Choosing a career comes with a lot of considerations: what you want to do, how much education you want to complete, where you want to live, and how much you want to earn. So how do career choices affect your income?
The choices you make for your career directly impact your income throughout all stages, including before you pick your career, at entry-level, during mid-level, and even through the time leading up to your retirement.
Here are 16 of the biggest choices to make and how they directly affect your income throughout your career.
Before You Start Your Career
Your choices that affect your income begin before you ever start your first job. Here are some of the most important choices to plan for.
1. Prioritize Education and Training
There is a relationship between your education and your potential income. While it’s possible to start your career with only a GED or high school diploma, it can be a real struggle to get the income you want without additional training or education.
While it can seem daunting or even impossible, going the extra mile to get a bit of extra training can really pay off in the long run. Even a short vocational training program can help you earn significantly more money. Choosing to take the extra time to finish up a degree or certification can help open more doors to job opportunities and higher income.
2. Research Your Career’s Earning Potential
In addition to education, the career you choose directly affects your income. What is the relationship between income and careers? It depends on a wide range of factors, including demand in the market, level of training required, and value of the work. Not all careers are created equally, and some offer a low earning potential.
It may be a hard decision to make, but before you decide on your career you need to pause and look at the average earning potential for that career. Take time to balance what you enjoy against how much you could earn. You might have to make the tough call to choose your second or third career choice to earn the income you want.
3. Learn to Budget
Even before you enter into your career, it’s important to learn how to make and follow a budget. While this won’t affect the amount of money you receive on each paycheck, it will affect how well you manage your money. By learning how to live within your budget, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions with your income and make the most out of every dollar. Learning how to budget can make it easier to avoid making impulse purchases or falling into debt and save up for retirement.
4. Manage Your Student Debt
This is another skill that won’t help you get more money from your career, but it will help you better manage the money you have.
Getting the training and education you need to start your career isn’t always cheap. Student debt is a great temporary solution to get the education and training you need, but large amounts of student debt can stay with you for decades. Instead of piling up student loans that will take years to pay off, make better choices with your money and education now so your future income won’t all go straight to paying off student debt.
To reduce the amount of student debt you take on now, consider taking breaks in your education to work so you can pay more of your tuition out of pocket. You can also choose to attend a short technical program instead of a four-year university, or go to a local community college.
By limiting the amount of student debt you have, you won’t need to pay off as much later on, which gives you more money to use however you see fit.
Important Choices While at an Entry-Level Position
After you’ve chosen a field of work, gained the training you need to start in the field, and entered the job market, your early choices can drastically impact your career. Here are a few of the biggest choices you can make when you’re just getting started in your career.
5. Live in the Right Location
Where you live matters for your career and your income. Making the choice to move to where there are jobs available in your field can help you earn more money. While your hometown might be comfortable and familiar, it isn’t always going to have the best options for you to succeed.
When you think about moving, don’t forget to consider the cost of living in your new city. This should cover basic expenses like housing, food, taxes, and healthcare. Find a location that has a balance between promising career opportunities and cost of living.
If you’ve already started your career, it’s not too late to move. While it can be scary to relocate, choosing to move to one of the cheapest cities in Texas can drastically increase your income.
6. Get Out of Debt
Debt is a weight that will slow down any income or wealth you are making. Getting out of debt won’t increase your paycheck, but it will increase how much of your paycheck you get to keep. Instead of continually being forced to make payments and throw away your money on interest, get out of debt now. This will free you from having to make monthly payments on credit cards and loans, and instead help you save for future purchases, investments, and retirement.
7. Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits
After a long application and interview process, a company finally gives you a job offer. What you choose to do with that offer can drastically affect the rest of your career and income.
Instead of taking the first offer that comes your way and being happy you have a job, pause and be willing to negotiate your salary. Taking the extra time to negotiate salary and benefits early in your career can help you increase your income and set you up for greater earning potential throughout your career.
