

  86. Girasol*

    There’s an old tradition (that deserves to die) that employers should be financially kind to employees who have real need. Thus when I asked for a raise because I had improved our department’s output, my boss said I couldn’t have one because they had just given one to Joe, who came drunk and wrecked equipment, because he had a new baby. Apparently enough people still think salaries are based on need because Alison still prints letters asking “Can I ask my boss for a raise because my bills just went up?” But I am so in agreement with the response of Alison and everyone here: what an employee needs should have nothing to do with what an employer pays. Employer shouldn’t ask. Employee shouldn’t say. The salary should be based on the value of the work done, which provides plenty of room for negotiation.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      I’m going to be cynical here and note that “HE” had a baby. He’s got a FAMBLEE to support doncha know!

      There is still an all-too-pervasive feeling among some workplaces that childless people, especially single childless people, don’t have expenses. Tell that to the grocery store, veterinarian, landlord, etc. I agree that compensation and raises need to be strictly based on work done and how well the employee performs, not “he has a famblee” or “she’s only a single woman, she doesn’t need money.”

  87. Elbe*

    I think that the LW should demonstrate that her contributions are worth more money to the market – and then when the boss still refuses to give her a raise she should ask to see his department budget so that she can give him pointers on his spending.

    Of course, this is terrible advice but it would be so, so satisfying.

    Seriously, though, this guy is terrible. If her work wasn’t worth X amount to the market, he would have just said that. It’s one (bad) thing to underpay your employees. It’s entirely another to pick apart their lives and critique their financial choices and act like a jerk in order to have some fig leaf for underpaying them.

  88. irene adler*

    If boss wants to see/review my bills, then he’s gonna pay them as well.
    Otherwise, no dice.

  89. cold call catastrophe*

    I wrote in a while ago about my company doing something like this. They wanted all employees to turn in all their bills, their debts and their bank account amounts so that they could find out who was irresponsible with money and make them do a study course about good budgeting. They did this with the idea that if an employee had good finances they’d somehow make more money for the (struggling) company. I refused, like most employees. I have nightmare stories about that place, including one where an employee was nearly fired for having a messy house.

    1. Elbe*


      Also, this gives me the distinct impression that the person who suggested this is the one who is bad with money. You know any place so desperate to find financially “irresponsible” employees is a financial mess.

      The lack of self awareness is stunning. If the company is struggling, why would they think they’re in any position to be making judgements about someone’s personal finances?

    2. SeluciaMD*

      Wait…what? WHAT? HOW. WHY. WHAT? I mean…I can’t…IS THIS A THING???

      Chiming in with others to say that I hope this is (or soon will be) your FORMER company because, to quoth the poet Gwen, this s*&t is bananas. (B-A-N-A-N-A-S)

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      OMG. That is fruit salad bananas. I hope you are out of there.

      Having to turn over all your financial information sounds like a prime recipe for ID theft as well. (If this happened to an employee as a result of the company saying “hand all your bills and debt information and bank account information over” they could, and should, be sued.)

    4. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

      cold call catastrophe*,
      I do hope that you will share the messy house story on Friday!

    5. Red 5*

      That’s just…honestly, why in the world wouldn’t you just do what a lot of companies (including mine) does and just sometimes offer some financial seminars for anybody that would like to sign up.

      They’ve got semi-regular classes on retirement savings, how to make the most of your benefits, all that kind of stuff. And they just say anybody that wants it can have it.

      To even have the gall to ask to see your employees bank statements is just…I can’t even.

      1. Self Employed*

        It would make sense if and only if it were part of a security clearance to make sure someone weren’t so desperate for money they’d be susceptible to offers of payment for secrets. (I don’t know if anyone but the government can do that but I know that high levels of debt, gambling habits, etc. are reason to deny a security clearance.)

  90. LGC*

    …holy hell, it’s only February 9 and we already have a frontrunner for December! (I’d ask how this gets topped but if being on this site has taught me nothing else, it’s that capitalism is…innovative.)

