Tag Archives: salary

Scared and Stuck.

I’m not in a particularly good life situation right now.  My job isn’t safe at all. I’m basically starting over and any wrong move will have we walked out the virtual door. They know I’m overpaid in my new role–which means they have even less reason to keep me. Or to ever increase my pay again. Only to possibly decrease it. Or leave it flat and let inflation do the dirty work.

Even if I manage to stay –do good enough work I’m a solid 3 out of 5 year after year–is my life just this? Because the longer I stay the longer I lose relevance in the job market. My role, in any other company, would both require more technical skills and pay about half of my base salary. I can’t actually survive on that. Nor do I have the right profile to land a job that pays the same or more.

I’m not being overly dramatic. This is the truth. And why I wake up every morning dreading my life. Wondering what is the point? Why am I such a failure? And, more importantly, how the fuck do I provide for my family?

Here’s where we are net worth wise as of April 1:

Cash $80,633
Taxable $829,501
Pre Tax $456,057
Post Tax (Roth) $238,265
529 Fund (2-3 kids) $232,879
Home Equity $207,288
TOTAL $2,044,623

Lost a bit with market dropping. Still, with $2M net worth I thought I’d feel better about life. I don’t. I feel like I’m suffocating. Will we starve? No. At least not for a while. But it can get ugly fast.

I want to make sure we can afford the next 5 years. Maybe after 5 years my job situation will make sense. And pay better. Right now I have 5 years to figure out.

We obviously could save less and spend a bit less, but if we can keep to this plan for next 5 years we’ll be ok.

Income Tax (40%) Expenses Saving Remaining
2021 $313,350 -$125,340 -$126,000 -$25,000 $62,010
2022 $273,000 -$109,200 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$4,200
2023 $276,090 -$110,436 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$2,346
2024 $279,273 -$111,709 -$168,000 -$57,500 -$436
2025 $282,551 -$113,020 -$168,000 -$57,500 $1,531

The above assumes the following:

  • Our total tax rate on taxable income is 40%
  • I earn a minimum of $170,000 a year for the next 5 years
  • My husband earns a minimum of $100k plus 3% raises for next 5 years
  • We both max out retirement accounts every year as pre-tax money (to keep our tax rate down)

We won’t be saving nearly as much as we have been — but at least we can get through the year without dipping into savings too much (and probably not at all if we’re careful — the remainder this year can cover any overage in next few years.

BUT that’s assuming also that…

  1. can get a job that pays $170k for next 5 years (especially if I lose this one)
  2. that my husband keeps his job and can get a 3% raise each year

Maybe I can find another job that pays $170k but there’s no guarantee. Especially not if I want to start over in a new career. Or try to find something a bit more junior that gives me time to figure out what I’m good at and move up in a normal sort of way.

It would be helpful if my husband could earn $150k and then I would earn $150k and we’d be ok — or at least in a much better situation. However that isn’t going to happen. So I just need to figure this out.

Yet again it feels remarkably hopeless.

When To Move On From This Job — If By Choice, It’s a Numbers Game

Due to stock vesting, the income for this job goes from high to something I could replace fairly easily within a year. I am still unclear if I received a reduction in pay this year (or any sort of cost of living raise) as such changes were supposed to take effect this pay period and I didn’t see a change in my base pay. Since I’m on maternity leave, it’s possible the change doesn’t go into effect until after I return either way (no one has told me if there will be any changes to my pay yet, so it would be strange for them to change it either way without notifying me — however, last year even when I was placed on a PIP I got a small cost of living raise — so not even getting that is pretty telling… I need to start packing my bags.)

While I’m tempted to pack my bags today and never look back (I’ve had a few recruiter calls that are promising, but I’ve opted to not take them any further.) I’m either going to stay in my field and be really strategic and picky in my job search OR I’m going to change careers (same industry, different department.) The career change, based on some preliminary research, will be a major income cut, no matter how you slice it. I’m torn on this because on one hand, my heart is in that field and I think I might actually be excited to go to work when I wake up in the morning.) But this field — it sounds like — will pay entry-level around 70k-125k. While 70k is a non starter, if I could make 125k… I don’t know… it might be worth it for a year or two as I build up my experience in the field. The bigger issue is the ceiling of income in that field seems lower than where I am now. But I’m not exactly thriving where I am now. So there’s the value of perhaps being in a job where I’m not worried about getting fired all the time (and then getting fired all the time.) Trade offs.

In order to determine when I should leave my current job (and for how much $ I should consider leaving for if I’m staying in my current field) I’ve calculated my estimated income for the next 12 month period at 5 different times throughout the year.  This showcases both how ridiculously strong my earning power is at the moment and how quickly it goes down to still-good but “recoupable” l levels if I were to move to a new company. The challenge are retaining employment through the high income earning periods and then find a job to replace it that provides high income earning potential (a new sizable stock grant) or make the leap to the new field and take the massive paycut and trust it will work out (if anyone will even hire me for that field… I’m starting an online certificate program in it and will see how that goes.)

