TIME real estate

This Is The Salary You Must Earn to Afford a Home in America

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David Papazian—Getty Images

A homebuyer needs to earn $48,603 to afford a median-priced property, report says

To afford a typical house in the U.S., a homebuyer needs a minimum salary of $48,603 as well as a 20% downpayment, according to new research from mortgage publisher HSH.com.

HSH.com calculated the minimum salary a buyer must earn to pay the principal, interest, insurance and taxes associated with home purchases across 27 metropolitan areas, using fourth-quarter data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and average interest rates for fixed-rate, 30-year mortgages.

“Home prices in metro areas throughout the country continue to show solid price growth, up 25% over the past three years on average,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun told HSH.

San Francisco continues to top the list of most unaffordable cities, requiring a buyer to be paid $142,448, while New York City only requires $87,535; Boston, $80,049; Washington, D.C., $77,394 and Chicago $54,346.

If you want the most bang for your buck, head to Pittsburgh, where you’ll be fine with $31,716; Cleveland, $32,010; St. Louis, $33,323; or Cincinnati, $33,485.

Take a look at the complete list here.

Read next: These Are the Best (and Worst) States for Business

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MONEY Earnings

The 3 Best Ways to Boost Your Earnings This Year

hand holding dumbbell with coin at the end
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images(2)

To pump up your salary, switch up your career routine.

Welcome to Day 8 of MONEY’s 10-day Financial Fitness program. By now you’ve seen what shape you’re in, bulked up your savings, and cut the fat from your budget. Today, add some muscle to your paycheck.

When you hit a fitness plateau, taking a new class or picking up a sport can be the key to breaking through to the next level. The same concept applies to your career. Landing a new job will likely result in a salary 18% to 20% higher than what you’d get via an internal promotion, according to a study by Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell.

Thanks to a rapidly rebounding job market, this is the best year since the recession to get a new gig. More than one-third of employers expect to add full-time employees in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast, up from one in four last year. Here’s how to stand out.

1. Get the Inside Scoop

Employee referrals generate a full 40% of new hires, according to the JobVite 2014 Recruiting Survey. So rather than scouring the job boards, talk to people you know and ask about openings at their firms. Love a certain company but don’t know anyone there? Reach out to your personal network or tap your LinkedIn contacts to see if anyone can connect you to an employee.

2. Make Yourself Poachable

Employers are increasingly courting passive job seekers, says John Hollon, editor of TLNT.com, which covers HR trends: “These are employed workers who may be willing to switch jobs but aren’t actively searching.” Recruiters like these candidates because they’re successful and valued at their current jobs. Interested? Get on hiring managers’ radar by peppering your LinkedIn profile with keywords related to the type of job you want. You can also sign up with the website Poachable, and get the Poacht app. List your dream job and resume for recruiters to browse.

3. Be Bold

That said, maybe you love your job or just can’t move right now. That doesn’t mean settling for a middling raise. While the biggest bumps do go to top performers, simply asking goes a long way. A new study from Payscale found that 75% of employees who requested an increase got one, with 44% landing the exact figure they asked for. The odds of receiving your requested amount are even better if you’re already a high earner: Those with a salary of $150,000 or more had a success rate of 70%. Before you ask, get a sense of the budget. You have more influence when you show you see the boss’s side, says career coach Lee Miller.

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MONEY job search

How to Catch the Eye of a Recruiter in Just 7 Minutes

LinkedIn on a mobile phone
Felix Choo—Alamy

An optimized LinkedIn profile can help you stand out from the crowd.

As part of our 10-day series on Total Financial Fitness, we’ve developed six quick workouts, inspired by the popular exercise plan that takes just seven minutes a day. Each will help kick your finances into shape in no time at all. Today: The 7-Minute LinkedIn Makeover

Nine out of ten recruiters use social media to find or check out candidates, especially LinkedIn. Your profile is 14 times as likely to be viewed if it has a picture. So find a professional-looking photo and upload it to your computer before you start the clock.

