I'm all for silver linings, but the latest survey issued by the National Association of Colleges and Employers on starting salaries for 2009 college grads – despite its upbeat spin – fails to excite.
Researchers at NACE found that the average starting salary for a fresh-out-college young adult (those who are lucky to find full-time work) is now $49,307. That's down just a smidge from 2008 when it stood at $49,693. The difference? About $400, the cost of a 32-gig iPod Touch (Or, in my case, one month of health insurance). Not the end of the world considering the recession and all its financial baggage, right? The NACE would like us to believe so.
The reality, though, is that for a good part of this century entry-level salaries have been flat. That is, when you factor in escalating living costs and, of course, college tuition, which has jumped annually at about three times the rate of inflation.
Then remember – the average college graduate owes some $20,000 in student loans and thousands more on his or her credit card. A $49,000 a year salary – after taxes – isn't going to afford much personal finance freedom when one should be paying off debt, paying for necessities and saving all at the same time.
Maybe just be happy to have a job? After all, the jobless rate for the 20-24 year-old set is higher than 15% right now. Who cares if I'm not making more? This is the worst job market for the current graduating class, the Class of '09, that we've seen in more than two decades. Now may not be the best time to strong-arm a boss for a raise.
I agree it's a tricky time right now. And I'd never suggest doing something to jeopardize a job. But young adults don't have to just settle.
Here's some advice for making more money:
Know Your Salary Range
My dad taught me this one. It's your right to know the salary range for your specific position. Your HR rep has the numbers. This will come in handy down the road. For example at Law Firm XYZ a paralegal may make anywhere from $40K-$70K to a year, depending on experience and seniority. If after a year you're still making the very low end of your salary range, it may be time to ask for a raise, using this scale as a talking point in your meeting. And learn what it'll take to earn at the high-end.
Request for Perks
If you can't get a bigger salary, ask for more perks. An extra week of vacay? A signing bonus? Permission to work from home once in a while (a gas saver). The little things add up. And don't hesitate to ask because of this recession thing. If you've made it past several interviews, feel like you've got the job and finally you're talking numbers, now is the time to speak up.
Add a Revenue Stream
Find a productive way to cash in on your youthful energy outside your 9 to 5 job. Part-time jobs can be an important revenue stream to help aggressively pay down debt and build up a savings nest.
The best time to get a job is when you have one, as the saying goes. Tired of making bupkis at your current post? Want to know how to make more money? Continue networking and find an employer that'll pay more to “steal” you away – even if it's just been a short while at your job.
Tough economic times affect all of us. But, with these tips you can find opportunity and drive towards a better income and the life you want to live.