2021 Income Reveal | How much I make from my W-2 job

Hey guys –

To date, I’ve created over 25 posts so far covering topics ranging from my net worth and Roth IRA portfolio to the best apps to use to get some extra money scanning receipts. However, I realize that one portion of my money situation has been a mystery to my readers: my income.

In this post, I’m going to share details about my income, income history, as well as tips and tricks that have made me successful in my professional life.

Income Reveal:

I am currently 26 years old and make an annual salary of just about $79,200. I work as a Project Manager for a tech company, and have been employed as a full-time W-2 employee since graduating college. I’ve spent about five years or so in the professional workforce, and my salary has slowly gone up since

For now, I would still like to keep my identity on the down low because I don’t want it to affect my professional career. I’m not against revealing it at some point, but I’m somebody with not much interest in being famous, so I don’t see the appeal in putting my face out there. I just want an outlet to share my finance brain with some like-minded folks.

Income History:

  • 2016 Salary: $41,000 per year
    • I only worked a half of a year post-college, so “technically” I only earned $20,500 pre-tax. But, we’ll let it slide 😉
  • 2017 Salary: $42,875, $45,875, $50,000 per year
    • This was a weird year – I actually got two internal promotions this year as my company was scaling significantly faster than it had the resources to hire for (a great problem for a company to have in my opinion), and as somebody with a proven work ethic and positive recommendations from multiple teams, I was a good candidate for internal promotions.
    • 2018 Salary: $50,000, $52,250 per year, 10% bonus
  • 2019 Salary: $52,250, $56,430 and $62,000 per year, 18% bonus
    • I was punching significantly above what my salary showed, leading client presentations to 60+ people for a new product launch, creating standard operating procedures from scratch, and dealing with a client in a completely new product realm for my business, managing internal team stakeholders and in general just busting my ass for very important work for 60+ hours a week for months straight. It sounds doable when you type it out like this, but it is f*cking draining.
    • The hard work me and others put in on my team went noticed by management, and we were rewarded with an 18% bonus (probably because they knew the salary we were receiving for the importance and quality of work we did was really not competitive at all). But still, an 18% bonus is absolutely fantastic and I appreciated it so much.
  • 2020 Salary: $62,000 and $68,200 per year, 15% bonus
    • I received one promotion from associate manager to manager this year, and it resulted in a nice salary bump. Again, this position and this year was me working my butt off (not 60+ hour weeks, but definitely more than 40). Taking on responsibilities and doing things that others didn’t want to ultimately led me to a promotion.
  • 2021 Salary: $68,200, $76,500 and $79,200, 15% bonus
    • This year has been my best so far for salary increases. In the beginning of the year, I was sought out by leadership for a position that filled a niche need on my team, and the company was willing to offer me a 10+ percent raise to do it. I impressed a lot of folks with my work ethic and have built a vast network of contacts at my company since I’ve been here. After my 10+% raise, I also received a 3.5% raise for merit/cost of living increase. Not the best I’ve had, but still significant with this high of a salary.

Career Advice:

During the course of my career, I’ve been promoted a total of five times in five years. The company I work for has grown drastically and looks little like what it did when I first joined. I’ve learned a lot during this time, and I want to share my professional advice with you guys. I’ve almost doubled my salary, and I’ve improved my professional confidence to where I feel I can contribute to similar organizations and find other well-paying employment if needed. Here are some specific things that I’ve learned that I would recommend to progress your professional career.