0:00 Log in to your LinkedIn account and select “Edit Profile.” Click on “Add Photo” to upload the pic you’ve selected. You’ll see a yellow square that you can drag to change the position and size of the picture. Make sure you’re centered and hit save.

1:05 By default, LinkedIn uses your job title as your profile headline. Instead, write your own bold wording. Stumped? When you highlight the field to change it, LinkedIn lets you peek at what others in your industry are using.

2:34 Check out your profile summary. Are you hitting all the keywords you’ll need to show up in recruiter searches? Take a minute to scan some job descriptions in your profession to make sure you’re using the right language.

5:00 Nothing says LinkedIn novice like an alphabetsoup URL.

Create a custom version by clicking the LinkedIn URL listed right beneath your photo on the Edit Profile page. You’ll be transported to the Public Profile page, where you can create your own. Stick with something simple, like your name.

5:35 Bulk up your recommendations politely. Write a sincere post for one of your contacts, and then email asking if she’d mind doing the same.

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MONEY Workplace

Wage Equality Takes Center Stage at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards put the gender wage gap at the forefront of discussion.

MONEY salary

The Real Reason Wal-Mart is Giving Workers a Raise

Walmart exterior
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Wal-Mart is no altruist on pay.

Wal-Mart WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT -1.72% made big headlines when it announced pay boosts for its lowest-paid employees. Some investors may be appalled by this “altruistic” news, but don’t worry: it makes perfect business sense, and Wal-Mart’s smart to do it.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based megaretailer has made waves by announcing that it’s raising its minimum salary; soon, its lowest paid employees will make $9 per hour and by next year, the level will go up to $10, well above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Some people aren’t jazzed about Wal-Mart’s decision. The stock dropped on the news Thursday, and some analysts have issued downgrades. Those are short-sighted responses, though. Wal-Mart’s doing the smart thing by working on the most controversial element of its business, and the one that makes many consumers believe its low-priced merchandise just isn’t worth the cost to many Americans’ personal bottom lines.

The move is going to cost Wal-Mart about a billion dollars, and Wal-Mart’s CEO Doug McMillon talked up the morale-boosting element of the strategy, as well as the idea of giving employees “opportunity” and a career path. People may feel cynical about his statements, but the spirit there is right on. Employees who are treated well are more engaged, and are more likely to provide a positive customer experience.

Wal-Mart gets a lot more attention for worker strikes than for its customer service, and that’s a problem that’s long overdue for a fix.

Take this job and shove it

As it stands now, Wal-Mart’s rating on job reviews site Glassdoor.com is a dismal 2.8, with only 44% of reviewers willing to recommend working there to a friend. Compare that to Costco (3.9, 80% would recommend to a friend), Whole Foods (3.6, 73% would recommend to a friend), and Starbucks (3.7, 76% would recommend to a friend). We can throw McDonald’s in for good measure, since it often shares the hot seat with Wal-Mart — its rating is 3.0, with just 50% willing to recommend a job there to a pal.

There’s been increasing attention to severe income equality and the fact that many people working for companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s MCDONALD'S CORP. MCD -0.78% are making poverty wages (and are reliant on public subsidization, which of course means we all lose). Those in the ivory towers may say the recession’s over, but there are still a lot of people out there who haven’t seen their wages rise much if at all as the economy supposedly “recovered.”

On the other hand, companies like Costco COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION COST -1.51% , Whole Foods Market WHOLE FOODS MARKET INC. WFM -1.11% , and Starbucks STARBUCKS CORPORATION SBUX -1.44% , all treat their employees well — making them anomalies in the modern retail industry. (Starbucks, in fact, began rolling out a round of pay raises to baristas earlier this year.) They haven’t been subject to nearly the same amount of scathing scrutiny on the worker front as Wal-Mart has been.

Even more pointedly, they have managed to do so while being highly profitable, successful companies, and they have done what well-run capitalistic companies should do: they built employee care into their business missions without waiting for a law forcing them to.

