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Becoming a Six Figure Earner at 26

Erik Featured, Financial Education, Thoughts of a Mastermind 24 Comments


You know those stupid “how I increased my salary 147% in 3 years” articles that circle the web from time to time? You read them and they leave you wondering, “wtf, am I doing with my life? This is a load of crap and they just got lucky.”

Back in 2015, I started my first day job. I was 22 and my starting salary was 63,000. I was halfway through my Masters and was happy to start my career.

After a few months of getting beaten down by corporate life, I found myself going to Google and searching things like “how to increase my salary” and “how can I negotiate a raise”.

I kept coming across those freaking articles talking about how this random person in their twenties went from $38,000 to $65,000 to $107,000 in 3 years through strategic job changes and getting paid their worth.

Those articles made me a little frustrated.

This is going to be one of those articles.

It’s time to celebrate! I received a raise last week and wanted to share with you my success. It’s my blog after all, so I can talk about what I want 🙂

In the last 3.5 years, I’ve increased my salary from $63,000 to now just under $101,000. I went from $63k to $66k to $73k to $76k to $88k to $91k to $101k in salary through merit adjustments (year end increases), 1 job change and 1 promotion.

Those are the numbers, but that’s not what is interesting. I’m also not one to brag, so let’s move on to why you should care.

What I will do in this article is talk about some of the ways I’ve been able to increase my value, and how now I’m taking on more responsibility and my employer is compensating me for it.

How I Became a Six Figure Earner at 26

If your goal is to become wealthy or become financially free at a relatively younger age, making more money is an absolute must.

There are a few things I want to focus on here in this post, so that you can earn more money in your day job:

  • Work on your written and spoken communication and emotional intelligence
  • Look to add relevant software skills to your “talent stack”
  • Try to find solutions to problems that are not just your work (make other people’s work more efficient)
  • Be strategic in finding a job which will allow for advancement and has a higher ceiling

Let’s go into what each of these actually would look like for you.

Work on Communication and Emotional Intelligence

You are a human being and I’m a human being. We interact through written and spoken words, but also, there is an emotional and non-verbal communication dance which takes place in every social situation.

Communication is arguably the #1 skill you should focus on at a young age if you want to become more valuable and get paid more.

At one extreme, politics aside, Barack Obama was a fantastic public speaker and communicator, and is now rich through his service in office (politics aside again, not sure if I agree that a non-wealthy person should leave public office wealthy, but that’s a discussion for another day). Some of the other candidates in 2008 and 2012 might have had better policies, but they weren’t able to articulate and share those thoughts in a way that captivated the general population.

At a less extreme level, you probably have a manager and/or clients who you interact with on a daily and weekly basis.

Are you meeting your target output? How are your projects coming along? Can you talk about your ideas with confidence in a clear and concise manner? If things aren’t going as planned, can you handle the heat and be aware of the situation?

Increasing your value through communication and emotional intelligence is part self-awareness, part confidence and part being able to put the pieces together in your head and then delivering those pieces.

For me, I worked on this through starting a blog and a podcast. I also networked and got out and talked to other people in my industry to understand the jargon and lingo in my field.

Over time, I’ll still need to continue to work at this, but through communication and emotional intelligence, I’ve been able to prove my worth over time.

Look to Add Relevant Software Skills to your “Talent Stack”

coding for successIn 2018, various pieces of software are used in every job. Excel is very common, but there are also many out of the box software solutions. Maybe you may work in an analysis role where some higher level programming skills might make sense.

Some of these things you can’t necessarily pick up off the job, but there are things you can do in your free time to add skills to your “talent stack” (your talents and skills).

I’m not recommending any programming languages or skills in particular because everyone is different.

In my situation, in school, I learned some programming (in Matlab and C#), but was not hired in a role where I’d be using these languages. Instead of being discouraged, taking the concepts and knowledge of how to program lead to me learning how to automate reports in Excel (through VBA) and allowed me to build a more efficient reporting process for our team.

Going to my second job, while I knew how to program, I didn’t know the language in use (SAS). In a few short weeks, I was able to pick it up though, because I already knew what I needed to do, but just had to learn the syntax.

