How Todd made $13,000 in 5 months, doubled his salary, and turned down a $25,000 raise

Ramit Sethi

Todd exemplifies everything about I Will Teach You To Be Rich — focusing on the big wins, negotiating a raise from his ordinary salary (see chapter 9 of my book), and always looking for a creative solution to earning more while others complain.

Check out how he earned more than $13,000 in 5 months (and turned down $25,000 during the same time). I’ve bolded my favorite parts.

Hi Ramit,

I feel like I’ve known you for a long time. I’ve been reading your blog since the middle of last year… and ever since, I’ve really had my financial life turned around.

It sounds dramatic, but honestly, my entire outlook on life has changed. A small bit of history before I get to the really juicy stuff.

I worked at a company for 10 years – ever since I finished college. After 10 years, I was only making about 55k/year.

Most of it was my fault – I was always comfortable with my salary since I lived with my parents and I felt a sort of loyalty to the company that took me in when I was really down on my luck. Once I got married and moved into a house… that changed.

I worked my ass off – especially the last couple of years I was there. The final couple of years of my employment, I spent at least 10 hours a day doing whatever I could to learn more about the industry I was in. I took the company up on all offers to send me to formal Oracle training. I took advantage of opportunities to learn new software products, and take on as many responsibilities as I could. When I was diagnosed with cancer (Lymphoma), I didn’t quit my job or anything else… I worked harder. I felt that if I focused my mind on something positive that it would help me beat the cancer, which it did. (today I’m cancer free, by the way!)

However, it didn’t pay me what I was worth – at least not in my view, my coworkers view, or any of my clients’ views, and definitely not in my wife’s view (the fact I could barely pay the bills despite working 10-14 hours a day really strained our marriage). Once I beat cancer, I found your blog. I spent a while just reading it and considering the various advice you gave, etc. Meanwhile, I was getting deeper and deeper in debt.

The big thing that changed my life was realizing that one should not “spend less than you earn” but “earn more than you spend”. That right there changed my life!

Immediately I asked for a raise. I was promised a 25% raise – which never came after several months. I would followup every 2 weeks (when I got paid) and I would keep getting stonewalled – one excuse after another. Finally, I stopped asking. I took the initiative to update my CV and asked some colleagues to review it. One of them, a lady I now work with, saw it and her jaw dropped. She forwarded it to a manager at her company and a few weeks later I had a job offer.

I put in my 2 weeks notice – and immediately the company freaked out. The vice president of the division made a special visit to my office and offered me not 25%, but 25 THOUSAND to stay. I was tempted, but the new job was too tempting.

I declined and moved on. In a matter of days I more than doubled my salary, all because I started reading your blog.

Now the juicy stuff!

Since then (October 2008), I’ve reduced my non-mortgage debt by more than $10,000 and increased my savings from a big fat $0 to over $3000. I’ve also increased my credit score by over 100 points. Oh! Another benefit? The company I used to work for now pays me $65/hr to do consulting work on the side… more than double what they used to pay me full time. In fact, I did 2.5 hours of work for them tonight as a side job (thanks again to your tips)! DO NOT BURN YOUR BRIDGES! 🙂

Honestly most of the things you preach SHOULD be common sense… but the fact of the matter is that most people don’t THINK that way. The sooner they do, the better off they will be.

This is a great kick in the ass for people who feel stuck at work. Note: Yes, in this economy it’s extremely difficult to negotiate your salary…but how else could you apply Todd’s principles to your own situation?

Note: In Chapter 9 of my book, I include a highly tactical script + multi-month plan to getting a raise at your current job.

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  1. Lauren @ LifeStyler

    Whoa — this is pretty amazing and inspiring.

    I always wonder if it’s ever a good idea to work for the same company for 10 years or more, since it seems that many companies tend to not adequately give raises to employees once they get them in the door. Do you think it’s a better idea to consistently look for new positions every five years or so to get the best possible salary?

  2. Dom

    That’s awesome Todd! 🙂

    Very inspiring story

  3. Baker @ ManVsDebt

    Great inspirational story!