Dollars and cents, not heart and soul

There are plenty of pins we can poke into the happy bubble of Wal-Mart’s announcement, not least of which is the fact that we’re still not talking about a heck of a lot of money even with the new wage floors. Wal-Mart’s wages would still leave some subsisting along the poverty line. Many activists have been rallying for what they peg as a more reasonable $15 per hour “living wage.”

Wal-Mart’s also not turning into a big softie. MarketWatch pointed out that the company’s press release not only included the news about the pay increase, but also a one-time $0.05 per share charge related to a “wage and litigation matter.” We all know that Wal-Mart’s been in the hot seat for years, but that is a good reminder that it’s facing dollars and cents risks on many fronts, including in court.

And of course, the specter of the possibility of a federal minimum wage hike hangs over it all as well. The truth is, should the minimum wage increase, companies like Wal-Mart that have already started dealing with it will be in a far better competitive and even financial position than those who haven’t. They — and you, if you’re a shareholder — will have a whole lot of peace of mind as the laggards struggle to adjust their businesses.

Positive reinforcement for positive business

All in all, though, maybe even the most critical among us should probably give Wal-Mart some credit for being on the right track. Business can be a force for positive change, and Wal-Mart’s high-profile move might help catalyze a little more of a voluntary “race to the top” regarding many Americans’ wages instead of the race to the bottom behavior that has been all too common in too many pockets of our economy.

And even the investors who are appalled at Wal-Mart’s doling out raises should think twice. Anyone who cares about capitalism and free markets should have always considered the idea that companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s actually weren’t doing any of us any favors by squeezing profits out of people and hardly budging over what the government demanded by law — resulting in a state in which so many citizens’ pay was so pathetically low that they have had to rely on public assistance.

Wal-Mart’s no altruist — it’s doing what it has to do, and it certainly seems like it could do more. Given Wal-Mart’s massive scale, though, this move will hopefully nudge more corporate managements to see the risk of not moving on this front. Not to mention highlighting to corporate American the importance of investing in its own employees. That would be a win for all of us.

MONEY salary

500,000 Walmart Workers Are Getting a Raise. Here’s How You Can Get One, Too

Walmart raise minimum wage $1.75
Gunnar Rathbun—Invision for Walmart

These 5 moves can help you make sure you get what you deserve.

Two corporate giants have made headlines recently for perking up their workers’ paychecks.

Last month, health insurance provider Aetna announced it would be raising the lowest wage it pays to $16 an hour, effectively giving raises to 5,700 of the company’s workers. On Thursday, Walmart followed Aetna’s lead, revealing it would be giving 500,000 associates a salary bump of at least $1.75 above the federal minimum wage.

While across-the-board wage increases such as these are unusual, other corporations are also expected to be more generous with pay this year. Among mid- and large-sized employers, the average increase in base pay is expected to be 3.0% in 2015, up from 2.9% in 2014 and 2.8% in 2013, according to HR consulting firm Mercer.

You can help your chances of boosting your pay with these five tips:

1. Ask at the Right Time

Choosing the optimal time to approach your boss about a raise will significantly increase your chances of success. Stay on top of your own industry’s salary trends and consider whether your company and division are doing well enough to afford what you’re asking for. It’s also a good idea to ask for a raise a few months before performance reviews so that salaries aren’t already set.

Read more: How to Tell if Now Is a Good Time to Ask for a Raise

2. Know What Others are Getting

Before you ask for a raise, you’re going to need to know what kind of raise is reasonable. Check sites like PayScale.com and GlassDoor.com to get an idea of the industry standard for your position, then consult your colleagues to see what the story is internally. For women, that means making sure to check with your male mentors as well. As MONEY’s Margaret Magnarelli writes, female employees tend to be underpaid relative to their male counterparts, and often remain unfairly compensated because they compare salaries with female colleagues who are also underpaid. Gathering a broad cross section of salary data can help break through the ceiling.

Read more: The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

3. Be Able to Prove You’re Better than Average

The 3% average bump that Mercer projects isn’t bad, but being better than the norm can be very lucrative. In 2014, Mercer said the highest-performing employees received a 4.8% raise—more than 2 percentage points higher than the average for that year. How do you show you’re the best of the best? Gather a portfolio of past endorsements and ask satisfied clients to write testimonials. Then do your best to quantify your accomplishments so that your boss has the hard numbers as well.

