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7 Ways to Maximize Your Income

By Christy Bieber – Updated Jan 5, 2018 at 3:00PM

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Less than half of Americans are taking this one key step that could be worth more than $500,000.

Most families in America aren't saving nearly enough. While cutting spending is common advice for those looking to step up savings, it's important to also focus on the other side of the equation: earnings.

The more you earn, the more money you'll have available to save for retirement, an emergency fund, and all the other things you should be saving for but probably aren't. And, the good news is, while there's a limit to how much you can cut spending, there's no limit to how much extra you can earn. 

So, how can you boost your earnings to get the income necessary to accomplish financial goals? Follow these seven key tips. 

Businessman in suit handing a check to another person.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Negotiate your salary

According to a Career Builder survey, 56% of workers don't negotiate their salary, with more than half of workers indicating they feel uncomfortable asking for more money.

Not negotiating is a huge mistake, especially as 52% of employers told CareerBuilder the first offer extended to a candidate comes with a lower salary than their final number. Of those employers who start with a lowball offer, more than a quarter indicated their initial offer was at least $5,000 less than they expected to ultimately pay a new hire. 

Missing out on $5,000 (or more) in annual income makes a huge difference, especially since future raises are typically based on starting salary. Consider the difference in pay over your career if you never negotiate, started with a lower base salary and earned an average raise of 1% per year, versus if you negotiated a salary $5,000 higher to start and negotiated a raise of 2% annually. 


Non-Negotiated Salary with 1% raises

Negotiated Salary with negotiated 2% raises

Difference Between Negotiated vs. Non-Negotiated Salary

Initial annual salary




Annual salary after 10 years




Annual salary after 20 years




Annual salary after 30 years




Total earnings over 30 years




Calculations by author.

Unless you want to forego more than $500,000 in earnings, you'll need to get over your fear and learn how to ask for a raise.

2. Get better at what you do 

Almost a third of respondents to a survey indicated they were scared to negotiate salary because of the risk of losing a job by asking for more. But, this is only a real risk if you're unreasonable -- or if an employer feels they can easily find a comparable candidate who will accept less. 

The more indispensable you are, and the more in-demand your talents, the more money you can ask for without a job offer being rescinded. You're also more likely to be offered a higher salary initially -- or to be given more generous raises -- if you're considered a top hire or if you've proved you're an employee your company doesn't want to lose. 

3. Take on a side gig 

If you've maxed out at your potential salary at your current job but still want an income boost, it may be time to consider a side hustle.

A 2017 Bankrate survey revealed more than 44 million Americans have a side gig and almost 40% of people with a side-gig earn $500 or more per month at their second job. If you can pick up an extra $500 every month, you can max out an IRA and still have $500 to spare

Over 30 years, investing $5,500 a year in an IRA and earning an average 7% return would leave you with a nest egg of $519,534 -- and that's just from the earnings from the second job!

4. Invest in your education 

In 2015, workers with a college degree earned 56% more than employees with only a high-school diploma. A graduate degree can boost salary even more, with post-grad degree holders earning anywhere from 36% to 89% more than their counterparts who have only undergraduate degrees. 

Education is expensive. But, acquiring credentials and learning new skills can make you more employable and boost your earnings -- as long as you pick a practical field. Even if you don't want to spend the time or money to go through an entire degree program, find out about training opportunities at work or certifications you could acquire to put you on track toward a promotion and more money. 

5. Build multiple income streams 

The average unemployed worker was unemployed for close to 25 weeks in the summer of 2017, and long-term unemployment remains a persistent problem even as unemployment rates have fallen. 

Most people have only one source of income -- their job -- so the loss of employment is financially devastating. You don't have to rely on your primary job as your only source of funds. You can, and should, have multiple sources of money coming in.

One great option: Build a passive income stream, or income you don't have to do anything to earn. Investing in bonds, stocks, and real estate are just a few key ways to have money rolling in without having to work to earn it. 

6. Don't be afraid to apply for that new job 

While men apply for jobs if they're at least 60% qualified, women generally don't apply unless they feel they meet 100% of the job requirements. 

Job-seekers of all genders shouldn't shy away from applying for jobs even if they don't think they necessarily check every box. Hiring managers may be impressed by the skills you do put forth and the way you present yourself, so you may just land that high-paying gig after all. If you don't at least try, you cut off opportunities that could have potentially led to a big income boost. 

7. Always be networking 

According to a 2016 LinkedIn study, 85% of all jobs are filled through networking. Networking not only makes it possible to find jobs before they're publicly posted, but you also significantly boost your odds of being hired. In fact, a referral from a current employee boosts the odds of a successful hire by as much as 6.6%.

Don't wait until you've lost your job to build a professional network or you could miss opportunities for promotion. Waiting to network until you need help also means you'll have to build a network from scratch after a layoff -- which takes much more time than if you'd maintained industry connections. 

When you're in regular contact with professionals in your industry, you never know when a great new job offer might come along and result in a big raise. 

Boosting your income can make a big difference

Following any or all of these steps is very likely to lead to more cash in your pocket -- and this extra money matters a lot. Look at the difference between saving 15% of a $50,000 income and 15% of a $75,000 income over 30 years of your career. 

With 15% of the $50,000 income saved in a tax-deferred account earning 7% returns, you'd have $708,455 after 30 years. But, with 15% of the $75,000 income saved, you'd have $1.06 million.  

The sooner you start to boost your income, the faster you'll be able to acquire more extra cash to put toward savings. Just begin with the step you're most comfortable with and work your way up from there.  

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