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Woman Gets Raise And Pays Off Student Loans By Asking The ‘Over/Under Question’

sydney.brooman 14 Aug 2019

Could one little question change your life forever?

No, not that one. We're talking about a different question. I'm not ready to be engaged yet. Weddings are expensive. Give me more time.

I'm talking the Over/Under Question, which unlike "Will You Marry Me?" _gets_ you money instead of costing you money.

Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

It's a simple question, but one that will definitely change the way you look at how much you're worth in the world of capitalism.

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At age 35, Caitlin Boston made her final payment to what started off as over $200,000 in student loans.

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After a master’s in social psychology and two undergraduate degrees in anthropology and American studies, that cash adds up, my friend.

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When she first began incurring the loans, she really didn't understand what all of the debt meant.

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"My family is super working class," she explained to Buzzfeed News, "My dad was a police officer in Baltimore and my mom was a homemaker... We always had money for food, and there were always some new clothes for school."

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"We could afford a house and a car and all these other things. But education — that’s an extraneous cost when you’re living paycheck to paycheck."

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"100% wish I had learned about money in high school," she continued, "I wish I understood what debt meant. I didn’t even understand what interest meant. I wish they’d sat me down before any of us signed any papers to just be like, 'This is how much money you’ll have to make to pay this off'— at a minimum."

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After university, Caitlin began working, but was struggling to keep afloat while paying off her debt.

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"Almost two years into the job, I was making pretty high five figures, so not a small amount of money, but with that level of debt, it’s still not enough to really be making a ton of headway on what I still owed," she explained.

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Caitlin did what she'd always been told to do: ask for a raise.

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"So I go up for my biannual review and I was like, 'Listen, I just helped to bring in a $5 million piece of business, here are all of the other things I’ve done, and I think I deserve a raise.' And my boss just said that I just wasn’t ready for a raise yet."

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That evening, she had a conversation with her co-workers that completely changed her life.

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She asked one of her white male co-workers how much money he was making. Naturally, he didn't want to disclose, so she changed the wording of the question.

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"I’m going to give you a number and I want you to tell me if you make over or under that number."

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She only had to ask the question using two different numbers, one high and one around 10 grand lower, to figure out that her co-worker with the same qualifications was making at least $20,000 more than her per year.

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Soon, Caitlin began to interview hundreds of people with similar qualifications as her.

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She asked them all the Under/Over Question, and after the interviews, she was able to determine how much money she was worth as a worker vs. how much she was actually getting paid.

"Even though I was super happy in my job, I kept on thinking that if I’m being paid literally tens of thousands of dollars less than what I should be making, and I’m working this hard, I might as well be making the money that men in my industry are," she explained, "I’m not going to work for a place that doesn’t respect my value."

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"I got hired by Etsy. I told them what I wanted, and that was what happened. I got a pay jump of about 41%, so tens of thousands of dollars."

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After switching between jobs and finally starting to make what she deserved, Caitlin was able to pay off all of her student loans.

"I still ask the over/under question," she reveals, "I’ve also flat-out told some of my junior teammates what I make. I’m here to tell them what they should be shooting for.

"There’s a burden that we carry by not sharing what we’re making with each other. It perpetuates this idea that it’s all up to you to figure out how much you should be making, when really you are working for a series of employers who have pay bands, or salary caps, or freelance amounts set by what people are willing to work for."

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"This is what privilege is — to have a casual conversation with gatekeepers."

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To celebrate her last loan payment, Caitlin filmed a Youtube video with her friends.

"When I made my final payment and made the video, I said 'I’m going to wear this traditional Korean crown that’s primarily associated with weddings at this point. I can wear it to celebrate myself and my accomplishments. I’m doing this for myself.'

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But in the end, Caitlin says it really isn't about the loan as much as it's about her newfound confidence in the working world.

Youtube

"I don’t know if my degrees in and of themselves were worth it or if I could have gotten the same education for a much cheaper price tag," she says, "But what I do know is that because of where I went to grad school, I no longer doubt my value or my worth."

h/t: Buzzfeed News

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