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5 Signs That You Are Underearning - and What You Can Do About It

Updated on August 22, 2013

Money and self-sabotage

Are you often stressed and exhausted? Are you always trying to prove yourself? Is your house cluttered with old things you cannot let go of? Do you work every hour possible - possibly even earning a six figure salary - yet have zero job satisfaction and always seem to be struggling to pay the bills?

It could be that you are an “underearner”.

Image Courtesy of Image Courtesy of "graur razvan ionut" at
Image Courtesy of Image Courtesy of "graur razvan ionut" at

5 signs that you are underearning

There are five tell-tale signs that suggest you might be sabotaging your own financial stability and personal wellbeing by engaging in “underearning” behaviour:

1. Failing to plan and complete tasks

Planning your time is crucial. If you don’t set yourself clear goals – even just in the form of a to-do list – it is very hard to know where you should be going.


  • Failing to plan and carry out tasks can result in living hand-to-mouth, having a home full of clutter, eating irregularly and/or poorly, and never seeming to accomplish or finish anything.
  • Achievers write lists and stick to them. Whether it's a to-do, grocery shopping, life plan or their family budget, underearners get lost in vagueness, failing to clearly define their needs and wants.


2. Working for an insufficient salary or giving away too much time for free

It is commendable to offer your time voluntarily. And it is great if you can help people out. But only as long as it doesn't cause you harm.


  • If you are dedicating more than 5-10% of your time to free or under-priced work, and suffering as a consequence, then something’s not right.
  • Your salary and your time should allow you to cover your basic needs, plus have time and money to feel fulfilled through human interaction, entertainment, hobbies and self-care. If this is not the case, alarm bells should be ringing.


3. Thinking you ‘know better’ than others… yet you never carry out your visions

It’s easy to see where others are going wrong. And many people believe that they could do ‘a better job of things’, if it was up to them. But how many actually get up and go for it?


  • The difference between achievers and those who struggle day-to-day? Achievers do. Underearners talk.
  • Achievers follow up, aren’t afraid to carry out tasks imperfectly and take criticism. Underearners can't take criticism procrastinate and are afraid to ask for things.


4. Chronic exhaustion and illness, poor work-life balance

If you are always coming down with colds and small ailments, frequently take sick-time off work, or feel depressed on Sundays before the week begins, then your work-life balance may be off kilter.

Ask yourself: Would I feel liberated if I could give up my job or work half the hours I currently do? Would I prefer to do something else with my life… but just not sure what?


  • Underearners tend to overwork themselves and then get exhausted and fall ill, and spend periods of time unable to do anything constructive.
  • They also have a hard time being honest with themselves about what they want to do for a living – so much so, that they’ve lost sight of their likes, dislikes, talents and deepest desires.
  • Underearners often fall into the “I should” work scenario, rather than a fulfilling, challenging career.


5. Difficulties with human relationships, especially at work

People who don’t earn what they deserve, are often “hiders” or very conflict-driven. They pick up resentments easily, and feel powerless and defensive in situations where they need to deal with real or perceived authority figures, like managers or complaining customers.


  • People who underearn, will frequently have left employment under difficult circumstances, like burn out, dismissal, angry dissatisfaction or lying about the reasons why they left. Self-employed underearners tend to isolate themselves.
  • Afraid to ‘sell’ themselves, they withdraw from any type of human interaction that might generate income.


Image courtesy of "stockimages" at
Image courtesy of "stockimages" at


If you feel that you should be earning more, living life to the full and feeling more fulfilled – but aren’t currently – you can take action.

Wanting to feel good

It is surprising how many people play the ‘yes but’ game. When someone suggest they could do X, Y or Z to improve their lives or careers, they reply, “Yes, but…”.

There are no instant fixes and change is HARD. But if you want to feel well, you will.

