I’m an advocate of living within your means.
I don’t believe in borrowing or using credit cards to fund a lifestyle that my income can’t support. If you live a lifestyle beyond your means for too long, you dig an increasingly larger financial hole.
What should you do if the life you want is above your means?
Unless you want to dig yourself into a hole of debt, you can either reduce your lifestyle to fit your income or you can increase your income to match your desired lifestyle.
There are long-term and short-term strategies to increase your income.
Long-term strategies include things such as your career choice and the level and type of education you receive. These decisions don’t guarantee you’ll be more financially fit though. Remember, it’s not how much you make that determines your financial health but how much you save and invest.
That being said, there are definitely career choices that will provide you with a larger salary. If your career is one with small growth potential, you could change careers. It’s been said that the average adult changes careers no less than six times throughout their life. If you’re going to change careers, you could select one with greater income potential. You might have to go back to school and you might even take a pay cut initially as you learn the ropes, but in the long run it will pay off.
What if you like your current career or don’t want to go back to school?
Do you have any options to increase your income? Absolutely! There are several short-term strategies that can temporarily or permanently boost your income.
The trick with the short-term strategies is that you shouldn’t have to reinvent yourself. Start with what you know. Can you increase your income where you currently work?
There are three ways to do just that.
1) Get a raise.
Seems obvious but you’d be surprised how few people actually do it. A wise person once said, “You don’t get paid what you’re worth, you get paid what you ask for.” What’s the worst thing that could happen? They might say it’s not in the budget right now, but at least they know you want and deserve it. Another wise person said, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” You can be squeaky and tactful at the same time. Let them know you deserve a raise and tell them why. If they say no, ask again in a month. I can promise you that your co-workers aren’t asking. So when there is extra money, who do you think will get it?
If you really do deserve a raise and are not being paid what other people in your position are making at other companies, consider looking for another job. This is especially true when you have been increasing your skills after hours by taking classes and expanding your knowledge. Sometimes companies only see their employees as they were and not who they have become. If this sounds familiar, talk to your boss and explain to her how you are not the same person they hired and that your new skills deserve a raise. If they don’t agree, find a company that values you and pays you more fairly.
2) Contribute to your retirement plan.
Many companies match part or all of an employee’s contribution to their 401(k) plan up to a certain percentage. For example, your company might put in 50 cents for every dollar you contribute up to 6% of your income. This is free money with no strings attached! Take advantage of their generosity.
3) Work more hours.
Tell your co-workers you are looking for more hours. If they want to take some time off or leave early, let them know you’ll take their hours. Talk to your boss or HR department. Let them know you want more hours. Is there a big project they need someone to tackle? Tell them you’re interested. Look for opportunities to get time and a half or double time. Volunteer to work holidays or weekends. Again, these are short-term strategies. You shouldn’t have to work extra hours, weekends, or holidays forever, but this extra income might be just what you need to reach one of your goals or to pay off your debt faster.
What if they turned down your request for a raise, don’t match retirement plan contributions, and don’t have any more hours for you to work?
All is not lost. If you have a job already, that means someone is paying you to do something eight hours a day. What are they paying you to do? Could you take your daily skills and use them at another company after hours?
There are many companies that would probably love to utilize your skills and knowledge and that need an extra hand for a few hours a week. A lot of companies are outsourcing non-key tasks and functions of their business. They are operating under the “do what you do best and outsource the rest” philosophy. This is a huge opportunity for extra work that you could do part-time after hours and/or on weekends.
For example, if you are a bookkeeper during the day, there are probably hundreds of small businesses in your local area that could use your bookkeeping skills part-time. Do you live in a small town? The great thing about outsourcing is that your employer can be nearly anywhere. So instead of serving your small town, your job pool could be the hundreds of thousands of small businesses nationally that need a bookkeeper.
Again, since you have skills that someone already pays you to perform, start with what you know. Almost any “day job” can be turned into a night or weekend job. A word of caution—some industries or employers have strict rules regarding outside employment, especially if you are working for a competitor. If in doubt, talk to your HR department first.
What if you hate your day job?
Does the idea of working nights and weekends doing what you do during the day make you ill? There are still a lot of other jobs you can do that have nothing to do with your day job. The best places to look for these jobs is online at Monster.com and CraigsList.com.
Remember, you are not trying to establish a new career. You are just trying to earn a few extra bucks to save for a goal or to pay down your debt.
The proceeding blog post is an excerpt from The Six-Day Financial Makeover: Transform Your Financial Life in Less Than a Week!, available now on Amazon.
About the Independent Financial Advisor
Robert Pagliarini, PhD, CFP®, EA has helped clients across the United States manage, grow, and preserve their wealth for the past 25 years. His goal is to provide comprehensive financial, investment, and tax advice in a way that was honest and ethical. In addition, he is a CFP® Board Ambassador, one of only 50 in the country, and a real fiduciary. In his spare time, he writes personal finance books, finance articles for Forbes and develops email and video financial courses to help educate others. With decades of experience as a financial advisor, the media often calls on him for his expertise. Contact Robert today to learn more about his financial planning services.