Voices Of Disability

I Make About $400 A Month & I’m Scared Of Getting A Raise

In our series Salary Stories, women with long-term career experience open up about the most intimate details of their jobs: compensation. It’s an honest look at how real people navigate the complicated world of negotiating, raises, promotions, and job loss, with the hope it will give young women more insight into how to advocate for themselves — and maybe take a few risks along the way.
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Age: 33
Current Location: New Jersey
Current Industry & Title: Freelance writer
Starting Salary: $6.85/hr in 2003
Current Salary: ~$400/month
Number Of Years Employed: 18
Biggest Salary Jump: $8/hr to $33,000/year
Biggest Salary Drop: $33,000/year to $250/week on unemployment
Biggest Career-Related Regret: 
"I can't file for disability because it's been too long since I worked a job that paid anything. If I could go back and fix things, I would've filed for disability insurance as soon as possible. But now I can't even file because I haven't made enough in the past eight years, but I can't make too much because then they would say, ‘Well, you've made so much you clearly don't need disability.’"

Best Career-Related Advice:
"Your decisions have to be based on what you're doing right now. Hope for it to get better, but, practically speaking, do not count on it getting better. I gave this advice to someone, and they said, ‘I might have to take disability, but I don't want to, because then I'll be on disability.’ And I said, 'Take the disability right now, and everything else you can figure out later.' Because once that window of opportunity for disability vanishes, you're screwed.
“So I would just say to people who are starting out that your plans are going to get derailed in some way, by something. You can't be locked into a version of your future, because it simply won't happen the way you expect it. Maybe it'll be better. Maybe it'll be worse. But you have to make the decisions based on what's good for you right now. Not what's good for the company, not what might happen, not what you hope to be or the capabilities you hope to have, but literally just what is happening right now. Stop being so aspirational and just be practical."

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