How to figure out if you are underpaid at work- Experts

Salaries are a tricky thing to talk about and always shrouded by secrecy. Most times you do not know if a co-worker is being paid more than you, you sometimes  do not know how much your friend makes. So how are you supposed to know that you’re being paid the ‘right’ amount?

Here are a few tips recommended by experts on how to figure out if you are on the right salary scale.

  1. If you have been employed and for a few years you have not received consistent pay rises according to the industry standard, then highly likely you are being underpaid.  Consistent salary raises especially early in your career are key and make a big difference in future. Missing out on the increases like the annual pay rise may mean a loss of tens of thousands over the course of your career. You may not feel it now, but you will in future.


  • When you get promoted, experts advise that you ask for a salary package consistent with the market standards, and not accept the 2 or 5 per cent raise offered to you. And how do you know the market standard? Research, ask recruiters or headhunters on how much the position is worth. Also ask people on the position you are being promoted, the salary range the position attracts,  so you make sure you do not short change or under sell yourself . Have in mind that it is cheaper for the company to promote you that to hire and train a new person for that position.


  • You can also go out of your way and find recruiters or headhunters in your line of work as they are very aware of the salary and compensation packages in your industry considering the amount of people they place in jobs. You can get some of the headhunters in networking events and also having a suave LinkedIn profile.
  • Fun fact: You may contact a headhunters at a time when they are looking for someone like you and changing job is always a way of getting a pay bump.
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Extra work

  • Sometimes you find yourself being called often to do tasks that are out of your job description, or doing a colleague’s work who is probably on maternity leave. This happens a lot, over-performing and feeling the need and pressure to be a team player even when it leaves you tired and sometimes angry. Depending on your company’s culture, HR experts advise that you may ask for some compensation for the extra work or negotiate to delegate and spread out some of the extra work to colleagues.

So when you realise you are underpaid, how then do you approach your boss to ask for a raise?

There is no one way of asking for a pay increase, but with time, you will know which style works for you and the company you work for.

One of the tactics HR experts advise is to think about the negotiations from your employer’s perspective and so frame your request in a way that shows clearly how the firm will also benefit. You may say with a higher salary, it will be easy to entertain clients or buy them a decent lunch and this bring business. Or with a more senior tittle, you will get more respect in the industry and thus bring higher business

I also strongly encourage people to rehearse their ask. Grab a friend and have her play your boss. It helps to hear yourself out loud — and it decreases anxiety


People are underpaid all around the world. If you want that to change you need to work smarter, not harder and actually bring value to the company you work for. Thats how you can then negotiate a better wage.

What my mother taught me about money

My mother was a primary school teacher for 34 years. She retired in 2008, just as my little sister was sitting her final primary school exams. It was a beautifully timed curtain call to a passionate career.

She is now a farmer in our shagz in Kaplong.

She survives off her pension; it’s deposited to her account every month.

My mother didn’t earn much as a primary school teacher (any fool knows this as well as you and I do). The Teacher’s Service Commission is known for many things but not chunky pay cheques.


I once found of one of her payslips – I don’t remember how – and kept it in a shoebox where I keep other items of such sentimental value.

I see it for myself now. It’s in the little things, such as wanting to go buy myself a pair of shoes from Veteran House, then going in and leaving with shoes, sexy dresses and one of those pants in crazy prints and colours. Or getting a wax or pedicure. Or a pricey meal.

I also see it in the big things. Like when GB and I have a huge project to invest in as a couple, and I’m comfortably able to bring my own money to partly finance the project.


Back then they didn’t have the blessing of Internet or short courses on personal finance management. Yet my mother somehow learned to manage hers and the household’s money. She demystified it.

She began with the simple principle of budgeting. Of knowing how she’d spend her money before it fell into her hands.

Then when she came to teach in Nairobi, she had her ear to the ground. She picked up tips from the insurance salesmen who constantly knocked at her school’s doors.

She sponged from the mamas in the neighbourhood as they chatted loosely while undoing each others’ braids or deseeding peas and maize cobs, maybe hanging laundry.

She asked the right questions when Saccos became the next big thing after sewing machines. She queued longer in the banking hall so she could get the two cents on savings accounts.

It’s 2019 – we have the resources on the tips of our fingers to become self-taught money managers. If not, you know where to go to sit a class.

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I always knew it was my Ol’Man’s money that kept the family afloat. Monthly shopping, food, clothes, utility bills and whatnot were all settled from my Ol’Man’s sweat.

What I didn’t know – what my young eyes couldn’t see – was that my mother’s money was going into life savings and investing. Her personal mantra was ‘kula nusu, weka nusu’.

What stood out for me then, as it does now, isn’t the malnourished figures in there but what she’d been able to build to financial health with the little she made. That disconnect was as fascinating and it was inspiring.

She invested in land, chamas, money market funds, the stock market, insurance policies, a couple of small side-hustles that taxied on the runway but never got airborne (because of my Ol’Man. You must know how the fathers of that generation thought about side-hustles. At least mine did).

And she talked about money. She didn’t talk about it sooner than I’d have wanted but she talked about it anyway. That’s what counts. What counts even more is that she walked her talk.

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Here are five of those teachings she handed down to me:


My mother always said that as a woman, it’s important to have your own money in your pocket.

Having your own money earns you a degree of independence to call some shots in your own life. It also earns you a stronger voice, a respectable place on the table and dependability as a person.

And there’s no such thing as small money or big money. Money is money. Money makes things happen.


It’s when I got married that she told me how she managed the family money. It’s a practise I’ve brought into my own marriage.

What GB and I have is a refinement of my mother’s system.

Here’s how it works for us now: I know how much we spend on each and every item in the household. I know this because I have a detailed budget that’s structured in order of spending priority.

GB sends me X amount from his salary at the end of the month. It’s an amount we both agreed to based on household expenditure. I strictly use this money as I’ve budgeted for it. So I’ll settle the rent, utilities, Zuku internet, monthly and weekly food shopping, and send some money to our joint money market investment account.

Ideally, after doing all this running around, I should have nothing left from his money.

I use my salary for my personal savings, insurance policies (education, pension and life covers) and my personal expenses. My salary also finances my side-hustles, such as my online brand, Craft It.

I also have income from other side-hustles. I use this money to boost our savings and investment accounts. The idea for this is that, when we have a project, we’ll have some ready money in there.

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  1. Start, your partner will follow you

It’s a generally accepted principle that we women are better at managing money than men are. We spend it more, no doubt, but we manage it better. (There’s a bit of irony in there, don’t you think?)

As a couple, GB and I are better at managing our money because I became good at managing my own money. My mother told me this is how it would go.

So get this, I began saving with one of my Saccos when I got my first job in the Christmas of 2008. GB didn’t believe in Saccos. I don’t know how he thought of them, like maybe some financial black hole where our money was sucked into? I don’t know.

Anyway, life happened and it got to a point where the bank was no longer a viable option for his financing. And there was also the question of dividends he was missing out on. And when he asked around in his circles, he learned that he was the odd one out, the one not saving and investing in a Sacco.

So he signed up to his office Sacco. Then his church Sacco. Now he’s looking to join a third Sacco.