Your Low Salary Isn’t Really Your Fault

by Ron Haynes

You show up. You work hard. Yet, you still have a low salary and you can’t make ends meet. It has nothing to do with your own abilities (or lack of them), it has nothing to do with your people skills (or lack of them), it has nothing to do with your education (or lack of it), and it has nothing to do with your spending habits (or lack of them), and it has nothing to do with your personal drive to make extra money. No, the whole world is against you and there are just some barriers to opportunity and higher salary that you cannot overcome. And you just don’t understand why your job doesn’t pay well.

Maybe its that you’re not a left handed man. According to a couple of university studies, left handed men receive a salary premium that isn’t paid to right handed men. Researchers apparently found no wage difference between left-handed and right-handed women, but left-handed men with some college education average about 13 percent more than right-handed men. Lefty males who are college graduates average as much as 20 percent more than their right-handed co-workers.

If you’re already left handed, maybe you’re just not tall enough. Studies show that taller people make more money.

But let’s just say you’re 6 ft 4 inches, AND left handed, yet you’re still making a pittance of a salary. Are you married? Hmm. A recent article by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank says that married men make more money than those free-wheelin’ guys who have never been married. First, why is the Federal Reserve studying this? < cue the crickets > Oh well, they theorize that employers may have a favorable bias for stability and marriage signifies that men are stable and responsible. Umm, yeah. Could it be that marriage frees men up to focus on work, rather than on household tasks? Nah. If you ask me, the most likely reason would be that the qualities that appeal to an employer are similar to those that appeal to a potential spouse. You know, like a good work ethic, education, and (gasp!) appearance.

Okay, so you’re tall, left handed, married, and you still have a problem getting a high paying job? Well, maybe you should take up drinking. Drinkers, according to a a libertarian think tank, make more than nondrinkers.

So, if you’re a tall, left handed, married, social drinker, but you still rank way low on the wage scale, what else could be tilted against you? Wait, you aren’t in Christian ministry are you? (Maybe you’re a “secret” social drinker?) Men in Christian ministry will find they make less than females. A survey by Christian Today International found that women in full-time solo pastor positions report 10.4 percent higher compensation than men.

Or, could it be that you just don’t work enough? Two MSN-Zogby polls indicate a direct correlation between higher household incomes and the tendency to put in longer work weeks. Ooo, that one hurts doesn’t it?

With all the emphasis on “working smarter, not harder,” there is still some value to putting in the time necessary to become the best in your field, your company, or your department. Time at the job doesn’t always equate to higher salary, but it’s hard to argue that being the last to arrive, the first to leave, and never volunteering for any new projects is a sure path to success.

The REAL reason you have a low salary is that you aren’t making enough of a difference.

True wealth comes from the difference that one person, one department, one company makes. If you make a positive, valuable difference in everything you do, with every person who comes in contact with you, in every project you undertake, the salary will come. Creating a positive difference creates a void in your financial life that WILL be filled.

So go out there and make a difference.

[tags]compensation, educate, education, employer, graduate, income, job, jobs, marriage, men, money, pay, payroll, paycheck, low paycheck, position, premium, salary, women, work, how to overcome a low salary, low salary, why do I have a low salary, unfair paycheck, unfair payroll practices[/tags]

NOTE: This article was included in The Carnival of Personal Finance #170 at The Personal Financier. Thanks!

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Andy Wood

Nailed it! Excellent – one of your best, in my humble opinion.

Love the light sarcasm, too.


#Andy Wood→
Thanks! Glad you liked it. It’s ridiculous how many people seek reasons for their lack of advancement in because of external factors, rather than turning the microscope on themselves and truly asking how they add value and make a difference.


While I agree that hard work/adding value is a sure path to higher compensation for most people, I can’t help but wonder about a particular group that statistically earns more…mediocre middle relievers in Major League Baseball – tall male lefties doomed to mop up duty, ERAs over 4 and multimillion dollar salaries. Where is the value here? They have to be skewing the findings!


Isn’t THAT the truth!
Thanks for waking me up this Monday morning with a laugh!

Frugal Dad

As an overweight righty I appreciate the excuses. Helps divert attention from the fact that I am at times a procrastinating mal-content who knows much more than his boss. Good thing I’m tall (and married), or I’d be in the poorhouse!

