The best things in life may be free, but a study out of Case Western Reserve University found that money does indeed buy happiness. Increasing income—to the tune of an annual salary of $80,000— also relieves negative emotions and reduces the incidence of serious mental illness, according to the research. This makes sense, but how exactly do you go about doubling your income or even getting a raise?
Start by creating a plan, says Jessica Jaffe, senior manager of corporate affairs for Glassdoor. "Do the math of how much of a raise you need this year, the next, and so on to get to the point where your salary would double," she says. "Then decide how many years you want to give yourself to get there."
For example, if your salary is currently $35,000 and you want to make $70,000 in five years, you’ll need an average increase of $7,000 a year, or a promotion or two over the next five years.
One of the most powerful tools to use to double your salary is information, specifically to know what other professionals in your industry earn. Sites like Glassdoor and PayScale allow you to research rates by position, industry, experience, and region.
"Check in regularly to find where you fall because there are market shifts for in-demand jobs and fields," says Lydia Frank, senior director of editorial and marketing at PayScale. "This is also important if something about [your skill set] has changed or if your industry is heating up," she says. "Understanding where you fall helps you proceed with much more confidence."
If your research reveals that your salary is less than what it should be, use this information to ask for a raise. Be sure to have real numbers for what others in your role, city, and, if possible, your company make, says Jaffe.
"Compile the data to build a strong argument about your own compensation," she says, adding that you can ask for a larger base salary or new bonus structure. "If you don’t ask, you most definitely won’t get it," Jaffe says.
If you’ve been with your employer for a while, mention any new skills that you have brought to the table over time, adds Frank. "Employers often don’t recognize internal talent as much as they could," she says. "Companies want to retain their best and brightest. If market pay is shifting, you need to at least start a conversation on compensation."
If your current salary range is within the market range, taking a new role at your company could provide an opportunity for increasing your income. Research other positions and collect information about salary levels. Then put yourself in line for a promotion by improving and supporting what matters most to your company’s overall business goals, says Jaffe.
"If your company is looking to grow its e-commerce business, for example, you should focus on that and try to quantify your contribution," she says.
Frank suggests having honest conversations with your employer about your goals. "It’s perfectly valid to say, ‘Hey, I want to move up in this organization and here’s what my aspirations are. Can you help me get there?’" she says. "It’s unlikely that you will stay doing what you’re doing and double your salary."
If getting a higher salary means moving into a new role be sure you’re interested in doing the things that come along with it, says Frank. "You’ll likely have more responsibility, manage people, or change departments," she says. "Are you interested in that work? And are you capable of doing the job?"
If your current career path doesn’t offer the kind of salary you wish to have, you may have to change your industry, says Frank. "Software developers are in demand," she says, "but nonprofit or education-focused companies will often pay them less than tech companies do."
If an industry change won’t make a big difference, it might be time to think about a new career path, says Frank. "Are you willing to make a radical shift?" she asks. "It’s common to hear about someone who used to be an elementary school teacher and then transitions into coding by going to a coding boot camp," Frank explains. Accelerated programs and academies can facilitate such major career pivots.
Another way to double your income is to boost your skill set and marketability. "Are there degrees or skills you can gain?" asks Frank. "This can make you more valuable." You can ask your employer about training opportunities within the company that will improve what you can offer.
Some regions, such as San Francisco, New York, and Seattle offer higher paying jobs than others, but be sure to research the cost of living in these areas because it’s likely to be more, too. You could take advantage of regional rates by finding companies that allow you to work remotely, suggests Frank.
"You will increase your pay if the employer is in one of those cities but you won’t increase your spending by having to live there, too," she says.
While money isn’t always the main reason people change jobs, 74% who do switch receive larger compensation packages, according to LinkedIn.
If there isn’t a clear career path in your company that will help you double your salary, "It may be time to move on, and the sooner, in that case, the better," says Jaffe. "It is true that it's often easier to negotiate more salary as you are going into a new job," she points out, "negotiation is expected when you are provided with a job offer."
It can also help to pay attention to company size, adds Frank. "If you’re looking to increase your take-home pay, working for a large organization that has bigger budget can help," she says. "But a startup may be willing to give you other benefits and perks that pay off in the long run like equity," Frank adds.
While a nice paycheck is important, remember that money isn’t everything, says Jaffe. "Our research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction," she says. "In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers."