My financially interested colleagues often ask me whether they should be content with their income. It’s obviously a loaded question since there are too many variables that will influence the answer. Fortunately it does not have to be a difficult question to answer, especially if you ask the question early and frequently in your career.
How important is income to you?
This is the primary question to ask yourself. Are you planning to retire in the next five years but still have three kids to put through college? Do you have expensive hobbies or habits that you can’t forgo? Establishing a realistic goal of how much you need and how much you’d want to have in a certain timeline will help you focus on an income target.
Does your income in your main occupation provide your income goal?
If it does, then you’re set. You don’t have to do anything other than keep your job. Make sure you do it well, and make sure you continue to enjoy what you do. If your main occupation becomes a chore, then you will not be happy no matter what you earn.
If not, figure out what you can do to increase your primary income. Do you need to look for a better job? Do you need to negotiate a higher salary? Can you reach the upper tier for your specialty and level of experience? Would doing so compromise your lifestyle or secondary obligations?
If you cannot increase your primary income and still need to increase your overall income, you have to decide whether you want to spend your free time making money. Do you have hobbies that can generate income? Money is plentiful in the world, but it is not easy to come by. You can hustle and earn lots of money. You can hustle and earn nothing. Expect to have many failures before finding success. For instance, I spend a disproportionately high number of hours per week managing this website, but still have not generated any income. Who knows, maybe one day it will reward me with ancillary income. But I can’t quit my day job yet.
What is important to understand is that we are not limited to one venue for income. You can have income through your primary job, an online consulting business, or driving for Uber. All it takes is hunger, hard work, and time.
Keep reassessing your financial situation.
Ask early, and ask often. Is income important to you? What have you done today to increase your income? What is your time horizon to achieve these goals? Rinse and repeat.
What are you doing to assess your income needs?