How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

Alison Green of joins our hosts Ryan Ermey and Sandy Block to discuss best practices for asking your boss for a raise. Also, the pair break down why parents with high school teens should file the FAFSA application now.

(Image credit: Gary Burchell)

Ryan Ermey: Ever wish you could ask a hiring manager exactly when and how to ask for a raise? Us, too. So we invited Alison Green, the brains behind the popular workplace blog Ask a Manager (opens in new tab), to chat with us in our main segment.

Ryan Ermey: On today's show, Sandy and I tell parents of high schoolers why they should file the FAFSA now, and exercise bikes and greeting cards figure into a new slate of Wild Pitches. That's all ahead on this episode of Your Money's Worth. Stick around.

Ryan Ermey: Welcome to Your Money's Worth. I'm Kiplinger's associate editor Ryan Ermey joined as always by senior editor Sandy Block. Sandy, how are you?

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Sandy Block: So happy to be here, Ryan.

Ryan Ermey: Me, too. We are getting into a topic to kick off the show today that we're actually a tad bit late on. The deal is that some of you may have children who are headed into college next year and if you haven't done this before or you haven't done it in a few years since the rules have changed, you can file the FAFSA. You could have filed it as of October 1st. We are saying, you should file it now.

Sandy Block: That's right. The FAFSA is just basically the backbone of all federal, state, any kind of aid that you want to apply for you need. There is a troubling percentage of people who never bother either because they think it's too complicated or they think they won't get any financial aid. Now as Ryan said, for the 2021 academic year, you have it actually until June 30th to file the FAFSA. But, a lot of schools award aid on a "first-come, first-serve basis," so the sooner you file, the better chance you have at some of that money.

Ryan Ermey: The deadlines and the rules for this have shifted over the past couple of years. And a lot of people haven't taken notice either because they're like you and me and they don't have kids and who cares, or maybe they had a kid who went to college a few years ago and there was a gap or something like that. So, for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, you use tax information from 2018.

Sandy Block: Right.

Ryan Ermey: Your 2018 income and tax information, which is nice because you already have all of that at your disposal.

Sandy Block: Right. You don't have to wait until April to file.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: Your FASFA, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: The only drawback with that is that perhaps your financial situation has changed since 2018, but if you've stopped working or had other kind of changes, you should just contact the financial aid offices at the schools where you're applying, explain the change. There is an appeals process you can file. You can have your file reviewed with new information. So, that's no reason not to file.

Ryan Ermey: A lot of this aid, as you mentioned, is dealt with on a "first-come, first-serve" basis and a lot of people who say, make a lot of money who don't think their kid is going to get financial aid don't bother filing the FAFSA, but we think they should.

Sandy Block: Yeah. Your child might qualify for merit aid from the state or from some other institution. The other big reason you should file the FAFSA is because you can't get a federal student loan unless you file a FAFSA.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: A lot of people for money management reasons, maybe by the time your child gets to school you decide, we don't have enough money. You're not going to get those federal student loans unless you filed the FAFSA. So yes, it's a pain. Yes, it's cumbersome. The Department of Education is constantly trying to make it less onerous, less complicated. Go in there for yourself and decide, but is definitely worth your time if you have a child going to college.

Sandy Block: Get in the system because once you get in the system you can update it every year. Your situation might change. You might find that you do need loans or grants or something like that. So, it's just really the basis for paying for college and something that should not be overlooked.

Ryan Ermey: You're going to want to go to (opens in new tab) and it is especially confusing because a lot of people say FASFA, and commute a couple of letters in there.

Ryan Ermey: You and your kid are both going to need to get federal student aid IDs and you should see the Department of Education's student aid site (opens in new tab) for more information about creating that ID. There will be more steps to take. You can just go to the Filling Out the FAFSA Form (opens in new tab) information page on that website. We will put that up in the show notes.

Ryan Ermey: The only other thing I wanted to mention in terms of applying early is that the FAFSA will ask you to list up to 10 colleges that your child or you, maybe you're a-

Sandy Block: Yeah, you might be doing this, sorry.

Ryan Ermey: Maybe you're a 18-year-old person listening to podcasts.

Sandy Block: Welcome.