Income potential 12 month period starting following dates:

At current stock value:

  • April 1: $702k
  • July 1: $599k
  • Oct 1: $425k
  • Jan 1: $299k
  • April 1: $251k

At optimistic (highest analyst estimate) stock value:

  • April 1: $937k
  • July 1: $759k
  • Oct 1: $511k
  • Jan 1: $345k
  • April 1: $287k

At pessimistic (lowest analyst estimate) stock value:

  • April 1: $428k
  • July 1: $411k
  • Oct 1: $325k
  • Jan 1: $246k
  • April 1: $208k

The above tells me I would be a fool to leave prior to Jan 1 in all but the absolute worst company performance scenarios (and even then it’s unlikely I’ll replace my potential 12 month income prior to that date.) I think the actual income will be closer to the current stock value as it’s unlikely it will go up fast enough to hit the analyst target within my actual earning period, but I also think it won’t drop all the way down to the lowest analyst estimates.

But the absolute best my 12-month income will be worth as of April 1, 2022 (assuming I am not getting any stock refreshes or raises, which I assume to be true) is ~$287,000. Which is still a very good income(!) but it is definitely in a range where at least looking for a new role makes sense. It’s an extremely high 12 month income for the role I’m in now at work (after my demotion) so I’m not complaining about it by any means, it’s just completely unrealistic to think I will ever be able to replace my previous income in this very limited role that is unfortunately not respected in my industry. I’m lucky in that my company likely won’t go out of their way right now to reduce my pay after I just had a baby — but they also won’t ever go out of their way to increase my pay. My days are numbered at worst and my income potential has a sharp ceiling at best. The absolute most I can earn in 2023 would be $248k (no raises or refreshes) and in 2024, it would be $213k — whereas if I go into a new role in a public company I’ll get a new larger grant that can possibly increase in value. My company is doing a favor by not giving me any raises or refreshes at this point… it helps the math tell me what to do.

That said, this year has a lot of good 12-month earning periods. My expected quarterly income is as follows for the next 5 quarters:

  • Q2 – $191k ( 103k-265k)
  • Q3 – $219k ( 131k-293k)
  • Q4 – $191k ( 103k-265k)
  • Q1 – $101k ( 88k-113k)
  • Q2 – $51.4k ( 38k-62k)

This also helps me figure out if I can potentially obtain a signing bonus to make up for any lost income, where it would make sense to move to a new role.

The above also shows that if I can move into a new field, it may not look like such a horrible comparison if I base this off next year’s Q2 income (as it will take me another year to have the potential to earn a bonus anyway and my stock is not increasing.)

The big question is — how do I stay employed for the rest of the year? I’m going to try to focus on taking it one quarter at a time, and celebrating earning the quarterly income. I have to remind myself that my husband earns $100k a year and I very well may earn $200k in 3 months if I can manage to retain employment for those 3 months. Even if I were to get fired at that point, I will have made over  $450k this year, give or take, as of July 1. This alone should support my leaving my company and taking 6 months to gain experience in a. new field and figure out my life. But then the tradeoff would be losing out on another $300k or so, which also seems like a really dumb thing to do. At what point in the future of time will I ever have the opportunity to earn this much in such as short period of time?

I just assume my new boss is earning less than I am overall, and that’s not going to set anyone up for success here. He may be earning more but it’s unlikely given he came in at a later date. He may have gotten substantial stock refreshes since he’s a company star but even then I bet we’re around a similar income this year. Maybe he will realize my income will be dropping substantially soon and won’t hold that against me, but he may just look at everything I do in the lens of what I’m earning now (due to stock appreciation) and in that case I would agree I’m not worth what I’m earning.

…I don’t know how the company looks at that because it’s not my fault the stock has appreciated so much… but on my annual performance review they note my expected annual compensation and that’s based on the stock value at the end of last year. That’s a big number (even bigger than what it actually is now because all tech stocks dropped a lot since then.) In any case, I just want to get myself out of all of this and get a job where I can add value. Which means I should probably change fields. It’s tough when recruiters are calling me left and right for senior-level roles in my field, all that pay in the $250k range (and maybe I could negotiate more.) Do I really set myself back years and take a job that pays $100k-$125k to try something new at 38? And why does my husband get to earn $100k yet I can’t do this… even if it will make me happy? I guess he doesn’t believe anything can make me happy… and that might be true. But I have high hopes for this new field. I think it will at least work the right part of my brain vs the one that makes me constantly frustrated and unsure how to do good work. Hmph.

Adulting Hardcore is Challenging for this ADHD Adult

I’m TRYING to get my life together before I am paying someone to help me wipe my butt because I can no longer do it myself. I have no idea how to manage everything required of being an adult while also saving for (early) retirement while also trying to enjoy life. I get little glimmers of joy out of seeing my kids smile or learn something new every now and again, but for the most part I just feel like I’m stuck in this never-ending horror story at worst or a very bad book that’s too long with no actual plot line or conclusion at best.