Do your research and come to negotiations well-informed. You need to know when the offer is too low or just right, because it doesn’t help you to ask for a better salary when their current offer is generous. Knowing how much people with similar backgrounds and experience make in your field and location can help you better negotiate your initial salary.
8. Be a Good Worker
Once you start your career, it’s important to build trust with your management team. When your name comes up in discussions in a boardroom, you want nothing but good things to be said about you.
A few ways to do this is by choosing to work late shifts or weekends, or dealing with the clients or jobs everyone else avoids. By making the choice to stand out from the crowd and go above and beyond, you can set yourself up for future promotions and raises.
How to Improve Your Income at a Mid-Level Position
Your career isn’t over just because you’ve gotten past being the lowest rung on the corporate ladder. The choices you make at a mid-level position can still affect your income. Follow these mid-level tips for how you can make more money with your career.
9. Get on Track for a Management Position
Managers have more responsibilities, but they also make more money. Aiming for a management position and building the necessary skills can help you increase your income and improve your career.
10. Gain Professional Licenses, Training, and Certifications
Just because you’ve worked in your career for a few years or even decades doesn’t mean that your time with education and training is finished. In every field there are additional professional certifications and training courses that can qualify you for promotions and raises. By making the choice to take these trainings, you are also making the choice to increase your income.
11. Focus on Performance Reviews
Employers base their pay decisions on performance reviews. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked at your job or how much additional work you’ve done. If it doesn’t show up in your performance review, it’s not going to get you the raise you want.
To get the most from your performance reviews, find out what figures your employer focuses on. Concentrate on what they have decided is important and improve those statistics. This will give you a better chance at earning a promotion or raise.
12. Strengthen Your Professional Network
Your professional network is more than just a great support team. Who you know in your industry can directly affect your income, salary, and career mobility. The more people you know and the better known you are within your industry, the more opportunities will present themselves.
13. Start Saving
This trick won’t change your paycheck, but it does set you up for success later in your life.
At this point in your career, you’re out of debt (if you’ve followed the advice from earlier in this article), you’re comfortable with your career, and all of the hard work you’ve put in to get where you are is finally starting to pay off. You’ve done a lot to get here, and the temptation is to finally treat yourself with a few rewards. Your bank account is finally in the black, so you deserve to pamper yourself, right?
Actually, the best choice you can make is to start saving now, if you haven’t already. Choosing to save and invest will accumulate more money for retirement and can even help you retire earlier. Set aside money you can save each month and don’t touch it. The longer you can let your money earn interest, the more you will have to live on after you retire.
How to Improve Your Income to Get Ready for Retirement
Once you’ve grown your career and you’re on your way to retirement, you can still make better choices to improve your income. Here are a few choices you can make near the end of your career.
14. Leverage Your Experience
You have years of experience, and you’re the go-to expert in your field for your company. You’ve learned from your mistakes and know what you’re talking about and how to solve problems smoothly. At this point, you should take the time to be a champion for your own career. You deserve a raise or a promotion because you bring value to the company that an inexperienced new hire doesn’t. Leverage that experience for a raise or a promotion within the company for more income.
15. Use Your Hobbies as a Second Form of Income
By being comfortable in your career, you have more time to focus on what you love. Those hobbies and skills can transition into new revenue streams. This gives you the chance to get paid for doing what you love and what you are already doing in your free time.
If you do choose to transform a hobby into extra income, don’t undervalue your time or experience. Many people will try to undercut and underestimate your value, saying that it’s just a hobby or something you should donate. Even so, it’s still a service and can be a valuable source of additional income.
16. Become a Consultant
Being an expert in your field puts you in the position to become a consultant. You can use your professional network and offer consulting in your free time. This can serve as an extra source of income and an extra way to keep busy without having to commit to long workdays.
Choose to Improve Your Income
The choices you make about your career today will affect your income tomorrow. By taking the time now to take control of your life and make the choices you want, you’ll be able to improve your income and career.
To help you change your habits, here are six more habits of millionaires you can start to mimic today to improve your relationship with money.