How We Increased Our Annual Income From $0 to $160K to $400K+

Ms 99to1percent

Blogging about Personal Finance along with a little touch of humor. Immigrant who started from the bottom and now I’m here…to tell my story, inspire and learn from others. Paid off $40K in student loans before graduating. CPA. Saved a $100K emergency fund in my 20’s. Hopping to pay off $500K+ mortgage within 5 years at 39. Hopping to become financially independent at 45. Happily married. Mom of 1.

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57 responses

  1. Xyz says:

    Great tips here Ms. 99to1, I recently did a job hop for the same exact position in a better location. I changed companies and got a 15% raise just by having the possibility of negotiating.

    I think that lateral moves inside a company (or even promotions) offer very little incentive compared to the competition.

  2. Well this is refreshing! Your stories are ruly inspiring and a reminder that we need to think bigger.

    I am starting to search for another job as my contract job of three years comes to an end. Rather than expand, I’ve been contracting and looking at non profit organizations. Rewarding work for low pay is something I can do when I’m retired and bored. Thanks for the nudge.

    • Hi Darren,

      Yes, rewarding but low paying jobs can be done during retirement or on the side. I just checked out your blog and I see that you have SAP experience. That’s a skill that’s highly in demand, that you can leverage to score a 6 figure job. What other programming languages do you know?

      • I wish I knew the development side of SAP because, yes, it is in high demand. Recruiters have been reaching out to me to teach SAP but since it’s such a vast platform, I do not have the expertise in the areas they’re looking for. I can leverage my military experience and SAP to go into a decent paying job and that’s what I will probably do. 🙂 Thanks for visiting my site, too!

        • Yes, please do. Let us know how it goes. Rooting for you!!!

        • Hi Darren. Find a way to get into the development side, especially something like data conversion which mixes functional and technical, and which everyone hates to do (and thus, it’s a great niche). Once I built sufficient technical skills I was able to leave my salaried job with a consultancy and (eventually) more than 5x my take-home pay plus travel expenses paid (disposal income goes up even more!). If you are disciplined and avoid lifestyle/spending creep, then it’s just a matter of a few years until you can pretty much do whatever you want.

          If you have access to an SAP sandbox or dev system, you can find a way to teach yourself how to do this using whitepapers, cookbooks, and possibly even training materials that have found their way online. Look for people willing to teach you (or just look at their design docs and programs).

          Then you must force yourself to take gigs that push your comfort zone so you get to put it to work and build your reputation.

          It might be worth looking at working for a consultancy for a couple of years and treat it as an investment in a training experience. Really fight for the role you want if you go this way. But don’t linger any longer than necessary unless you like that corporate ladder.

  3. Dave says:

    Your story is truly inspiring. You have come a long way in a short period of time. Thanks for sharing the career advice. Always try to negotiate a higher starting salary. There is nothing to lose.

  4. Here’s a very encouraging email we received from one of our subscribers . He has authorized us to share it with you guys:

    “Hi Ms/Mr 99to1percent,

    I’m emailing you to say that I am really enjoying your new blog. I am already trying to apply some of the information to my own career (just coming up on my 1 year work anniversary) . I too fell into accepting the initial offer and I should probably be on 10/15% more than I am, but at the time I felt it was a reasonable salary and more than any of my classmates would be starting out on.

    I would really love if in future you could go into more detail on developing a career plan and path to follow. It’s something I am constantly working on but I am in a weird niche, so it’s tough to find examples of career paths I could take. Once again, keep up the good work on the blog, I am really like the writing style, it’s pleasant to read.”

    Dear reader,
    As you requested, we will make sure to write a little bit more on developing a career plan and path. Stay tuned.

  5. What an awesome story! Great job negotiating salaries, that is something I still struggle with. I look forward to hearing more about your career and personal finance journey!

  6. Chester says:

    WOW great inspirational post Mr and Ms99to1percent, I too fell into the trap you mentioned and are also taking steps that you mentioned, i.e., keeping LinkedIn updated, upping my industry certs, and also potentially looking for contracting gigs. I did manage to get a side gig with a small CPA firm and will try to grow that hopefully in 5 years and double my income as your challenge suggests, no reason not to aspire for it. Keep up the awesome, inspiring posts and looking forward to more of them. Cheers 🙂

    • Hi Chester,

      Thanks for visiting our blog again and glad you liked this post too. It’s good to hear you have found some of tips helpful.

      It’s also inspiring to see how you are tackling your debt. Even though you slowed down in August, so far you have paid off ~$4K from when you started your debt free journey 6 months ago. Keep up the good work!

      Btw, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, and the CAPTCHA wouldn’t work.

  7. Strong work, you two! It’s remarkable what opportunities exist for a couple of hardworking, enterprising people. Keep up the great work and you’ll meet and exceed your monetary goals in short order.


  8. Jason Butler says:

    Excellent tips. I’m in the process of increasing my income. I got a raise in my current position, but they balked at the idea of negotiating my salary. At that moment I know that it was time to look for other jobs. I’ve been applying to about 5 jobs per week, but I will ramp it now. I have $62,000 worth of debt student loan debt that I want to eliminate. The sooner that happens, the better.

  9. L says:

    A very good article. I’ve recently realized how often we are held back by our “can’t” beliefs and it’s great to read about people who have broken those internal barriers (and show others that it can be done). Like you guys, I’m an immigrant (to the United States). Looking forward to more articles esp. around career development.

    • Yes, it’s a mental thing. Reason why I suggested not fully reading the job requirement when applying to a job because it can be very intimidating. Only read it fully once they have called you for a job interview 🙂

      Will keep more articles on career development coming, thanks for the suggesting. Btw, good to see another immigrant in the house….:-)

  10. L says:

    Thanks to a lot of financial blogs like yours including ESI money, I really started paying attention to my career management. I have a question and would appreciate everyone’s input.

