I don’t dream of money. Sure, I like money. But it’s not the number one driver for me in terms of success or happiness. But it certainly helps. My mom used to say, “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure makes things easier.” It’s true. Money can’t guarantee happiness, but it does remove all the worry that not having it presents.
I suppose I’ve been worrying about money most of my life. We didn’t have much of it growing up. I was raised by a single mother who was a teacher so I guess you can tell by that description that we weren’t raking it in. Luckily, my mom had help from her parents. I never really thought that I didn’t have nice things. I had lots of Barbies, brand named clothes and a house to live in. But we never had new furniture or a nice car. We didn’t have fancy vacations; in fact I never took a flight until college. I know now that my mom sacrificed a lot so that we never felt that we didn’t have everything we wanted.
I’ve been on my own for a long time so I’ve had to pay bills and be responsible for my own finances since my teens. I’ve always understood the importance of paying bills on time and how if you don’t what can happen. I’m proud to say I have a credit score in the high 700s thanks to this practice. I also never expected anyone to pay my way: not a man or anyone else. And no one has. I put myself through college and grad school. I bought myself all the cars I’ve ever driven. And I’ve made all my own mortgage payments. I’ve struggled at times; done better at others.
And even though money isn’t the number one driver in my career, I still believe I should be paid my value. A former manager once said to me, “You’re only worth what someone will pay you.” True enough. This was in response to my request for a raise. The request wasn’t made because I had bills to pay or that the cost of living had gone up (although of course it had). The request was made after years of dedicated work and a proven track record of real growth and revenue. Yet, he wouldn’t budge on my salary. He said he wanted me to make more money, but that I would need to do that through my bonuses. These bonuses, however, were out of my control. They weren’t based on my production (inbound leads) but rather some percentage of new sales. I protested this wasn’t fair because it wasn’t based on the work I was doing.
I did research on PayScale.com and showed him that I was in a very low percentile of salary based on my experience and education. He was unmoved. Then I started interviewing for other jobs and went back to him with a firm salary number. This was a number that other people were willing to pay me. He again did nothing to make my salary competitive so I left and immediately started making over $20,000 more annually.
It’s hard to take when someone doesn’t believe in you even though you’ve proven yourself and shown great results. In my experience, however, this manager was the exception. In other jobs I’ve had, I received numerous raises – based on my performance. When someone won’t pay you what you are worth, there’s more to it than just the fact that you should be fairly compensated. The message is that you don’t matter; that you aren’t an asset; that you are replaceable (he also told me this on more than one occasion).
Money isn’t everything. But it does give us freedoms; freedom to travel, to have safe homes, to live with a bit more ease. So my advice to anyone who deserves a raise or who is in the job market is to be clear about what you are worth. If you don’t make a case for yourself, no one else will. I’ve interviewed for many jobs that I thought were great fits for me, but the salary wasn’t where I needed it to be so I said no. I know what I am worth. I won’t say salary is negotiable or I’m open. I say what I deserve. If they don’t like it then it’s not the place for me. So many times in life, we (especially women) don’t speak up about what we are worth. We just keep trying to make ends meet in this year with last year’s salary. We miss out on opportunities and experiences because we didn’t have the funds. So money doesn’t make you happy; it is, however, the currency of life so we’ve got to keep making it. Never accept less than what you are worth. You’ll be disappointed; mostly in yourself.