So back in December before we left the cold and the snow of Pittsburgh family of five bundled up headed to our rec center for a needed evening of exercise and some basketball and we hadn’t been out to eat in awhile and the fridge was a little empty and we said let’s just grab something out tonight. And our oldest son’s favorite burger is from Five Guys and I love a good burger and I have to say I agree with him. It is one of the best burgers in the quote unquote fast food world that you’re going to find. And I don’t really consider that fast food nearly as much cause I think the quality is just higher. It’s a little unpaid plug for Five Guys burgers there. As we were driving, we had the radio on, it was abnormally quiet moment in our car. Our car is generally loud.
We have three boys who enjoy talking as much as their dad does and my poor wife Elizabeth has to endure it. But there was actually silence as we were driving. And before you give me a hard time about going to the gym and then going to Five Guys, I totally get the irony, but in the silence the radio was on and the DJ asked if we’d gotten a raise this year and I nodded quickly that we had even the no person or company gave it to us. Our clients had. I thought about the fact that I haven’t been employed for 12 years, so I haven’t thought about or asked for a raise for over a decade. After he asked that question, he said, well, if you have, I’m jealous because I didn’t get a raise and neither did 50% of Americans. And I was like, what? How could 50% of Americans not get a raise?
So even though the unemployment rate is it the lowest that it’s been in 50 years, half of Americans with jobs did not get a raise. And I’m so far removed from that world of having to wait for somebody else to give me approval to make more money that I guess it surprised me more than it probably should have. And I went home and I did a lot more research about it. And it’s even worse for people that make less money because if you earn more than $50,000 at a job, 55% of them did get a raise. What’s interesting is nearly two thirds of workers making $30,000 or less did not get a raise in 2019 and these stats are from bankrate.com and as I heard, this is honestly brought back truly awful memories for myself cause I clearly remember that day, that day and my boss’s office when I got my annual review as a photographer for the Korean president Evansville.
And even though I just won a series of awards and I had busted my butt for the entire year and not only make the best pictures possible, but to do the best we possibly could for the newspaper. And on top of that, we were a month away from having our first child who’s now 14 years old and walking into that office and getting that review and hearing that I was only getting a 3% raise and that day clearly set the path for where we’re at right now because if they would have even just thrown me a little bit of a bone, if they would’ve given me the 10% raise, like everybody said that I was going to get because of the action that I had taken, the work that we’d done, and they had said, you know, when you have a kid, they bump up your pay a little bit.
I was hoping for 10% get me to 42,000 instead of 32,000 and I’ll a happy little soldier and do whatever you need me to do. But the bean counters thought otherwise they didn’t look at how much effort I was putting into it. They didn’t see how much I cared about making the newspaper successful. They saw me as a number and that day led to me leaving a few years later now I didn’t quit right away cause I wasn’t stupid, I didn’t have any money in the bank. Elizabeth was about to give birth. I wanted to be home with our son and at the same time I hadn’t built anything. So where was I going to go where I got paid any more money. So it was probably one of the scariest moments of my adult life because for the first time I didn’t feel like I had either security or options.
And what I started to realize that day was I valued options way more than security. And I realized that day that I had very few options and I think this is where a lot of employees find themselves. I think if you look at those stats and the people making that amount of money that are not getting raises, if they feel anything, like I felt that June afternoon and Evansville where I was basically told this is what you’re going to get paid and there’s really nothing you can do about it. It quite literally forced me to either accept that this is the way it’s going to be for the next 15 to 20 years or I’ve got to get really uncomfortable and I’ve got to go do and learn some things that I didn’t know. I can truly say that there’s many different acts to life. As the curtain comes down on one act, it goes up on a different one and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that that day the curtain came down on one of the acts in my life because if I accepted that 3% raise, if I said that this is all that I’m going to have and this is all that I’m worth, then it’s really probably never going to get better, and it wasn’t the money that scared me, even though it did scare me, but it wasn’t the money that scared me as much as the lack of options.
It hit me that afternoon that I’m going to have to take whatever raise the Courier & Press gives me or being in the newspaper world, I’m going to have to uproot my entire family to a different city just because they’re going to be able to pay more money. And I went home. I’ve told the story on podcasts many times, but I’ll share it here. And I called my dad to see if I could work for him. And he said, no, and you won’t have to tell me something that changed my life. He told me that I’m accepting security. That was one of the takeaways, but another big one is really shaped the way that I think and the way I want to teach my kids is he told me, you’ve got a skill, but you’re not using it correctly. And as you can tell, I’m stubborn. And for years I didn’t listen, and I’m sure he said it to me before, but this is the first time it hit home.
He said, you’re settling for $32,000 and benefits and there’s nothing quite as demoralizing as when your own parent tells you that you’re settling. And he said it and he was so clear and confident. You can go shoot whatever you want. You could shoot weddings, you could shoot commercial work, you could do headshots, you could do pro sports. You could do whatever you want and make as much as you want and have more control over your time, but you decided to settle. I can tell you flat out my life has not been the same since I hung up that phone. So if you are one of the 50% that did not get a raise this year and you’re worried and you’re scared and you don’t have options, I want you to know that you’re settling. You’re settling not only in the work that you’re doing, but you’re settling in the skills that you’re acquiring.
If you have time to watch television or to mindlessly scroll the internet or play video games or the binge, Netflix or YouTube, you’re settling. You are settling for what they’re willing to pay you. Because if you don’t have a skill yet that you can take and build a business from and control your time and control your money, then this is when you got to go build it. Because it’s quite obvious by these numbers that your boss won’t feel the effect unless you leave. And my bosses from the newspaper are long gone. But I can tell you that if I stayed at that newspaper, we would have done everything we could to make the newspaper a more successful place, whether it’s through photographs or collaboration or ideas or something. Elizabeth and I cared, but their lack of care for us essentially forced us to not settle anymore. And I do not want that for you. So I’ve only got two questions. One, are you settling? And two, more importantly, what are you going to do about it? I want you to think on that. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.