What I want… is to feel like I can afford a fairly basic life (which I guess is a fairly fancy life–but to afford taking care of a house and a family and still have money left over to save) while I also am not locked into a career that has me on the verge of a mental breakdown pretty much every second of the day (though that may be the case in any career.)

I’ve put together a new family budget that’s still on the lower-end of what I’d like to be able to spend, and it’s not pretty. I’m tracking it in YNAB to try to actually start budgeting vs just hoping that I get my bonus and stock to pay my bills and save adequately. I feel sad that there seems to be no “winning” this game–the best I can do is try really hard to maintain a job that pays better than I expect to be paid for the next 30 years. Once the house is paid off then… I guess, at 67, we’ll be in better shape?

But as I see many get sick or pass away in their late 60s, I feel sick thinking of trying to make it until then to enjoy life. Even if I live to 100, this doesn’t mean my loved ones will. I keep thinking about how men die younger… how my husband turns 40 next year… (I’m not far behind)… how maybe he has 25 years left to live. I mean, my dad died at 67. It’s difficult to process how short life really is. These are the good years. As long as everyone in our family remains healthy. My kids are young, we’re in our prime, I guess — but it doesn’t feel good at all. It feels terrifying. It feels like I’m watching life slip away and the best I can do is try to plan for what job I’ll get next after whatever one I’m in currently falls apart.

This budget seems impossible, both in that it requires way too much spending AND does not really allow me to spend what I want to spend. Boo hoo, I know, I’m a spoiled brat. But I want to be able to take family photos and go on vacation and dine out and send my kids to summer camp. All “wants” for sure, but why does the next person deserve these things more (or less) than I do? Yea, maybe I should have married someone who cared about earning more income, but given that he doesn’t care he’s actually earning a lot and still able to take care of our kids part time. But I don’t see him earning more… ever… which means I’m just – stuck. And I think the weight of that has really hit me lately. That I have 30 years left of working and that’s a short time and a long time. 30 years of life is short and will go by fast, especially if all the living I’m doing is on exhausted weekends. I really want a job that is fulfilling–one where I don’t dread waking up every day. But can I get a job that is fulfilling and also pay the bills? In a HCOL area? I really feel pessimistic about this. I also feel like I have to make a change soon. I can’t keep doing this.

The budget: $15k

  • Home: $9000 (mortgage, taxes, insurance, renovation/maintenance)
  • Health & Insurance (Life/Disability): $1200 (*health insurance through work not included)
  • Car: $800 (*includes saving for a new car every 10 years)
  • Food: $1500
  • Life: $2500 (kids activities/preschool – with only one kid in preschool at a time, shopping, travel, tech, gifts, etc)

$180,000 / year of spending

Saving Goals $11.6k

  • 401k/Roth – $8.5k
  • 529 – $1k
  • ESPP – $2.1k

$139.2k / year of saving (57.5k pre tax)

Total:

  • $261.7k post tax
  • $57.5k pre tax

Income needed – $493.5k

That makes sense… in that, as I’ve always said, in order to live a middle class lifestyle (this doesn’t include what I’d consider upper middle class lifestyle such as home cleaner, personal trainer, a larger shopping budget, etc) you need a $500k income here. Granted, this is a high savings rate, so if we were to cut back not the savings we could splurge a bit more… but the reason I’m focused on saving so much is that most years we probably won’t be able to! Right now any high earning year must be a high savings year too.

The reality is that we’re not going to be a $500k a year income family. My husband, if he keeps his job, is going to contribute $100k to that. I cannot see how I can find a job that pays $400k a year. It seems much more realistic to imagine both of us earning $250k, give or take, than for me to have a job that actually pays $400k every year for the next 30 years.

My reality is in my current career path I can likely earn $150k with bonus in some sort of stable way. Sure, this year I’m on track to make $750k+, if I keep my job, but that’s just because my stock grant is worth a lot. I’ll never earn that again. I have to live and plan based on an $150k income. So $250k total. I tried to put together a plan based on $250k income and I run out of places to cut.

$250k income… should spend ~ $12.5k / month

The budget: $12.5k

  • Home: $8000 (mortgage, taxes, insurance, minimum fixes)
  • Health & Insurance (Life/Disability): $1200 (*health insurance through work not included)
  • Car: $500 (*we buy cheapest cars possible)
  • Food: $1000 (not really realistic but some people do it)
  • Life: $1500 (all spending goes to kids activities, no travel, no shopping or hair cuts or anything)
  • $1.5k/mo left for saving — plus anything else pre-tax, so maybe max 2 401k and that’s it

Doable? I guess so. But again that’s assuming my husband keeps his $100k/yr job AND I manage to maintain $150k a year employment for the next 30 years. Maybe in 20 years $150k won’t seem like a large salary due to inflation, but then all of our costs — except mortgage — will have increased as well.