    But yeah, LW. Not only is this blatantly invasive, this might edge into enabling discrimination? Like, is he going to pay the guy with a wife and 2.5 kids more than me (a single guy)? Is he going to pay married women less if their husband makes a lot of money? This is breaking my brain in so many ways.

  91. Gossip Whisperer*

    All I could say when I read this, was, “Is your boss your Dad,” because that’s parenting not managing.
    My friend’s dad did this to her when he got hold of her year end W-2 and found out how much she was making and what she had in the bank. Suddenly she couldn’t go out with us to movies, dinners, it was re-G.D.-diculous. She was not an extravagant kid, none of us were. We were embarrassed and hurt for her.

    I can’t think of anything more degrading (dont’ answer that) than something like this. If an employer cannot give you, or does not want to give you a raise, there’s a fast and easy way to handle that.


    1. Cat Tree*

      That’s not parenting either. Parents can and should absolutely advise minor children who are dependent on them, but ultimately it’s their money to spend or save. My parents would have never done something like that.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Exactly! That’s one of the benefits for teenagers in having a job. You get to learn about workplaces, how to show up on time, and *where money comes from and how to budget* and things like “taxes and deductions” when you’re a minor and your parents have to provide for you. It’s like training wheels for when you graduate and go get a full-time job. You’re better off learning about income, budgets, savings, etc. at 16 than 26.

        Controlling parents deprive children of the life experiences they need to be well-functioning adults.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes, my philosophy is that if you’re mature enough to have a job, you’re mature enough to handle your money. And sometimes people do make mistakes with money at any age, but it’s better to blow it all and learn the lesson about going broke when that doesn’t make you homeless or starving.

    2. LizM*

      That’s not parenting either. My dad taught me to advocate to be paid for what I’m worth. He’s not involved in my finances to the extent this boss is.

  92. Fried Eggs*

    OP, I felt a flash of anger just reading the title. Your boss has absolutely no right to know how you spend your money.

  93. Dramamethis*

    Uhh… is you manager also your father? I mean in no way is it appropriate for a boss to have access to an employee’s bills. What a huge invasion of privacy!

    Like Allison & others are saying, RUN!

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I would argue it is equally not appropriate for your father to have access to this information for their grown, adult child. So even if this boss is your dad? THIS IS NOT OK.

      1. D3*

        It’s not appropriate for the parents of adult kids to demand or expect access, sure.
        But last week my 25 yo came to me with his budget spreadsheet asking if we had ideas for how he could manage his finances better to pay off student loans and start a savings account.
        We were happy to help, and since HE came to us asking for help I don’t think it was inappropriate.
        (And one of our many suggestions was to ask for a raise or look for a better paying job since his pay has been flat for just over 3 years and his industry is doing well. I had no idea he hadn’t been getting raises.)

        1. pancakes*

          There’s no element of coercion or abusive control when the situation is an adult offspring asking for help. You don’t think that’s an important distinction?!

          1. D3*

            I absolutely do. It’s why I said I only thought it was okay be because he came to us and NOT the other way around.

        2. Red 5*

          Asking for help and volunteering detailed information versus being forced to do so is apples and fire trucks.

          Parents should not demand to see detailed financial information from their adult children. I suppose it’s more acceptable for them to ask in specific situations, but demanding? Hard no.

    2. pancakes*

      You’re the second commenter to mention fathers. It’s unsettling that people seem to think this would be more acceptable coming from a parent. Trying to exert so much financial control over someone old enough to be employed would be wretchedly paternalistic even if there was an actual parent-child relationship!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I mean, if you’re a teenager with your first job, and you request some help learning how to budget, sure. Otherwise, hard no.

  94. PJM*

    Time for a new job. I once asked for a raise when I was making a very small entry level salary. My boss said I was preoccupied with money, what do I need so much money for, and should he teach me to budget my money better? This from a man making millions of dollars a year and building his dream home on the beach. Since I was young and this was my first job, I actually felt intimidated and he made me feel greedy for asking for more money. I should have immediately looked for a new position. His attitude never changed, every raise was like pulling teeth.

    1. CW*

      Wow, is this Mr. Krabs? I hope you are somewhere else now. Only SpongeBob will put up with this kind of abuse!