Excellent post!


I think you’re wrong. I make a difference to the bottom line of the company I work for, I’m competent and hard working, and yet I’m still underpaid.

The real problem, I’m short I should have advertised it more.


It is truly amazing how many excuses exist for a low income. Apparently, I don’t have much going for me. I’m male, right-handed and just under 6-foot tall. Thankfully, I’m married and have an occassional beer. Whew! Otherwise, I might be in the poor house. :wink:


Gosh, thanks for the condescension. I’ve burnt myself out at my corporate monolith, maintaining 100%+++ quality, increasing my numbers, earning promotions, volunteering for Six Sigma and special improvement teams (that came up with nationally recognized ideas for improvement), and using my own time, funds, and resources to create special presentations and programs to better my company.

Each year, our company puts out a statement announcing to the grunts how much more they’ve earned in revenue and converted customers. Each year, in the exact same statement, they announce that although we’ve done well and increased revenue, the economy has been very tight and we shouldn’t expect any sort of major raises (this has been going on for 7 years).

Each year at review time I receive a 3% or 4% raise (depending on which number is the latest “highest” end of the raise percentage) because my work has been “exceptional”. Oh, and yes, on special days we get little cardboard desk calendars with motivational statements printed on them.

But you’ve shown me the way! This whole time I haven’t been contributing enough! I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, but they need my entire face!

Why are employee turnover rates currently so high? Why are so many people trying to start their own businesses these days? I’m still idealistic enough to know that individuals focusing on constant improvement can make a difference, and that there is such thing as the law of attraction. But I’ve grown cynical enough to know that corporations usually don’t pay their employees what they’re worth, regardless of whether that employee is a valuable asset or not.

And all the motivational happy talk and regurgitations of The Secret won’t change that. I usually enjoy your column, but this time you’re way off the mark.


I assure you I meant no condescension, except to all the “study conductors” who think the way to a higher salary is to be a tall, married, left-handed male who puts in 100 hour weeks in something other than the ministry.

I haven’t read The Secret and don’t plan to and I’m not into “motivational happy talk” but I do believe the way we think has an effect on our actions.

I’m sorry I disappointed you with my article. Maybe today’s will be better?


Blakeney, if you are providing that much value to your company, you are either already paid at the maximum level your position will support (doubtful by your commentary), or you are underpaid.

As you well know, someone who has lead a nationally recognized Six Sigma or process improvement team has highly desirable and marketable skills in logistics and manufacturing environments – either as an employee or as an independent consultant.

Addressing your assertion that, “corporations usually don’t pay their employees what they’re worth, regardless of whether that employee is a valuable asset or not.”

If you are as qualified as you say and remain underpaid, it is because you have not left for a higher paying position. If there are no higher paying positions in your area, there are higher paying positions elsewhere. Whether you choose to relocate is a personal decision you and your family have to make, but the jobs are there for those with the skills.

If you like your company, like your job, have no desire to leave for another company, then you are in the right place. If you are unhappy, it isn’t because you aren’t contributing enough, it’s because you’ve put up with it so long and don’t think you have a choice. You always have a choice.

Scott @ The Passive Dad

Well, I’m 6 feet tall but golf right handed. Maybe I should start practicing golf in the mirror like Phil Mickelson, become a lefty and my game would improve by 30 strokes. I guess I better tell my wife I’m joining the PGA tour.


I found your site through the personalfinancier and it’s got me making some small changes.

My low salary isn’t because I’m not making a difference. It’s the structure of the company and the job itself doesn’t offer room to grow. I’ve taken more than enough coursework and proved my value but entering data/building databases isn’t exactly a job that comes with salary increases or bonuses. I’m not resting on my laurels or giving up. I’m aggressively job hunting, going to seminars and learning about topics to increase my knowledge. I’m also making a name for myself in the industry by bringing innovation ideas and tools to advance our way of working.


You go girl! You are a breath of fresh air. I have no doubt that you will succeed because I can read it in your words and your attitude. Thanks for a great comment

Simple Sapien

Just got referred here from your best of the month post. Great article here! Most of the time at my job I am just trying to get it done right, show up on time, and not make anyone angry. I hardly ever take the time to think about how I could make a difference or improve the company. Maybe that is why I make so little. Thanks!

- Jack Rugile
Simple Sapien

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