Read more: 5 Ways to Get a Big Raise Now

4. Identify Your Added Value

Think about what you do that no one else at the office can do—either where you’ve particularly excelled or what highly marketable skill you bring to the table—and then frame your ask around this added value. Jim Hopkinson of SalaryTutor.com suggests framing your requests as follows: “Not only do I have [all the standard requirements that everyone else has] + but I also possess [the following unique traits that make me worth more money].”

Read more: The Secret Formula that Will Set You Apart in a Salary Negotiation

5. Just Ask!

As Wayne Gretzky said, you miss you 100% of the shots you don’t take. According to CareerBuilder, 56% of workers have never asked for a raise, which is a shame because 44% of those who did ask got the amount they asked for, and 31% still got some kind of salary boost. It might seem daunting to ask for more money with the economy still in recovery mode, but job openings are the highest they’ve been in a decade, almost three-quarters of employers say they’re worried about losing talented workers, and raises are gradually getting larger. Being assertive can be scary, but don’t let fear stand in the way of a bigger salary.

Read more: New Study Reveals the Odds You’ll Actually Get the Raise You Ask For

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How to Balance Spending and Safety in Retirement

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4 Ways to Hit Your Money Goals

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why You’re Probably Going to Get a Raise This Year

TIME.com stock photos Money Dollar Bills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

When companies battle for talent, workers win

Raises are back—finally. A new report says roughly 90% of companies will give raises this year, but workers are going to have to earn those fatter paychecks: More than half of companies responding to PayScales’s annual Compensation Best Practices Report say their main reason for giving raises is to reward performance; only about 20% say the increased cost of living is the main reason they give raises.

And don’t hold your breath for a windfall. The vast majority of these say raises will be 5% or less.

Still, this is an improvement. In its annual Compensation Best Practices Report, compensation research company PayScale finds that 85% of responding companies gave raises last year and 89% of companies say they’ll give raises this year. The percentage of companies doling out pay increases has crept up for the past few years, after hitting a low of roughly 30% in 2010, and was above 80% last year. In addition, three quarters of responding companies say they’ve adjusted their compensation structure within the past year.

Smaller companies are more likely to dole out raises to keep valuable workers on board — something to keep in mind if you work at one. Small firms also are more likely to have individualized salary ranges for each position.

About two thirds of respondents say they gave cost-of-living raises last year, with this practice most common in the healthcare and social assistance sector — almost three quarters of these companies gave cost-of-living raises. On the flip side, this is the sector least likely to give workers bonuses.

Companies that rely on large labor pools of lower-skilled workers may give cost-of-living pay increases because there’s not as many good ways to measure performance, and the relative competitiveness of the work often doesn’t demand it. “However, even in industries like retail and healthcare which have a lot of minimum wage positions, there are still highly competitive jobs in segments of their workforce,” like management and IT, PayScale vice president of marketing Tim Low explains.

In more competitive sectors, though, talented workers can command even more. Just over three in five companies said they’ll increase pay for jobs that are in high demand. “We see a strong trend towards pay for performance,” Low said. Professional, Scientific and Tech Services, along with Information, Media, and Telecommunications are the two categories — as defined by PayScale — in which companies are most likely to report that over 50 percent of positions are competitive.

“The trend has been emerging for a while, but it’s part of a greater connection between compensation and business outcomes,” Low says. “The current economy in many sectors gives employees more choices now than they had just a few years ago.”

Read next: Wal-Mart Is Giving Half a Million Employees a Raise

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MONEY Jobs

Employers Hired 257,000 Workers in January

150206_INV_Wage_1
Datacraft Co Ltd/Getty Images

The economic picture continues to mend, but workers still looking for better wages.

The U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs in January, the 12th consecutive month employers hired more than 200,000 workers. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.7%.

Employers also added more employees in the end of 2014 than originally thought. The Labor Department revised November’s employment change to 423,000, compared to 353,000, and December’s to 329,000, from 252,000.

