A year ago, gas was 2.70/gallon
May 29, 2008 1:20 PM   Subscribe

My salary increase is less than inflation. I'm making less than the previous year for two years in a row now.

How can I bring this up to my employer? Has anyone been successful in getting an emergency cost of living increase. I've cut out extras, decreased driving, and eating less food whether I go out or go grocery shopping. I'm starting to have problems meeting my bills. I am meticulous about where my money goes, but I just don't have enough of it anymore. Please assume changing jobs is not an option at the moment.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming at least a decent boss, you could ask if they know about the cost of living increase. They might not for various reasons.
posted by theichibun at 1:30 PM on May 29, 2008

Since leaving isn't an option, you can ask for more money.

Or you can start angling for a promotion.

Or you can ask for more work (overtime).

Or you can moonlight.
posted by notyou at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd say just be as straightforward as you are in your question. Stick to the facts, try and avoid making it an emotional discussion, and just lay out that the way things have been going isn't going to work.

Good luck. I had to have one of those talks a few years ago with a former employer, and it does indeed suck. (oh, I got the raise, FYI)
posted by joelhunt at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2008

1. A great deal depends on the length of time you have spent with the employer, whether its revenues seems to have kept up with inflation, your evaluations, its retention of employees, etc. I think it's hard to give advice without that information.

2. Up to you, but in my experience appeals for additional money that are made without any indication that you may go elsewhere also go nowhere. It should only be done carefully, of course, as some employers would ask for some information to give the risk credibility, and others will call any bluff. But just be aware that while some may be more inclined to reward employees who stress their undying loyalty, it's my experience that doing so -- volunteering that you have no prospect of leaving -- would harm your cause. Others may have contrary experience, and you may have planned to leave that out anyway.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:40 PM on May 29, 2008

Clyde Mnestra's post jogged a thought: "I like it here and really don't want to leave..." might be a good middle-ground: you're not bluffing/threatening ("Give me a 10% raise or I'm gone"), but it also has some degree of loyalty.

But don't take advice from me. I'm unemployed.
posted by fogster at 1:44 PM on May 29, 2008

"I like it here and really don't want to leave..."

Unless you are on excellent terms with them, an employer will hear a threat in this. This is what I'd say a month after my salary increase request was denied, after I'd already been offered a job somewhere else.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 1:55 PM on May 29, 2008

You might not want to hear this but welcome to the club. I've managed to get a little ahead by working my butt off and getting a bonus in each of the last three years. But bonuses aren't the same as pay increases and I'm working on a promotion that'll put me ahead on a more permanent basis. In that vein, have you ever discussed reward or promotional opportunities with your manager? I work in a large company and the rules are fairly rigid, smaller companies might be more flexible. In either case, just tell them you would like to get ahead and are looking for suggestions on how you can do that. Ideally you'd want it in writing, but that might not be possible. If they don't have any ideas or aren't willing to help you, perhaps you need to rethink your not changing jobs rule.
posted by tommasz at 1:58 PM on May 29, 2008

If you're using CPI as the inflation rate against which you're measuring your raise (as per your tags) you're probably even worse off than you think: it's not a great measure of true cost-of-living increases (1 | 2). Bear in mind that if you ask the boss to match 'inflation' (as in CPI) the buying power of your salary will still be dropping.
posted by boosh at 2:15 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not knowing what it is you do, I can only be of limited help, but I would combine the ideas going on above: see if there's anything more you can do to make more money and, if not, if it's possible to have a cost of living increase. Lay out everything financial beforehand and then just lay it out. If you offer to take more responsibilities first, it would be less threatening as you clearly want to stay since you want to take on more responsibilities/hours in lieu of cutting and running for something better.

If going through your current job digs doesn't work, then I would only be able to suggest moonlighting on the weekends for some extra cash. Kills your social life but helps you make ends meet.
posted by Gular at 2:44 PM on May 29, 2008

I recently had the same question (more or less) and the solution was to simply ask politely. I pointed out that basic costs had risen dramatically and that anything he could give me would be a huge help.
posted by lekvar at 3:12 PM on May 29, 2008

This won't work for many types of jobs, but if you're at a desk job... could you ask for a "flex" arrangement"? Working from home one day a week or working four longer days might save you gas.