I just don’t know how to do it. And we’re “high earners.”

I’m trying to get us closer to that $12.5k budget now, which allows us to save more in our higher earning year and maybe will free us up for more flexibility later. But when is later?

I want to change careers entirely. I have some ideas. I’m scared to start over. I feel like I won’t be able to compete with 20-somethings. I have these ideas but then I’ve been on maternity leave for 2 months now and I haven’t taken a class or anything, which I could have done. My mind is scrambled eggs at the moment. But I don’t have the drive or focus or something to work for anything. Which is my problem. I admit it. Am I lazy? Perhaps. But also something is wrong with my mind. I can’t focus. It’s the bad anxiety. The ADHD. The ruminating on everything I say and do that’s so wrong. I feel lonely alone and anxious with others. I don’t know. It’s all too much.

My dream is to be able to live a life that doesn’t feel like I HAVE to make so much money to do the things I want to do. But I don’t even know what I want to do anymore. I don’t really need more “things.” I’d like to buy some new photography equipment and that’s expensive. I’d like to travel when travel is possible again, and pay for experiences with a family of four plus probably pay for my in-laws to come so that adds up really fast. I always think what is it that I’d ever want to buy and then my spending just adds up. And the I freeze, like I can’t even enjoy what I spend on because I feel guilty for spending anything. I should just be saving.

But at 38, I don’t even own a kitchen table. I melted my cheap-o food processor years ago (oops I left it on the oven that was on somehow) — and I need a new one. We don’t have matching sheets or much for furniture. We don’t have kitchen dishes (we’re still using my remaining target single plates I got when I graduated college.) We need a new garage door and should get a water filter for the kitchen sink. None of my clothes fit… because I just gave birth to a baby… which doesn’t  matter now but when I have to reenter the world shouldn’t I buy some new things so I feel acceptable? Clothes seem like such a waste though. I hate buying cheap stuff but then I hate buying expensive stuff. So why buy anything? My car has a lot of dings on it. And I need new brakes. That’s a safety issue. So it should be a priority. But I just spent a ton on a checkup. We should get a van anyway. Should I sell the car for parts? Should I get a van? I like the idea of getting a new electric mini van but I wish my husband would take on some more clients to help pay for it. He wants the fanciest model with the leather seats and while I’d like that too maybe we should buy something a little cheaper?

My biggest challenge is not really understanding what we can afford. Because I don’t know what I’ll earn in the future. I’m so fortunate to be earning a lot right now, but I’ve already been demoted in title and I can’t maintain this income at my current company. So I need to find a new job to just maintain. And I’m so tired of jumping from job to job and never feeling like it’s right. Never knowing what the hell I’m doing. Always feeling like I’m on the verge of getting fired.

So it’s safer to cut our spending down. $11.5k a month plus anything on top of that saved would be really good. The more we can save, the more cushion we have for the future. And $11.5k should be a comfortable monthly budget. But… after $8k on the house, that leaves us with $3.5k for everything else. I don’t know how to get everything in that. It seems like I should be able to but then things just add up. It’s a fun challenge, sort of, but I’m not any good at it.

Never Get a Promotion Again: I Can Only Hope

Along the lines of my post the other day “Why I’ll Never Ask for a Raise,” today I decided I really don’t want an increase in job title ever again. While I’m sad that my earning potential is likely at its plateau for the rest of my working career, minus a few cost-of-living raises here and there, I’m fairly set on the reality that my abilities stop at this level.

What I’m not is a manager of a big team. I’m not someone who sets strategies and has other people do the work. I do the work. And that’s ok. It’s ok, because I feel in control of the output. And I don’t want to take credit for anyone else’s contributions. The best way I can help an organization is by getting shit done. My biggest challenge is not overcommitting, and focusing on adding value doing what I do best. Continue reading Never Get a Promotion Again: I Can Only Hope

What Do You Want / You Can’t Have it All

I was texting with my childhood friend. She lives across the country in a house that her now-husband bought. She is pregnant and due in a few months. She has a stable job in a public-service role that she loves, and she spends her free time with friends and traveling the world. I’m sure she’s not happy all the time– she had quite the traumatic childhood and has overcome a lot– but she seems content with life and stable enough to enjoy it.

Her and her husband are jointly making probably $60k-$70k a year, but they make it work. They can make it work because they live somewhere more affordable than here.  Explaining to her that my concern du jour was that I have a job offer that pays $70k less than my current role just didn’t compute. It probably doesn’t with most of my readers too… Continue reading What Do You Want / You Can’t Have it All

November Networth Check-In and Retirement Update

Now that I am “in between incomes,” so to speak, I am re-focusing my objectives for total assets this year, and beginning planning for 2016 based on my potential earnings at my new opportunities.