  95. Ciela*

    Your boss sounds banana crackers.

    I did have a very frank conversation about bills with a former roommate. But his lack of financial planning had the possibility to have a very real affect on me. Less than 12 hours after getting paid he had no money left. And also seemed surprised that rent was due the first Friday of the month, as it always was.
    He did not have the $300 for his share of the rent, plus all utilities. He had no car, no cell phone. This was long ago enough that cell phone were unusual. He had a pre-paid bus pass, rarely bought his own groceries. For some reason he thought it was a good idea to spend his whole check at the club as soon as he got it. SMH

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Okay, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say if someone 1) lives with you and splits bills with you, 2) says they can’t pay their share, and 3) seems to have money for unnecessary things, it’s okay to get up into their financial business. Because they just made it *your* business too.

      1. Finland*

        I had a roommate that was constantly buying “shared items“ for our apartment without discussing with me and then charging me half the cost. Even then, I didn’t demand to see her bank statements, I just told her to stop. I shudder to think of having a roommate who pretends to forget that rent is due every month!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I still remember my dad telling me about how it was a thing for a lot of the guys he worked with to cash their paychecks at the bar across the road…and then proceed to drink their entire paychecks that night. Then talk to him about how they were all financially unstable, while he was like “Yeah, I had my 2 beers I budged for, have a good night, fellas.” D: It’s an all too real thing for many. I cannot imagine having one of those folks as a roommate, I’m glad you had a conversation with yours.

  96. LizM*

    Oh my goodness.

    In addition to this being bad practice for sooooo many reasons, basing compensation on need is setting someone up for a discrimination suit based on family status (if that’s a protected class in your state) or gender. Because I can’t tell you how many people still look at a man’s salary as what’s needed to support the family, and a woman’s salary as “extra fun” money.

    It’s not a far leap to imagine a boss like this saying to a female employee, “Why do you need a raise? Your husband makes plenty to support your family.”

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      “You still live with your parents. Why do you want more money?” Answer: Because I would like to one day no longer live with my parents.

      Actual conversation I had with my boss at my first job after graduating from college. It was so demeaning. I can only imagine how I would have rage quit had he asked to see my bills.

      1. West*

        That’s outrageous. I had a similar situation a few years ago, per my comment somewhere above, but I lived with my aunt, not my parents. And I asked for a raise for the very same reason you mentioned above, unsuccessfully. It’s really sickening some bosses actually do this.

        I hope you are employed elsewhere now, at a much better place.

      2. Observer*

        And these are generally the same folks to talk about “young people these days” who are too lazy / immature / inept to move out of Mommy’s house. (Note that it’s almost always “Mommy” although sometimes it is “Daddy and Mommy”.

        1. Roy G. Biv*

          It was 20 years ago and yes, I have a much better job. He also called me entitled because I had insurance benefits through the company, and yet, I had the nerve to ask for a raise. You know, money. One positive thing came from that conversation. I was determined to remember how that conversation made me feel, and to never use such language or attitude on coworkers younger than myself. Work environments are tough enough without that kind of pile on. And in reality, the most entitled, spoiled baby behavior I have witnessed at work has usually come from The Old Guard, and/or people who have never been told “No.”

  97. GreenDoor*

    OP, you could literally take every dollar you make and throw it off the rooftop and let the winds carry it all away. You could be married to a billionaire and live on a private island. You could donate every dollar you make to charity. Your boss still has no right to know about it. And in no scenario should you ever feel compelled to share your personal information with your boss. They play ZERO factor in whether you merit a raise. Get out ASAP. You work for a wacko!

  98. LizM*

    I would be tempted to sign a lease on a new, luxury apartment, and take that into his office with my request for a raise. Except that’s probably setting you for a lecture on not living beyond your means, and the raise would be denied to “teach you personal responsibility.”

  99. LadyProg*

    I’m still in shock at how bad that boss is.
    At a job I had a while ago I knew I was at least 10% below my peers that had similar experience and title so after a good review I asked for a raise, was told no. I laid back and did minimum expected after that as doing well over expected was not being met with any advantage for me, found a new job a year later and quit for a 60% increase. My boss wasn’t even surprised!

