Optimize, synergize, empower, level up, growth hack. This type of stuff may kind of make you want to throw up in your mouth when you’re on a team Zoom, but here’s one trick for making all those “thought leadership” buzzwords sound a whole lot sweeter: apply them to your fat bonus.

Even for those fresh-as-a-daisy summer analysts, you’re looking at an average year-end bonus of about 10 percent of the base salary.  That jumps to at least 50 percent for analysts, associates and VPs, and a minimum of 100 percent for SVPs and above. All around, bonuses are one of the things that makes this line of (nonstop, anxiety-inducing, terminally online) work so alluring – famously variable pay is a lot more appealing when top-level bonuses can literally multiply base salaries.

You know what’s even more appealing? A bonus that starts bigger and keeps growing, thanks to smart money moves like these.


Start Strong

We’re not claiming this is rocket science: the best way to maximize your bonus is to start with a bigger bonus in the first place. Easier said than done, but easier done when you approach that goal with a multi-pronged plan. 

Start tracking every single achievement you make throughout the year on day one. Make note of the tiniest wins and the most epic victories, and make damn sure the powers that be are reminded of them, because bonuses aren’t a popularity contest until they are a popularity contest. Put particular focus on recording the big asks your bosses made of you, and how you answered every single one of them. Like eFinancialCareers global editor Sarah Butcher says, “engender a belief that you are value for money and potentially, therefore, underpaid.”    

Didn’t get the raise you requested in 20-”Sorry, Inflation”-23? Try reframing that request as a “retention bonus” to illustrate your commitment to your firm’s future while also, you know, asking for some more bonus money. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to scout out the competition, or even to make a jump when they offer a guaranteed bonus to start. 

Once you’ve paved that foundation with bills, maximize your money with a combo of tried-and-true investments and outside-the-box inspirations. Here’s how to kickstart that effort.


1. Roll Into a Mega Backdoor Roth

It might sound sketchy, but a mega backdoor Roth is a killer move. Basically, income limits might prevent you from investing in a traditional Roth, so you roll money from a traditional IRA into a Roth instead. In a mega backdoor Roth, you make after-tax contributions to your 401(k) and then convert to a Roth, allowing you to easily stuff your retirement fund with tens of thousands of additional after-tax dollars.  


2. Dive Into Dividends

In shaky times, invest in unshakeable stocks, like the 60-plus companies that make up the Dividend Aristocrats.

Speaking to TIME, AskTraders.com’s Sam Boughedda says, “Given the current macroeconomic uncertainty, dividend-paying blue chip stocks are the preferred choice for this year. They provide investors with a potential return on their investment in an unstable market. Well-known, high-quality companies provide some stability in the current unstable environment, with companies such as Apple, Mastercard, Visa, and Walmart being some of the better choices.” 


3. Invest In Hard Assets 

Yeah, it’s old-school, and you’ll definitely need to diversify your bonus-investments portfolio a whole lot – especially if you adhere to the “live on the base, invest the rest” code – but hard assets offer a certain immunity to market volatility that’s especially appealing in 2023. Real estate, commodities like alternative energy products, and even precious metals offer that time-tested combo of tangibility and intrinsic value.

And if NFTs taught us anything, it’s that tangibility is pretty good, actually.   


4. Index Funds = Index Fun 

Tracking an underlying index is a lot more passive, low-key and low-effort than the sweatiness of active trading, and that automatically makes it more fun. Paying lower fees than mutual funds is also pretty fun. Generating less taxable income while genuinely diversifying your portfolio? Both super fun.

As of late 2023, Bankrate recommends the Fidelity ZERO Large Cap Index, Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund and Shelton NASDAQ-100 Index Direct as some of the lowest-cost index funds on public markets. Might as well start there.


5. …and Throw in Some ETFs

Cry samsies if you must, but ETFs (exchange-traded funds) offer enough legit advantages over traditional index funds that they’re worth a mention on their own. Perks include greater trading flexibility, lower buy-in cost, even better tax efficiency and plentiful strategic-beta opportunities.

As New Frontier Advisors CIO Robert Michaud tells TIME, “The future is too uncertain for a single security or asset class. The best long-term investment is a diversified portfolio of stock and bond ETFs optimized for your long-term goals. If that’s not available, pair a global stock ETF with an aggregate bond ETF to manage risk.”  


6. Go Broke or Go Brokerage

Unlike Roths, brokerage accounts don’t impose income limits on who can contribute. Likewise, zero contribution limits mean you can crush the annual bounds of a 401(k) or IRA. This type of account isn’t right for everybody, but for those who’ve already maxed out their retirement accounts, a brokerage account also allows you to take out funds any time you’d like without worrying about early withdrawal penalties. That’s something no tax-advantaged retirement account can offer.


7. Kill Your Student Debt

This one’s not glamorous or fun, but it’s undeniably smart. If you still have student loan debt, you have a money vacuum, whether your interest rate was 5 percent or 8 percent. Student loans are so predatory, Schwarzenegger should be hunting them in a Guatemalan rainforest – it sucks that they happened in the first place, but it’s a beneficial band-aid to rip off with the help of a healthy bonus.

Aside from plugging a substantial monthly drain on your earnings, paying off those loans can drastically improve your DTI, which opens the door to better investment opportunities down the line. And that’s worth way more than the paltry tax breaks you’ll get while you’re still on the student debt hamster wheel.


8. Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

When you hear “invest in yourself,” it’s fair to think of that LLC side hustle-slash-future empire you’ve got cooking. But it’s even more fair to remind yourself that experiences are infinitely more valuable than abstract numbers in an intangible account, especially when your means are safely met. 

The dopamine hit of a new watch or an especially nice dinner totally counts an experience. So does an impromptu round trip to Bora-Bora. And paying off your mom’s mortgage or your husband’s student loan effects more change than investing in crypto ever could. 

You put in the hours to get here, so don’t forget to use some of that bonus to make the hours you’ve got left as fulfilling as they can be. Because really, that’s the only growth hack that matters. 

Oh, and your VP isn’t the only one handing out bonuses this year. CapLinked is getting in on the action, too. Every Enterprise Data room comes complete with luxury rewards and bonuses of your choice — you can learn (and claim your bonus) more here


Dan is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience, currently residing in Dallas, TX. Along the way, he’s been lucky enough to collaborate with brands including Fortune, The Motley Fool, Office Depot, MSN Money, and many more.



Wall Street Oasis – Investment Banker Salary

Financial Times – Rich People’s Problems: How to Get a Bigger Bonus

eFinancialCareers – Morning Coffee: How to Repeatedly Earn a $33m Bonus at JPMorgan

NerdWallet – Mega Backdoor Roths: How They Work

Corporate Finance Institute – Hard Assets

Bankrate – Best Index Funds in November 2023

The Ascent – 3 Big Benefits of Brokerage Accounts, According to Dave Ramsey

Time – 5 Best Long-Term Investments to Add to Your Portfolio in 2023 

The Balance – 5 Benefits of Paying Off Student Loans Early

Morningstar – Cage Match: Traditional Index Funds vs. ETFs



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