As a reminder, my goal was to close out 2015 with $400,000 in net worth. That figure was always a stretch, but it isn’t going to happen this year. My new goal is to wrap up the year with at least $350,000 in net worth, which is about a 15% increase in my nest egg – not bad but not great either. My goal is to give birth to my first child in the summer of 2017, when I’m about to turn 34 (yikes.) That means getting pregnant in the fall of 2016 or soon after would be ideal. That means that I still want to aim for $500k in net worth by the time I have my first kid (let’s call that July of 2017.) This is about 19 months to increase my net worth by $150k.

Let’s start with where I am today — according to www.networthIQ.com my current net worth is $380,783. I will subtract my car ($8000) and stock options that will soon be worth nothing from that ($16,000) to what is my “actual” net worth — so about $356k. I’m also losing money now since unemployment doesn’t cover my monthly expenditures, so assuming the stock market does decently this month and I land a new job for December start (which is looking quite likely) I should be able to close out the year about $350k. A reminder, in January of 2009 I had about $5k to my name (see graph below.)

november net worth

In order to hit my goal of saving $150k in 18 months (assuming ending 2015 with $350k), I need to “save” $8333 per month. How is THAT going to happen?

If I (knock on wood)  increase my income levels in my next job to $190k (which is super exciting and feels like too much yet if the market will pay that for my services, I’ll take it!), that is a take-home of about $9400 a month (which is a lot and really starts making this dream possible – this is where it gets exciting!) Even with my average spending of about $3500 a month,  I will have $5900 per month to put away. But this also, theoretically, is two years of 401k investment, which I can max out each year. So that’s $36,000 of the total $150k right there (assuming I can keep my job and do well at it!) Ok, so one opportunity has a 3% match of your salary on that, which is awesome (I’ve NEVER had a 401k match in my entire career!) That means each year I’d make an extra ~$5700 just for putting the money in my 401k (if I’m understanding the match thing correctly.) So that is $11,400 on top of the $36k. Ok, so that takes care of $47,400 of the $150,000, and leaves a slightly more realistic $102.6k left to save over 18 months, or, $5700 per month. Income is reduced a bit with the 401k investment, of course, by $18000 a year – but that’s all pre-tax. But with bonus, etc, it should balance out to still taking home somewhere around $9k a month, or maybe a little less. That’s still a lot for the short-term goal.

Now, let’s assume my stock portfolio / the market increases by an average of 5% each year. It could be less and it could be more, but let’s say 2% – 5%. That is somewhere between $7000 and $17500 for year one, and a max of $20.9k in year two (at 5%), minimum of $8368 (for the entire year, but I’ll count that in these numbers since even if I’m not working my portfolio will continue to gain interest.) Ok, so on the more conservative end with just a 2% year-over-year gain, I’ll have another $15,368 covered by investment interest…

$150,000 goal
$36,000 = 401k investment
$11,400 = 401k match @ 3% of income
$15,368 = portfolio interest at 2% YoY
———————————————
$87,232 to save in 18 months, or,
$4846 per month

This is very doable, as long as I select a job where I can stay a minimum of 18 months. One opportunity does not have 401k match, so I am leaning toward the one that does, since this clearly helps substantially in reaching my long-standing goal of $500k by childbirth.

Once I have kids, I am expecting to work part-time and see my annual savings levels decrease. Of course, I’ll have a husband who is also working, but he doesn’t earn as much as I do or invest his savings beyond a Roth IRA (which he’ll no longer be eligible for once we’re married – yeay marriage.) We’re not really combining incomes when we’re married – just continuing to split major household expenses. We’ll probably start to split a little more… right now we just split rent (I pay more since I make more) and food (we spend way too much on food for two people) — but in the future when we’re married I can see us splitting healthcare expenses, and maybe things like gas/transit. When we have a kid all those expenses will be split too. Luckily I have a penchant for household accounting. What a great hobby!

Seriously, though, if I can get to $500k before I have a kid, this frees me up so much from this looming fear of the future I have. It’s not exactly a nest egg that will make me rich, but it’s a very good start to be at $500k by 34. The goal was by 30 but so what… goals are meant to be hard to reach, but they keep you focused on getting to where you need to be.

With $500k, if I can manage to not touch that money until I’m 65, at an annual return of 5%, that gets me to about $2M in retirement (not counting any future earnings or my husband’s earnings/savings. At a 10% YoY return that’s about $8.7M in retirement. Heck, if that grows at 10% YoY in 20 years once hitting $500k, that will be worth $3.3M – not exactly placing me in the .01%, but certainly providing enough income for early retirement / starting my own business / doing what I want when I’m 55 years old. I know a lot of women in their early 50s and I can see this age being a good time to have that flexibility. You’re still healthy enough to trade and have fun, your kids are old enough to appreciate spending time with you (hopefully) and overall if you’ve been smart about saving over the years, you can take a moment to actually enjoy life.

