I work in an office with about 40 other people in varying situations (junior up to director level). I'm a little older than my immediate peers (the people I work with and socialize with) and more financially established in life, mostly due to luck and timing rather than any exceptional skill on my part.
Our culture We have a very chatty environment where it's the norm to share a lot of personal information, so I hear a lot about my peers' children, schools, financial troubles etc. Some of my peers are 'working poor' who have full time jobs but are still struggling financially, in some cases claiming welfare benefits.
Frequently my 'peers' ask for my advice or input on things that come up in their lives that are new to them, but not to me as I've come across them before. For example "how to ask their landlord about problem X" or "what features to look for with this household item they need to buy".
My issue is that as a somewhat more well-off person I feel guilty in displaying any signs of relative "wealth", for example:
- I'm looking for a newer car (about 3-4 years old; mine is 11 years old) which some of my peers would perceive as a luxury (I'm not going to ask them anything about cars, but it will be seen when I buy it and arrive in the car park).
- sometimes I take a trip outside 'our city' and stay in a hotel which I feel guilty admitting I spent the money on when asked as part of the general chat "what did you do over the long weekend you took PTO for?"
- I recently had about $3000 of unexpected repairs to my house which I could spend but would have financially ruined others, so I feel guilty mentioning it. I mentioned the problem originally believing it to be much smaller and it was the reason for needing to take a day off at short notice. So then they asked what happened with it.
I worry that displays of "relative wealth" like this would be perceived as grotesque or bragging by less well-off colleagues (partly influenced by my own feelings when I was the less well-off colleague myself and did feel this way).
My question - is it poor office etiquette to display/mention signs of "relative" wealth when I know others are struggling? Should I hide them and avoid the subject (in a workplace where people do talk openly)?