This Is Exactly How to Ask for an “Inflation Raise,” According to Career Experts

published Sep 16, 2022
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Inflation is all over the news these days, often accompanied by other doom-and-gloom references to things like a potential recession and rising interest rates.

And though it may be tempting to simply scroll right past these big-picture economics headlines, they can — and do — have a very real impact on your own personal finances. Inflation, in particular, is something everyone feels (though to varying degrees of severity) when you go to the grocery store, fill up the car with gas, or pay the latest utility bill, for instance.

Inflation, aka rising prices, cuts into the buying power of your paycheck. Even though you’re getting paid the same amount each pay period, that money is actually becoming less valuable as prices rise. Because goods and services are getting more expensive, you can’t buy as much stuff with the same amount of cash.

So here’s your public service announcement: It’s time to ask for a raise at work. 

Call it an inflation raise, a cost-of-living adjustment, or just a good old-fashioned “it’s-time-to-pay-me-more-because-I’m-worth-it” increase, but the important point here is that you need to earn more money to keep up with rising prices.

“If your paycheck isn’t keeping up with inflation, you are making less money than you did the year before,” says Lindsey Bell, chief markets and money strategist at Ally. “That means you have less money to spend, save, and invest. The longer this persists, the further behind you will fall in reaching your money goals. And if we’re honest, most goals in life are tied to money, so this is a big deal.”

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Asking for an inflation raise is a lot like asking for any other type of raise. First, do some research on the going market rate for your job role. Check websites like PayScale, Indeed, and Glassdoor. Ask around to friends, acquaintances, and other people in your professional network to see if they’ll divulge a pay range for a similar position at their company — and offer to share yours in return, suggests Bell. It also can’t hurt to reach out to recruiters to find out what other companies in your industry are offering for the same job.

As you contemplate exactly how much more money to ask for, get up to speed on the latest inflation numbers. But don’t let the inflation rate alone determine the amount you ask for — if you do, that’s a “sure-fire way to get the minimum market-based adjustment,” says Tim Toterhi, a career coach and human resources consultant. 

Instead, come up with a number that reflects your value to the business, Toterhi advises. “You want to be the go-to person employers need to retain — and happily pay a premium to do so,” he says.

Next, draft some talking points about the value you bring to your team. Though inflation may be the catalyst for having the conversation, you want to be sure the message stays focused on your positive contributions and performance, says Bell. If you can tie your contributions directly to monetary gains or other benefits to the company, also point that out.

It can also be helpful to use a little shameless flattery. Let your supervisor know exactly how much you appreciate her and why, and throw in a few complimentary remarks about the company as a whole, too. “Everyone likes to have their back patted,” says Bell. “Make them feel good about your commitment to being there for the long haul, helping to make it easier for them to invest in you.”

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Consider the timing of your ask, too. If your company offers pay adjustments or promotions at a very specific time of the year, then you may want to wait and have an inflation raise conversation around that time. But you can drop hints and sprinkle parts of the raise conversation into regular check-ins with your boss so that she’s not surprised when the time comes. “Signaling something like this is coming will help develop trust and transparency and will likely lead to a more productive conversation when it does happen,” says Bell. 

When you do finally have the discussion, have a contingency plan in your figurative back pocket. If your boss says no to a pay raise, you can always counter by asking for other perks, says Sarah Doody, the founder and CEO of Career Strategy Lab. “Brainstorm a list of things you could ask for that would help offset your expenses or help you develop yourself professionally,” she says. “Some examples include more vacation, health, or wellness benefits; a more flexible work schedule; a stipend to help cover childcare; or even for the company to cover more of your health insurance premiums.”

And, if all else fails, remember that you can help yourself reach your financial goals via other means. If you don’t have a budget, create one and start eliminating unnecessary expenses ASAP. Get a second job or turn a hobby into a side hustle. Sell items you no longer use on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and other platforms. 

Or, make a drastic change and get a new job at a company that is willing to pay you more, suggests Bell. “We know from employment data that job switchers are getting paid more than those that have been loyal to companies over the past year,” she says.