  100. SeluciaMD*

    I am gobsmacked. Absolutely, 100% chin-on-the-floor gobsmacked. Run OP. RUN FAR AND FAST AND NEVER LOOK BACK.

  101. Hobbette*

    Sorry if this was already asked but… is the boss LW’s spouse, parent, etc.? That’s not to excuse what happened but it would put it in perspective. Regardless, YIKES!

    1. Red 5*

      Since the LW says that the boss did this to a coworker as well, it seems unlikely that they were a spouse or parent.

      But even if they were, I wouldn’t show my parents my bills in this situation either and it would not be okay for them to ask.

      In the case of a spouse, it would start to feel like financial abuse to me actually but that’s a different story.

  102. Me (I think)*

    My kid is out the door, we paid off the home equity line that we used for the addition, our second car is paid off, and the mortgage has maybe another year to go.

    Time to go ask my boss to reduce my salary!!! Said. No. One. Ever.

  103. Flora*

    OH MY GOD.

    Look, my young-adult kids lived with me in the college years and had part-time jobs and paid some rent to me (but still had a cheaper deal than if they’d moved out) and one of them sometimes struggled to pay that bill due to being a young adult and not being very ready to plan ahead well, and I made them pay the bill belatedly but did not ask to see their finances because holy shoebells it’s not my business if their irresponsible spending is on beer or t-shirts. That’s someone who lives in my house and was produced by my body. A boss asking for that is super ultra extremely incorrect. Completely. Entirely. All the time. Please make arrangements to exit this situation when feasible.

  104. Red 5*

    Get out, get out, get out, get out.

    I know that’s hard to do right now but whatever energy you have to pursue other employment, you need to do it.

    When I was younger, I had one of my first full time jobs after I graduated college with an organization where I was one of the only people there with a bachelor’s degree. As such, I did know that I got paid slightly more than the average because I was _more highly trained_ than any of them were, because that was part of my admittedly weasely salary negotiation when I got the job offer (basically I said “I really would like to make what I’m making at my current job” and they said “we don’t really pay that much…but we’ll come closer than we originally offered because you have a degree but it’s more than other people at your level are making just so you know” which should have been a red flag really).

    I made a joke one day about being broke, because I was. I was flat broke. I barely had two nickels to rub together and was surviving basically off of food pantries and the fact that I basically ate at other people’s houses almost every night (plus “grocery shopping” in my parents kitchen). At one point I nearly had my heat cut off in the middle of winter and had to go to a charity for help paying the bill. It was the poorest I’ve ever been in my life, but I had a safety net and I had a roof over my head, etc.

    And my supervisor looks at me, completely serious, and says “How are you broke? No offense, but I know how much money you make.”

    I had absolutely no idea how to address the question because even though I knew the answer (mostly student loans and medical bills, but also partially paying off old credit card debt from a few years of bad decisions in college) but none of that was any of his business. I might have said something about the student loans, I don’t remember.

    But what I do remember is that it was when I realized that they really did treat me differently because my boss and my supervisor both thought I was overpaid and that I was hurting their bottom line by earning too much money. I was not earning too much money, it just seemed like it to them because everybody on the entire staff was grossly underpaid and most of the town itself was economically depressed on top of that.

    There were a lot of other factors, but they found the first reason they could to get rid of me, and before I’d even packed up my desk they’d already hired a replacement that had less education and that they could pay less.

    Your boss looks at your salary as a drain on the company and not a necessary operating expense. And anything somebody sees as a bleeding their budget they will cut out the first chance they get.

    And that’s without even touching the fact that he should never, ever, ever have asked to see anything related to your personal finances. He never should have even asked! That’s so far outside the norm that it’s making me so angry on your behalf. The fact that he asked twice is so much worse!

    You all need to just get out of there. Go as far as possible, it is not healthy for you to stay there.

  105. Southern Gentleman*

    I’m sure I’m late to the party and I admit I haven’t skimmed the comments; but this is an early frontrunner for Worst Boss.

