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By Robert Moskowitz

Sure, your boss or Board of Directors might call you in and offer you a raise. But chances are overwhelming that they won't. So if you want to earn more money next year than last, you'll have to initiate the process yourself, and use all your skills to pry loose a little extra.

It's not easy to accomplish, however, In fact, annual increases in base salaries are averaging only 3%, the lowest amount in more than 20 years, according to Christine Seltz, spokesperson for Hewitt Associates, a nationally-known compensation consulting firm based in Lincolnshire, IL.

Fortunately, about two-thirds of the nation's employers offer incentive pay for top performers. If you can work your way into this type of program, you'll receive extra pay or other benefits whenever you achieve specific performance targets. Depending on the specifics of your situation, these performance targets might cover just you or your entire team.

Either way, however, incentives can provide much bigger take-home pay increases than conventional raises. Hewitt Associates' surveys show that today's budgets for incentive programs presently average about 7% of the budget for base compensation (that is, salaries). This means incentives provide more than twice as big a pie as raises from which to cut yourself a juicy slice.

Here are some strategic and tactical tips on how to increase your take-home pay in the coming twelve months.

Strategic Approaches:

1) Determine your worth in the marketplace. Contact the competition, clip and save relevant employment ads, even talk to executive search firms. You might also look for references and facts in magazine articles and compensation surveys that support your idea that you should earn more.

Be prepared for a happy surprise, especially if you've been working for the same company for several years. There is often a large discrepancy between your present salary and what the market says people with comparable skills and experience can earn. Many people simply don't
know what they're worth.


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Robert Moskowitz is a consultant.
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