I don’t think that there’s any other way to say this without sounding smug.
Really, you earn what you’re worth.
I would venture to guess those who earn “enough” agree with me, and those who don’t earn “enough” disagree with me. In the interest of full disclosure, I currently feel as though I don’t earn “enough” due primarily to the fact that there is always more, in which case there can never be enough.
That said, I still think people earn what they’re worth.
The employment market is a market like any other. Two parties come together – workers and employers – and agree on a wage. Employer offers X, and employee accepts X. If X is unfavorable, employee suggests Y.
This works for probably 90% of jobs. If you don’t make “enough,” it’s because you work in a field where you:
1) Don’t use your most valuable skills
2) Produce a good or service that other people do not deem as valuable as you do.
3) Work for the government, which inefficiently sets wages because it is not motivated by a profit or loss (P&L being necessary for making good decisions.)
How to Silently Screw Yourself
Going back to my favorite vocabulary word, cost structure, I think most people end up underearning because of their own cost structure.
If you purchase too much home, you risk falling behind if you end up underwater. You can’t move to chase better paying opportunities, and therefore you earn what you’re “worth” with respect to available (read: accessible) opportunities.
If you purchase too much education, you risk falling behind because you spend 60 hours a week working to pay back Sally Mae when you’d be better to spend 40 hours a week working and 20 hours a week on the job hunt.
If you have no emergency fund, you risk taking the first job that comes your way rather than waiting for a better opportunity. This is somewhat related to purchasing too much education – or purchasing too much of anything.
Do you think people earn what they’re worth?
I think most people earn what they’re worth given available and accessible opportunities. I do not think most people earn what they’re worth if we exclude the “available and accessible” part of the equation.
For example, a worker in China does not earn what he or she is worth if we discount the difficulty in coming to the United States. If we do factor in that difficulty, then said worker earns what he or she is worth.
Basically, for the most part, I think the labor market is fairly efficient. Some people do not.