The positive monthly employment report is another sign of a building economic recovery. The four-week moving average initial jobless claims recently fell by 6,500 to 292,750 The employment cost index, which measures salary and benefits, increased by 2.3% in the last three months of 2014. And the gross domestic product grew by 2.6% in the last quarter of 2014 after climbing by 5%. This good news, along with cheap energy prices, has also pushed up economic confidence.

The economy still is not back to a pre-2008 definition of normal, however. The headline unemployment rate measures only people who are looking for work. Since the post-crisis recession, however, many people dropped out of the work force, and they have been slow to come back in. Today’s report shows the labor-force participation rate at 62.9%, a marginal increase from a month ago, but still in line with a long-term decline. The rate is five points lower than it was at the turn of the century.

Another sign that the job market recovery remains soft: Average hourly wages in January were only up 2.2% compared to a year earlier. (While that’s an improvement over last month, wages grew around 4% per year prior to the Great Recession.) Long-term unemployment is also still at elevated levels.

fredgraph (1)

Modest wage growth helps to explain why inflation has remained low, even after stripping out the effect of falling prices at the gas pump. Core inflation, which strips away volatile energy and food prices, was up 1.6% year-over-year in December. That’s well below the 2% the Federal Reserve says it is targeting in deciding whether or not to raise key interest rates.

The Fed has been holding short-term rates near zero since the crisis, and is widely expected to begin raising rates this year as the economy improves. But they’ll have to weigh the encouraging signs from the new unemployment numbers against continued low inflation and wage growth, as well as the mounting economic troubles in Europe.

Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities, shares the Fed’s belief that the labor market and economy are repairing, and thinks more hiring will push down the unemployment rate in the months to come, which will result in more money in worker’s paychecks. Eventually.

“Overall, we’re looking at an economy that’s improving,” says Bullard. “The one missing piece is a pickup in wage growth.”

MONEY Sports

Pete Carroll’s Horrendous Play Call Cost Seahawks Players $3 Million

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, center, watches as players react after Russell Wilson was intercepted by New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler during the second half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.
Matt Rourke—AP Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, center, watches as players react after Russell Wilson was intercepted by New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler during the second half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX.

That doesn't even count the many endorsements, new player contracts, and increased merchandise and season ticket sales that surely would have resulted had the Seattle Seahawks won their second consecutive Super Bowl.

The “worst call in Super Bowl history.” That’s how the decision of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to throw the ball on the 1-yard line rather than hand the ball to the NFL’s best power running back, Marshawn Lynch, will be remembered.

The decision, which resulted in a stunning interception by the Patriots, lost the Super Bowl championship for the Seahawks. It also cost Seahawks players and the team as a whole a huge chunk of change. How much?

Last year, according to CNBC, 63 players on the Seahawks roster were collectively awarded $5.8 million in bonus pay after the team won the 2014 Super Bowl. On the other hand, the game’s runner-ups, the Denver Broncos, received bonuses to the tune of “just” $2.9 million. The exact number of players that get playoff and Super Bowl bonuses varies because players on the injured reserve, and even some who are traded during the season but played a significant number of games with the team that year, receive bonuses alongside all of those on the official game-time 53-player roster.

This year, the salary bonus for players on Super Bowl teams has inched up a bit to $97,000 (up from $92,000 a year ago) for each winning player, compared with $49,000 for players on the losing squad ($46,000 a year ago). So the total gap between the game’s winners and losers should be a bit higher than it was last year, when the difference was just under $3 million.

Then we must add in the fact that each of the 150 or so players and coaches on the winning team gets a blingy Super Bowl ring. The NFL allocates $5,000 per ring, but the winning teams are known to spend much more on them. Given how rare and collectible they are, a Super Bowl ring is easily valued at $50,000 to $75,000 and sometimes is worth in the hundreds of thousands if it’s owned by a notable player or coach.

All in all, the Seahawks collectively just lost something north of $3 million—likely far, far more—because their coach, Pete Carroll, blew the game with a shockingly inexplicable play call.