Also search you budget for any work/office expenses to see if there's something you should/could be reimbursed for (subscription that you need to keep up on for your occupation, etc).
posted by ejaned8 at 3:20 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Something else to take into consideration is that, if you work in a larger company (or one that is well-run), salary increases are usually worked budget prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. Management will start discussing budgets in January and generally try to have things nailed down by March 31, although yearly workplans, etc, are not finalized until, say the end of May (right now).

So you may be out of luck for this year.

As well, you really only have one chance each year to ask for a raise, so you may blowing too much political or social capital on a 2% (to top up the raise you already got to match COL increases). So, aim high.

I asked for a raise (after eight months on the job) in March. We received a COL increase, and I also received 1.5% on top of that. Not a huge raise, but I'm new and I work in government, so it is what it is.

Anyway, I wanted to make sure I got enough of a raise, so in my initial email I explained the (Canadian) national inflation rate for 2007, plus the *national* COL rate. Why? Because the region where I live in Canada has the lowest rate of inflation in the country - I couldn't use it as a rationale for a higher wage.

I also wanted to ask for a 7% raise (performance plus inflation), in anticipation that they would try to get me to settle for a lower raise. Do to the nature of my work, I really couldn't ask for anything more, and I'm fairly comfortable with my salary, anyway.

So, be aware of what COL and inflation rates are in your region. If they are higher than state or national averages, use them.

And aim high.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:27 PM on May 29, 2008

I agree with KokuRyu--aim high. I would also avoid any mention of your need (don't call it an emergency). Treat it like a normal request for a raise based on your performance or dedication, backed up with data about the cost of living to answer their "But you already got a raise this year."
posted by PatoPata at 3:35 PM on May 29, 2008

Again, welcome to the club. This is why your grandparents told you to not buy everything (cars/etc.) on credit and to learn how to cook with canned food and/or grow your own. My sister did not get any raise or bonus, and she lives in San Francisco -- gas there reached $4.40 a gallon on her corner gas station this past week. She feels lucky to be employed -- several of the people she's kept in touch with at other companies through her career have been laid off in the past several months. We're the children of a generation that has never had to live through a deep recession, and we're entering what looks to be one right now.

The best things you can do have already been mentioned. To briefly recap and spin them a bit:
- The first is to speak to your employer and let them know the crisis you're in -- and keep from making it emotional. Your employer may say no, and may not be gentle about it. Be aware that this could signal trouble in your company's financial future.
- The second is to be open to bargaining -- it's possible that to keep you as an employee, your employer would give you concessions such as a more relaxed dress code or the opportunity to telecommute, both of which would save you money.
- The third thing is to cut back and learn to live as cheaply as possible (even if that means eating dollar store rice and beans for one week of every month!) and get rid of any debt you have so that you can free up the cash that was servicing that debt. I've found that my grandparents, who were children during the Great Depression and newlyweds during WWII, to be a great source of inspiration and information on living cheaply.
- The last thing is to find some way to supplement your income -- consulting work or freelancing or mowing lawns / cleaning houses / waiting tables / washing cars -- ANYTHING to put an extra $50/week in your hands or that will reduce your expenses.
posted by SpecialK at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2008

Is your increase determined by a union, distant bureaucrats, or is there flexibility in pay? It changes the way you negotiate.

Document what you do, how well you do it, and why you are an asset to your employer. Give examples: Worked with Acme Anvils to reduce shipping costs by 27%. Worked with the Coyote clients from Feb to April, increased their satisfaction with our services, and prevented them from leaving. Answered 7,485 support calls, with an initial call resolution rate of 95.2%, wrote a gazillion lines of code, ensuring that our product shipped on time.

Request a meeting with your supervisor. Present your case for why your work is worth more to the employer. Explain that you love your job, your employer, etc. Explain that your increases are not keeping up with inflation, causing genuine hardship. Your hardship is the least important point. Your value to the employer is the most important point.

