5 Financial Steps To Take After Getting A Raise

When you get a raise at work, consider how you can maximize your earnings to identify new financial opportunities.

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If you’ve recently received a raise, congratulations! You worked many long hours to deserve this, and now your hard work has paid off.

Whether this pay increase was expected or whether it was a complete surprise, you may have many thoughts running through your mind, including calling your spouse or your Mom, deciding what restaurant you are dining at for a celebration, or how your new salary will give you more freedom to take that vacation you’ve been wanting to go on.

While you should be excited, it’s important to take a step back to reassess your new pay and how it impacts your financial situation. Without doing so, you might find that your raise is more harmful than when you were making less money. To avoid having “raise regret”, consider these five tips.

5 Things To Do After Receiving A Raise

1. Understand your new salary.

While you deserve to celebrate, you may want to hold off on making any large purchases that were unplanned and not saved for with your new cash flow. Unlike a bonus, where you receive a lump sum, your raise is going to be broken out across all pay periods.

Additionally, your raise is going to be stated as an increase to your gross pay. In other words, if you receive a $5,000 annual raise, that does not mean that you are pocketing $5,000 over the course of the next year because we have to pay taxes.

If you aren’t familiar with the amount of taxes you pay, it could be worthwhile to check your last few pay stubs to determine how much was going to taxes versus how much you were keeping.

Also note that depending on the amount of your raise and the time of year, it may push you into a higher tax bracket. You may want to speak with your Human Resources and Payroll departments to discuss your tax withholding, as well as an accountant or qualified tax professional to see how your increased earnings could impact your personal tax situation.

2. Increase your retirement savings.

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan and matches your contributions, you should consider contributing at least enough to get the full match amount. Even if you were already doing so, or your employer doesn't offer a match, increasing your retirement savings may still be a great option to consider.

And, for those who are comfortable with their lifestyle prior to receiving a raise and don’t plan to make any changes, you can supercharge your savings rate at an equivalent rate.

Determining how much you need to save for retirement will depend on several factors. Betterment offers retirement planning tools that can provide guidance on not only how much you should save, but the optimal accounts for you to do so based on your information.

3. Establish, or revisit, your emergency fund.

Having an emergency fund is a very important financial savings goal, as it can help ensure a level of financial security for yourself and your family. An adequate emergency fund can help you cover truly large and unexpected expenses, and can also help cover your costs if you end up losing your job. It can even provide financial freedom in the case that you want to try your hand at a new career.

Typically, Betterment advises that your emergency fund should cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. If you didn’t have one prior to your raise, now would be a great time to start. If you already have an emergency fund, you may need to reevaluate the amount needed if your spending does increase.

4. Pay off debt.

If you have any debt, especially high interest debt, you may choose to use this new capital to pay off some of your loans quicker. You’d not only have the potential to shave years off the repayment process but save thousands of dollars in interest. Here’s a hypothetical to demonstrate.

Let’s assume that you’re a single taxpayer, live in a state with no state income tax, and at the start of 2022 your pay went from $60,000 to $65,000. Assuming you don’t itemize, that would place you squarely in the 22% Federal tax bracket. If you get paid twice per month (24 times per year), your net paycheck would go from $1,950 to $2,112, an increase of $162.

Now let’s say you put that extra cash to work on your hypothetical student loans, which total $50,000 at 7% interest paid over 10 years. Increasing your monthly loan payment by that $162 would allow you to pay off your loans almost three years faster, and also help you save almost $6,000 in interest payments!

5. Invest in yourself.

Okay, let’s say you’re already on track with your retirement goals, have an emergency fund, and paid off your debt. What do you do then?

Investing in yourself can have immense value. And the best part is, it can be done in many ways. Whether that’s taking a vacation to reset your mind after months of diligent work, taking a class to enhance your skills or learn a new one, or even making a material purchase that you feel will better your quality of life, investing in yourself can be a great way to reap the benefits of your hard earned work.

If you plan on spending this extra money, just make sure that it’s within your means—don’t fall victim to lifestyle creep.

Inherently, you may be a saver by nature. While it’s important to set goals, you may not have a specific goal for these additional savings—and that’s ok. By investing additional cash flow in a well-diversified portfolio, you give that money a chance to grow and be put to good use at some point down the line. Using a taxable investment account for a general investing goal, for example, will give you more flexibility relative to retirement investment accounts as to how and when these savings can be used.