In the West, you are unlikely to be asked how much you earn, unless it has to do with a survey or research. It is impolite to ask and if you did, you are unlikely to get a straight forward answer... much like asking a lady for her age.
Over here, especially in Malaysia, people openly enquire about salaries and compare them, at social gatherings and in coffee shops. This could be a reason why people try so hard to be able to have something decent to show, for comparison purposes. Some would try to impress with cars instead of house or apartment which could be rented. While some try to impress, there are others who actually try to downplay their actual earnings, either because of illegal business or unreported or under-reported incomes. Sometimes, it is amusing when the same person could be showing off in front of people he is trying to impress, but pretend to face financial difficulties when sensing a friend or relative is about to ask to borrow money!
Parents would even compare the initial investments on education and professional training with future returns. Then there is the comparison between those educated overseas and locally. Some parents are likely to think: 'Why spend a fortune just to have an overseas education, when you can buy a shop house for less for each of the children? It is solid investment where he or she can start a business or earn rental income immediately, instead of the uncertainty of the future.' When they come across professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers having businesses like cafes or restaurants, where some actually gave up their professions to do it, such examples seem to bear testimony to their wisdom! Well, to each his or her own. There is no right or wrong decision where this is concerned. Personally, depending on our own financial circumstances, I believe in allowing and encouraging a child to do what he or she chooses to study, and later on, in his or her choice of a job or profession.
Then, we have the 'kiasu' parents who tend to overstate the incomes and perks of their children's employment so that they do not lose face, much to the embarrassment of their children who should know how much they actually earn.
Those having children working overseas where the exchange rates of the countries' currencies are favourable are generally envied. But, end of the day, it is the actual disposable incomes (after tax and other deductions) available for spending (bear in mind the higher costs of living overseas) and for saving, which are more relevant. To parents, the amount which a son or daughter could spare for them is also important, even if it is only symbolic of their filial piety. While some are well trained to save some for the parents in case of contingencies, some are more concerned about inheritance to be expected from their rich parents. There is a Cantonese saying, 'thoong yan, ng thoong meang' or 'we are similar as human beings, but our lives can be very different'. So what is necessary for some might be something taken for granted by others.
At my age, health is definitely to be wished for than wealth, not that I have much of the latter! I still cannot get over what a dying rich man said to me, 'I really envy you.' Simply because he was immobile and not allowed to eat anything which he liked, compared with my mobility and apparent good health and can eat anything I fancy.