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Time to Ask for a Raise? Smart Tips for Women

Nov. 10, 2015
Personal Finance
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By Sabrina Lowell

Learn more about Sabrina on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor

If you want to build wealth, the two main things you can control are your income and the amount of it that you spend. You might be making smart spending decisions, but you should also take steps to increase your pay.

This is especially true for women, who tend to earn less than their male counterparts. Because of this, women may have less money to put aside for retirement.

While some research suggests that women experience more negative consequences for negotiating their salaries than men do, asking for a raise usually works. In a 2014 survey of more than 31,000 employees, found that 75% of people who asked for a raise got at least a small increase, even if it wasn’t the amount they requested.

If you’re thinking about asking for a raise, here are a few tips that can help:

1. Ask about raises before you’re hired.

It’s easier to ask for a raise if you already know your company’s policy. Will you receive cost-of-living increases or merit-based raises, or do pay bumps come only with promotions? How frequent are salary reviews, and what’s the methodology behind them? It’s important to ask about the compensation review philosophy, and how it’s applied across the workforce, early in the hiring process.

2. Time your request right.

Don’t spring the salary conversation on your boss during your annual review. If you didn’t ask about raises when you were first hired, open the dialogue earlier in the year. Use check-in meetings to establish shared expectations, so there are no surprises when the review comes up.

When you do ask for a raise, keep in mind that your boss has to divide his or her attention between you and your co-workers. Consider your timing:

When to ask:

  • Before your annual review
  • When you’ve successfully navigated additional responsibility
  • In preparation for a position change — but make sure you cover it early on

When not to ask:

  • When you’ve had a bad review
  • When the company’s finances are under great strain

3. Be specific about your value.

To prove that you deserve a raise, you’ll need to be able to talk specifically about your achievements. Try to calculate the value of your accomplishments. How much additional revenue was a result of projects you worked on? How much did your efforts save the company?

4. Be clear about what you want.

Don’t focus only on what you want in the near term; consider where you want to go with your career. What steps will you take to get there, and how will your salary change? Sometimes it’s easiest to discuss your end goal, getting your boss to buy into the long-term vision, and then co-create your salary changes along the way.

5. Make sure your request is reasonable.

Do your homework. Compare salaries using websites such as or, and ask recruiters about the going rate for your position and experience. If your boss counters, it can be appropriate to negotiate.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Because you probably don’t ask for a raise very often, it can be intimidating. But you won’t get what you don’t ask for. And in some companies, it’s incumbent upon the employee to make a case for an increase.

Remember that even if you don’t receive a raise immediately, that doesn’t mean you won’t get one. Sometimes you have to be patient.

Other steps you can take toward financial security

Taking the initiative to ask for a raise is great way for women to be proactive about their financial situation. There are other steps to take as well. To get you started, we’ve assembled a collection of additional tips on financial security for women here.

Image via iStock.