Ryan Ermey: And in that case, it would be good for you, really getting a jumpstart on the old financial literacy, which I didn't get until well after college.

Ryan Ermey: It'll ask you to list up to 10 colleges when you submit the form. It may be that you haven't decided, or your child hasn't decided, or no one's decided where you're going to be applying yet, but you don't have to make a decision before you hand in the forms. You can list some of the schools that you're considering and then go back and log-on to your account at to make changes to the list, so it's one of these things to get on ASAP.

Ryan Ermey: Listen to the rest of the show here first, but as soon as it's over and you've left a rating and a review and you've subscribed to the show, then go log on to Get the party started and you'll really be setting yourself up financially to pay for college in a bunch of different ways.

Ryan Ermey: Should you use a competing offer as leverage with your employer? The answer from

Alison Green: may surprise you. Stay tuned.

Sandy Block: We are back and we're here with Alison Green who is the titular manager of the popular workplace advice blog "Ask a Manager." Alison, thank you so much for coming on.

Alison Green: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Ermey: The end of the year is a very popular time when a lot of people might be having workplace evaluations and I think it's generally when people start thinking about asking for a raise. Is the end of the year actually the best time to ask for a raise? And if not, when is the best time?

Alison Green: It is a good time. If you're doing end-of-year performance evaluations, you can tie it to that. I will say that ideally it's smart to initiate the conversation with your boss at least a month or two before that process begins, if you can because sometimes if you wait until the very end of the year decisions on raises and budgets might've already been set and it might be harder for your boss to get changes made.

Alison Green: But if you haven't, if you've missed out on the ability to do that, that's not a reason to not bring it up now. This is still a very good time to do it. And really, if it's been a year or more since your salary was last set and you've been doing good work in that time, you can ask for a raise.

Sandy Block: Alison, I think this would apply to me and a lot of women, we aren't very good at asking for a raise. So, if you are intent on doing it, what ammunition should you have to sort of steel yourself to make this request and do you always need a competing offer?

Alison Green: Ah, good questions. Okay, so the biggest thing I think is know that it is normal. That I think a lot of people, women in particular feel like, they just feel weird about it. It's awkward and it feels anxiety-producing and they feel like maybe it's going to seem overly entitled. It is a completely normal part of having a job. People ask for raises. Your colleagues are out there asking for raises. Don't be freaked out by it.

Alison Green: But as far as specific ammunition, I think one thing is you want to know what the market rate is for your work, so that you can make sure that what you're asking for makes sense in that context, and so that you know how to calibrate the requests that you're making.

Alison Green: And then you just want to spend some time reflecting on the work that you've been doing since the last time your salary was set, which might be a year ago. It might be longer. Think about your achievements during that period and the impact that you've had on your team and on your organization. Think about what positive feedback you've received and what results you've gotten that you're proud of and where you've had the biggest impact.

Alison Green: I think people who find this tricky, sometimes it can be easier to pretend that you are your manager and ask, what about your performance would really impress you, if you were your boss. Or, why should your boss be upset to lose you if you left? Your argument for a raise might be in there.

Ryan Ermey: You talk about knowing the going market rate for your position. How might you go about figuring that out? How does someone decide how much they should ask for? Because I know an anxiety of mine has been, am I asking for too much? Is it going to be an insult or something?

Sandy Block: Or they laugh at you.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah.

Sandy Block: Right.

Alison Green: Right, right.

Sandy Block: Are you out of your mind?

Alison Green: It's actually, I think really hard. In some ways, I think this is maybe the hardest part about doing it because there isn't a very straightforward way to know what the market rate is. I mean there is these online salary websites, but they're not always accurate at the individual level because you look up a job title and it can mean very different things from company to company.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Alison Green: So those sites can be a good starting point, but I wouldn't treat them as the final word and instead look at them as giving you a very rough range. The better way to do it, I have found, is actually just by talking to people who work in your field. I mean you probably don't want to ask outright what do you earn because people are often very private about that, but you can ask questions like what would you expect a job like X at a company like Y to pay? People who work in your field are often very willing to weigh in on that.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Alison Green: They're going to have the knowledge of their own salaries and other salaries they might know about to inform what they say to you. You can also try talking to recruiters in your field, or if there is a professional organization in your field, they'll often do salary surveys, but really sometimes just talking to people will get you the best calibrated information.

