A Capitalist Solution: Why every worker in America should make $70,000

An op-ed by Dan Price featured in: Big Ideas & Innovation, Economy, Editor's Picks on LinkedIN

I do not care about money.

I am worth upwards of three million dollars, I take home a seven-figure salary, I own a million dollar home with a view of the Seattle waterfront, and if I sold my company tomorrow, I could live lavishly without ever working again.

Does the fact I do not care about money make your skin crawl? If it does, I am not surprised. I have said this to friends, family, and coworkers – most having the same visceral reaction. However,  that does not change my stance. I do not care about money, because I do not need to worry about paying the rent or whether I can afford going out to dinner.

Earlier this year, I announced a $70,000 minimum wage for everybody at my company, Gravity Payments. I was not forced to do this, and I had no outside investors or government mandate telling me what to do. I did it because I wanted my team to have the same dispassionate relationship with money as I do.

Income inequality has been racing in the wrong direction for some time in this country and dominated the national discussion. The loudest voices say the government should step in. But, you know the old saying, right?

When you point your finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you.

Consider for a moment, though, which of those fingers you should you actually be listening to. No…not that one.

Instead of pointing elsewhere to solve the problem, take a look at what you can do to solve the issue. Pressuring the government to step in and impose a minimum wage is a sign we are failing as a society and as individuals.

Let me be clear: Implementing a $70k compensation structure is not feasible for every business. As an individual, you may work in a position where that salary could never be justified, but that does not mean you could never make this type of money.

There’s an arsenal of great tools we all possess inside of us that we can use to our advantage – love, happiness, humor, strength, honesty. I believe everybody in America can make $70k if only by their creation. There are only two simple things you need: motivation and drive.

It is easy to say, “I am never going to have financial freedom ever. I am going to be living paycheck-to-paycheck my whole life”. That is setting yourself up for failure and giving you an excuse not to take accountability for your future. Everybody should be motivated to make $70k for themselves. There are so many great things you can do in life when you achieve that number, but the hard part is getting there.

By writing this, I hope to address why every worker in America should want to make $70k and how it can be achieved.

Most of us are acquainted with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which states that people possess a set of motivation systems unrelated to reward or desire. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfill the next and so on and so forth.

According to the hierarchy, lower level desires – biological, safety, love – need to be satisfied before meeting higher level needs – esteem and self-actualization. In other words, that which makes our bodies function is more important than safety, which is more important than love, which is more important than reaching our full potential.

For a healthy worker in the twenty-first century, the foundation of this hierarchy consists of food, water, a place to sleep, transportation, clothes, and a financial buffer to weather the unexpected. Beyond the basics, you may want to treat yourself to something nice every once in a while or be able to buy a drink for a friend or a modest gift for your spouse. These seem like simple items, but if you are making less than a livable wage, it is not easily doable. Any person making less than $70k will have to pay close attention to their finances and make choices based on those limitations every day.

Money will significantly affect the answers to questions such as, “Should I get a pet?”, “Should I date this guy?”, “Should I tell my boss about my mistake?” With enough money, the answers to these questions are only about furry companionship, love, and integrity. If you make less than $70k, it will be almost impossible for you to live your life based on your values. In short, you will have no choice but to care about money.

At Gravity, it was important for us to partner with our team when we raised the minimum wage to $70k. Our team sacrifices so much to help save millions in credit card processing fees for independent businesses while providing world class service. They bring so much value to the company and our clients that they created a culture where everyone thinks and acts like a CEO. I wanted to enable more of that type of activity and unleash them to continue to push the boundaries of transparency, progress, and service.

Not only does making a living wage fill a gap where our team can be happier, but they’ve been able to benefit from some great, but basic things in life. These are all things any person in America should be able to afford like:

Living closer to work. Instead of living an hour outside of the city, many can afford a place closer to our office. With the time they’ve saved commuting, they are spending an hour or two more with their family, exercising, or cooking a healthy meal.

Peace of mind. If their car breaks down, or a tire goes flat, it is not a constant state of emergency anymore. Their economic breathing room has unleashed even more productivity and performance for independent businesses. Their job can be an extension of their values, rather than a place they go to make ends meet.

