How I built an income safety net

This guest article was written by Kimberly Palmer. Kimberly is the author of the new book “The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life,” and senior money editor for U.S. News & World Report. In addition, she is the creator of Palmer's Planners, a line of digital financial guides on Etsy.

A month after my daughter was born four years ago, as the fog of newborn sleep deprivation was at its height, I was overwhelmed by a terrifying thought: What would happen if I lost my job? Or what if my husband lost his job? I couldn't stop thinking through various scenarios, imagining what we might possibly do to avoid complete financial catastrophe.

My paranoia wasn't completely off-base; after all, I work in journalism, a field known for its job instability and lay-offs. And my daughter was born in 2009, just as our entire financial world seemed to be collapsing. I probably shouldn't have been so surprised by the crushing weight of parental responsibilities.

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How to maximize your salary

Every time I've ever gotten close to a job offer, my Dad sits me down for a little practice negotiation session. He acts like my potential employer, and I act like myself. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Dad: “Kim, we are happy to offer you this job. We would like to pay you $28,000.”
Me: “Thanks so much, I am so excited to work here. But I was hoping to earn closer to $50,000.”
Dad: “Oh, I see. Well, we are prepared to raise our offer to $30,000.”
Me: “Um, okay, thanks. I accept.”

As you can see, I find it awkward to negotiate over money — something I'm embarrassed to admit, especially considering that I write about money for a living. But I know I'm not the only one; in fact, women in particular find it difficult to ask for more money. That's why, according to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Ask for It, men are four times more likely than women to negotiate for their first salary.

That awkwardness comes with a steep price: Babcock and Laschever also report that failing to ask for more money at the beginning stages of your career can cost as much as half a million dollars over the course of your lifetime.

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