Alison Green: And then if you realize, ooh, it seems like I'm already at the top of the market, maybe you want to factor that into your thinking about what's reasonable. But, more often what happens, at least according to the mail that I get, is people find out they're underpaid.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah.

Alison Green: That's very useful to know.

Sandy Block: Yeah, that's been my experience when I've talked to people and found out how much they've made and I'll say, "Oh my goodness, really?" But, another reason I think a lot of people, women in particular, are afraid to ask for a raise is they're afraid that the boss will say, sorry, there is no money here. We just can't give you a raise. What do you do in that case?

Alison Green: Yeah, and that might happen. I think you want to be prepared for that going in, so that you don't just sort of skulk off.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: Early day.

Alison Green: Right. So I think if the answer is no because they don't think that you have earned it, that's one thing and you'd want to ask "what would I need to do to earn a raise in the future?" A good manager will be able to talk to you about what a path to getting a raise in the future would look like. But if it's more that they say they'd really like to be able to give you a raise but they can't because of the budget, there might at that point room to ask for something else, like additional vacation time or maybe you'd like to be able to work from home once a week or whatever else would have value to you. If your manager is sitting across from that desk telling you, "I'd love to be able to do this, I just can't," let's take them up on doing something else.

Ryan Ermey: Right. Now, I know a lot... not every job is the same and it's going to probably look different for different people. But, is there just a general playbook when it comes to steps A, B and C if I'm going to ask for a raise? I certainly don't want to kick my supervisor's door in and start making demands. What's the general playbook, or script, or what have you, for someone who is trying to work up the courage to ask for that raise?

Alison Green: Yeah, so if you have a regular standing weekly check-in meeting with your boss, you can do it there. If you don't, you can say, hey, I've got something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a couple of minutes where I could sit down and talk with you sometime this week?

Alison Green: This is the big thing actually that I think people don't know about asking for a raise and it would be so much less anxiety-producing if people did realize that, it's that it doesn't have to be this big detailed presentation. When people picture asking for a raise, I think they think, they've got to go in there with a PowerPoint, with slides that go over all their accomplishments and metrics. In most companies, you don't need to do that. There is probably some out there where you do, but for most people it can be a lot less than that.

Alison Green: I mean you do want to touch on why you think you've earned the raise, but you don't need pages of notes in a formal presentation. Most of the time, you need a few sentences about the work that you've been doing. So, you could say something like, hey, I'm hoping that we could talk about my salary. It's been two years since my last raise and in that time I've taken on a lot of new responsibilities like X and Y and I know you've been happy with the results that I've gotten with Z, and I'd like to ask for an increase to my salary that reflects that. And that's it. You can say that and can stop, and 99% of the time that's enough. I'm not saying it's enough to get a yes, but that's a raise request.

Alison Green: Your boss might come back and say, you know, I might be able to do it, but I've got to make the case to people above me. Can you give me some ammunition that I can use? And so in that case, it can be helpful to have a page of bullet points that you can hand to them. But you don't need to start with that.

Ryan Ermey: Should you give a number?

Alison Green: You don't have to. If you have a number in mind, it's good to say it. I was hoping that we could raise me up to X dollars. But, a lot of times people don't know what to ask for, or they're afraid that if they name a number, it'll actually be lower than what they could have gotten.

Ryan Ermey: Right, yeah.

Alison Green: So, they're nervous about doing it, so you don't. It's actually okay to say, I'd like to ask for an increase to my salary and hear what they come back with.

Sandy Block: What about, we do have a very, very low unemployment rate. People often are recruited. Should you mention that there are other companies that interested you, that you might have even received a competing offer, or is that a turn off to managers?

Alison Green: It's usually a turnoff. I wouldn't recommend using a competing offer for a couple of reasons. One, whenever you ask for a raise, the subtext is I might be unhappy and leave if I don't get it. You don't need to spell it out. Any savvy manager is going to understand that, that's the subtext. The thing about coming and saying, I have another offer and using that as leverage is first of all, there is a risk that you might hear, well, we can't match that.

Sandy Block: Sorry, see you.

Alison Green: Right.

