Suze Orman: Tips For Getting Paid What You’re Worth

While traveling today I was reading in a local newspaper an article by Suze Orman (couldn’t find it online) about how to close the wage gap between men and women. The tips to getting a higher salary were equally applicable to everyone, so I took some quick notes:

Don’t expect them to recognize you automatically. Seriously, you may think you are on the same page as your boss, but if you don’t talk about it specifically, you may be terribly disappointed. I’ve seen lots of coworkers come out of their performance reviews in shock.

Make goals and document your accomplishments. Everything is driven by numbers these days. Work with your boss to identify goals, and then record the steps you took to reach them, and which ones you accomplished. Your boss will likely need to justify any raise to his/her boss as well, and concrete reasons help. I think this is critical.

Argue your case, and don’t be afraid to ask for a future commitment. If you don’t get what you want even after stating your case, discuss reasons why they refused, and ask “what would it take next time” to get what you feel you deserve. Get a commitment that if you reach certain benchmarks, then you will get that 10% raise or whatever.

Be prepared to quit. Sometimes you just can’t see eye-to-eye with a company. While it is often easier to find a new position while still at your current one, having a healthy emergency fund can also give you the flexibility to avoid settling for another dead-end job.

As I’m going back to being a W-2 worker again soon, I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind.


  1. Stephen Ward says:

    On the second note, “Make goals and document your accomplishments,” it’s worth adding that objective and/or numerical measures of success can be very helpful. I recently had my 90-day review and gave my bosses a record of all positive changes and the numbers behind them. They were, of course, thrilled to see them, and the review itself went very smoothly.

  2. While I love this blog I must completely disagree with your Emergency Fund advise. I would never use credit cards or any other type of credit to act as an emergency. I don’t want the risk and the stress of accumulating more debt. My parents used a credit card to pay for their needs during Hurricane Rita, and they still have not paid it back. Giving someone that does not work well with money credit is like giving an alcoholic denatured alcohol. It is going to kill them.

  3. SavingDiva says:

    I’ve never gone to ask for a raise. They’ve always just been given to me. I’m sure that’s why I’m probably paid so low. Oh well!

  4. Just throwing out possible options for emergency funds in that other post, not suggestions.

    I would certainly use credit cards as an emergency funds, but only as close to the last resort.

  5. So Jonathan where have u moved to?. What industry do u work in ?. What is ur plan about the house u were planning to buy?

  6. Suze Orman was on the View when the book came out talking about this point, discrimination laws, etc. She tried to get the View ladies to tell what they make, she was saying that everyone should know what everyone makes so you know if you are paid fairly. Barbara Walters asked her about her sex life, and Suze dropped the subject.

  7. OK, obviously I love the “document your accomplishments piece”. It is, however, worth noting that this cannot be some “last-minute” pre-review activity. The average worker simply completes too many activities annually to remember them all, so try writing it down each week, this gives you actual material.

    As to the last point, I’d actually go so far as to say “Always be ready to quit”, b/c the company you’re working for is always trying to be ready to let you go. As to the fair pay talk, Tex basically just makes Suze sound like wimp to me 🙂

    Personally, I’m always ready to talk about salary with co-workers. It’s very important to do so in fact. The game your company is generally trying to play is “how little can we pay him and keep him happy?”. This means that (to a point), you can actually make extra money by being a little unhappy. Knowing what your co-workers make allows you to push that number a little more.

    Most bosses are (foolishly) assuming that co-workers don’t talk about salary and so they’re playing this game of keeping everyone happy rather than paying everyone fairly, b/c it’s not in their interest to pay everyone fairly. The only way to level out the game is to know what your co-workers and other friends in the industry are making.

    As to point #3, if you can’t wrangle a good progression out of your employer than it’s actually worth mentioning that it may be time for you to leave then. If you get good reviews and no salary increase then you’re actually losing money (thanks inflation).

  8. Markham says:

    I have to disagree with Mr. Gates, I never share my pay with co-workers as it’s a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen time and time again situations where the workers shared salaries and it just lead to problems. At the end of the day, you’re not all equal, some people are stars, some are superstars and some are just working hard enough not to get fired. Unfortunately, everyone wants to get paid like a superstar.

    While I can see the value in making sure that you’re not being screwed, usually, sharing salary info leads to trouble.


