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The Secret Cost of Saying Yes

Meghann Foye

Could the disease to please be costing you?

On a recent podcast, Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon all discussed the one thing holding them back. The common response? “Not saying no enough,” nodded everyone at the table.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Sheryl Sandberg, Brené Brown and plenty of other high-powered women have this issue, as well.

Blame it on social conditioning, but did you know that the failure to say no could be costing you more than $1 million?

We did the math to figure out how saying yes can really add up, in both time and money.

Saying Yes to the First Offer

The gender pay gap and the wage gap for people of color are both front-page news. For example, at news company Tronc, white male reporters were being paid several thousands of dollars more than women and journalists of color, on average. In finance and tech, the gaps can be even more significant.

These effects can multiply on each other: That first job out of college probably served as your baseline for future raises at that company, and it’s likely it served as a reference point for your pay at future companies (whether explicitly or even just in your own mind, as you were weighing your options). In that way, making even $5,000 more at your first job could affect your earning potential in big ways for years to come.

On average, women lose out on $10,086 each year through the pay gap. That alone could come out to $1.8 million more in earnings over your lifetime. While structural bias around race and gender play a large part in the subtle negotiating process, knowing your worth can help, especially if you have a sense of the salaries other people make in jobs similar to yours.

At the very least, negotiating for better benefits at work can help even out a little bit of the inequality. And if all else fails, consider seeking a role at a company known for strong diversity and inclusion practices, which can include more inclusive hiring practices, pay transparency and accountability.

The Difference: $10,086 per year, or $1.8 million over your lifetime

Saying Yes to 'Office Housework'

Do you often find yourself cleaning up after the party after your colleagues have breezed out? Are you often asked to summarize meeting notes, while others get the benefit of your valuable time and work?

If so, you could be falling victim to the “office housework” trap, cutting you out of “glamour work”—the type of work leading to value-driven wins that end in yearly raises and promotions. In a study by Harvard Business Review, women and people of color did more office housework and had less access to glamour work than their white male counterparts.

As you plot your next strong career move, make a list of regularly recurring tasks your boss may not be aware of, and see if they can be shared more equitably by your colleagues, while you take on more value-driving work.

The Difference: If spending a few more hours a week on high-visibility, “important” work rather than housework netted you just a $1,000 raise, that would still add up to $10,000 after ten years

Saying Yes to Personal Favors

Are you often the friend who picks up the slack? Do you bear the burden of chauffeuring your (and other people’s) kids around town, in addition to your own daily commute? Are you the one who organizes buying gifts for teachers, friends and more? Do you feel like you can’t say no because you’ve become known for these roles?

This is called “time creep,” and it can eat away at your ability to earn income (and to focus on the things you really care about). Not to mention that overextending yourself for others is a quick way to come down with a case of burnout.

How can you break the habit?

Schedule your own projects before anyone else has time to ask you for favors. If you have a genuine conflict, it’s a whole lot easier to say “no.”

The Difference: Reclaiming even one hour a week for yourself would mean 52 hours per year, or 520 hours over ten years--which adds up to almost 22 whole days of time to do your own thing

When you add up these unconscious “yesses," you’ll start to see the ways in which the bill is actually pretty profound. Start adding in some conscious “nos,” and you might just start to feel better about your financial--and mental--wellbeing.

Don’t say “no” to coverage!

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Meghann Foye is a NYC-based writer covering personal finance, home and lifestyle topics. Her articles have appeared in Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Parents and Refinery29.com, among others.

This material is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered. It is not, however, intended to provide specific advice or to serve as the basis for any financial decisions.

Fabric Insurance Agency, LLC offers a mobile experience for people on-the-go who want an easy and fast way to purchase life insurance.

Meghann Foye

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