  106. Archaeopteryx*

    OP the face that you and your coworker would even for a moment think of letting your boss inspect your personal finances shows that you’ve been frog-in-boiling-water’d into some extremely warped norms. Get out like yesterday.

  107. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Back in the paleolithic era (aka the 1950s), it wasn’t unusual for companies to assume that it was just fine to pay a man more than a woman (for the same work) because “he has a family to support.” (Yes, of course there were single mothers back then, but this had nothing to do with logic!) LW, your boss seems to have gone through a time warp and emerged about 70 years ago. Although even back then, I don’t think that employers assumed it was okay to go through their employees’ bills!

    LW, please stop sharing your financial information with your boss and please, please get a job with a company that hires sane supervisors! I’m rooting for you to get out of there ASAP!

    1. West*

      Good point. It may have been acceptable to do this in the 1950s (not saying it’s right, though), but it sure is NOT going to fly in 2021.

      LW, get out of there as quickly as possible. As soon as you have another job lined up, leave immediately. You deserve better.

  108. Wilbur*

    I think the correct response is to ask to see the companies books, decide what a fair profit margin is, and then take the difference in salary. Or maybe start with your boss and work your way up.

  109. Late Bloomer*

    Saving 4K each year…isn’t even that much considering you could even set that much aside after bills. Maxing out a IRA takes 6k! And that’s not taking into account further retirement savings/short term savings/long term savings/emergencies/irregular expenses/having a gd LIFE

  110. Leslie Hell Knope*

    I used to think my job had some good benefits/perks, but since reading AAM I’ve realized that so many people out there have access to nutrionists, life coaches, therapists, financial advisors and more, not only through their jobs, but AT the job! How amazing is that?!

    1. Former Employee*

      I do not know anyone who has such benefits.

      I believe that if you work at a place like Google, you get those benefits and more. The catch is that you practically live at your job, so those perks are there so you don’t have to leave work to see a nutritionist or a financial advisor, or…

      1. Leslie Hell Knope*

        Oh gosh, I put a html sarcasm tab in the comment, but it was automatically erased by the website.
        I was jokingly referring to the fact that the OP’s boss, and many others, think it’s ok to “advise” their employees in many areas of their personal lives…

  111. CW*

    It baffles me that one employee would stay there for seven years without a raise. That’s not even the worst I have heard of; I heard from one lady eight years ago that she had not gotten a raise in 15 years, yet still stayed. That’s just sad. Consider how much inflation would have eaten away at your salary’s purchasing power over that time.

    Say if inflation averages 3% a year:

    3% * 7 years = 21% cumulative inflation
    3% * 15 years = 45% cumulative inflation

    Now, let’s say you made $50,000/year to start, and you started working at your job in seven or fifteen years ago, respectively, and never got a raise:

    $50,000 * 21%= $10,500 total dollar value lost (since 2014)
    $50,000 – $10,500=$39,500 value in 2021 dollars

    $50,000 * 45%= $22,500 total dollar value lost (since 2006)
    $50,000 – $22,500 = $27,500 value in 2021 dollars

    As you see above, not getting a raise really eats away at your value of how much you can purchase with your salary over time. Sure, $50,000/year may have been a lot in 2006, but not as much now. And in 20 years or so, you will be living in poverty with that wage. This is something employers need to recognize but sadly most don’t see it. This is not just a cheap boss, but a cheap employer. Please leave before your sense of reality is warped, otherwise you will continue being screwed.

    1. Flora*

      Since a calculation like this is actually going to be exponential (it’s not 3% of 50K each year; the first year it’s 3% of 50K and the next it’s 3% of 51500, etc), it’s actually even worse. 15 years of 3% calculated exponentially is 55.8%. Which is $27898 in lost value.

