Writing

How to Make More Money in 2019 – Lifehacker

None of us has enough money.

On Two Cents we often focus on maximizing your money: Leveling up investments or employing new savings hacks. But what do you do when just need to make more?

Lifehacker talked with five people, including a familiar face (hi, Kristin!), to get a sense of how people across the country are planning to increase their income. We’re retiring the cliché, vague advice you’d normally find in personal finance articles—get a side hustle, launch an Etsy store, etc.—that’s only relevant to a handful of people, and learning how real people are making more for themselves in 2019.

Here’s how real people are planning to level up their income this year.

These interviews have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Image: Charles Deluvio ???? on Unsplash

Name: Teresa B.

Age: 31

Location: Portland, Oregon

Job & Income: I work in the non-profit sector and I’m a data specialist. My salary is just below $43,000 (including a 403(b) match).

How much of your monthly income do bills take up? Rent and bills take up around 50-60 percent of my take-home pay each month, including student loans. I have about $60,000 in private and federal loans.

Do you have a specific money goal right now? 

My goal right now is to pay off my loans as soon as possible. I want to build up my savings a little bit more before I really tackle that, but that is the main goal. It’s about $60,000.

What’s your plan to make more more money this year?

I have been looking for work since September, so ideally the goal is to increase my salary. But I haven’t been super successful in the past few months, so I got an additional part-time job, I’m going to be working a few nights a week in a reception job. I am going to put all the income from that job toward my student loans, and I’m still looking for another job.

It’s not the first time that I’ve done this, I think I’m just used to being really busy, whether it was school, or having an extra part-time job, or dog sitting for my friends—I’ve always had something else going on.

Those nights that I would normally be going out, I’ll be working so I’ll be saving money that way, but I kind of told my friends what my situation was straight up, like, ‘I won’t be hanging out with you as much.’ My approach is to just be transparent with my friends about it.

Why do you want to earn more?

I don’t know if it’s just because of being done with school, so it feels more final, but I want to take my finances more seriously. I haven’t been living month-to-month, but I haven’t really been super strict with myself … Once I saw the total student loans, it was just kind of a sobering experience, but in general I think I’ve been putting off getting my finances in order.

I probably didn’t really have savings until about two years ago, I was just working paycheck-to-paycheck. Now I have a little nest egg, so I am working on trying to increase that. I have a new budget [Teresa is following the 50/20/30 budget] for 2019 that I set up and I’m trying to save more.

Is there a piece of general money advice that you find helpful?

I’ve had a lot of financial stress before and it’s not very healthy, it doesn’t feel great, so when I’m buying something I try to think, ‘Will this be worth it? Will it be worth that stress, that uneasy feeling in your stomach?’ I have that question in the back in my mind.”


Image: Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash

Name: Phil M*

Age: 26

Location: Los Angeles, California

Job & Income: I’m an Administrative Assistant at Sony Pictures making $50,000 a year (plus a six percent 401(k) match).

How much of your monthly income do bills take up?

I would say maybe 80 percent, including rent, which is $945 split with my girlfriend, and I just bought a used car, which is around $350 per month with the payment and insurance. We don’t have cable, we have internet which is around $60 per month. I’m fortunate enough not to have any student loan debt, and just the car loan. I contribute to a 401(k) through my company.

Do you have a specific money goal right now? 

I want to save around $10,000 in liquid cash, which would be a comfortable enough cushion if something terrible happened. And right now it’s nowhere near that. I just bought the car, and I’m sure I can get some money reserves back, but I’m focused on savings.

What’s your plan to make more more money this year?

I was considering driving for Uber or Lyft or taking on odd jobs, but I thought it might be more cost effective to learn some more admin skills. I am lucky enough that Sony offers classes on site, where they teach more advanced stuff like Excel, so I want to learn low-level programming stuff. I’ve learned some of it already and it’s helpful. The goal would be a raise or a promotion at Sony.

And, basically, for the last six months I’ve also had two other bosses. I manage their schedules … so with that increased workload, I’ve learned minor, cool programming tricks to save me some time. Those kinds of things already, I’ve showed my coworkers and my boss is impressed. So I’m hoping to say, come review time, that I’m taking on more responsibilities, I’m making things more efficient, I think I deserve this and this because of that.

Is there a specific pathway you’re interested in?

I want to get more involved in animation … I don’t want to necessarily be an illustrator, I want to be in production. I like the job I’m in right now, it’s not a creative role, but I think the skills I’m learning here will help me in a creative role. I like the team here and I like the relative security.

When I graduated from college, I worked at a digital media startup. It had some funding and the hours were long, but it grew really fast and collapsed really fast, so then I was jumping from job to job until I ended up here. Here, I love my hours, my bosses, my coworkers—it’s a better work-life balance in addition to making more money than I had in previous roles.

They offer bonuses basically once a year. I got like a $3,000 bonus last year and most of that went into my 401(k). I don’t expect, even if I hit all my goals, I don’t expect a raise this year to go over their pre-approved amount for what Admins can get.

Why do you want to earn more?

