How to Give Yourself a Raise

My fiancée, Kerrie, has a good job. She works for Hachette Book Group (formerly Time Warner Book Group), where she gets three weeks of paid vacation every year and pays only 1% of her salary toward health insurance. But her primary preoccupation is with raising her net salary, and she found some additional benefits that helped her do just that.

Like most companies, Hachette offers a 401(k) program to all employees over age 21. If you've read this blog, you know that interest favors the young and there are a dozen good reasons why you should take advantage of a 401(k) to save toward retirement — but Hachette offers another. After a year of employment, Hachette will match two-thirds of your 401(k) contributions for up to 6% of your salary. Kerrie does just that: She contributes 6% and Hachette matches with another 4%, which is money that she wouldn't get otherwise. In other words, by doing herself a favor and saving now for later, she gave herself a 4% raise.

Even better, Hachette encourages its employees to go to school by offering full tuition reimbursement if your area of study is directly related to your job, and half reimbursement if you can indirectly relate it to your job. Since college tuition has skyrocketed beyond the reach of the middle class, corporate programs like this have gathered steam — and it makes all the difference. The days of paying your way through full-time college with a part-time job are long gone, but this offers a chance for weekend students to attain higher education without acquiring debt.

Kerrie has been working toward her MBA by taking night classes at UMass Boston, two per semester. Take a look at her last three tuition bills, up to the one we just paid for the coming fall:

  • $2,671 — Spring
  • $1,890 — Summer
  • $2,468 — Fall

You see where I'm going with this. The value of her MBA will be significant: a 2003 analysis by MSNBC concluded that professional degrees were worth their weight in gold, and that specifically, the average salary for someone with an MBA was $375,780. The Graduate Management Admission Council released a survey in May offering similar optimism, that the average starting salary for MBA graduates is $92,000 — but even discounting the eventual value of her degree, Kerrie has managed to get total reimbursement for $7,029 worth of tuition in the last year. That's about 21% of her annual salary.

By taking advantage of two optional benefits, Kerrie gave herself an effective 25% raise. As a comparison, her last promotion came with an 8% raise. She has optimized her conditions to make her job work harder for her: In the case of her 401(k), she's getting an extra $1,340 that she wouldn't otherwise; and in the case of her tuition, she's getting reimbursed for money that she would have spent anyway. Investigate what “added value” programs your company offers to its employees. You just might be able to give yourself a raise today.

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It’s all in the math. I have spent the last couple of years working hard to eliminate my debt, and have avoided (stupidly, I admit) adding funds to my 401k. REALLY stupid, especially when you do the math: My company matches 50% up to the first 6% of contribution. That means my pre-tax contribution is $300. Since it’s pre-tax, it’s like I’m only putting about $150 of after-tax money into the account. On top of that, my company is also putting $150/month into my account. So, for my $150/month, I’m socking away $450! That’s HUGE! But, when you look at… Read more »


Your post has inaccuracies and is very misleading. This statement, “The average salary for someone with an MBA was $375,780,” is flat out false.

Those values are cumulative LIFETIME earnings increases compared to invidviduals holding comparative bachelor’s degrees.

From the MSNBC article :

“What I was looking for was the “present value” of the increase in future income that could be expected with various educations.”

“The remaining tables show the present value of the increase in income compared to a bachelor’s degree holder.”


Benefits by companies are a scam because the company offers the benefit and rarely do employees actually take advantage of it!!!

If you work for a company with benefits, look at all of them and see where you can leverage your opportunities.

Great post!

Sally Parrott Ashbrook
Sally Parrott Ashbrook

Good thoughts. Very interesting.


It’s very interesting that mapgirl would state that “benefits by companies are a scam” because “rarely do employees actually take advantage of it!!!”

From that logic, I suppose 401(k) plans are a scam too, since the majority of employees don’t take advantage of them.

The reality is: a benefit is a benefit. The fact that people are too dumb to take advantage of a benefit doesn’t make it a scam. It only underscores the fact that people are too dumb to take advantage of benefits.