Many Who Earn Over $100,000 Think They’re Underpaid

Do you feel like you’re getting paid enough for your job? Many people don’t, even those earning three-figure salaries. A new survey by U.S. staffing firm Robert Half found that 46 percent of people feel underpaid, including 37 percent of workers who earn more than $100,000.

Considering that the median household income in the United States is $59,039 ($70,300 in Canada), should these people really be complaining?

According to Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, some companies are not staying on top of salary expectations: “Some firms have not kept up with shifts in market demand and continue to use old job classifications and salary bands. If your organization has not reviewed its compensation plan within the last six months, it could be outdated.”

Steve Saah, executive director of finance and accounting for Robert Half, told MONEY that it’s natural for people to think they deserve more money than they earn. Unemployment is currently low, particularly in fields such as finance and law. As a result, employees believe companies should be willing to pay talent a good salary.

“A lot of people are getting opportunities put in front of them, whether that’s advertising from organizations, seeing jobs posted, or getting calls from recruiters,” Saah noted. “There’s a natural feeling that a person can go out and get a higher-paying job if they choose to.”

Meanwhile, those who earn six figures tend to live in pricey areas like San Francisco, which caters to employees who work at Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook. Rent, on average, is $3,500 a month. It’s more difficult to stretch income for living expenses and child care in these kinds of cities.

“It’s not the same as making 100 grand in a smaller city with a different quality of living,” Saah says. “That six-figure income, while on paper it looks fantastic, may not necessarily translate into what they might expect their standard of living might be.”

McDonald cautions companies not to focus solely on high compensation to motivate employees. “Professionals earning a healthy salary may still feel undervalued or underappreciated for their contributions,” he explained. “Pay alone does not guarantee employee satisfaction or happiness. Organizations need to offer solid benefits, perks and incentives, along with a positive corporate culture, to attract and retain top performers.”

Forty-nine percent of professionals surveyed believe they were paid fairly, and the remaining five percent admitted to feeling overpaid. Robert Half surveyed more than 2,800 workers in 28 U.S. markets.

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