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Your Income: Salaries and Raises

Regardless of what your income is, you probably wish it was more. The most frequent job-related complaints don't involve bosses or working conditions—they're all about salary. Living these days costs a lot of money, there's no question about it. We swear that groceries cost more every time we go to the store. Gas prices are enough to make you want to take a train. Dinner for two can easily top $60 or $70. Even a movie for two without the popcorn can run you $15 or $20. If you're still looking down the road at paying college costs while trying to save up for retirement at the same time, chances are you sometimes feel a little squeezed in the financial department.

Maybe you're lucky and have a fabulous job with a great salary. They're out there, after all. In 1999, John T. Chambers, the president of Silicon Valley-based Cisco Systems received total compensation (cash, bonuses, his gain on stock options, and other forms of compensation) of $121,701,629.

Don't feel too inferior, though. Chambers, who was 50 at the time, was the highest-paid of all Silicon Valley executives that year. Poor Timothy Cook, the senior vice president at Apple Computer, was the 100th highest paid. He made only $4,260,818 in total compensation. Cook was 39 at the time.

Money Morsel

For information about every job you can imagine, including average salaries, required training, job outlooks, and so forth, check out the newest edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can find it online by using a search engine.

Money Morsel

If you're looking for a job, remember that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was written for people who are 40 or older. It's to protect us from employment discrimination based on age, both as employees and job applicants. If you feel that you've faced discrimination because of your age, contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Check to see if there's an office in your area.

In all likelihood, your salary doesn't come anywhere close to what either Chambers or Cook earned in 1999. Hopefully, though, you're making enough to live comfortably while still able to save some money for later in life. Regardless of what your salary is, it's probably your main source of income and a very important asset. It's what you count on, week after week, and month after month. It buys your groceries, pays your mortgage or rent, and keeps your lights, phone, and cable turned on.

Without your salary coming in, life could get pretty uncomfortable. You'd probably be forced to very quickly alter your lifestyle and rethink your priorities. You should have an emergency fund available that would cover your living costs for three to six months in the event that you lose your job, get sick and can't work, or face other emergency circumstances.

If you're really dissatisfied with the salary you're earning and you're convinced that you've performed your job at least adequately, consider asking your boss for a raise. Check out comparable salaries in similar companies. Look in the classified employment ads to get an idea of salaries for jobs like yours. If you do decide to ask for a raise, keep these pointers in mind.

  • Approach your boss with confidence. He probably doesn't enjoy talking about money any more than you do.

  • Have some data ready. Show him some salaries of comparable jobs at other companies that are higher than yours.

  • Remind your boss of your strong points and times that you've gone above and beyond the call of duty.

  • Listen respectfully to her responses, but don't give up too easily if you really think you deserve a raise.

  • Be polite, even if your boss says no to your request, and start planning how you can improve your pitch for the next time around.

If you're a good employee and you're staying in a job for which you're badly underpaid out of loyalty, or inertia, or because you're scared to make a move, know that you're not doing yourself or your family any favors. There is a high demand for experienced, dependable employees right now. If you're not getting the salary you deserve, you should look around at what else is available.

If your salary doesn't seem like it's enough, maybe you ought to look at bit more closely at how you're spending it. Read Do You Need a Budget? for more advice.

More on: Family Finances

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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