  112. kmatt*

    yeah, definitely went through this exact thing. i worked for 3yrs for a local bank, and became licensed per their request (series 6 & 63). the entire time, i made $16/hr. finally i decided to push for a raise, i sought out salaries for my experience level in my industry (retirement and/or insurance and/or investment banking, since my role encompassed all 3 areas at the time) and found that in my area, people with my job title (administrative coordinator) and education+certifications were reporting around $25/hr.

    i felt like pushing for a $9/hr raise would be pushing my luck, so i asked for a raise to $18/hr instead. my boss at the time, literally laughed in my face, said “thats a little high, don’t you think?” and then went on to say “have you considered living in a less expensive neighborhood?” and then went on to suggest i ask HR for a raise myself (we were a 2 person department at the bank, she was the vp of said department, in charge of the budget. her therefore suggesting this was downright insulting)

    this incident told me all i needed to know about my future there, so I knuckled down and, after some searching (and another job in between) i have now doubled my salary and have a boss who is happy to give me raises.

    I’d say, LW, you should get the heck out of there asap.

  113. Old Cynic*

    Back in the 80s, my husband and I shared a car. Finally we were able to buy (actually lease) a second car. My then boss saw me driving it one day and commented that since I had a new car I obviously didn’t need a raise. And I didn’t get one that year.

  114. TheExchequer*

    Oh, look! Another graduate of the Dickensian School of Robber Baron Management is on the loose.

  115. Former Employee*

    I think it would be interesting if the OP suddenly had a large expense, such as needing a new car, and went to their boss with a copy of the paperwork and said that now they could justify getting that raise they asked about.

    I’m pretty sure that the boss would simply suggest that employee review their spending and find ways to cut or eliminate other expenses so they could afford the new car on their existing salary.

  116. Kali*

    This sounds like a subset of the “we’re like a big family!” series of workplace problems.

    Also, isn’t this what went wrong at the factory in Atlas Shrugged? “From each according to his effort to each according to his need” turned into a monthly begging fest as people justified their wages based on their expenses?

  117. Random Autistic Person*

    This reminds me of the HR department at our last job, who demanded a list of all the medical providers we were seeing that wouldn’t be covered under a potential new insurance plan. Of course, since the new plan was cheaper for the company, they decided we didn’t REALLY need to see those particular providers… which they were actually rude enough to tell us in the meeting discussing the new plan.

  118. Kris*

    First time I’m commenting because I did once get a raise by this method. But I basically just went to my boss in college and told him I was looking for a second job and that if they paid more I’d give them more of my availability and would cut my hours there. He asked me how much more I needed and I think I ended up with a $1.25/hr raise and didn’t have to get a second job.

    Might be a bargaining chip for OP if they really like the work, but honestly this guy sounds like a basket case and I’d cut and run at the earliest opportunity.

  119. Liza*

    What the ACTUAL f???

    If we got paid based on expenses, does that mean I can move into a mansion and buy a Bentley and expect to get a raise to cover that?

    In all seriousness though, this would lead to discriminating against single people, those without kids, etc, because they naturally have lower expenses.

    1. Finland*

      Not if they’re caring for an elderly and/or immunocompromised parent or have an expensive medical issue, both of which are extremely common. Single people don’t naturally have lower expenses and this thinking is what encourages discrimination.

  120. Finland*

    Not if they’re caring for an elderly and/or immunocompromised parent or have an expensive medical issue, both of which are extremely common. Single people don’t naturally have lower expenses and this thinking is what encourages discrimination.

  121. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I had a boss who tried to get us to accept a cut in pay (illegal here). He mentioned that L wouldn’t have her pay cut because she’d just had a baby. I told him that I wanted a baby too but was holding off because of the company being in dire financial straits (not exactly true, my BF was digging his heels in, but the boss didn’t know that), and it wasn’t fair that someone who just went ahead and irresponsibly had a baby even though they might lose their job should get special treatment.
    No, your pay reflects your contributions to the firm, not what you actually need. There are benefits for people who need more than what they earn.

  122. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    1. Your worth at your job has nothing to do with your expenses.
    2. Your boss has no right to review your expenses, nor should he ever ask to.
    3. Your boss is a complete lulubird and you need to get out of there immediately.

  123. amy*

    Those of us who live in the real world, and not the boss’ delusional little fantasy world, know that every penny of the $4,000 she supposedly should have left over will go to unexpected bills that pop up because s— happens

Comments are closed.