Careers Succeeding at Work How to Make More Money Your Lifetime Income Potential Is Up to You Share PINTEREST Email Print SrdjanPav / Getty Images Succeeding at Work Human Resources Job Search Resources Hiring Best Practices Glossary Employment Law Employee Motivation Employee Management Management Careers Management & Leadership Employee Benefits By Susan M. Heathfield Susan M. Heathfield Susan Heathfield is an HR and management consultant with an MS degree. She has decades of experience writing about human resources. Learn about our Editorial Process Updated on 04/21/19 Work is about the money. Despite what countless consultants and studies tell you, work is about the money that you make to support the lifestyle that you want and need. Work only becomes not about the money when you have sufficient income—however you define sufficient income—to support your chosen lifestyle. With sufficient money to live on that supports your wanted lifestyle, work can then become about making a difference, contribution, sharing an important mission, doing tasks you love, feeling important, making friends, gaining success, pleasing customers, and achievement. All of these goals, that define why people work, come into play when you make sufficient money. Your Choices Determine Your Lifetime Income Potential Thus, the amount of money that you want to make, and do make during your lifetime of work, is dependent upon your beliefs, attitudes, values, and career choices. If you value helping people in need, you can anticipate a particular salary over the course of your career. If your religion is the focus of your life, you may wish to work for a religious organization. As long as your values or beliefs are more important to you than what you are paid, your choice is fine. But, you cannot set a goal of making a million dollars a year, make a career choice that pays $40,000 per year and expect to be happy with your career decisions and the money you make over time. Almost everyone thinks that they should make more money than they do. But the amount of money you are paid by your employer is dependent upon a number of factors discussed in: "The Scoop on Salary Increases: What Pay Raise Can You Expect From Your Employer?" TheBalanceCareer's Joshua Kennon tells you: "How to Become Wealthy: Nine Truths That Can Set You on the Path to Financial Freedom". The purpose of these tips is to help you have the money you need to follow his strategies. The first step you need to take to make more money is to select or switch to a career in which the earning potential is high. Change How You Think About Money to Increase Your Income Potential Money is what you are paid to do a job and accomplish goals for an employer. Or, money is the salary you pay yourself as a self-employed business person. Money is neither the root of all evil nor is it a panacea for all of your pains and the world’s ills. It is simply a tool that allows you to attain the standard of living you choose to pursue. Money enables you to provide for your family’s basic needs and to raise and educate your children. Money allows you to support the philanthropic causes about which you are passionate. Money allows you to travel, purchase items you want in your life, and pursue hobbies and interests that engage you. Money allows you to retire someday if you choose. Consequently, getting more money is not just an okay desire; it’s fundamental to the plans you have for your life. Asking for a higher salary when you change jobs is expected. Requesting an increase in pay from your current employer is your right. Choosing a career that will pay a higher salary and thus, a higher lifetime income is all right, too. Change How You Think About Yourself to Increase Income Potential While you don't want to define your character by the amount of money you make, you do need to have the mindset that whatever you can earn, you are worth. If you think of yourself as a $30,000 a year employee, $100,000 is quite a mind leap. Be prepared to make the choices throughout your career that will enhance your ability to earn more money. As an example, asking your manager for a raise can daunt the courage of even the most confident person. Yet, if you never ask for a raise, you are "settling" for what your organization offers you. You need to hold yourself in higher esteem than to just settle—you're worth it. Aren't you? Pick Your Career Wisely for Income Potential Some jobs just pay more than others. If money is important to you, select a career that will pay you what you want to earn. Or, realize that you will have to do something extraordinary to make good money in the career of your choice. You can also moonlight, work a second part-time job, freelance, or start your own business. Again, the money you will make during your work career is up to you. Take a look at salary calculators to figure out your income potential in various careers. The Economic Research Institute Salary Calculator will even help you figure out lifetime salary potential for various jobs of your choosing. Obtain the Requisite Degrees and Credentials to Make More Money People with degrees tend to make more money working in their field than people who do not have degrees. The lifetime gain in income can be significant. As an example, a person with a bachelor's degree in business will earn an additional $349,028 and an engineering degree can bring an employee an extra $500,000. The associate's degree brings a huge bump over a high school diploma. In the field of Human Resources, for example, employees can earn much higher potential income with a bachelor's degree and an even higher income with a master's degree or Juris Doctor (JD). Need convincing? At "MSN Money," Allison Linn, a notable financial writer, says that lifetime income increases with degrees, but you must be particular about the degree you pursue. In some fields, such as a nurse's aide, which is anticipated to grow, a degree will never pay you back for your investment. According to the Social Security Administration, "Men with bachelor's degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor's degrees earn $630,000 more. Men with graduate degrees earn $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more." They also measured the lifetime returns of educational attainment using the discounted present dollar value, "Applying a 4 percent annual real discount rate, the net present lifetime value at age 20 of a bachelor's degree relative to a high school diploma is $260,000 for men and $180,000 for women. For those with a graduate degree, it is $400,000 for men and $310,000 for women." Develop Your Career Path With Care for Income Potential To earn the best salary, if you take a job with one employer, and stay with that employer, you may not maximize your income potential. The job choices you make can also affect your income. Spend time in line management and manage the work of others to grow your income potential. Or, develop a technical skill set that makes you a valued individual achiever. Ultimately, though, you may need to change departments or employers to earn the highest income. Some research indicates that an employee who switches companies expects minimally a ten percent increase in salary. Becoming a wanted quantity ups the value of your bargaining chips with your current employer, too. Take Action to Improve Your Lifetime Income Potential If you are a quiet, good, hardworking employee who waits for salary increases to be offered to you by management, you are limiting your lifetime income potential. Actions that you take at work, and over your years of working, seriously impact your income potential. Negotiate a potential new employer's initial offer. You may find the offer is not negotiable, but there is little harm in trying—once. You will alienate the employer if you engage in a series of negotiations that escalate your demands as the employer improves your offer. Only about 20 percent of employees negotiate their salary offers or benefits packages. Be one of them to improve your lifetime income potential.Ask for raises regularly from your manager while you work. Track your accomplishments. Measure the before and after of projects you complete. Demonstrate and point out the value you add to the company's bottom line. Recognize that, despite your best efforts, your employer may have a salary band outside of which he cannot negotiate. Your employer may also have the policy to review salaries annually at a specific time. But, it doesn't hurt to ask; just don't pester.Express your career ambitions and the contributions to the company's success you hope to make. Obtain your manager's commitment to and help with your career growth and development. You want to be in the succession plan. Every company has a superior employee list, even if it just resides in a manager's mind—trust this and believe it—and you want to be on it to maximize your income potential. Use these ideas to ensure that you earn the amount of money you want over your lifetime of working. You can maximize your lifetime earning potential. You need to choose to do so; these ideas will help. Please don’t mistake this article for social commentary about how the world ought to value jobs and money; this specific article is about the money. Go get yours. Remember, you're worth it.