    Today I was told I’m getting a promotion (retroactively in effect from 1 Oct). I have received a 10% raise (previous merit + ~6.5% title raise). I’m wondering if I should negotiate this. I did look on Glassdoor and the offer seems to is on the lower side (however I do know this is can really vary but it should not so much) – almost lower by 16% of the average (for the new title) or so if my math is right!

    When my manager was telling me about this today I didn’t think it was the correct place to talk about the financial aspect. Note that we use Workday for the compensation/financial/HR software and I assume I will just an update in title/compensation there directly (no email or anything else) in a few days. I want to add that getting a promotion for me is a big deal considering how political things have been here. Also note that I’m actively looking for new jobs (and also hoping to switch to a different role so it has been challenging).

    Any thoughts and suggestions on how I can tactfully negotiate? Has anyone reached out to HR directly or spoken to their manager about such a thing? I want to make sure my manager is part of the discussion and I don’t like the idea of going to HR directly. Thanks!

    • Hello,

      First and foremost, congratulations for getting a promotion!!! That’s a big accomplishment worth a celebration.

      For the raise, yes negotiate, negotiate and negotiate! There’s no other option :-).

      Since you want as much input as you can, we have decided to turn our answer into a full blown post to be published this coming Monday first thing in morning (around 1am :-). Make sure you check back.

      Btw, what name or nickname should we go with?

      • L says:

        Thanks Ms 99to1percent both for the wishes and for the post which will contain your response! I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure it’ll help so many others as well. If it puts anything in perspective I’m being promoted from Software Engineer to Senior Software Engineer.

        You can just call me L, haha :). I’m sure you must have guessed my name through my email, but I just prefer the L for now:).

  11. Just added you guys to my feedly account. Found you through PoF.

    After reading a few of your posts, I see we have at least three things in common:

    (1) A extreme focus on the income side of the equation. We too have grown our income aggressively and will come close to $400K this year.

    (2) A goal to slay the mortgage in a fraction of the 30 year term.

    (3) 3o years old.

    You guys are about $1M ahead of us in USD and live a much more frugal life.

    Looking forward to continue reading!


    • Yes, it seems we do have a looooooooot in common
      4) Rough beginnings,
      5) Stretch but achievable networth targets.

      And much more. Thanks for following our blog, will do the same.

  12. Joe says:

    although I’m satisfied with my salary, I think I’m underpaid mostly because I didn’t negotiate my salary when I got hired.

    however, work is paying for my master’s degree, and I take every free benefit from them I can get to grow myself professionally.

    thanks for this post!

    • Hi Joe, yes, if they are not paying you fairly, the least they can do is to at least pay for master’s degree.

      If they don’t pay you fairly even after getting your masters, make sure you jump ships!

  13. Ms Khan says:

    This is something I hope to accomplish someday, actually negotiate a higher starting salary or the big raise. I made the mistake of never really asking for a raise in my last job because the economy was always bad and just took the one time 7% raise they offered me after working for my boss for 6 years (only got the raise because the new hire was making more than I was).

    Talk about being passive, always taking on more work without complaint. So when I was offered a management promotion that would involve working across two different department with only a 6% raised (I did counter this offer, just didn’t sense that my boss was going to offer me more, she always had an excuse), I actually declined the promotion and accepted a layoff package instead. My boss could not understand how I could walk away from my job for such a small severance package. I guess I somehow gave her the impression that I needed my job to survive because I never complained or ask for much.

    So now I’ve been a SHM for the last year to my 3 yr old and wasn’t sure if I’ll ever go back to work. I do miss the challenge and hope to go back once she’s in school, but maybe I can work on getting contract work in the meantime and see if that would fit my lifestyle better. I always assumed it was a 9-5 or nothing at all, but your blog and others have made me realize that there is something in between for me.

    • Hi Ms Khan,

      Thanks for sharing your story. Some employers are really clueless and don’t know how to appreciate their employees! Well, her loss! Yes, do try to look into contract or freelance work. It pays good (make sure you negotiate the rate), you get paid for every minute you work, and there’s less politics, useless meetings, and you won’t have to deal with target settings, monitoring, appraisals, professional development,…

      Best of luck, keep us posted, and register, we have more career advice coming up.

  14. Great post! I totally agree with what you are saying. In this environment. (especially in large metropolitan areas) companies will try to lowball you on salary. It’s tough, because you tell yourself you’d really like a chance to do the job, but it’s best to stick to your principals. Get what you want, or you will ultimately be unhappy.

  15. Samantha says:

    Spot on with this write-up, I really believe that this amazing
    site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the info!

  16. What a great adventure and what a struggle it was for both of you! Thanks for sharing this amazing story, it’s really uplifting to see that it’s still possible to get from close to nowhere to such an amazing place.
    And I really like that you don’t quit and you have plans for the future, great job!

  17. Wow, this is a very inspiring story and I love the fact that you gave so many details! I am about to see if we have the book you recommended The First 90 Days in my library system.

  18. Lisa says:

    This article was really incredible and I like how you show it was a series of good choices over time rather than dumb luck. Makes it seem more actionable. I need to read The First 90 Days as well. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. There’s nothing like waking up and seeing a pingback from the one and only POF. You have made our day!!! Thank you very much for including us in your Sunday Best.

    By the way, is strange that when I read POF, the first thing that comes to my mind is Plenty of Fish, the online dating website ? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  21. Lisa says:

    I thought you meant Plenty of Fish. What does POF mean otherwise?

  22. hahaha. It means Physician on Fire. One of my favorite bloggers. Check him out.

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