This month I’m focusing the majority of posts on my improvement plan from Year 2 in DC: Financial Health. Each post I’ll outline one step I took to make my life a little easier when it comes to money management. I haven’t always made good choices in the past and I’m not 100% fixed yet, but these steps have helped me get better and improve my credit score by 176 points in less than 2 years.
Step 1: Get a New Job
In my experience completing step one was the catalyst that made all of the rest possible. I know that not everyone can uproot their lives and move across the country in search of a better paying job. But there are solutions you can explore in your own backyard, so to speak.
- Ask for a Raise – if you’ve been working in the same place for several years, maybe it’s time to ask for a raise. Are you one of the more dependable employees? Have your performance reviews been good over several years? Are there other responsibilities you can take on to justify an increase in pay? If even one of the questions results in a “yes,” then meet with your boss and make your case. Emphasis on that last part; if you’re going to ask for more money you have to prove your worth. Sometimes the boss’s hands are tied. That’s where the next option comes in.
- Create a Professional Development Plan – so maybe you can’t get a raise for doing the job you’re currently doing. I get that. Some industries are conservative and highly regulated, but there may be an option to work with your boss to develop a plan for professional development. Let him or her know that you’re interested in more responsibility and/or other opportunities within the organization. Share your ambition. A good organization wants to keep good workers. They may surprise you. Your boss may say, “I’m sorry a raise isn’t in the budget…” but maybe there’s an opportunity for advancement or a lateral move that will earn you higher pay. I worked for minimum wage at a deli a few years ago, and this is what happened to my colleague. The owner wants to keep good, dependable workers, and my colleague took on additional front-of-house responsibilities to earn the raise. It was a win/win for the owner and the employee.
- Negotiate Better Work/Life Balance – okay, so maybe there simply isn’t money in the budget for a raise and your organization is efficient and flat so there also isn’t a lot of opportunity for advancement. Now what? Well, maybe making the case for more money isn’t possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate for other types of compensation. If your boss is sympathetic but can’t make something monetary happen, make the case for other benefits to increase your work/life balance. Perhaps an additional vacation day or two, or maybe a company match on your retirement contribution. What about comp time for days you work long hours? Or a flexible working schedule so that you can telework (if possible)? If your work cannot be done remotely, what about negotiating a daily schedule that works better for your family (arriving earlier or later, for example)? There are other ways employers can show good employees that they are valued – explore some options, even if additional monetary compensation may not be a possibility.
Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking that none of these options are possible at your current job. That’s okay. Maybe then it’s a matter of doing a cost/benefit analysis – is your current job paying you enough and providing the benefits you need? Are you content to stay there? Or do you want to find something else? Or do you want to go back to school to learn a new marketable skill and move into a different industry?
The decision is up to you and the opportunities available to you right now. The main point is to not leave money on the table and know what you’re worth.