I’d sleep better at night knowing that I don’t have to start selling things or call my parents … I’m blessed to have parents who are very willing to help out, but maybe it’s a pride thing. I really don’t want to be in a situation where they would scold me for not being responsible.

I am also thinking long-term, like a marriage, kids, a house, a picket fence. I think it’ll look a little different in southern California, I don’t think we’ll own a home that you could in the Midwest, but having a cash reserve, that’s on my mind when I look over my finances.

How often do you think about your finances?

In my schedule, being an assistant, I definitely organize my schedule a lot. On paper, it’s like every two weeks, which is when I get a paycheck, I look at my budget and make adjustments. After buying a car, and after the holidays especially, I’m looking every day and wondering what I can adjust, what I can scrimp on, like a phone bill or something.

Why do you have this desire to get it in order now?

I’m getting older, and a lot of our friends over the holidays got engaged, and it was one of those things. And definitely getting a car, it’s like you’re going to pay this off in 2024, and I’m like, oh my god am I even going to be alive in 2024? So it was looking at it longterm like that.

Is there a piece of general money advice that you find helpful?

Obviously I read Lifehacker and Two Cents, but my stepdad is a day trader and I think he’s been lucky enough to make a living doing something that’s relatively risky, and he also plays poker, and I think those two strategies play into each other and he likes to think about money as logically as possible. I can’t do that all of the time, but when discussing money, try to think about it like a game rather than as part of your identity. If it’s like Tetris or something, I’ve never seen anyone start crying because they lost a game of Tetris. Looking at finances, it’s scary. Most people, myself included, there’s so much of “who am I” or “where am I going” wrapped up in how much we make. Whenever I’m looking over stuff, I try to remember it’s not the end of the world.

I do feel very blessed to have supportive parents, and I realize it’s not available to everyone. So as much as people tell me I’m on top of it, I can only do it because of friends and family.

*Name has been changed.


Image: LongNgoHong on Reshot

Name: Jackie Lam

Age: 36

Location: Los Angeles, California

Job & Income: I’m a freelance writer, I invoiced over $100,000 in 2018 and am on track to earn the same or more in 2019.

Last year was an interesting year because it was the most I’ve earned but I worked the least. I took six weeks off, I consciously took June off and then took two weeks off in December. That was cool.

How much of your monthly income do bills take up?

Basic living expenses take up 20 to 25 percent, because I live pretty frugally. My savings is probably, I save pretty aggressively, so I think most of my extra money goes toward savings, savings plus basic living expenses is around 50 percent.

I have some savings for my own short term goals, a splurge fund, and in terms of retirement I have an (individual) HSA which I try to max out, and then I have a traditional IRA, which I contribute to regularly, $500 per month. I also have an individual 401(k) and I try to put as much in as possible, focusing on employer contributions, and employee if I can.

Do you have a specific money goal right now? 

The only thing that’s kind of ambiguous because I haven’t committed to it fully is maybe buying a house. I took out a small car loan last year because the APR was pretty low so I want to pay it off. Other than that, I think I’m just fine surviving as a freelancer.

I’m also working toward an AFCPE [a type of financial education certificate]. I hope to finish that in the next year or two to help freelancers and creatives with their money. I like writing about money but I want to help people with their money.

What’s your plan to make more money this year?

Last year, I got some gigs that were more ongoing, I got contracts that were more retainer-y. This was my fourth year freelancing and before that I was getting ongoing clients, but more erratic. But now I’m getting more consistent assignments, like, “Hey we’d like one article a week, or two a week” and I’m getting a higher rate.

And building community, and referring each other is really helpful. I think some of my work came from referrals, from editors but also just from my friends who work in the space. That was a big part of [earning more].

This year my strategy is really to focus on retainer, so having more clients who pay X and guarantee X, which helps with my sanity.

How did your community help you earn more?

Building out community is great, because it’s lower risk. You have to find clients who will meet your rates, and you need to diversify your income stream. Every day if you just refer a friend or share a post or support your colleagues, build out your tribe, I call it, it can come back to help you. And it really does. In freelancing it’s helpful in a lot of ways.

By definition, if you’re self-employed, a “solo-preneur,” you think of lone wolves working out of their living rooms. We run our own businesses but having friends to talk to about everything, like, “Have you worked for this client? What is it like, how much should I charge?” That’s helpful.

It is the wild, wild west in a lot of ways, you can’t go online and look up the standard pay … it’s like, ok, how much do you earn as a writer? It can vary depending on a lot of factors: Your knowledge, your ability to negotiate, your client. Your client can pay different rates for the same thing. So having a friend to talk to about that is helpful. But also basic tips on negotiating, basic tips on managing cash flow, all of those things are interesting.

Why do you want to make more?

It’s always nice to have more money because you might need it as a financial cushion, and it also is interesting because it has to do with potential. I’m not bound to earning money as a marker of success, but when you’re freelancing it’s a risk, you’re taking on a lot of responsibility, so I wanted to see how well I could do. I don’t put pressure on myself to make a certain amount of money because you’ll go crazy doing that.

[Earning more] was a byproduct of working hard and trying to strategize a bit. I think it just happened, I know it sounds weird but I didn’t intend for it to happen. But it is good to have as a cushion, and it’s good to have more options.

