Why Aren’t Millennials Negotiating for Higher Salaries?

By Melanie Lockert
May 3, 2017

Speaking on behalf of the millennial generation, it seems like we’re always defending two things — our reputation of being “lazy and entitled” and the financial and economic opportunities afforded to us in a post-Great Recession world.

At the same time, many of us have experienced the burden of student loan debthigh living costs and wages that aren’t keeping up. In some ways, it feels like the cards are stacked against us. So, with that said, we should be angling to earn as much money as we can and we should be paid what we’re worth. Yet, unfortunately, only 37 percent of millennials have ever asked for a raise, according to PayScale.

True story: I didn’t ask for a raise

I am not proud to admit this but when I was an employee working in the non-profit sector I never asked for a raise. Not once. Not ever.

Why? I felt “lucky” to have a job. I didn’t want to seem too “demanding” or “greedy”. When you have bills to pay and student loan payments that are more than your rent, a steady salary is something you want to keep. You don’t want to rock the boat.

Throughout the years, I’ve lost out on thousands of dollars by not negotiating. In fact, I only started negotiating when I left the non-profit world for self-employment. It was only then that I realized I had to ask for more if I wanted to actually make a living.

Why millennials aren’t negotiating

While I’m not proud of my story, it’s not just me. Millennials are less likely to negotiate compared to their older counterparts.

According to PayScale, some top reasons millennials don’t negotiate include:

  • They are uncomfortable negotiating salary
  • They don’t want to be viewed as pushy

To a lesser extent, some millennials are actually afraid of losing their job if they ask for more money. All of these reasons make sense given the economy and environment we’ve been thrown into. Even so, millennials need to realize that many employers actually expect you to negotiate.  Not only that, but your employer may perceive you as more confident if you negotiate, according to a study by NerdWallet.

To that end, it’s important to know that when you receive a job offer, the employer has already chosen you out of a pool of other candidates. It’s very unlikely they would rescind the offer if you negotiate.

Plus, if you’re already killing it at your job — and you have the data and research to back it up — it only makes sense that you negotiate because you’re an asset to your employer. You can typically negotiate 10 to 20 percent more than you are offered or currently making. What do you have to lose? Read on to find out.

Losing a million dollars?

What if I told you that you could potentially lose out on a cool million dollars by not negotiating? You’d probably think, “Yeah right.” Unfortunately, that’s the truth according to Business Insider and Salary.com.

How can this be? Not negotiating doesn’t just affect you now, but it affects your lifetime earnings.

States Business Insider: “It works like this: Say two people are given a job offer of $45,000, which is close to the average for a new college graduate. One negotiates an initial $5,000 bump and a 4% raise every three years, but the other accepts the offer without negotiating and sees only the standard 1% pay increase each year. After a 45-year career, the difference in their lifetime earnings is a whopping $1,037,773.”

As you can see, the math is sobering and we can’t afford to not negotiate.

Tips for negotiating

Now that you know you need to negotiate, how do you get over the fear and get started?

To begin with, remember this: Anything that is worthwhile is rarely easy. You have to move through the discomfort first. With this in mind, understand that many employers may perceive you as confident for speaking up! The key is to do your research so that you know how much you can command given your expertise, location and skills. Some good resources to use are PayScale.com, Glassdoor.com, or Salary.com.

Before you actually approach your boss, practice with a friend who can give you feedback. Write down everything you bring to the table and rehearse your narrative until you remove any hint of doubt in your voice. Keep in mind that the worst thing your employer can say is “no”. And, just because they say “no” initially, doesn’t mean the negotiating is over. Consider negotiating for something else that’s important to you, like more vacation time, working from home or career development classes.

The point is: You can’t afford to leave money on the table. You’ve worked hard for this. You deserve it. So go out, negotiate, and get it!

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Melanie Lockert is the founder of the blog and author of the book, Dear Debt. Her work has appeared on Business Insider, Time, Huffington Post and more. She is also the co-founder of the Lola Retreat, which helps bold women face their fears, own their dreams and figure out a plan to be in control of their finances.

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