The easiest way to get a raise is to give yourself one

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As Mr. r&R mentioned, I got promoted! Woohoo!

Some of you may be thinking, wait…I thought ya’ll were retiring early? You’re right. But the two events aren’t as mutually exclusive as they sound. 

We treat full-time employment (i.e. required work where you trade time for money) as a season. We still believe that life is for living which is why we actively avoid lifestyle inflation in spite of how lucrative our careers have been over the years. Taking this approach trains us to treat salary increases as a byproduct of how focused we are at reducing the timeline, and not another form of golden handcuffs

The title is a bit of a spoiler alert about who I think the onus falls on for making additional income, but leveraging our employers to earn more money has been an important part of our journey. So let’s talk about it.

Earning more money hinges on your ability to understand people, which is the emotional work known as Office Politics aka ‘the game’.

It’s the thing where you agree to a never-ending feedback loop; you make a point to solicit feedback at very specific times and then you act on that feedback in very specific ways.

You play ‘the game’ and you hope for the best.

In the wrong environments, it becomes exhausting and leads to burnout. The right environment can lead to incredible mentorship, the ability to learn new things and rapid salary growth. This has been the case for me. If my current salary is a scoreboard and every promotion is considered a checkmate, then it’s fair to say that I have played the game well. I just don’t want to play it for 30 more years. 

Aptly stated here, “when you work for someone else, you implicitly accept a limited upside and unlimited downside.”

For a long time, I didn't understand how limited the upside was. I was a tried and true careerist, but I also thought 'the game' we were all playing was chess. Turns out, it's poker. Click To Tweet

Don’t get me wrong. I’m great at my job and have earned my place, but so did the people I’ve seen lose theirsMy point is that I’m not special. I’ve just been lucky enough to avoid the downside.

Annie Duke talks about the difference between chess and poker in her book. With chess, there is no hidden information. All the pieces are visible and you can see your opponent’s moves and react accordingly. If you lose, it’s because there were better moves that you didn’t make or see. 

You can learn from your losses in chess, so it makes sense to keep trying. In other words, the juice is worth the squeeze because the game is fair.  But poker is different.

Poker is a game of chance where valuable information is hidden. Your actions will always be based on the likelihood that something will happen. You don’t know which cards will be dealt or which hands will be played. You can make the best decision based on the information you had and STILL lose.

In fact, there is so much uncertainty involved in poker that it makes it really difficult to learn from the past. You don’t know which outcomes were a result of your skills and which ones were a result of luck. You can use your experience as a guide, but to excel, it requires you to be comfortable with the fact that you don’t control the odds and still be willing to play all-in. 

That sounds like a 50 year career to me. *shrug emoji*

It sounds bleak, so we develop these narratives that normalize the risk as a way to cope. We start to call our colleagues “family” and instead of simply respecting company policies, we operate as if we have an obligation to unconditionally support them even at our own expense

So many of us are agreeing to spend the best years of our lives playing career poker 40+ hours a week knowing the House will always win. 

We spend all year toiling to drive clicks to websites just to grow the pot. We go all-in with our time and hope that we’re holding the winning hand during the annual review and bonus process. Year after year after year….wagering our health for 2% here, 5% there.

Sometimes we win, other times we lose, but we keep on playing. Year after year after year….2% here, 5% there. 

The only way to consistently win a game of chance is to master the odds. That said, the easiest way to ensure you get the raise you deserve, is to give it to yourself.  

If you are an employee like I am, one of the best things you can do with your paycheck is to build a routine that conditions it to work harder for you. Assign every dollar a job, manage it like you would an employee, and invest in systems that create new income with minimal demands on your time.  

Our paychecks played a significant role in our journey to FI, but our net worth has increased by over $100K so far this year because we always pay ourselves FIRST. For the last 5 years we have given ourselves a raise 2-3x more often than our employers did…and not just through real-estate (certainly, not this year!).

Our raises come from being bullish about the unsexy realities of staying rich. We call them our 'richuals'. Click To Tweet

Tasks like reducing expenses that don’t align to our values (bye, cable!), consolidating insurance, revisiting deductibles, avoiding fees, and managing our investment costs by converting to Admiral shares in Vanguard all add up. 

I’m not gonna lie, it can be frustrating to sift through fine print and it’s mind-numbing to keep pressing 0 until you get to the right representative…but eventually you get used to it and build the same tolerance you use to sit in another meeting that should have been an email at work.

The bottom line is that NO ONE will advocate for your money like you will. Jen Sincero says it best: if you’re ready to make more money, you can. You just have to do the math and master the odds. 

Since Mr. r&R started his mini-retirement, we’re down to 1 paycheck but we feel richer. The money he earned during his employment still goes to work every day, while he gets to spend more time with the people he loves doing the things he loves.

Now that’s what I call playing to win!


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