Q: Two years ago, I moved with my husband from a large metropolitan area, where I was making a competitive salary with annual cost-of-living raises, to a city with a much lower cost of living. I was able to keep my job and work remotely earning the same salary.
I have an opportunity for promotion to a position with more responsibility. I will be asking for more money, but I have a feeling they’ll say I’m already overpaid for my location. I’m curious what your take is on this.
A: My take is that you shouldn’t do your employer’s negotiating for them. They had the opportunity when you moved to cut your pay or say, “We’ll miss you, good luck” — but they decided it was worth it to them to keep paying you the same rate no matter where you’re doing the work.
And more responsibility merits more pay — but once you bring up changing your pay, your employer might reasonably use the opportunity to bring up geographic pay differentials.
Find a cost-of-living comparison calculator online, such as this one by staffing firm Robert Half. Figure out what raise you could expect if you were still in Bigbucksville, apply the cost-of-living rate to find out the equivalent salary in the city of Cheapsborough, and that gives you a reasonable negotiating range.
You can always decline the promotion if the raise isn’t worth it to you, and the employer can promote someone else if your price isn’t worth it to them. Either way, you’re no worse off than you were before negotiations.