If you're in certain parts of the US, or certain parts of the economy, the answer may be No but it's still very useful to point out your value to your employer.
posted by theora55 at 4:01 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your main salary increases will come from changing jobs. Then it will level off for a while; you'll get more, but not a lot more; maybe enough to keep up with inflation, maybe not. Then you'll change jobs again and get 10% or 20% or 40% all at once. That's the way it's gone for me, anyway.
posted by kindall at 4:54 PM on May 29, 2008

Agree w/kindall. Remember that what you're dealing with is a free market where you're selling yourself, more or less, at an hourly rate. Two things are affecting the price of your labor: what you're willing to accept and what your employer is willing to pay.

What your employer is willing to pay: is a matter of market dynamics and the quality of your work. If you are getting lousy raises, then these two factors are in play.

What you are willing to accept: Pretty much a factor of what your time is worth. If you'd get more utility from your time by not working, then you'd be not working.

How you 'beat' the market: 1) make your work product more valuable than what is available otherwise in the marketplace. If you are the best at what you do, then you have the ability to charge premium price for your time. 2) go for a different job. They say a rising tide drowns those who are standing on the bottom. Or actually I just said it.

Like kindall says, the best way to get double digit income growth from working is to keep moving up the ladder. If you're at the top of the ladder where you work now, then if income is your motivator, let it motivate you to shop around. Overall, your skills will tend, in the long run, to draw the price that they are worth, but only if you use the market dynamic. to your advantage.

That's called capitalizing.
posted by valentinepig at 5:12 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've had this discussion multiple times with coworkers, as the company I work for is notoriously stingy when it comes to such matters. The simplest way I've found to describe the situation is this:

Any employer that does not meet inflation/cost of living increases year-to-year is telling you, in no uncertain terms, that you are worth less to them this year than the year previous.

You seem to know this already. As others have suggested, you need to take this to your employer and make your case based solely on facts, not emotion. And you cannot have too much supporting material, in my opinion. If you feel this will be a difficult sell, have figures on hand regarding the increased cost of gasoline, food costs, rent...any and all incidentals that have risen in your area, plus inflation figures, and make sure you have hard numbers as to percentages / amount of increase. Then contrast those figures with the buying power of your wages, and demonstrate to the employer why this is not an acceptable situation.

you seem to have a handle on this concept already - run with it and take it to your employer.
then come back and let us know how it went!
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:49 PM on May 29, 2008

nthing the "talk to your boss".

I'm sympathetic to you: in my (part time) job the pay raise is 25 cents per year. Non-negotiable. For every person in every hourly position. So every year my pay effectively decreases several percentage points. I know it's because the job is part of the City and thus getting an actual raise would require months of wrangling, diplomacy, and bureaucracy on the part of council members and other such bigwigs, but still it actually makes me angry to get that pittance every year, like I've been insulted.

So in this situation all I can do is get another job or moonlight somewhere; here's hoping your situation is different! Good luck!
posted by GardenGal at 8:39 PM on May 29, 2008

While I would still encourage you to talk to them, also be aware that their costs for any benefits they provide you (eg, health insurance) have probably been going up rapidly, too. As have the costs of their supplies. I'm not trying to say, "oh, poor enormous corporation." I'm just saying that if you take the attitude "I know times are tight for everyone" and show some understanding that they may be in a tight spot as well might get you some mileage. (I work for a tiny nonprofit and help with our budgeting, so that's where my point of view comes from.)
posted by salvia at 12:33 AM on May 30, 2008

in all the "real" jobs i've had for the past several years, COL increase was 2-3%--way below whatever the ACTUAL cost of living increase was. the only time you get more money beyond that 2% is when you get a promotion or change jobs.

my experience and the experience of most people i know is that when you get a promotion, it's really just more work and they never actually give you more money to go with it.

leaving you with changing jobs. that is the only way i've been able to make significant salary increases for myself. i'm now making $20K more than i was 6 years ago and that is ONLY because i have changed jobs and companies.

sure, you can ask your boss to increase the cost of living increase they give, but does your boss really have control over that, or is it something the company controls?

and i really think in this "economic climate" that most companies are not going to be doing many promotions or pay raises.

like others have said, the only real way to make more money right now is to get a 2nd or 3rd job.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 7:55 AM on May 30, 2008

Your boss is likely aware of the fact that the price of gas has gone up, that doesn't mean all Americans deserve a raise.
posted by mattbucher at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2008

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