This article is part of Money's new-year checklist — a 10-step guide to crushing your financial goals in 2024 (and beyond). For expert predictions on what's next for home prices, the stock market and more, read our cover story.
Wouldn’t it be nice to make a little more money this year?
You’ve been busting your butt, after all, showing up for your team, crushing your to-do list and tackling new challenges with ease. (And dare we say ... poise?)
You deserve a raise; you know it, we know it and — let’s be honest — your boss likely knows it, too. But with the fear of an economic recession still looming over much of the U.S. workforce, your inner monologue is probably nagging you to just be grateful you’re still getting a paycheck.
There’s no way around it: Talking about salary is uncomfortable, and the little voice in your head can be a wuss sometimes. But after the year we just had, when paying the bills and buying groceries, among other things, were a lot more expensive than usual, it's in your best interest to ignore it.
Here’s a simple, no-nonsense guide on how to ask for a raise at work — and actually get it.
Schedule a meeting with your boss
If the timing works out, you can loop this conversation in with your annual performance evaluation. But if your eval already came and went, or your employer doesn’t actually do performance reviews, the onus is on you to bring it up.
In other words, don’t try to slip in a mention of getting a raise in passing, says Tramelle D. Jones, a career coach based in San Antonio, Texas. Put a dedicated meeting on your manager’s calendar, and tell her you’re scheduling time to talk about your future goals.
“You need to start this conversation,” Jones says. “Don’t wait for your boss to come talk to you.”
Convincing a higher-up to give you more money ultimately boils down to giving them ample proof that you deserve it.
This is easier — much, much easier — if you’ve already been keeping tabs of your wins throughout the year. Jones calls this “a diary of accomplishments” and says you should leave a copy of the highlights with your supervisor after the meeting.
You’ll want to get as granular as possible with the list, and bring in data that speaks to your impact at the company. If something you did made (or saved) your employer a bunch of money, that’s great, obviously, but a dollar sign isn’t the only meaningful metric.
“Everyone has solid statistics, even if we don't think of them as such,” Jones says. “They might be really close to the bottom line — maybe you trained other employees or updated a certain data system. Or maybe there’s a customer satisfaction rate or a retention rate you can point to.”
Seemingly small things can count, too, she adds. Did you introduce goal-setting into your team’s workflow? Did you organize the copy room or start an office softball team? Help your boss connect the dots between your contribution (a clutter-free copy room) and the outcome (less time wasted company-wide) and your argument will basically prove itself.
“All of the things you do outside of your job description can be listed as an accomplishment,” she says.
Know how much money to ask for
U.S. employers are budgeting for pay increases of about 4% in 2024, according to a PayScale report. Anything above that will be seen as “a good raise” in the eyes of your higher-ups.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should consider that a good raise. If you brought your A game in 2023, aim high: The time-tested advice to ask for 10% to 20% more than you’re currently making still holds true.
Inflation is a valid concern, and Jones says you can bring it up as a talking point. Pull your local numbers on cost-of-living increases (not the national average) and put them in the context of your work life (i.e, the increased price of gas has made your commute a lot more expensive). But don’t make this the crux of your argument.
“The most important thing is to focus on accomplishments,” she says. “That’s going to give you the edge every single time.”
In a perfect world, this is the part where you’d take a victory lap around your cubicle/home office/kitchen island and wait for those sweet, sweet direct deposits to hit. In reality, you probably won’t get an answer right away. Your boss might need to talk to her boss to see if there’s enough wiggle room in the budget to accommodate your request, or at least take some time to synthesize the info you’ve presented.
“We are talking about money,” Jones says. “It’s not just going to show up out of nowhere.”
Schedule a follow-up meeting with your supervisor — ideally, before the end of your first one.
If the answer your boss eventually comes back with is “no,” or “not right now” or “maybe, but let’s have this conversation later,” be gracious. Then get more information. Ask what the expectations are for your role going forward and what exactly you need to do to get a raise when you bring this back up in six months to a year from now (nudge, nudge).
That clarity, combined with the super-smart “diary of accomplishments” you’re now keeping on your desk, should make your next raise discussion a breeze, Jones says. If it doesn’t, use it as fodder for your new resume in your job search — and negotiate a better salary with a different company.