55% of workers say their pay isn’t keeping up with inflation. What experts recommend doing if you feel underpaid

Personal Finance

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If you feel like your income hasn’t kept up with rising prices, you’re not alone.

More than half, 55%, of respondents in a new survey from Bankrate.com say their incomes have not kept up with rising household expenses amid persistent high inflation. Only 33% of respondents said their incomes have either kept up with or exceeded higher household expenses.

The online survey was conducted between Aug. 17 and 19 and was of 2,458 adults.

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New government inflation data released Tuesday showed inflation in August was higher than expected, as the consumer price index increased 0.1% for the month, and 8.3% over the past 12 months.

Bankrate’s survey found 40% of employed respondents have received raises in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, 13% got a better-paying job. A lucky 8% got both a pay raise and a better-paying job.

The remaining 39% of respondents didn’t get either one.

But securing bigger paychecks did not necessarily help workers stave off inflation.

Half of those who are now earning more still say their pay hasn’t kept up with rising costs. Yet 39% said the increase either kept up with or exceeded the rise in household costs.

Cost-of-living raises are ‘still very much the exception’

Just 31% of workers received a pay increase to accommodate higher living costs.

Instead, workers were likely to secure more pay for other reasons. That includes 36% who received a performance-based raise, 16% who got a promotion or new responsibilities, and 10% who cited other reasons such as contract or seniority.

“The takeaway continues to be that pay raises predominantly come in the form of performance-based increases, promotions or taking on new job responsibilities,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Investments in additional training, certification or educational attainment could pay off quickly in an economic downturn.
Greg McBride
chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com

“The cost-of-living increase is still very much the exception, rather than the rule,” he said.

Performance-based increases were more likely to go to Gen Xers and baby boomers, according to McBride, rather than millennial or Gen Z workers.

But pay increases due to promotions or new job responsibilities were more common among Gen Z and millennials, rather than Gen X and baby boomers, he said.

If you feel underpaid, ‘it’s time to brag’

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The best way to boost your pay is to look for new job opportunities externally, according to Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.com.

You should also talk to your current boss if you feel underpaid, she said.

Prepare what you want to say ahead of that conversation. Gather data on pay by finding out what the going rate is for similar positions from a reputable professional association in your industry and reaching out to former colleagues to find out what competitors are paying new hires.

“State facts so you can show your boss what you’re worth,” Salemi said.

Also be sure to highlight your accomplishments on the job, such as new clients you’ve brought on or the number of people and money you’ve managed.

“It’s time to brag,” Salemi said. “Quantify as much as possible if you can.”

If you’re offered a salary from a new employer, be sure to negotiate, even if you’re happy with the offer, she said.

“Employers expect it,” Salemi said. “They’re more surprised when you don’t negotiate than when you do.”

That doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to your wages. You may also want to ask for a bigger bonus or additional paid time off.

With talk of a potential recession, it’s also a great time to enhance your employability, McBride said.

“Investments in additional training, certification or educational attainment could pay off quickly in an economic downturn,” McBride said.

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