Many people get offended by the idea that they don’t actually want to be happy. But that is often the truth.*

Listen to yourself carefully next time an opportunity, suggestion or positive idea comes your way. Do you say, “Yes, but...” or do you embrace change by stating, “That’s an interesting idea. Let’s see how I can make it work.”

*This is not a medical authority article. If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing, or that of others, always consult a medical professional first.

Image courtesy of Office Clip Art
Image courtesy of Office Clip Art

Awareness of time

Become aware of how you are currently spending your time. Taking notes is the best thing. Keep a diary, note how you spend the hours in your day.

Are they productive? Do you get enough rest? Do you over-do it, multi-task all the time, work on too many projects or procrastinate and hide from responsibility?

Only by seeing yourself clearly and objectively, can you begin to change.


Plan your time. Underearners typically like to ‘go with the flow’ and not commit beforehand. That’s because they never know if they’ll ‘feel like’ doing something, or whether on Saturday night they might be suffering from a headache, a cold or just feel too exhausted to do stuff.

But planning, together with awareness of how you’re spending your time, will help bring some balance back to your schedule. Underearners often realise that they are trying to carry out multiple projects at once, get bored easily, or waste time by endlessly flitting from one thing to the next without finishing anything. They are unrealistic about how much or little time they have.

Get a mobile app, a white board, a diary or whatever tool you think will help you to plan – and then read your list twice a day and stick to your aims no matter what.

Image Courtesy of "TwoBee" at
Image Courtesy of "TwoBee" at

Vision board

What do you want out of life? What are you goals? No matter what age you are, it is never too late. Ex-convicts, recovering alcoholics and people in their 60’s who finally lost those 7 extra stone of weight and got fit, will tell you that. Why? Because it is never too late for you to feel happy.

So get a pile of old magazines, a pair of scissors, some glue and a big piece of card. Alternatively, get a pin board and some thumbtacks, or if you prefer, sign up on Pinterest. Then get to work, cutting out pictures that represent your wildest dreams, and stick them onto your vision board. Don’t be shy. Place anything you want onto your vision board. The only way to realise our dreams, is to admit to them first.

Image courtesy of Clip Art
Image courtesy of Clip Art

Let go of clutter and anything that is negative in your life

The only way to allow new, exciting, happy stuff into our lives is to let go of the old stuff.

You wouldn’t buy a brand new sofa and bring it into your home, then place it next to the old, tattered piece of furniture still there in your living room. This applies to old socks and house clutter, as well as to a crappy jobs and unhappy relationships.

This doesn’t mean you need to rashly quit your current job. That would be self-sabotage. But at times we all need to open up to the possibility that there is a better life (or at least socks without holes in them) somewhere out there.

Be brave, do an inventory, and make a list of old things to discard from your life. It's the only way make room for the new.

Image courtesy of Office Clip Art
Image courtesy of Office Clip Art

Reach out and develop relationships

This is the hardest one of them all. For our lives to expand and grow, we need to work with others.

Give and take is the key, but underearners are often afraid to ask for things. They tend to feel more comfortable suffering in work situations, business relationships and stagnant living situations.

Sometimes counselling or a self-help group can be essential to changing underearning behaviour to healthy working patterns and finding balance. Sometimes simply becoming aware and taking positive action is enough. But it is always easier with the help and support of other people.

Whatever you do, remember: you deserve to live the best life possible.


  • Wanting to feel good
  • Awareness of time
  • Planning
  • Vision board
  • Clean clutter and negativity
  • Reach out


  1. Poor planning/task completion
  2. Insufficient salary/Giving too much free time
  3. Not carrying out visions
  4. Exhaustion, illness, no balance
  5. Difficult work relationships

Do you think you are earning what you deserve?

See results


We cannot possibly know what the future holds.

Sometimes a solution lies waiting for us just around the corner. But if we refuse to move ahead, we'll never spot it.

Feel and trust in your heart that you deserve to be happy. Then, you’ll be happy. As simple as that.

How to Create a Vision Board


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