    It seems like you both “Earned more than you spent” and “Spent less than you earned” to get where you are. To me that’s the best of both worlds!

    Rock On!

  4. Jeremy

    If money is your sole motivator, then shifting jobs every few years to adjust your income to match your skills is worth it. However, there’s too many confounding factors to simply say, “Yes, quit your job, get another”.

    It depends on your predilection to becoming management, how much institutional knowledge you carry, job inventory in your geographic area and skillset, how you want your resume to look, and how much you like your company, among other factors.

  5. Jeff Kuo

    Man quits old job, doubles salary, gets out of debt and beats cancer??

    Best story ever and DUGG.

  6. Rohan


    As someone who is right out of school, what advise do you have with regard to changing jobs?
    With real estate being one of the biggest “tax savers and investment” right now, is it still recommended for someone my age to go in for a house that costs $150k (I live in CT)?

  7. Jonathan Man

    Very motivational! Congrats!

  8. Jeff

    Great article. Hits home a bit with me, I am in a position that I love working for a Company that is struggling. Half of me wants to just move on and find the money I know I deserve, but the other half of me wants to stay, since I have a 5 minute commute, flexible hours, I can work from home if kids are sick, and if something comes up at the last minute, my boss is very nice about letting me take off when I need it. Due to economy, I didnt get a raise last year that I deserve and needed. I dont want to leave, but could use the raise. I make ends meet, but there is nothing left to save at the end of the day.

  9. justin

    im the same, feel loyalty to my company that gave me an outrageous opportunity when they didn’t have to. I am underpaid and have the bare minimum (and that’s being nice) health benefits and I always wonder if I should look for something better.

    I was just promoted and got a sizeable raise recently so I figure I’ll go year to year and see how it goes. However, if and when I do decide it is time to move on i will surely go to the head of the company who gave me this chance and voice my distress over leaving and give him eveyr opportunity to match what I am leaving for. I owe it to them. (plus maybe it will lead to some outrageously high consulting fees later by extending that courtesy lol)

  10. Ben

    Just some comments about whether it’s a good idea to stay in one company for 10 years…

    I used to own a company, and we recruited people from all sorts of backgrounds. I’d say that if you are aiming to work only in ‘big’ organisations, then 10 years at one place probably isn’t a major problem. However, smaller companies may be put off.

    We sometimes took on people who had worked in other places for long periods. Some worked out, some didn’t. Usually the people who worked out had a mix of experiences (in different size organisations) before their long stint.

    The people who were hardest to fit in were those who had only ever worked in one big organisation (ie gradute intake, and then stayed for 7-10 years). Their qualifications and experience were all top-notch, but the problem was that they were too fixed in the ways of the big org, and just couldn’t adjust to be as flexible as is needed in a smaller company. Of course this does vary, and is also down to each individual’s personality.

    If you are already in a long term employment and want to make yourself look more appealing to smaller companies, then I would suggest finding ways to demonstrate that you have enough flexibility to work in a smaller setup.

  11. Ramit's Blog Reader

    Congrats! Todd…keep it up…

  12. Micah

    Wow congrats Todd! I was in the same boat as you except I was in the military. I decided I could do better than and I did not reenlist. I put my resume out and now have a fantastic job (more than doubled my salary). I felt I was loyal to the military when they helped me in my time of need but there comes a time when you have to move on 🙂

  13. Kevin

    Improving his skills and updating CV paid for him..congrats Todd!!

  14. Nacole R.

    I’ve been following you for a year now, receiving your posts and this is the final thought that will lead me to purchase your book. I’ve heard tons and tons of success stories and so far I’ve saved a butt load with your help but I feel this book has tons more secrets. Thanks again for the book, the posts and helping this chick on unemployment somehow have savings and be on the road to being debt free. Who would have known it was possible living pay check to paycheck, that life isn’t one big daily grind… you can actually enjoy it adn save at the same time. I owe you my financial security.