So when people read this blog and comment about how this $500k goal is so silly, well, it really isn’t.

The MOST important thing right now for all of this is picking a job where I can stay stable at for the next 19 months, at a minimum. That’s a long time and I’m going to take it month by month and focus on being so productive my employer couldn’t even dream of replacing me. 18 months is just 6 quarters, and that will go fast, especially if I’m pregnant for half of them!

I really hope I can do it. I’ve come so far. This seems within reach. Having my first kid at 33/34 is not ideal, I’m going to have to have my second at 36 and if I want a third, well, that’s going to have to be pretty much right away after that. This leaves me little time to keep earning at the same rate, especially in my field, where having kids doesn’t seem to align with the amount of hours required to work. I have to make the money now, so I can leave the options open for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gender Pay Gap from the Top and What to Do About It

Last week, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company paid $3 Million dollars to correct gender pay imbalances across its organization. Although this isn’t a huge number for a company of it’s size, it’s still telling that the firm found $3M in imbalances to fix in the first place. This means that when they ran the numbers they believed that women were earning less than men in the organization for roles of a similar level, and they decided to publicly fix this. But why was that the case in the first place?

As I approach my job negotiations for a senior-level position, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with doing so, I remind myself that I have to negotiate because any male in my position would. As one woman, I’m not representative of all women, but I can say I find it incredibly hard to negotiate. As a woman, I may read negotiation advice and bring a request to the table based on research from online websites that give some idea of pay ranges. And, as a woman who doesn’t like to shake the boat, I’d typically pick the average to ask for because it feels uncomfortable to ask for anything more.

But I’m not an average woman, and I try to push myself to ASK. This gets harder and harder as the numbers get bigger. I always like to state that it is a PRIVILEGE to have this problem, but it is an issue nonetheless. According to this Harvard Business Review article, the Gender Pay Gap Widens as Women Get Promoted. Basically, the higher up in the organization a woman is, she is likely earning less than her male counterparts. A female executive earns 6.1% less than a male, compared to only a 2.2% gap in an individual contributor role.

The problem with negotiating as a woman is that you can’t win. There is plenty of research that shows women pay a higher social cost for negotiating. I’ve experienced this first hand. In my last role, I negotiated very well (in my opinion) but the I was reminded pretty much every single day from my boss that I was making “so much money” and this made me insecure and ultimately defeat myself in the role. I would have been more comfortable had I been earning less and not rocked the boat.

But what I come back to is this – my role is one that generates clear revenue for the business (well, if it doesn’t, I don’t get to stay for all that long.) I’m working for a for-profit organization in a revenue-generating role, and I deserve to be paid for it. Even then, I have no way to know if I’m overstepping — a man in a senior role can ask for anything. He may not get it, but it’s accepted that he’ll ask. A woman in a senior role worries she’ll offend someone. That’s just how it works.

The HBR article notes that while it’s not clear why female executives are paid less than men, it appears that women need sponsors in organizations more than they do mentors. My strategy has been to change jobs relatively frequently in order to move up and earn more. I would not feel comfortable negotiating for higher pay once I’m on a successful track within an organization. It’s at least a little easier to negotiate at the start — but the big question is, how often do men negotiate throughout the year when women do not? Do men ask for bigger raises each year, or do they request salary increases at a more regular frequency than women? Are the raises of similar frequency but just more substantial due to executive sponsors? These are questions no one seems to have a good answer for, so we’re all left in the dark.

In order to solve this problem, organizations need to be provided training from the top down and bottom up about negotiating. It’s tough to do this because it’s in the best interest of the organization to pay each employee as little as possible to keep them engaged and working as hard as they can. If one employee will accept less than another, this is good for the business, at least on paper. And if no one knows how much everyone else i making, how much can it hurt? But wouldn’t it be crazy if a business actually taught people how to negotiate and encouraged it, making typical negotiation timelines around promotions (official and non-official) more transparent? I wonder if anyone would do that. What Salesforce did is a good first step – but also a good PR move. How long will it be before those salaries are unequal again? And what can we do to fix that?

To start, I’m always going to ask for more, even when it makes me sick to my stomach, and even when I know that my likability factor is dinged, because in the long run to be successful, if you’re a woman, you can’t be liked. You can only be respected.

 

 

 

The Jobs. The Offers. The Decisions. The Lack There Of.

It used to be getting a job offer was a huge challenge. It’s not exactly easy today, but I find myself in a place where I have three serious offers (well two offers and one offer if I wanted it) and I’m trying to figure out what to do.

Both offers at this point are somewhat equal in terms of compensation. Base salary is identical in the initial offers for both. One has a bit more stock, the other, a bit more bonus / cash earning opportunity. I haven’t accepted any so theoretically there is room for negotiation. I hate negotiation. Last time I negotiated I got the salary I wanted but then I was reminded over and over again by my boss how overpaid I was (btw, I wasn’t, given the offers I’m getting now are even more than what I was paid there, so clearly market rate wise I was fairly comped in my last role.)