Sandy Block: Good luck.

Alison Green: So, you don't want to bluff with it. But also, if you're thinking about using it as a bargaining chip, you're usually better off just trying to negotiate for a raise on your own merits and then being willing to move on if you don't get it because the thing about counter offers is that employers often make them because they're panicking about losing you at an inconvenient time. So, they make a counter offer, so they can keep you and then the panic subsides once they have kept you. Sometimes the relationship is fundamentally changed and now you're the person who was looking to leave and you might be seen as more dispensable if your company needs to make cuts in the future. Are they going to think, oh well, Jane already had one foot out the door. We might as well put her on this layoff list?

Alison Green: The other thing people don't think about is it can even make it harder to get raises in the future after that because the next time you ask for a raise, your boss might say, well, we just gave you that big raise when you were thinking about leaving. So, there are some fields where using counter offers is a normal thing to do, but you just want to be very sure that you are in one of those fields before doing it.

Ryan Ermey: Well listen, Alison, all fantastic advice. I've been a diligent reader of your website for a long time, but for people who might not be familiar, where can the listeners find all of the stuff you're working on?

Alison Green: I write every day at And I have a book called Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch Stealing Bosses and the Rest of Your Life at Work (opens in new tab).

Ryan Ermey: Alright, well fantastic. Make sure to go and check it out. Alison, thank you again so much for coming on.

Alison Green: Thanks for having me.

Ryan Ermey: What do $3,000 exercise bikes and greeting cards that turn into sponges have in common? They both feature in our next segment. Wild Pitches is next.

Ryan Ermey: We're back. Before we go, it's Sandy's and my favorite segment, Wild Pitches, more tales from our most off the wall PR pitches. And mine is, I guess pegged to the holidays. I'm not going to blow up the company's spot as is our policy here, but it is a greeting card that transforms into a reusable cleaning cloth when wet. Each of them purportedly replaces 3000 paper towels.

Sandy Block: That's like 10 rolls.

Ryan Ermey: 3,000 paper towels, I guess, I don't know if it's a year. In general, one of these greeting cards is worth 3,000 paper towels. It would save 20 billion rolls of paper towels in 12 months. What, if everyone had one? Yes, if each household bought just one.

Sandy Block: A greeting card.

Ryan Ermey: Okay, so a couple of problems. I hope it's true. I hope that it really is reusable. They're saying, well, we throw out all of our greeting cards. It's like, well are you going to want to keep it around after you've been scrubbing your tiles with it, your card from Nana? I don't know. It's a strange idea. If you're into it, by all means go look it up. But, I have some more practical holiday advice when it comes to greeting cards.

Sandy Block: Because you are the gift-giving greeting card king here, Ryan.

Ryan Ermey: I am. The first thing to do is don't buy the Hallmark expensive greeting cards. They're like eight bucks. It's crazy.

Sandy Block: Oh yeah, they're really expensive.

Ryan Ermey: Buy a bulk pack of blank ones. And if that even seems like too much, fold a piece of printer paper in half. The point is you don't need to spend an astronomical amount of money on it -- on some kind of extravagant gift, one that might be out of your budget -- if you go through the trouble to write an excellent card.

Ryan Ermey: So, what you do is instead of buying the card at the drug store and writing it on your dashboard in your mother's driveway this Christmas, which has been a past strategy of mine, set aside a couple hours, go down your list of all the people that you're buying for and write them all beautiful, heartfelt poetic cards better than the people at Hallmark can come up with. I assure you, because it's going to be personal it will make the value of your gift that much more even if it's not a monetary thing. I can tell you what, if you write a thoughtful card, your mother is not going to want to run it under the sink and scrub out the lasagna pan with it afterwards.

Sandy Block: Okay. Ready for...

Ryan Ermey: Oh, yeah.

Sandy Block: Alright. Well, mine, again, I won't name-check these folks because actually there are a lot of people jumping on this high-intensity interval training phase.

Ryan Ermey: Yes.

Sandy Block: And as Ryan has mentioned before, we are totally ripped.

Ryan Ermey: Yes, both of us.

Sandy Block: Yeah, we are totally ripped.

Ryan Ermey: Greeks gods.

Sandy Block: So, you're just going to have to take our word for it.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah.

