100 Words On: How to Get an Instant Raise (without Kissing Up)

The official US inflation rate in 2011 was “officially” 3.2 percent, but arguably higher, while the average pay hike was just 2.9 percent. Maybe that’s why, when it comes to job complaints, surveys show that employees grouse about their paltry paychecks more than anything else. Ironically, 29% of all workers — and 43% of twenty-somethings — turn down free money each year because they don’t contribute enough into their 401k retirement plans to qualify for the full company match.

The bottom line: The average 401k match is 3 percent, so employees taking advantage of it for the first time in 2011 essentially doubled their pay raise — if only for a year.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Waters Photography


  1. 1


    Yeah I don’t understand why people don’t max out that employer 401k matching. I’ve never been at a company that was big enough to offer that. A lot of people in their 20’s just aren’t mature enough to start saving though. They want to keep up with any of their friends that are blowing a lot of money and live the biggest lifestyle they think they can afford.

    • 2


      That’s pretty judgemental. I think you’re playing into stereotypes. Maybe people in their twenties just don’t have the earning power, are trying to start their lives, or position themselves for a better, more prosperous future. That means buying homes, getting married, going to college, etc. Seems these types of things would be harder on the pockets of twenty-somethings more than trying to keep up with friends. Of course, you might just say that doing the things I mention is “keeping up with friends.” Meh.

  2. 3


    At my last company, they never gave anyone raises. Employees had to literally beg or threaten to leave in order to get a raise. After two years of hard work for them, I decided I deserved a raise. So, I went out and got a better paying job.

    As for 401K matching, I haven’t gotten that since the 90s. Anyone lucky enough to get 401K matching should take full advantage. It’s free money that’s tax deferred. It doesn’t get any better than that.

  3. 4


    I’m contributing just enough to my 401k to collect the full company match. :)

    Now that the mortgage is paid off, I’m considering an increase in contributions, but I have to balance that with the knowledge that my employer is training people in the Czech Republic to do my job – Oracle Database Administrator. If a layoff is imminent, I’d rather build up cash or near-cash.

    A 2.9% average pay hike? Wow, wish I got a raise that big. Meanwhile in India, pay-raises are expected to be in the 5% to 20% range this year. This is why my employer is making plans to send new off-shoring work elsewhere. Indians have figured out they can demand great raises – at least in the short term. That gravy train will be coming to an end in a couple of years or so.

  4. 5

    Lola says

    I would freakin LOVE a 2.9% raise. My income has gone down by 16% since I was laid off from a lovely job (which had a 401k with 6% matching) in 2008. Thank you, housing bubble. After 4 months of unemployment, I happily took a job at what turned out to be a horrible company (0% matching), which lasted exactly 18 months before I was laid off again. Fortunately I knew the layoff was coming and had another job lined up already. I’ve been here over a year and I love this place. Even though my salary is smaller, the company is great and the benefits are great ~ 4% matching, 100% employer-paid insurance, and since the company is employee owned, profit sharing and ESOP. :) I always contribute fully to any 401k match!

  5. 6


    Many companies offer various benefits that are unused or underutilized. When I worked for a fortune 100 company, every year they reminded us on how much they spent in benefits for us. It was a way to showcase the benefits and retain you.

  6. 7


    And for the even luckier? Company stock purchase plans usually give you a bit more than a 1.5% raise, depending on the program (that’s a minimum).

    • 9


      Usually it’s the very large corporations that offer some sort of 401k match.

      When I worked for Honeywell, I believe they offered a match, but I was in my twenties at the time and didn’t care (wish I could go back in time and slap my silly self).
      BellSouth – when it existed – had a 401k match.
      EDS – when it existed – had a 401k match. EDS was bought out by HP, which I believe has a match.
      AT&T has a match.

  7. 11

    skrpune says

    I consider myself very lucky to work somewhere with a great 403(b) matching program. If I contribute nothing, they put in 5%. Then they match up to 5% of what I put in. So a 5% contribution turns into 15%. I do an additional 5% voluntary contribution as well, but I’m torn between leaving that be & reaping the tax benefits of it now and cutting it to put it towards a Roth IRA for tax benefits later.

    As for raises, the range of annual raises is usually 2-3% (if you get really good reviews), so it’s barely keeping up with inflation. After taxes, 403(b) contributions, etc., that would result in me only seeing about $60-70/month more. Meh. The only ways for me to get a significant raise are to move to another department or get a title bump-up where I am. I like what I do and where I work and don’t want to have to try to find another higher-titled position, so I’m working VERY hard to argue for a higher title this year – I’m building up a portfolio that will hopefully make it clear that I deserve a bump in position that would give me an instant $5-10K salary increase.

  8. 12


    I wish my employer offered a 401k. Sadly I’ll just have to invest in my Roth IRA. I asked for a raise over 6 weeks ago and I still have not receieved an answer, so it’s not looking too good.


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