My journey to >£100k salary in the U.K

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There are many ways to set yourself to be financially independent. One rule of thumb is to increase your income while keeping your expenses low and saving the difference which is why here I will describe the first part of my financial independence journey: how I got to my >£100,000 salary in the U.K.

One thing to note is that increasing your income will always come with more income tax burdens but that is a good problem to have, not a bad one. In future articles, I will discuss ways I have used to work around these last marginal tax rates that you hit once you go over £100,000 yearly salary.

The start of my journey goes back to choosing my degree for university. I had many interests in life but growing up I was always very financial conscious so I wanted to pick a career that I knew would have good starting salaries. Looking at where the world was moving and not wanting to have a bad work-life balance I ended up opting to study Computer Science. Reflecting back I don’t think my choice of degree was that consequential as any field would always have good opportunities as long as you put your heart into it. You could also not end up in an entry-level position that is not directly tied to the degree you do (this is actually very often the case).

Once settled for Computer Science I knew the next step would be to secure an internship as that would help me get a full-time job and bolster my resume. Internships would be good work experience to have, hopefully be a fun experience, and overall would help contribute to my finances as I would only look for paid positions.

After a bunch of research into the struggles of getting an internship in tech I stumbled upon schemes that I think wouldn’t be as hard to get: spring insight programs. Since I have always been financially inclined I was looking for internships in the Finance industry and there I saw many of the large banks do offer these spring insight programs for students to come and see what life is all about in tech at a big bank. They would pay for your accommodation and during the university spring break you would go for a week and do several activities related to tech and in the end hopefully get an offer for a summer internship. I can’t really remember if they paid anything on top of the accommodation and travel, but as a student that is free experience and a good networking event so why not? So I applied to a few of them, interviewed and got an offer from one and I was ready to start my career.

After the spring week I got my offer for a summer internship which is what I would consider my first official job. This would happen over the summer break (2–3 months) and they paid me £30,000 pro-rata (so £30,000 / 12 = £2500 per month) which was quite good! Then you get the nasty surprise of seeing the tax taken away from your payslip but you get used to it. Now, much like the spring week converts to the summer internship, there is an opportunity to get a full-time offer from the summer internship which would mean during your remaining time at university you would have secured a full-time job which is great. In the end, I did get a full-time offer for £32,000 a year.

After returning to university I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take the offer, look for another one, or continue further into academia. Unfortunately they don’t give you much time to decide so I ended up accepting the offer (and then in the future consider reneging it in case I choose to apply to other positions). As I knew I would have one final summer free I decided to apply for more internships. Similar to my search before I first looked in Finance, the tough part this time around was getting an internship during your final year of university. Fortunately I found one that would fit in the summer break between the start of summer break and my current offer so I took it. Pretty similar to the previous one but instead they paid £38,000 pro-rata which was nice.

At the end of the internship they were planning to offer me a full-time position for £38,000 which is quite a bit more than the other offer of £32,000. Due to personal reasons, I opted to keep my previously accepted offer and I started my first full-time position after graduating! This was supposed to be a 2-year program where you start as an Analyst and then become an Associate (quite common in banking).

After working for 9 months I felt I got a lot more responsibility than I was being paid for. I was also not in London and I tend to be a city person so I knew I wanted to make the move. I asked my manager if they could transfer me to London as I was working at a company with multiple locations in the UK and globally. My manager replied I would have to wait until the end of the grad program to not only be promoted but to also move to London. I could have waited 1 year and a bit but that was not my style, so I decided to start looking for new positions.

I also decided to try and shift gears for a bit and look for smaller companies to join as I wanted to understand how it feels to work at different types of companies. I soon found a new junior position at a FinTech startup that was growing very rapidly. They offered me £55,000 per year and a £5,000 bonus in stock options. Seeing that I liked the company I decided to take the offer (I thought myself at the time that I could find a better position but I decided to make the move to London first and then decide).

Similar to the previous role I soon got a lot of responsibility. My manager promised to promote me as soon as possible so but they couldn’t do it in the first performance review cycle so 9 months later I got promoted to mid seniority. This came with a new salary of £78,000 and some promotion bonus. Throughout the time we also got performance bonuses which I am not including but they varied between a total of £15,000-£30,000 per year as a junior, as mid it became £20,000-£40,000 (and these were all in stock options).

During my promotion, my manager also mentioned that I was on the path to the next seniority for the following year as long as I performed well. The following year there was some bureaucracy which didn’t lead to my promotion so after lots of discussions and talks where I mentioned I would go find a new position instead they promoted me the following cycle after my 1-year promotion to mid from junior; now I went from mid to senior. My new salary then came to £105,000 with a one-time promotion bonus and future performance bonuses on top (these performance bonuses would be in the range of £30,000-£70,000).

This is where I am currently seating and I am soon planning to move to a new position as I think I have outgrown my responsibility at the company and the stock options are no longer as attractive due to the growth of the company. I will hopefully be looking for positions with a slight increase in salary but what would matter most for me is being fully remote and having good bonuses (whether in cash or stock options with lots of upside). That’s it for now, I can elaborate on each position in a future post!

TL;DR:

  • First internships £30,000 and £38,000 pro-rata.
  • First full-time out of university £32,000. (1 year)
  • Move to London £55,000. (9 months)
  • Promoted from junior to mid £78,000. (1 year 6 months)
  • Promoted to mid to senior £105,000. (current)