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How to Get a Raise in a Recession

When the recent US Census Bureau report "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008" was released, it was depressing. Real median household income fell 3.6% percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. It's not just last year that's the problem: median income has stagnated over the past decade. In 1998, median income was $51,295, adjusted for inflation. And if you're a worker of a certain age, say my age, you may have fared even worse in this recession. Workers aged 45-54 saw household income plunge $7,700 to $64,439 from 2000-2008.

With this said, you may be surprised about what I'm about to say: if you are a valuable employee, now may be a good time to start talking about compensation. Blasphemy! Who would dare to broach the subject of a raise during "the worst recession since..."? Um, that would be me with Harry Smith this morning on The Early Show.

Sure, the near-financial collapse and subsequent recession prompted US companies in 2009 to grant employees the lowest base salary increases in 33 years, but haven't you heard-Ben Bernanke said that the recession is over! Whether or not the recession is technically over, the bottom line is that if you've survived the battle thus far, your boss sees you as valuable. He or she needs you now and probably can't afford to lose you when the economy recovers.

Now more than ever, top performers come at a premium. So get the eye of tiger are use these tips to broach the topic with your boss and secure more money for yourself:
• Meet with the brass face to face (no e-mail!)
• Remind your boss of everything you've accomplished over the previous year
• Identify what you have saved or made for the company and include additional responsibilities that you have assumed during the downturn

If you can't get that raise right now because financial restraints at the firm:
• Negotiate for a locked-in future raise (maybe in 6-12 months
• Get your boss to agree to revisit your compensation in 6 months and schedule the meeting
• Identify specific and clear goals you will achieve in that period-a certain percentage increase in sales, projects that will be completed

If the boss absolutely won't budge on money, think beyond pay:
• Consider other compensation-increase of commission rate, stock options, more flexible hours, additional education or an extra week of vacation
• Negotiate for a better title which may help position you down the line for more money
• Improve your quality of life at work-a better office or workspace


More on MoneyWatch:
Obtaining a Raise When Times are Tight
9 Secrets to Nailing That Meeting
Help! My Boss is Stealing My Ideas
Stress-Beating Strategies: 4 Real Work Crises

This post originally appeared The Financial Decoder blog on CBS Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS Prior to the launch of MoneyWatch, she was the Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. In her infancy, she was an options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York.
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