The reason I hate negotiation is that I have no one at my level in a comparable role to talk to about it. At this level of compensation and given my relatively frugal lifestyle, even for this area – on one hand, when numbers get this big, I feel just downright silly negotiating for more money. On the other hand, I think – if I were a dude or someone with confidence, I’d negotiate anyway. Ultimately, my role in either firm is one that indirectly generates revenue for the business – it’s pretty cut and dry if I have generated revenue or not (granted, I’m not closing business, but I’m still generating it) and thus I think a bonus compensation structure makes sense, and that structure should be more or less unlimited as a percentage of sales, or at least substantial in a tiered structure where maybe base stays about the same but total compensation is based on how well I do my job. If I do my job well – then I’m “cheap” – if i’m not, then I’m – “gone.” Low risk to the company either way, given they plan to hire me (or anyone else for this role.)

But I hate that awful taste of negotiating for more – and ultimately I want to pick the job where I can do THE BEST job. And I don’t know which that is right now. I’m not at the point in my career where I can get an offer at a company that has its shit together. That means either I get an offer at a new, young company where it’s still figuring things out, and where it needs someone who can deal with the ups and downs of startup life — OR I get an offer at a company where things are probably more systemically dysfunctional due to years of poor management decisions, but one that has managed to sell enough of its product/service to still be alive either private or public, it doesn’t matter as both come with their own challenges.

I seem to be a perfect fit for those environments, maybe thanks to a very turbulent childhood. But I also think a positive, healthy, rather successful work environment would be nice. My challenge is that I’m not so great at maintaining the status quo. I’m someone who comes in and creatively solves problems. I fix things or build things but I certainly don’t inherent the same old and run with it as such to collect a paycheck. I like moving fast and getting in and making a difference. But then, as history has proven, either I do that really well for short bursts or I can’t manage to figure out how to fix things fast enough and I’m out.

My last job was a trainwreck from the start. CEO who sexually harassed (in a joking way, but nonetheless, it was sexual harassment) most of the women in the company and heck, even some of the men if you were to ask a real HR department. I learned a lot in the role but there were just so many things wrong with the company that I felt lost at what to do. Too many things to fix. Too many holes to fill as water would start leaking out another opening I didn’t even see.

If I go to the smaller company, my main priority will be to hire a small handful of really great people really fast. Hiring is hard. People have to want to work with you and the rest of the team. You (me) have to be a leader. A true leader. In my mind I like to think I’m a leader but what I see in leaders I admire I don’t see in myself. They are very strong, determined, and once they pick a route they don’t chance course (and if they do it certainly doesn’t appear they did this because they realized they made a bad decision.) Leaders have a very clear vision and get everyone aligned to common goals. I have a hard time getting myself aligned to a common goal, let alone a team.

The larger company would immediately have me managing a decent-sized team. It’s a huge opportunity in that if I can successfully manage a team and help them become more productive, that’s a metric I can take to the bank for the rest of my life. I can also build a team at the smaller company and have a similar outcome, but at the second company I would’t have to hire immediately. I’d have something to work with. That can be good or bad, depending on the contributions of the team today and what I figure out needs to be done to hit goals. It likely involves being able to come in and, if anyone isn’t holding their weight, being that bad guy and letting people go early on and replacing them. You know – typical management stuff that I don’t like to do because I’m an INFP and I can’t handle hurting people’s feelings, only letting them down.

I still am most excited by the smaller company… if the larger one was a bit more stable, or selling a product that I could get extremely excited about, it would be a different story. But I have some good opportunities here and I just need to finalize what I’m going to do… it’s a good problem to have, for sure. I just am at that point where I really don’t want to make the wrong decision… and I’m not sure there’s a right one to make. Because – when it comes down to it, I’m in the wrong career overall – but it’s a hot market and people keep throwing money at me and it’s hard to say no. It’s easy to say – one more go, let’s see if I can make it happen… I’ll try my absolute best… and in the meantime, keep on putting away $5k a month to attempt to reach my goal of $500k in networth before I give birth to my first child. After that, I feel like I have a bit more flexibility/freedom to maybe switch jobs and earn less, or consult part-time at a higher hourly rate, or… anything other that continuing on this trajectory which can’t be forever.

 

Why Women Shouldn’t Ask for a Raise

Microsoft CEO Satya Nedella this week took heat for making a very un-PC statement at a women’s tech conference (of all places) that women should not ask for raises and instead trust “Karma” to get them the money they deserve.

Uhhhhhh….

Microsoft’s workforce is 71% male, a figure that rises to 83% for both technical and leadership roles. Those figures are roughly in line with the gender breakdown at Google,FacebookYahoo and Apple.