    Great write up.. very inspiring to know that others are really getting benefitted out of this.. you are doing a great job.. keep it up..

  16. Sara

    Congratulations, Todd! Most of all in making work the positive outlet that kept your optimistic in beating cancer.

    Ramit, would you also address those of us who are contractors with a 1099?

  17. liv

    Wow, that’s hella awesome. You go!

  18. Matt

    Its nice to see a regular guy finding great success. Its also nice that someone like Ramit is handing out advice that is not promising some sort of get rich quick scam or live on noodles, rice and water so you can save a million dollars. I have a similiar attitude when it comes to money. People expect a magic bullet, there is not one. Just many common sense strategies that add up to a better life.

  19. S Patel

    Thats great Todd. Congrats!

  20. Bruce Ziebarth

    Thank you for sharing this story. Todd has illustrated how globalization and the United States move to a knowledge based society has returned power to the worker. If we are willing to go out, expand our knowledge, and deliver more than expected, we will be recognized. That recognition may not come from our current employer, however, it will be noticed by someone.

    Todd’s story also illustrates the need for companies to shift from the addage that “there is always someone needing a job”. That is true, especially now, there is always someone looking for a job. But, are they the best person for the job. Would the company not be better off to spend more money and time retaining effective employees than spending precious resources recruiting new ones?

    Here is a good example. I was recently speaking with a former General Manager of a Sebarros Pizza restaurant. He had at one time been over all Sebarros stores in North America. After two heart attacks decided that being on the road 300 days a year was too much and took a demotion. He had an interesting story about the cause of Sebarros current bankruptcy.

    He stated that after Sebarros went public the new CEO replaced a large number of upper management with his personal associates. Often, these new employees made more than the people who had held those positions for 20+ years. These extra expenditures were offset by hiring younger employees for general management positions within the stores.

    These new General Managers were not experienced in running a restaurant. They would not make higher ticket food items until they were ordered because they feared their food cost going up by throwing these items away. This particular store was in a high traffic mall. Customers did not have time nor did they want to wait. They would buy the lower ticket items that were readily available. While the number of customers actually increased the store’s revenue went from $21,000 a month to $9,000 a month in two years.

    This illustrates the falacies that are costing US businesses their good employees and even causing bankruptcy. Todd’s story illustrates how the american skilled worker can use these falacies to his advantage. I agree that you should not change jobs solely for money (unless you want to). However, it also is not a good idea to “go down with the ship” simply for comfort, nor can we wait till we are laid off or fed up with our current position to expand our personal knowledge.

  21. Man Makes $13k in 5 Months, Doubles Salary, and Turns Down $25k Raise « Bruce’s Money Rants

    […] Teach You To Be Rich recently published an article about an e-mail a reader had submitted entitled How Todd Made $15,000 in 5 months, doubled his salary, and turned down a $25,000 raise. Todd recounts how he took his employer up on every possible training opportunity, worked more […]

  22. Jennifer

    Todd, dude, you ROCK!!

    Congrats on your success! Your story is really motivational and meaningful.

  23. Omar

    Very inspiring. I’m happy for you bro. This definitely motivates me to continue to make moves to enhance and better my future. Outstanding post!!

  24. Lenny

    How can we verify the authenticity of “Todd” and his “Rags to Riches Beat Cancer, Doubled Wealth” Story ?????

  25. Srinivas Rao

    Great story. It makes us realize the economy is ripe with opportunity even though people are crying about how bad it is.

  26. Bruce’s Money Rants » Blog Archive » Man Makes $13k in 5 Months, Doubles Salary, and Turns Down $25k Raise

    […] Teach You To Be Rich recently published an article about an e-mail a reader had submitted entitled How Todd Made $15,000 in 5 months, doubled his salary, and turned down a $25,000 raise. Todd recounts how he took his employer up on every possible training opportunity, worked more […]

  27. Shingo

    That kicks ass!

  28. Jeannette

    Inspiring story! Thank You for sharing Todd and thank you for posting Ramit. Certainly a great motivator to live an incredible life on all levels. Love it!

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