  • If possible, join a company that promotes internally and invests in its employees, even up to the Sr. Leadership ranks
    • I can’t stress enough how powerful this can be – I’ve just about doubled my income in five years. Not only that, but I’ve gone from being afraid to speak up in a team meeting or one of our end users during the first year, to leading presentations on our product to 150+ people and pitching solutions to our clients that result in tens of millions of dollars of business with confidence. Slow and steady exposure and growth is critical, find a company that believes in this.
  • Work hard and don’t complain
    • To be honest, you are replaceable. There are plenty of people out there in the world with drive, smarts and good networking skills. You need to treat your work like you are constantly a new real estate agent. Take new opportunities without expecting the world in return, slowly prove your value, then watch your responsibility, work titles and salary increase over time. You might be underpaid or overworked at any given moment, but know that in the long-term, being an asset to your company will pay off. You can write your check now with experience gained and cash it in later. Do NOT be somebody that complains about doing something that’s outside of your job scope. This is the kind of person that nobody wants on their team and will never get promoted because they think that they deserve everything.
  • Network with others and be as likeable as possible
    • This comes more naturally to me because I genuinely enjoy the company of others and getting to know them. Even if this doesn’t come naturally to you, make an effort as much as you can to form relationships with people on other teams. Go out of your way to help others when needed and don’t be afraid to crack work appropriate jokes every once in a while. Send a work friend a random message and ask how their day is going. If you can be somebody that people like to work with and can also “walk the walk” (get your shit done and do it well) in addition to talking the talk, you will be looked up to by others.
  • Hide your inner panic and show a calm, reasonable face to the world. Try not to get rattled.
    • The way people perceive me often differs from how I feel about myself internally. I still have moments that I’m unsure of what to do next and need guidance. However, I’ve learned that everybody has moments like this and you want to be strategic about the spots in which you share that you have no clue what’s going on. Be honest and vulnerable, but don’t be the person that asks your boss every single time what to do,
    • If you are truly in a situation where you need help from others, try to keep a short list of a few trusted people at work that you can share your true “panic” with. If your boss is good, this will be a perfect person to open up to. Just make sure that you do it strategically, and always bring an idea or two for next steps with you so you come across as somebody who’s competent and put in a lot of thought on next steps.
  • People suck sometimes, keep moving forward anyway
    • One of the things I’ve come to realize in my career is even if you make a concerted effort to make others happy, make them feel included and build relationships, you will still never be able to make everybody happy. As you climb the corporate ladder, there will be decisions that you need to make that are lose lose when you make them. Either way, no matter what you do somebody is going to be upset. At a certain point in your career, you’re not going to make everybody happy. However, if you take careful analysis of all of the options available to you, listen, and make the best decision possible for all involved, people will respect you even if they don’t always agree with you. People are not perfect, and everybody will mess up and make decisions that cause blowback. Suck it up, take in the feedback and keep moving.
  • Do the stuff that scares you
    • I’m naturally introverted and do not like public speaking at all. I used to panic weeks in advance of when I spoke in public. I even had a massive anxiety spell for an entire year in college after a speech in my speech class where I forgot for about five seconds what my next line was and had to improvise with a shaky voice. However, despite this, I put myself in positions at work where I proactively sought out public speaking. Yes my heartbeat was as fast as a hummingbird’s and yes, I felt like peeing my pants before speaking, but after many opportunities to practice, it became something that did not scare me anymore. In fact to this day, I try to speak in front of an audience as many times as possible because I know that if I don’t do it for a long time, there is a chance I’ll start to doubt my skills again and regress. Treat the things that scare you like they should be treated – as opportunities to practice and get better.
    • As a side note, you would be surprised at the number of senior leaders in your company that struggle with public speaking. You may perceive them as invincible, but in reality it’s just continued practice and putting themselves in a position to speak publicly for years and years that have made them able to articulate their thoughts in front of large audiences with ease.
  • Put yourself in a position to succeed as much as possible to combat your natural weaknesses
    • As much as I want to be, I’m not the person who can crank up the productivity at will and consistently accomplishes tasks to check off the list. However, I have a lot of respect for people who are able to do this and try to create habits that allow me to mimic the outcomes of these people. I create a to-do list every day so I don’t forget anything important (I often do if I don’t write things down), and I always try to go into the office to work, because working from home makes me more susceptible to reading finance articles on the internet and checking in on my investments 500 times per day.

Future Career Prospects:

At this point in my career, I have one more promotion clearly ahead of me – a Sr. Project Manager title, which will likely result in an 8-10% salary increase. After this, I’m going to need to consider leading a team of people if I want to increase my salary more. I’ve managed a team before and it’s very difficult, and I’m not sure that I’m interested in doing it again, at least any time soon. However, folks at my company really like me and I think they’re grooming me for a Sr. leadership role. I’m not sure if I want to take this path yet, because I enjoy not working until 8pm every night for the time being 😉

Summary:

I hope this gave you guys insight into my professional career and gave you some helpful tips if you find yourself in a similar situation. If I had to summarize my advice succinctly, I’d say work hard, don’t be “too good” for additional opportunities, be a nice person, build genuine relationships with people and do the things that you are scared of to get better. As a disclaimer, I don’t claim to be perfect and could probably be doing things a lot better, but that’s okay! Everybody can improve somewhere. However, as a result of my hard work, I’ve been able to almost double my salary in about five years. I’m interested in seeing what you guys think about this post, or if you find this helpful. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and feedback!

Until next time, happy investing.

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