Now, I’m using a number of other languages on a daily basis (Python, Javascript and Java to be precise), and each one has enabled me to do awesome things which I couldn’t do before.

With these new talents and skills, I’ve become more valuable. With more value comes more money over time. Code Academy is a great resource for learning how to code. Another one for Excel would be Excel Easy.

Try to Find and Implement Solutions across your Department

One of the beautiful things about programming and automation is you can implement solutions which can scale.

Let’s get to the most important question of any job: what are some tasks you do each day that are repetitive and tedious? Can you automate some of these tasks with a button or better process?

Going a step higher, are these tasks solely yours or are other people in your team doing similar work? Can you create something and help others do their work more efficiently?

In my first year in my current role, we needed numerous codes to run testing on our models. Many of my teammates had their own code for these models, but there was not a unifying set of codes which could be used across all models. In addition, we were interested in adding a few more tests which would require new code.

I was up for the task. One thing I’m very good at is creating scripts which are usable for multiple situations. I ended up adding 4 different sets of code for the 10 team members over a 3 week period, and became a friend to everyone. I was just looking to help the team, and I ended up helping everyone – saving potentially 10-20 hours per person, but also allowing the output to be unified across portfolios.

Being a servant to your team and wanting to help others is definitely a recipe and strategy to follow to be more successful. I look to serve others and add value in any way I can.

Get into a Situation Where Advancement Can and Will Happen

Let’s be honest here: some situations have no ceiling and no chance for advancement. Part of emotional intelligence and being aware of your situation will allow you to realize this and get the heck out of there.

In my first role, I saw that it would take a while for me to gain the necessary skills to get to the next level. Even though they valued my work and I created some cool automation and Excel reporting, I didn’t fit in with the group’s vision.

I started looking after my first year, and found a job that had room for growth and the ability to advance in a shorter period of time.

During my second summer, I mentored an intern and this year, I’m leading a group of roughly 15 in learning Python and building multiple pieces of code to compare to our current production runs.

In my first job, I wouldn’t have gotten either of these opportunities at the ages of 25 and 26. In most jobs, I’d imagine people might not get those opportunities at young ages.

These opportunities have lead to more responsibility and higher pay.

Shout-outs to My Inspirations

Working on the skills above will be beneficial for your career and pay, but having people to look up to and inspire you are great to have as well.

Along the way to my goal, I was inspired and driven to do better by a number of individuals that I’ve met in person or online.

My Dad

My dad is one of my inspirations in many things I do. When I was young, he was able to work his way up at a bank and through his work, my mom was able to stay at home to take care of me and my sisters.

In his 30s, he pivoted and bought into some business ventures and left the corporate world. Working for himself, he had the flexibility to come to all of my sporting events while also being able to continue to run his businesses.

I want to become financially free at a young age because I don’t want my future wife to have to work (she can work if she wants to though). I don’t want to be tied to a desk or job I don’t want. Being able to own or create a business that adds value to others would be amazing.

Gen Y Finance Guy

Back in 2015, I came across this guy who had this crazy goal of a $10 million net worth. He was working in finance, and looking to explode his income over time.

Through strategic planning and ACTION taking, and by asking for a massive raise, he is now in the C-Suite in his early 30s.

Approaching millionaire status by the age of 35, the sky is the limit.

I want to be a millionaire by 30, but even if I don’t reach it until 35, I’ll be fine.

Dom has inspired me through his actions and words. He wants to make his life so big that everyone he cares about can fit. With this thought in mind, I want the same for the people close to me.

Onwards and upwards!

Financial Samurai

Back in 2012, Financial Samurai was my gateway drug into this wild world of investing, personal finance, and wealth building.

His post, The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person pushed me to think outside the box. I don’t want to be average and I’ve been able to grow my net worth to an above average level for the above average person.

At 26, my net worth is just under $200,000, and now, through increasing my income, I’ll continue to see great gains.

His blog and attitude on life has had an enormous influence on me to become better and grow my wealth.

