One of the primary tenets of GRODTism to achieve financial freedom is to grow your revenue stream, quickly. There are countless ways to do this, of course, but none of them are particularly easy, putting aside options that rely upon random luck (lottery, trust fund, inheritance, etc).
Working a salaried job in Corporate America isn’t a particularly fast way to financial freedom. That said, we recognize it’s the starting point for the vast majority of us that hope to someday be free from the golden handcuffs of your corporate 9 to 5 job.
You can take steps to grow your revenue, and quickly. Today we will explore one such way that by and large does not require you to spend any money. For the context of this discussion, we will set aside things such as buying rental property, selling off your dad’s prized stamp collection (which includes rare double printed bi-plane stamp), starting an at home business, getting into a multi-level marketing scheme or taking that hot stock time from the barista at Starbucks.
We will assume you currently have a job and more importantly have a career. The difference may be subtle but profound. A job is something that requires a relatively commoditized skill set. Although the company you may work for is investing in your long term employment, it is unlikely you’ll ever earn anything close to a six figure salary at a job.
A career on the other hand is typically at a larger company, with a well established path to higher positions, with built in training, benefits, 401k matching, profit sharing, etc.
In a career, you may stay at a single company, although that’s rather rare these days and has been for 20 years or more, or work at several. You also have the potential for significant earnings, but typically even that caps out in the relatively low 6 figures and only rarely can exceed $500,000 except save a few people in your company (i.e. VPs, Sr. VPs, CIOs, CMOs, CFOs and COs to name a few and there’s just not that many people in even a fortune 500 company that hold those types of positions with that type of earning power.
While we caution against believing the reality that you can retire early by working in a fortune 500 company, most everyone is trained to take this path and work until 65, count on their 401k and Social Security you so nicely contributed to the system for 40 years. At that point in time, you can then ride off into the sunset to enjoy your second childhood, unsupervised and with a ton of money.
All that could happen, but 1) you’ll be 65 when you get to start and who knows how much time you’ll have left and 2) you’re typically counting on the stock market and bonds over the course of your career to get you there, which is no way guaranteed.
We’ll discuss alternatives to this approach in other posts on this blog, but for today, let’s assume this is the path you take. There’s nothing bad about this path, it’s just that the odds you’ll retire in your 30s, 40s or even early 50s is relatively small and would likely require you to live a rather frugal lifestyle*.
How do you maximize your income while working within the superficial constraints of Corporate America where your boss or someone in HR decides if you get a 2% or 3%, etc raise year after year?
Here’s what I did and I can tell you it works.
Step 1 – Recognize that the more responsibility you have, the more $$ you will typically make.
Recognize that everyone is replaceable, but the more easily you’re replaceable, the lower your salary will be. If you are responsible for making decisions that have hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars riding on them, you’re very likely to be paid more. These people are typically not easily replaceable because they either have 1) significant experience or relationships that help ensure the right decisions are made or 2) they have some “technical” acumen about their area of expertise that uniquely qualifies them to have a higher likelihood of making the right decision, thereby saving the company money or significantly growing revenue for the company.
Step 2 – Let it be known to your leadership that you want to be a leader in both title and responsibility.
Corporate America leaders are constantly trying to build their bench and identify who their replacements will be as they climb the corporate ladder. You would be surprised how hard it often is to identify people who are qualified AND have the desire to be in leadership / management/ In general, just having the desire, whether you’re qualified or not, will give you a leg up on the competition and open the door to a higher salary.
Most people aren’t braggarts and don’t like talking about their accomplishments to their peers or bosses. They’d rather let their work speak for themselves. That’s great and all, but sometimes your work, even if it is awesome, won’t get recognized. Or, your company will re-org so often that the boss that was there to see all your great work now no longer has anything do with your career as they aren’t in your chain of command anymore.
I recommend you have very direct conversations with your boss. Let them know of your desires to be in leadership. This will typically lead to opportunities to take on larger work in your current title to prove that your ready for the next step. Make sure they are aware of the work you’ve done and ask for feedback on how your boss thinks you could have done it better. Make sure to put it in the context that you are open to being coachable and want to make sure that the quality of the work you’re doing is commensurate to that of someone that would be considered for a promotion.
By doing this, when the management discussions are had to discuss who may be on the bench and an up and comer, your name will surely be in the discussion. Not doing this can cause you to toil away in relative obscurity banking those 3% raises to a certain 40 year long career.
Homey don’t play that at GRODT.
Step 3 – Be willing to do things no one else wants to do.
I’ve often told my teams throughout my career “You will be amazed how far you can go doing the common things uncommonly well.” What do I mean by this?
Well, it’s really as simple as it sounds. Do you show up for work on time? That’s easy right? It should be, but it’s often harder than you’d think for some.
If your boss asks you to do something, do you do it on time and with high quality? As a boss, much of my time has been spent making lists of things I’ve asked my team to do so I can follow up on them to make sure it got done. Rare is it that I’ve had a team full of people that consistently do the common things uncommonly well. It’s just not human nature for most people to be able to do that.
By setting yourself apart, by doing these simple things consistently well, you’ll easily set yourself apart from the competition and, over time, be given more and more responsibility.
Step 4 – DELIVER!
By following steps 1 through 3, you’ll eventually get that big opportunity that could lead to that next promotion or a big bonus. When that happens, you must do everything in your power to make sure the project or task with your name on it is delivered as perfectly as possible.
Promotions earned are rarely, if ever, taken away. Bonuses earned are never asked to be refunded. Profit sharing shared is never asked to be unshared. The point being, as you earn that promotion, and with it, a higher salary, you will continue to accelerate your path to financial freedom by being able to save and invest more of your hard earned $$ safely.
This is not a get rich approach. Recognize this will take years. However, it can be the springboard you need to free up some of your time to come up with ideas and products you can sell which decouples you from trading your time for money. The longer term goal (as fast as possible) is not to sell 5 week days for 2 weekends or a year’s worth of work for a 2 week vacation.
Most everyone does that for 40 years because they didn’t maximize their salary by taking the 4 steps I laid out above. If you have no other ideas or options than working in Corporate America, that’s not a bad thing. It does mean, if you strongly desire to retire early, that you have to work the system to make more money as quickly as you can. The steps above will help you do that.
Let us know in the comments below things that you’ve done to accelerate your financial freedom in the context of a Corporate America job.
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* Note that at Get Rich or Die Trying, we’re not against living a frugal lifestyle. We don’t believe in over consumption, but we’re also not about a retirement approach that requires skipping lattes at Starbucks for 30 years to get there. We want to enjoy life, but not be wasteful at the same time and that doesn’t mean you have to be a miser.
– Featured Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net