Read next: Questions Surround Seahawks Coach After Super Bowl-Losing Play Call

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MONEY salary negotiation

The Secret Formula that Will Set You Apart in a Salary Negotiation

pharmacist pulling bottles off the shelves of apothecary
INSADCO Photography—Alamy

Use this one sentence to prove your worth, says SalaryTutor.com's Jim Hopkinson.

This is the sixth in a series of six posts on salary negotiation published in partnership with PayScale.com.

If you’ve ever been told, “We’re sorry, we really liked you and it was a very difficult decision, but we ended up going with a slightly more qualified candidate,” you know that it’s not a great feeling. You can drive yourself crazy wondering, “What did the winning job-seeker say or do to gain that slight edge over me to land the job?”

Or perhaps you did manage to beat out every other candidate and receive an offer, but weren’t able to negotiate the salary that you wanted. What could you have said to earn what you truly deserve?

Fortunately, there’s a simple framework and phrase to keep in mind that might give you the extra edge you need. Not only will you distinguish yourself from the competition when looking for a job, but you’ll also be able to negotiate a higher salary when you get the offer or ask for a raise.

In fact, I just demonstrated it in the last paragraph!

The framework is: Not only this… but that…

If you were to write it out as a formula, it might look like this:

“Not only do I have [all the standard requirements that everyone else has] + but I also possess [the following unique traits that make me a better candidate and worth more money].”

Let’s look at a few examples…

In some cases, you don’t even need an extra skill, you just have to show up. If you sense that a company is in a massive rush and has had a difficult time filling a position, or others are giving them the run around in terms of start dates, you might simply say, “Not only do I have the skills necessary for this job, but since I won’t require any training, I can hit the ground running, make an immediate impact, and start tomorrow.”

To be most effective, however, you’re going to want to cultivate and mention unique, valuable, and complementary skills.

So if you know that the company you’re working for is looking to expand internationally, and they offer you a starting salary of $70,000, you might reply, “I appreciate that generous offer. However, since I’ll be coming into this position not only with proven marketing and team-building skills, but also as a multi-lingual manager with experience building out teams internationally, I was seeking a salary closer to the $80,000 range.” If the hiring manager knows that this will be an asset in the future, or saves the time and cost to train a similar manager in language skills, you’re likely to get that additional salary.

I once worked with a client that received a five figure increase from a single email exchange. The position was at a prestigious art museum and there was a lot of competition for the job. At this level, every candidate was extremely well educated, had extensive experience working in museums, and a passion for the arts.

During her interview, she had noted that the executive director was charged with building out something new and exciting. Not only did she land the offer, but she used that language to bump her salary $11,000 by saying, “Since I will be bringing not only curation and management skills from the art world, but also have the experience you desire in building a new program from the ground up, I am seeking a salary that would reflect those additional skills.”

One area you certainly don’t want to stand out in, however, is a lower price.

While it might feel good to finally land a job by saying, “Not only can I do the necessary work, but I’m willing to take a salary $10,000 less than anyone else,” that feeling will be fleeting. Yes, you got the job, but in doing so you completely devalued your worth and won’t be happy for long.

So take a few minutes to really highlight what makes you unique…

Maybe you’re an accountant not only with CPA and Excel expertise, but you’re also a specialist in finances for companies with 10,000 employees or more.

Perhaps you’re a social media marketing manager that has run campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, but also has a deep understanding of the reports, analytics, and data science behind your posts.

Or let’s say you’re a project manager that people love working for and you always bring in your projects on time and under budget, but you also have a history of launching mobile apps and getting them to trend in the app store.

The key is to find something that your employer needs—and is willing to pay extra for—and then utilize it during a negotiation to distinguish yourself from others and get paid what you deserve.

Jim Hopkinson is the author of the book Salary Tutor: Learn The Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You. His website, SalaryTutor.com, offers a series online salary negotiation courses to help students and professionals effectively negotiate a raise or new job offer.

More from this series on Money.com:

More on salary negotiation from PayScale.com:

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