Sandy Block: But this is the thing now, high-intensity interval training. There has been some actual very interesting scientific studies showing that the seven minute workout if you do it at a very high rate, can you give you the same benefits of being out there for a couple of hours, so granted.

Ryan Ermey: Sure.

Sandy Block: But, everybody is on this HIIT train now. We got a press release from a bicycle that says it will, it is a scientifically proven exercise bike that will get you fit in only 40 seconds.

Ryan Ermey: Hey.

Sandy Block: So, in the time that I said that you could be ripped... first of all, when you read further, it's not 40 seconds. This exercise regime is actually nine minutes, three times a week. The intervals themselves are 40 seconds. So, the headline is a little misleading.

Ryan Ermey: That still doesn't seem like very much.

Sandy Block: Well, but again, there have been some interesting studies showing that if you really work hard, you can actually get a good workout in a very short period of time. This particular exercise bike costs about $3,000.

Ryan Ermey: And that seems like a lot.

Sandy Block: That's even more than the Peloton bike, which is very trendy right now. It went public.

Ryan Ermey: That's right.

Sandy Block: They're riding this same craze. That if you work really hard, you don't have to... It sounds too good to be true. If you work really hard then you can just spend 10 minutes every other day and look like us.

Ryan Ermey: Like us.

Sandy Block: That's right. So here's the thing.

Ryan Ermey: Like "The Rock."

Sandy Block: Yeah, that's right. Let's accept that this is a real thing. That high intensity workouts really are effective. You don't need to spend $3,000 or even $1,000 to do that. There are a ton of free apps you can use. Even Peloton has a $19 a month subscription that you can use on your regular bike.

Ryan Ermey: Right.

Sandy Block: Or your own treadmill to sort of get the same. So, these high tech products that use artificial intelligence and motivators and all those things, that's all well and good, but if your goal is to get fit and adopt this new regime, you don't have to buy a very expensive bike or treadmill to do it. You can just run really hard up a hill.

Ryan Ermey: Yeah.

Sandy Block: And that will get you there for a whole lot less than $3,000.

Ryan Ermey: Well, and in all seriousness, you and I are both people who exercise very, very regularly. What I would say to anyone considering a $3,000 bike is, at least before you do that try, get in the habit of doing high-intensity interval training workouts. See how often you're actually going to do it. There is plenty of apps and free stuff. I mean there is an endless amount of free HIIT workouts online that you can do at home. Put a mat down, which, or a towel, I have to put a towel down because I'm going to sweat... all over the floor. But, if you're going to do burpees, or mountain climbers, or jumping jacks, or jump the rope, or whatever it is, make sure that this is something that you're going to do.

Ryan Ermey: I mean, how many people do we know and especially my... everyone's parents I knew growing up had a treadmill in the house with clothes hanging over it.

Sandy Block: Yep. Still, one in my parents' house, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: So, see if you're actually going to use something like this. Think about how much a gym membership costs. You can get on, into a gym that has exercise bikes and probably has some amount of spin classes.

Sandy Block: Some version of Peloton, yeah.

Ryan Ermey: I mean, even an expensive gym, let's call it $100 bucks a month, that's still going to be almost... it's still going to be two and a half.

Sandy Block: Right.

Ryan Ermey: ...before you've paid for that bike. And think about when was the last time you went to the gym consistently for two and a half years? So yeah, it's obviously around this time of year people are selling gift idea, big ticket gift ideas like this, or small ticket one's like greeting cards that you can wipe the sink out with. But, think about the practicality of these kind of things before you actually spend your hard earned money.

Ryan Ermey: That's it for this episode of Your Money's Worth. For show notes and more great Kiplinger content on the topics we discussed on today's show, visit You can stay connected with us on Twitter (opens in new tab), Facebook (opens in new tab) or by e-mailing us at (opens in new tab). And if you liked the show, please remember to rate, review and subscribe to Your Money's Worth wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

Ryan Ermey
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Ryan joined Kiplinger in the fall of 2013. He writes and fact-checks stories that appear in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and on He previously interned for the CBS Evening News investigative team and worked as a copy editor and features columnist at the GW Hatchet. He holds a BA in English and creative writing from George Washington University.