How a 28-year-old woman negotiated her $500,000 salary and found a work-life balance
By Jennifer Weiss
She earned half a million dollars in salary while finding more time to spend with her family.
After increasing her salary from $100,000 to $500,000 over a five-year period by changing jobs and negotiating, Amy, now 28, wanted the kind of work-life balance that would see her through more time with his family. She also hoped to have more time to engage in interests outside of work, such as real estate investing, and her leadership role with the Asian Investors Network, a Facebook community group.
Amy, who requested that we not use her full name in this story, lives in the Bay Area and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who work in blue-collar jobs and speak limited English. Her parents raised her in Los Angeles with strong family values, and her goals include building generational wealth and securing financial freedom for them as well as herself.
Amy started her career in 2016 after graduating from UC Berkeley. She felt lucky to land a product management job at a global software company, but when she first negotiated her salary, her expectations were dashed: she said she had been offered a promotion and a job. 3% increase.
She realized that to get more than a gradual fit, she would have to do some homework.
“From now on, no one will vouch for you unless you know what you’re worth,” she recalled thinking, “and you have to bring up those conversations yourself.”
She advises people to find out when their company is giving annual raises, so they know their value in the market and in the company at least two months before a salary conversation.
And, to find out what alternatives exist to their current job, so if someone says no, where else could they go.
“Set expectations with yourself and your manager, so when you come to this conversation, you’ve already set that bar.”
For Amy, a significant pay rise wouldn’t come until 2018, when an offer from a tech company came in at around $200,000. She took it.
In 2020, she landed an offer from another tech company of about double that, plus stock options. The following year, she negotiated her way to $500,000. But towards the end of 2021, she says she quit. Health problems in his family made him want to change his priorities.
“Life is so short, you really have to find time to spend with the people you love, and that’s not possible with a W2 job,” she said. “That’s really the point that sped it all up for me.”
That spring, she had taken the leap by buying her first rental property. The house was in Memphis and she bought it without seeing it.
She had learned about real estate investing through YouTube and personal finance books, and was intrigued by the FIRE movement, which advocates saving and investing to achieve financial independence and the ability to retire early.
She and her fiancé had previously bought a house together, their primary residence, but this investment offered a chance to earn rental income and build more net worth. She hired a property manager to make it more convenient.
In 2022, she received a new offer from the tech company she joined in 2018 that was less than what she was doing, but more than what she had done there before. She had talked to them about taking on a lower-level role that would have fewer demands, and they were also more flexible about working remotely. She has accepted.
Now she has the option of having lunch with her fiancé in the middle of the day, going for a walk or playing basketball at the local community center, or meeting online with the Asian Investors Network or the accountability group she shares with his real estate friends.
In 2022, Amy added another investment property to her portfolio, a short-term rental in Scottsdale, Arizona, which she offers through Airbnb. She told MarketWatch that she also invested in a commercial property syndication and was actively looking for another short-term rental or multi-family property. Her real estate assets bring in five figures a year, and she also invests in retirement accounts, stocks outside of those accounts, and cryptocurrencies.
So after hitting her impressive upward trajectory in earnings, she’s mastered getting more than just numbers, but also benefits like great company culture and better work-life balance.
“Health is everything, freedom is everything, and having time to do things that aren’t just work is just as important,” she said.
Brian Quist contributed to this article.
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