ESI Money

When I started my blog in January 2017, one of my favorite blogs to read was ESI Money. He just recently retired at age 52 after a rising up the ranks to corporate executive, but also through smart investing in real estate, stocks, and himself.

I love how he has a balanced approach to becoming wealthy; i.e., don’t go all in one asset class. Instead, look to become better as a person, look to save your increased salary, and invest in things which will bring solid returns over time.

He has taken a similar path to success as my dad, and I see a lot of similarities in their attitudes towards work and success.

Concluding Thoughts on Becoming a Six Figure Earner at 26

Provide enough value and you will be paid.

I try to live with an abundance mindset and believe that the energy you put out into the world WILL come back to you at some point. Your goals will take time and probably won’t happen over night, but they will be realized at some point.

It’s interesting – our brains are incredibly powerful.

On my podcast, episode 3 with Dom from Gen Y Finance Guy, we talked about how when you set a goal, and you truly BELIEVE in that goal, your brain and subconscious starts on the path to figure out how to reach that goal.

I set a goal to increase my income back in 2015. It started a little bit slow, but sure enough, not even 4 years later, and I’m sitting where I wanted to be.

The sky is the limit here, and I’m very excited to see where I can go in the next 3-5 years.

Provide value and get paid for that value – it’s a simple equation. How can you provide value? That’s for you to figure out in your situation.

Thanks for reading and celebrating this moment with me. Looking forward to hearing about your next big accomplishment!

Readers: what are some of your best tips for earning more at a corporate job? Was this article annoying or inspiring? What is your takeaway from my story? Do you have a big win to share?


How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.

How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.

How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.

How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.

How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.

How to increase salary. Six-figure salary. Make more money.






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Comments 24

  1. Congrats on crossing the threshold to a six figure income, quite impressive for 26. My advice? Find your unique skill niche and use it to be indispensable and differentiated from your coworkers. People talk a lot about no employer loyalty and cogs in the wheel, but as you get further along you realize there are certain employees the company will view as essential. They pay them more because they are costly cogs.

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      Thank you FTF for your advice and kind words. I like your thoughts and really, taking the cog metaphor a step further, without cogs, your machine breaks down (big or small cogs).

      Hope to continue to explode the income and keep rising up!

  2. I love your methodical and well thought out approach 🙂 . I started making 6 figures at 27 and my plan was a lot less thoughtful. I just kept switching jobs looking for a better one and along the way picked up raises and promotions. Your way seems harder, but more legit 🙂 . Thank you for sharing!

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      Congrats on your success and I don’t think either way is necessarily more difficult – we both have separate paths and backgrounds and made it work 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

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      Hey Cody, thanks for stopping by and the comment! Definitely proud and looking forward to the next destination (whereever that is) 🙂

  3. Congratulations! You’re killing it!

    I didn’t hit six figures until I was 28 so you’re ahead of where I was at 26.

    Slight correction; I’m headed for millionaire status at 32 😉 and I look forward to you joining the club by the time you turn 30.

    Thanks for the shout out!


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  4. Congrats, semi-similar situation to myself.
    As a Software Developer I asked for a substantial raise because I felt underpaid and was tired of the 3% annual increase.
    When they said they couldn’t increase my pay I interviewed for another team within the same company for a 20% raise. When I told my current boss I was leaving they offered to match the raise salary (crazy how they now had found money to do so)
    Then 6mo later got another 20% from a different team with more responsibilities.
    In short, know your worth and ask for it. Just be reasonable honest and open

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  5. You’re killing it! This is the most important thing (from a financial standpoint) you can do in your 20s in my opinion. The faster you increase your salary, the faster that salary becomes the floor for all future jobs – assuming you’re in a competitive field which you are.

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  6. Congratulations! Making that kind of money at a young age and with your mindset will put you far ahead of the pack. I agree that communication skills are the most important in almost any role.

    Was nice to meet you briefly at FinCon. Hope you had a great time!

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  8. Pingback: 3 Tiers of Financial Resiliency: How to Create a Shock-proof Life - PF Geeks

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