Frugal July is Over, Now It’s Aspirational August

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So, Frugal July is now over. I participated in the Frugalwoods Ultra Frugal Challenge and did quite well, though there is always room for improvement. I’ll be doing a separate post on my latest accomplishments on that, and here’s another one with a general summary. One thing I have discovered through the years (and re-discovered in July) is that finding ways to save money only takes you so far. Frugality has two very different but equally important poles:

Spend Less. Earn More.

And after spending July being hyper-focused on my finances and savings rate (even more than I usually am, since I am Cheap Yuppie Mom), I decided it’s high time I earned more.

I have a high income at my current job. But I am also underpaid versus: a) what I do; b) the added value I bring to the table; c) and my level of seniority. How do I know this? I do frequent salary analyses versus the broader market. Good places to do this include career and networking sites like Salary.com, Glassdoor, and The Ladders, where you can do comparative salary analyses based on your job title, experience level, and other criteria. Salary ranges often vary by region of the country and by work setting (ie, working for a nonprofit or educational institution typically pays less than working at a for-profit corporation), and women are almost always underpaid versus their male counterparts. Also, salaries can fluctuate greatly depending on job supply and demand—which has happened in my work sector recently. Salaries for my job type (interactive medical/scientific communications and technical design) have skyrocketed in the past 12-18 months due to huge numbers of open positions and an acute shortage of qualified people to fill them. If you’re in a high-demand, low-supply profession like I am, even if your salary was competitive versus the open market 12 or even 6 months ago, it might not be competitive now.

So it pays to pay attention to this—literally.

Here’s an example from my own career. I plugged my six-figure salary number (low six figures) and job title into the salary analysis tool on Glassdoor, Salary.com and The Ladders, and discovered I am paid $40K-$60K below the national average for my job. 

Underpaid by forty to sixty grand. That means my household income is missing the equivalent of a decent entry-level job as a third income, since my husband and I both work full-time. I mean, wow. (I remember when I was thrilled to get a $60K salary for the first time, and it wasn’t even that long ago). I was floored, especially since my salary was quite competitive when I got my current job 18 months ago. I thought this was a mistake, so I did more research.

I looked at job postings in my current professional field and discovered that not only was my current salary at my current job title waaayyyyy too low versus what companies are offering now for the same work, I am also under-ranked in terms of job title and responsibilities. When I compared job titles for Director and Vice President-level positions with my current role, I discovered I am actually a Director/VP level executive in all but name. And when I went out and did that salary analysis, using the same steps as above, I discovered I am underpaid by approximately $70K-$90K because I do not have executive rank to match my executive-level work, especially when you factor in bonus potential.

Well, well, well.

Again, I was floored. And mad, because I discovered my current employer is taking unfair advantage of me. (Because why wouldn’t they? They’re in the business of making money by extracting as much labor as they can from their employees for as little as possible, after all.) Making matters worse, I only got a 0.4% raise this year, which is frankly insulting for a high-performing, senior-level employee at a (profitable) for-profit company to receive, so that information is what spurred me to start thinking hard about my next career move.

This is what I call the Business Bitch-Slap Tango. We all endure this—employers not paying employees what they’re worth/treating them badly, employees then get burned out and leave for greener pastures, and the cycle just starts again. Here’s the thing, though: for almost 20 years (since 2000 or so), employers have had the upper hand. The job market sucked, good jobs were even harder to get, and employers could force their employees to work themselves to death in exchange for peanuts, and then browbeat their staff into thinking they were lucky just to have a job. Well, that’s not true anymore. There are more job openings right now than qualified workers to fill them. Now the dancing shoe is finally on the other foot.

And so, the dance goes on. To maximize your income and career potential, learn the Job Hop Shuffle.

If you are not being paid/promoted in a manner that matches your skillset and the value you bring to the table, and your employer will not give you a raise/promotion when you deserve one—leave. We are currently in the midst of the hottest employment market in almost 24 years. CEOs are saying it is a “absolute bloodbath for talent out there right now.”  Who wins in that equation? YOU DO.

So suffice to say I’m looking for a new job right now. You should be too. Life is too short to be underpaid in the best job market in 24 years.

I remain your Cheap Yuppie Mom.

 

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