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The 20-Something Life: Your Questions About Denying Raises And Staying Together In Sickness Answered

At 21 years old, your primary relationship should be with yourself. You are transitioning into the adult world and adjusting to all the changes and responsibilities that come with it.
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Please send me your questions by posting them in the comments section below. You can also email me at

Dear Christine,

I am actually a thirty-something running a business where the majority of my employees are twenty-somethings. Your post last week about twenty-somethings asking for a raise jumped out at me because I've been on the other end of the asking. I value my employees and think we all deserve raises; however, I run a small start-up and I'm not in the position to give raises yet - the money is simply not there. But when young people come to me with all the stats and reasons they deserve a raise, I don't know how to respond. Any tips? -Empty Pockets, 36, Los Angeles

Dear Empty Pockets,

First of all, I commend you for appreciating your young staff and wanting to pay them more. It seems you have their best interests at heart and want to be fair, but just don't have the resources (yet) to do it. Be honest with them, acknowledge their contribution and empathize with their frustration. Then explain to them what you can offer them instead of money that may be of equal value.

At smaller companies, young people have more opportunities to do more. How can they get their hands dirtier? What additional responsibilities could you give them that feel more "valuable" than what they are doing now? What type of busy work could you take off their plate? Explain their work at your company has tremendous upside for learning and growing. Often times great resume bullet points mean more to a twenty-something on a career path and may lead to higher salary options in the future.

Yet it's incumbent up on you to give them some kind of a financial forecast or bonus structure. If you want to retain your staff, you will need to match competitive salaries at some point. For more feedback, read this week post's "TIDBIT" (below) which offers additional information and resources. -Christine

Dear Christine,

For the past three months, I've been dating an amazing guy who has so many of the qualities that I look for in a partner. However, he is having major health issues right now. He has Crohn's Disease, a chronic illness of the digestive system. That itself isn't a huge deal to me. The problem I'm having now is that he keeps having complications and has spent most of the last two months in the hospital. He's leaning heavily on me for support. I'm trying to give everything I can, but I'm working full time, finishing up my BA and trying to work on an honor's thesis to boot. I keep hoping that his medical problems start getting better so that we can have a more normal relationship, but I'm not so sure that can happen. At this point, I'm just so emotionally exhausted and tired of going to the hospital to see him every day. I'm really thinking about letting him go, but I'm just not sure how to handle this situation. Should I stick around longer to see if things get better? I just don't know what to do because he is such an amazing person! - Emotionally exhausted, 21, Arizona

Dear Emotionally Exhausted,

I understand the difficultly of your situation - you've found someone you really like, but who is dealing with a major health problem at a young age. As if dating wasn't hard enough! I acknowledge your open heart and willingness to see beyond this young man's disease and be there to support him.

My advice to you about how much to invest in this relationship would be exactly the same if he was 100% well. At 21 years old, your primary relationship should be with yourself. You are transitioning into the adult world and adjusting to all the changes and responsibilities that come with it. If a large percentage of your energy is being spent on a relationship, you may not have enough left for yourself. And trust me, having enough time for yourself is crucial as you establish your career, financial security, and sense of independence.

I advise all people in their early twenties to relish being single as spending some quality time as a single person is important building block to a well-rounded adulthood. You have the REST of your life to be in a romantic relationship - why live an emotionally exhausted life when your adult life is just getting started?

So my advice to you is to be his friend. You've only known each other three months so the relationship is new enough for this to be possible. In fact, you will probably make a better friend than a girlfriend right now because you won't have all your expectations of him getting better getting in the way of accepting what is. Call and say hello on your way to work. Visit him when you can and when you want to (not out of obligation!). Send care packages full of his favorite magazines. You do not have to be his "girlfriend" to be loving and generous. And waiting around for him to get better creates an expectation that he may not be able to fulfill.

Allow him to focus on his health and allow yourself the freedom to focus on your own life and discover what you really want in a partner - only life experience can teach us that. And I'm sure you are just as amazing as he is! -Christine

Please send me your questions by posting them in the comments section below. You can also email me at


Occasionally I will feature information, advice and resources that directly relate to the questions and comments in "Twenty-Something Life." I call them "Tidbits" that you can sample along your twenty-something journey.

This week's tidbit has to do with last week's popular post about asking for a raise. I want to share an additional resource that may be helpful to you: They have a great salary tool - here is an example: this link shows that entry-level accountants in NYC earn on average $42,000. It's also easy to find out what a particular job pays in a different location, if there's a need to relocate. You can also find useful background information about job trends and how they change over time on our website.

And here's a little advice from the company's CEO Paul Forster, a former investment manager and co-founder of Jobsinthemoney, the leading finance job site:

"Whether you're an employee looking for a raise or an employer responding to such a request, independent salary information is a crucial tool. If third party sources show that you are being paid below-market - especially if multiple sources say the same thing - that is ammunition you can use. If someone is asking for an above-market salary, on the other hand, employers can use this to argue that the request is unrealistic. Indeed's Salary Search lets you search using any mix of skills, keywords or job titles to give you the average salary of all jobs matching your search. So, you can try different combinations to put yourself in the best light!

"Another angle is what employees should avoid doing in salary negotiations. If you have a competing offer from another employer, you need to handle this with care. Using it as explicit leverage with your current employer - in the 'will you match their offer?' variety - is a big mistake if you want a future with that company. Even if your employer agrees to match the offer, it sends a signal that you are willing to shop yourself around and may not stay long. However, you can still leverage competing offers in more nuanced ways - for example, by saying that you've had interest from elsewhere but you are committed to your current employer."