Starting a family of their own. For one member of our team, after years of waiting to start a family with his spouse, they have the financial security to start earlier than expected.

Paying off their debts. Some have already paid off student loans, mortgages, car payments, and past due emergency room bills.

Experiencing life. After paying off monthly expenses, they have enough left over to live a fulfilling, richer life. They can go to concerts, use our unlimited vacation policy and travel the world in semi-modest conditions, participate in recreational sports, or go on a date with their significant other.

With a clear why, the question now is how do you go about achieving a $70k salary? If you do not have a path to get there, keep reading.

Have you ever heard of Tyler McGill?

Sixty-seven hundredths of a second separated Michael Phelps from Tyler McGill in the hundred-meter butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics. Tyler was the second placed American and seventh overall in the world. Can you guess how much money Tyler McGill makes in comparison to Michael Phelps?

By being a fraction of a second faster, Michael Phelps is a household name worth more than fifty million dollars. Looking objectively at swimming results, you would say Michael Phelps receives a disproportionately high portion of the spoils. But hey, as they say, that’s life. What follows is a clear path to being on the receiving end of this reward asymmetry and getting yourself to $70k.

The first step is being explicit about your financial and professional goals with your employer. Don’t be shy about your salary desires, but make sure to define why you have this goal with your boss. Get their feedback, make necessary changes to the plan, and get their buy-in on the final draft because you’ll need their support during this process.

Once you have engaged your boss, take a good look at your company’s clients while remaining focused on providing excellent service. At the end of the day, your clients are the ones who are actually paying your paycheck as opposed to your employer. However, it is important to understand how to make your clients happy. If you do not work directly with them, get insight from coworkers who do like customer service and sales representatives. Once you have an idea of how to best serve your clients, turn to your company’s vital signs.

It is critical to learn the business inside and out. What are the metrics your company uses to gauge success? What data points are important to your CEO? Sales numbers, client attrition, revenue, and profit are likely candidates. Invest your time in also finding out what advantages your competitors have over your company or what new technology, laws, or policies are emerging in the industry that will affect how you do business. Be relentlessly proactive in finding out the answers and keep questioning until you get there.

Once you are armed with this information, tie it back to your supervisor. What are their key performance indicators? For example, the CEO may be looking at overall sales, but your direct supervisor may focus on improving customer approval ratings for a particular product. Their next promotion and raise probably depend on these data points and should now be important to you.

Finally, ask for feedback. Just make sure you are asking to be assessed by the standards of the job you want to have, not by your current position. This way you’ll be explicitly clear on what skills and traits you need to achieve your professional and financial goals.

Once you can articulate the economics of your company and the metrics used to gauge your boss’ success, get to work. Make your boss’s life easy while making them look good. Focus on the information you’ve discovered and do everything with an eye towards these items. Try to reduce or eliminate the time your boss spends wondering how and what you are doing.

If there is no position available at your company that would justify your compensation goal, you may have to look at other options. If you discover you need to leave the company to accomplish your goal, you and your boss should come to this conclusion together. You’ll be able to part ways on good terms and leverage your boss’s network. If you are honest with them, you’ll be surprised how helpful they’ll be in supporting you during a transition to a new company.

Although that may seem like a more difficult path to $70k, just remember, by making less than that, you are setting yourself up to make other sacrifices that could be far more painful.

Everyone deserves a chance at a decent lifestyle, and everyone has the ability to work as hard as he or she possibly can. You might not make $70k today, but if you partner with your employer, you can, and you will. Additionally, if you are in a position as a leader to provide your team with a better life, you should figure out how you can do that.

The book of Timothy tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Those seduced by the temptations of always making more find themselves constantly driving towards their next million dollars at the expense of their employees, customers, friends, and loved ones. Equally as susceptible to the dangers of a mercenary lifestyle are those who never have enough. If you find yourself on either side of the economic extremes, find a way to stop caring about money. Don’t wait for your boss or your congressman to set your pay. Do it for yourself.

Dan Price CEO & Founder of Gravity Payments

(originally posted via LinkedIN)

If you are interested in working with Gravity Payments for your businesses credit card processing needs, let us know.

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