Negotiating A Six-Figure Salary Helped This 35-Year-Old Pay Off $40,000 In Debt

Illustration by Richard Chance
In our series My Salary Story, 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.
Interested in contributing your salary story? Email us here.
Previously, we talked to a 31-year-old graphic designer in L.A. who went from corporate to freelance and back again. Today, we connect with a financial service professional who learned to fight "spending creep" and pay down significant credit card debt as she moved into the six-figure salary range.
Age: 35
Current Location: NYC
Current Industry & Title: Financial Services Compliance Officer
Starting Salary: $28,500
Current Salary: $159,000 ($140,000 base plus annual bonus)
Number of Years Employed: 13
Biggest Salary Jump: $21,500
Biggest Salary Drop: None
Biggest Salary Regret: Not negotiating salary early on in my career and not taking my career seriously for many years.
Best Salary-Related Advice: "Try to negotiate! I was timid and always had the attitude of I am lucky to have to this offer instead of, This job is lucky to have me. Over time, that has a big impact on your income. Your next job will likely base your new compensation on your previous salary (although some states have passed legislation prohibiting prospective employers from asking your current salary in an effort to close the gender wage gap). That practice certainly impacted me; new employers are sometimes only willing to increase your current salary by a certain percentage, perpetuating an underpaid status. Also, have a clear vision of where you want to end up. I had no plan for many years and that negatively impacted my earnings due to not seeking out better opportunities and remaining complacent."
Best Career Advice: "Stay in touch with old coworkers and meet them for lunch or drinks when you can. Send well wishes on holidays (I'm big on the Happy New Year text.) Over time, you will establish a great network because people eventually move on to new roles and can potentially refer you for a position one day — or vice versa. You may also need them as a reference and you don't want to ask a favor of someone you never speak to. It's also great to have people in your industry you can bounce ideas off or ask what their company does to address a specific issue. If you work at a larger company, network with people inside as well as outside of your department. Don't be afraid to ask senior people to lunch. I've noticed that people who are 'popular' at work (always having lunch with different people, know everyone) are more likely to get put on high-profile projects or are the first to be considered for new roles."

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