Is there a piece of general money advice you find helpful?

The one thing I think about a lot…is just to approach money as a resource, a tool. You want it to be like water, running in the background. You want it to be operating on autopilot, you don’t stress about it, you don’t treat it like a status symbol. It’s a resource that’s running in the background but isn’t the end goal or a representation of the totality of your success. It’s a single metric.

And when you freelance, get clients you like working for and that have value outside of the money. Do you learn things, do you like working them? I feel better about the work I do now, and that’s a sign you’re going in the right direction. You know the saying, not all money is good money. Just feeling happy about the clients I have and the work that I have is powerful and a good metric.


Image: rawpixel on Unsplash

Name: Courtney Freeland

Age: 31

Location: Shelby Township, Michigan

Job & Income: I work as a senior applications engineer for an engineering firm. My salary there is $84,000 (including a 401(k) match).

How much of your monthly income do bills take up?

Me and my fiancée put $500 a month into a savings account and that’s our joint account. We’re using that to pay for the wedding, we’re getting married in May. I put 15 percent in my 401(k), and watch the bills. I pay my fiancée for half of the mortgage on her house, but other than that I don’t really do anything else.

Do you have a specific money goal right now? 

For me, I’m not really looking to make any more income, because I just got a big salary increase.

What’s your plan to make more more money this year?

When I was at my last job I was really underpaid. Last year I was making $73,000, and in the $80s was more normal for someone eight years out of college in my field. I trusted the manager and didn’t negotiate, I thought he wasn’t going to screw me over, but he did. Then I found out I was underpaid and I left.

How did you figure out you were underpaid?

I think I was watching “Adam Ruins Everything,” and they talked about how you should talk to your friends about how much you make [Alicia’s note: It’s this episode]. Then I searched on the internet, too, and I talked to friends and got to that number.

I talked to my boss and asked for a raise. I didn’t say “Hey, I’m being underpaid,” but I said, and I was the only woman on my team, “Hey, based on the salaries of, comparatively to the guys, I know I’m being underpaid.” And my boss was like, “Yeah, I know you’re being underpaid too.”

I was like, “Ok, well, I’d like to get paid equally,” and he said he would work on it. My other boss [the hiring manager] hadn’t been as straight-forward with me, so that was nice. I reminded him a few months later because I hadn’t heard anything, and I kept looking for another job, because they usually say you’re not going to get that much of an increase at your current job … you have to move to a new job to make more money.

I got an offer at my [current] job for $84,000, and then the next day my boss at my old job, coincidentally, said, “We’ll give you $80,000,” and I was like no. This other place is giving me $4,000 more.

I had that angry feeling of when you know you’ve been underpaid for so long. I was almost five years in. At the new job, they didn’t ask me what my salary was at my last job, they gave me the actual salary I should have been paid.

Why do you want to earn more?

I’m not looking to do a side hustle, I don’t need to do a whole lot more or anything. I’m also doing graduate school, so being able to get this money increase made that all possible.

Is there a piece of general money advice that you find helpful?

I try to read one kind of financial book a year. I just like learning about this stuff, I just felt like I was ignorant about this stuff for a long time. Right out of school I didn’t even have a savings account, I probably had $200 or less in a checking and I was like, ok, I need to get my shit together. Find out what works for you, but I really like Ramit Sethi and I Will Teach You to Be Rich, and I follow his advice.

But also, talk to your friends about salary even though you think it’s taboo.


Image: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Name: Kristin Wong

Age: 35

Location: Pasadena, California

Job & Income: Freelance writer and author. I make about $75k-$100k a year, but about 20 percent of that goes toward business expenses.

I’ve probably earned an average of about $75k from freelance writing over the past five years, that doesn’t include book advances or speaking gigs or anything like that, just writing clients. Last year I earned about $60k freelance writing because I had to take some time off to write a book. This might sound like a lot, but the costs of freelancing—health insurance, business expenses—offsets a lot of that income.

How much of your monthly income do bills take up?

Including housing, bills take up about 25 percent of my income.

Do you have a specific money goal right now? 

Aside from saving for my own retirement, I’d like to help my parents save for theirs.

What’s your plan to make more money this year?

I want to get more comfortable with negotiating. It’s something I encourage other people to do in my writing, but it’s not something I’ve been great at lately.

I’m really trying to get over the fear of saying, “My standard rate is X amount.” I’ve been afraid of setting a standard because I don’t want to lose work, but I also know it’s important if you want to level up your income.

Why do you want to earn more?

I want to earn more so I can help my parents. They are financially struggling right now, and while they’re able to pay the bills and save a bit for retirement, it would be nice to be able to support them so they can enjoy life a little bit more and not have to worry about money so much.

Is there a piece of general money advice that you find helpful?

Have a specific, meaningful goal for your finances. This is the overarching theme of my book, . When you have a solid reason to be better with money, you’ll be much more motivated to make smarter financial moves, whether it’s cutting back on restaurants, negotiating, or sticking to a budget or debt payoff plan.

Now it’s your turn: How are you making more money this year?

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