  9. The problem with sharing salary info, is that one person always goes away mad. Its just human nature to be competitive and money is one of the ways we express competition. I work in finance where its ALL about the bonus – and its so clever the way investment banks manage to keep the exact bonus pay secret – one year we all went down to the local pub, had a few beers, wrote down our bonus numbers on a scrap of paper (no names of course) , threw all those papers in a hat – one of the guys then took out each scrap and wrote down all the bonus numbers in order. That way at least we all got to see the real distribution of the bonus pool (I am assuming there is not as much incentive to cheat in a game like this) and made our own judgements about the fairness and justice of it all…at least the next time we spoke to management, we were armed with some actual figure.

  10. Asking for a raise may work for smaller businesses, but in some Fortune 500 companies, there are pretty strict guidelines that leave very little wiggle room for lower level management. Also, if your profession is affected by outsourcing, it adds another level of difficulty as there are people in India and China willing to do the same work for much less.

    For example, I work for a very big international technology company. Every year the company surways the salaries paid by its competitors (a number of companies are participating in such surways – a list incluldes a number of well-known companies) for similar jobs to see the salary ranges and everages. The current policy for raises is 1) all raises happen June 1st. 2) the raises come from the common pool of money that depends on how well company is doing and the job market 3) The raise amount is comprised of two main components. The first one is market-based adjustment and is given to employees with at least a “solid performer” evaluation iff their salary is below “market reference point” aka average salary for someone with similar skills paid by most companies in the area. The amount of the adjustment is determined by how far below market your salary is (but they don’t usually bring you up to the “reference point” only slightly closer as they don’t have enough money in the pool to adjust everyone’s salary). The allocations to each person are done by a computer program so individual managers have no control over it. The second component of the raise is a premium for people with “exceeded” and “far exceeded” evaluations. The managers may have some leeway here, but as we also have ranking (in group, across groups, etc. — every year there is one sorted list of people across multiple departments by performance ranking this year), they usually give higher raises to people with higher ranking. Now, you can argue about your evaluation, but as you never know where you stand compared to other people with the same evaluation score especially compared to people in other departments, it is difficult. You might work hard, but if your project is not as successful or visible as another project, you’ll be below people who work on other projects (the evaluations are based on “impact”, not on how hard you worked; if you worked hard but your project got cancelled – too bad). For historical reasons different people in the same salary band may still be paid differently, but telling to the manager “why is he paid more” is not likely to get you anywhere – maybe that other person had better evaluations in the past or was promoted sooner. Nor do you know all the details about what other people have accomplished during the year – you may know about the job your co-worker done on your project, but he or she might’ve been involved in other activities, helped other projects or had more patents than you are.

    As to the document describing achievements – each of us is required to write one every November as part of evaluation process. So better “brag sheet” as it is often called may help during ranking and thus influence the amount of bonus we get in March and the salary increase, the actual amount will still depend on business climate, your project and how well everyone else has done.

    When you get promoted, your “market reference point” raises compared to your salary so you get an immediate high raise. But the higher your band, the more difficult the next promotion becomes (for my position, for example, in order to get promoted I need visibility in other divisions of the company, at least one “far exceeded” evaluation in the past three years, three letters of recommendation from managers others than mine that employ people at that higher level saying that I perform at that higher level). Also after you get promoted you get compared to people at higher levels during the ranking process, which means that good evaluations become more difficult to get. Considering that two consequitive “need improvement” evaluations means you are on probation and are likely to be fired, you may want to think long and hard about whether or not you want the next position.

    Threatening to leave in big companies doesn’t have that much effect since your immediate manager doesn’t have that much power in determining raise anyway. I have seen people overturning their evaluation score though, but they had a very strong case: one person who got his score changed from “exceeded” to “far exceeded” was responsible for the whole idea that got their department’s project in the first place. On the other hand, one guy I know tried to argue from “solid performer” to “exceeded” without much success. His main argument was that he had 20 patent applications filed that year in addition to good job on the project. They told him patent applications are great, but he already got awards for them and they are not as important for evaluations as other things like business impact that his project didn’t have.

  11. Yea, I worked for DeVry for 3 years, did EVERYTHING in this article, and got NO-WHERE. I’m in an entry level job (with Senior level experience). Sad.

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