3 things you can do if you want to earn a higher salary

August 1

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I rarely write about Facebook posts because I seldom get triggered by them to do something so this is one of the rare pokemons out there.

There was a recent anonymous post that complained about how most post university jobs in Singapore can't break through the $100,000 annual salary mark, even after 10 years of working experience. OP went on to question if he/she is the only who thinks that is f**ked.

It was an interesting question and as someone who has been tracking his personal finance for the past few years, I was able to tell when I crossed the $100,000 mark in gross annual salary - on my 11th year as an employee in the corporate world.

Is a $100,000 annual salary very important for us as employees to strive for? Is this a goal that you have set for yourself as an employee?

In this article, let's talk about this and what I think you could do if you want to earn more than what you are paid now.

The first time I was offered a $100,000 annual salary

I remembered being overjoyed (internally, of course) when I first heard the offer from the recruiter over the phone, and that same joy erupted again when I received the official offer letter from the company with annual salary stated in bold.

That joy didn't last very long for me, probably as long as retail therapy does for me.

Here's why.

I have been tracking and managing my personal finances for a number of years now and that journey has started 2 years before that $100,000 salary offer came along.

For someone who has been saving more than 60% of his income consistently for years, what does a salary increment mean to me?

It simply means that I'm going to be able to save more money and invest that into my investment portfolio. I would also bump up some of my discretionary expense allocation so that I can enjoy a little more with smaller pleasures in life.

In short, a salary increment makes me happy for a while but by not succumbing to lifestyle creep, it's really not that exciting.

I must say that I also recognise that I'm privileged to be able to make the statement above because while I came from a low income family, I am almost debt-free, apart from the monthly mortgage for the HDB flat that we staying in.

Why is your employer not paying you the salary you want?

I'm going to drop the $100,000 salary subject and focus on the salary you think you deserve. For a fresh graduate, it may be $60,000 per year or it could be $200,000 per year for an experienced professional.

If your employer isn't paying you the salary you think you deserve, it simply means that you don't deserve that salary.

Hold your pitchforks! Let me explain why.

If you have been diligently working at your work desk (or home now for that we are still WFH-ing) for the past few years and meeting all your KPIs, you will not be seeing a a bump in your salary any time soon. That's because the basis of your employer paying your monthly salary is for you to meet your KPIs in the first place!

To be rewarded with a good bonus at the end of the year, you need to go above and beyond to deliver outstanding results beyond your expected KPIs.

That said, if you are happily doing your job, day in and day out without any complaints or outstanding performances, why would an employer feel the need to pay you more money each year? That would unnecessarily eat into the cost of running the business.

We also need to understand why a salary increment exists.

HR practitioners use salary increments to ensure that you are being paid within a certain range of the market rate for your job scope within the industry. That means you will only see a significant salary increment if they found that you have been significantly underpaid.

If you are already being paid close to your peers within the industry, expect to see pathetically low increments that are close to inflation rates.

So what can you do to change the status quo?

Get promoted and climb that corporate ladder

You can choose to work hard and work smart to climb that corporate ladder faster than the rest.

Don't be afraid to set up a meeting with your manager to find out what it would take for you to leap to the next corporate rank. Most managers (the decent ones, I mean) want their direct reports to succeed because they want to celebrate your success too.

As a people manager, your manager's KPIs are no longer centered around business performance. Part of their KPIs would include providing leadership, mentorship and support to help you achieve your goals and succeed in your role.

By taking the initiative to discuss with your manager to find out how you can succeed, you are also indirectly helping them succeed as well. It's a collaborative win-win situation for both your manager and you to make it work.

So the most important thing for you to do, is to start that conversation, map out the goals and tasks that needs to be realised and get it done.

Jump ship to another company that is willing to pay more

We aren't always fortunate enough to have that supportive manager who can support and help you succeed. It could be because they are inexperienced leaders, or just toxic and selfish individuals who step on others to succed.

Or you may strongly believe that your employer is not be paying you what you deserve, especially when you compare your salary with your peers.

My advice to you is to quit that job.

Find another company who is willing to pay you that fair salary, with a manager who is willing to support and help you succeed in your role.

I have found that the job market is often larger than we think. The problem why most employees are stuck in their role and salary is because we get too comfortable with the work and environment that we lose the hunger to seek better paying options.

You don't have to take my word for it. Speak to an experienced recruiter who is experienced in you industry to find out more before you make your decision.

Switch to a different job role that pays more

You did your homework and checked the job market for open roles similar to what you are doing right now. You spoke to recruiters and found out that you are already paid at the upper threshold among your peers for what you do.

But you are not satisfied with the salary that you are getting. What now?

You could go back to the earlier option to climb the corporate ladder and get a higher salary, but if you are reading this, I presume that you are happy with the career level you are in right now and do not want to go any higher. I get it.

You could consider to 2 options.

Option one, if you are in a client role, move to an agency role to do the same kind of work. You could get a higher pay if the agency will have you work for a larger client (probably regional work) who is willing to pay more for your experience. The agency may also choose to have you work for a few clients at one go and each client would pay for your time which in total, would be more than what you would be paid for working for a single company (we're looking at a volume game here).

Option two, consider switching to a different role that allows you to complement with your experience and skillset in exchange for a higher salary. This option may be challenging for some because we are venturing into the unknown here. The risk is there but you will be able to break out from the salary ceiling that you are experiencing in your current role.

Conclusion: It's not about how much you earn, but how much you save

While it's good to have a monetary goal to aspire to, I feel that it's not very meaningful or purposeful to just work for money. The work itself needs to be meaningful for you to be willing to commit 8 hours of your day to doing.

If you don't have a real purpose for the work that you are doing, it will be hard to get yourself out of bed and and to work. Especially when most of us are working from home now and the bed is just a few steps away.

For those who have taken charge of their personal finances like me, we all know that it's not about how much you earn, but how much you save. We are prudent and don't give in to lifestyle creep. Any increase in salary simply allows us to save and invest more to grow our wealth.

Personally, I'd like to think that I'm not easily attracted by recruiters who dangle a 10% increase in salary to change jobs. Recruiters have to work a lot harder (sorry, folks!) to prove to me why I should consider a role with their client, specifically the intangible benefits of work - whether it will help propel me in my career plan, expose me to opportunities to learn complementary skills to strengthen my personal brand, or grow my expertise in the subject matter that I specialise in.

I just wanted to end the article saying that we don't have to be too concerned if we aren't earning $100,000 a year. That's perfectly fine if you are living frugally, save diligently and do not spend beyond your means. Each of our financial journey is different and it's up to us to customise it towards the goals we want to achieve.

Let me know what you think about my opinion above in the comments section below. I've love to know what you think.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

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About the author 

Mickey J

Mickey is your typical white-collar Singaporean who works regular hours in a job with a strong passion on personal finance. He writes mostly about personal finance, investing, insurance and retirement planning. He also embraces the Financial Independence and Retire Early movement (FIRE), tweaking the FIRE concept to his lifestyle.

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