In my own company I’m happy to report the gender balance is much more 50/50, yet on the leadership team until I joined there was only one woman. Now there are two. While we’re not a big company like Microsoft or Apple or Facebook, I’m proud that I work in one of the more diverse (at least gender-wise) companies in tech.

That said, you can bet I played hardball coming into the job in terms of comp because I knew exactly what I was worth and what I was going to give to the organization. Well, basically I rationalized my comp and pushing for it as whoever is in the role actually delivering what the role needs right now deserved that comp, therefore if I did the role justice I deserved the comp and if I didn’t then I’d be gone anyway – I rather negotiate with confidence in myself and what I can bring to the company vs just accept that I deserve whatever is offered below what the role is worth.

Every time I go into a negotiation in my career I get a little bolder, a little braver, a little less worried that I’ll lose the opportunity if I push for what is deserved… and what is deserved is really what the market will bear, within reason. Once you get to a point in your career where you’re a specialist you can ask for a little more if that specialty is relevant to your new role.

However asking for raises has never been a favorite thing of mine to do – that’s one of the reasons I’m getting so ballsy in the first negotiation before I sign a contract. I did well this time around but know what I negotiated is equal to what I’m worth if I can deliver (which I plan to do.)

I can’t believe the CEO of Microsoft made those dumb ass comments. Of course he recanted likely with the help of the PR team kindly asking him “what were you thinking?” But the damage is done.  He basically was trying to say that women have long careers if they just don’t ask for raises so eventually they’ll get rewarded. Maybe. That’s bs. Women need to ask for raises and ensure they are paid what they’re worth. I felt like a total asshole during my recent negotiation but still I got what I wanted and now I can focus on the important stuff – my job – vs worrying about whether or not I’m fairly compensated.

Yes I did it for myself – but every time I negotiate now – I also picture myself as just one woman in technology who will hopefully be a VP one day soon, who will help balance out the gender imbalance just a smidgen, inspiring more women to go into technology companies, making the future of tech a little less – manly.

 

 

Negotiation and the Patience I Do Not Have

I should be thrilled about the prospect here of multiple job offers and the luxury to negotiate a little bit, yet I’m not at all. I’ve been crawling out of my skin with anxiety for the past week especially and I can’t stand the whole playing it cool and waiting for a response. I know today a reference put in a good word for me for one of the potentials, and the other one is in full-on negotiation mode stuck in limbo. Part of me feels like I should just fold – after all who cares about money? Well, I do. But I care more about my sanity. And it’s quickly slipping away.

A lot of people have commented on my blog that I shouldn’t negotiate. I was surprised to see these comments. Granted, the comments are from people who actually have read my blog for a while and know that I’m a bit of a mental trainwreck (yeay bipolar II) so they think I’m better off just taking the job I’m offered without going back and asking for more. I’ve read so much about how women don’t negotiate that I’m now the type of person that I can’t NOT negotiate. I mean, I know what I’m worth if I deliver on my promises. If I deliver on my promises I better be paid what I’m worth. If I don’t the company will get rid of me anyway so they have a much smaller risk to take.

So many of the comments also noted that they’ve had experiences where the offers would be rescinded if they tried to negotiate. That’s crazy. I wouldn’t want to work for a company that pulls that anyway. I mean, in my job I’m going to have to negotiate to save the company money practically every single day so you bet your ass I want to show them that I’m good at negotiation and don’t just take the first offer. Maybe if I were in another field I’d be more likely to accept an offer without negotiating… and maybe I should anyway… but clearly there is some wiggle room or else they wouldn’t still be talking to me.

I know when I’m good I’m really good. I am going to immediately invest in a psychiatrist upon my health insurance kicking in and get whatever antidepressants/ anti-anxiety meds I need to stabilize myself and be functional at my very best. I’d rather be compensated for being my best than for being my worst. If I don’t add value get rid of me, that’s the way I look at it. Maybe that’s too aggressive. But I can’t just be a woman who gets walked over when it comes to salary. I mean, I already have been according to some people – even though compared to most of the world I make “a lot” I still am underpaid for my title and level. Granted, being unemployed means any job/salary is better than nothing, but I can’t let myself be as weak as I actually am.

Waiting on finalizing these offers is making me extremely sick, however. I can’t sleep, I have a cold and cough, I can barely eat anything. I just want to get the paperwork signed and move on, but I do have at least two really attractive offers to negotiate — I am just so scared of losing both of them by being too aggressive. Even today when I spoke with HR at the larger company I had to share my former compensation at the last three companies I worked at. I told the truth. I am worried that telling the truth would make me seem too expensive or too cheap or too whatever for the role. I considered lying – making myself cheaper – or more pricey – just so they would hear what they want and offer me the role at the salary they feel is fair for the position. Meanwhile in the other half of this job seeking town I’m swinging for the fences because the job itself requires a lot more responsibility. Either way, I really do just want a job, I’m no good at this not working thing.