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This Is the Average American's Salary. How Does Yours Compare?

By Maurie Backman - Oct 14, 2018 at 6:18AM

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Here's what the typical U.S. worker earns -- and how you can do better.

In an age of oversharing, many of us are remarkably tight-lipped when it comes to talking salary. But in reality, knowing where you stand can help you determine whether you're in a good place or whether you should be taking steps to boost your earnings.

The average U.S. worker today earns roughly $46,641 a year, according to data from the Social Security Administration. The median salary in the country, however, is only $30,533, which tells us that a greater number of people earn less than the average than more.

Man counting money


Of course, the best way to determine whether your salary is fair is to research your specific industry and see how others with your job title are doing. Better yet, see what local folks with your job title are being paid, as that'll give you an even more accurate point of comparison. But if you find that you're earning less than the average worker with your qualifications, you'll want to take steps to boost your income. Here are a few to start with.

1. Ask for a raise

Asking your boss for more money is a pretty daunting notion, but if you're serious about increasing your earnings, you'll need to get over it. Amazingly, 56% of workers have never asked for a raise, according to CareerBuilder, but of those who have, 66% were successful in getting some sort of boost. So do your research, figure out what you should be making, and present that data to your boss. Not only that, but go in with a list of ways you add specific value to your company to further drive home your argument. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but it's a necessary one nonetheless.

2. Improve your skills

The more you know, the more critical an employee you'll be regarded as. If you're looking to earn more money, take steps to improve your skills. This doesn't necessarily mean obtaining an advanced degree. Rather, look into the various certifications you might manage to get, or seek out learning opportunities at conferences and seminars. A modest amount of effort on your part could translate into a nice bump in your income.

3. Dust off your resume

We're often encouraged to be patient and work our way up at our respective companies. But if you're looking for a sizable salary boost, moving to another employer may be the fastest way to get there. And while too much job-hopping can make you look flighty, if you do it strategically, it can work to not only bump up your earnings, but help advance your career as well.

4. When all else fails, get a second gig

In an ideal world, we'd all earn enough from our primary jobs to call it a day. But there's a reason a good 44 million Americans are holding down a side hustle: They're not making enough money from their main employers, and they need a means of compensating. The good news, however, is that 36% of workers with a side gig bring home more than $500 a month extra as a result, so if you're willing to put in some time, you can boost your income without having to be at the mercy of your boss.

Whether you earn more or less money than the average American, it never hurts to try to grow your income. Follow these steps, and with any luck, you'll land a raise one way or another.

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