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STATUS ANXIETY WEEK: What do you make?


Yep. Ultimate taboo topic. What do you earn?

Parade Magazine (I know! I can't believe I just typed that either!) just published my FAVORITE issue of the year, the What People Earn Issue. I love it. I love that it's like setting up the strawman, so to speak... "Yes! I make more than a psychic! And I make more than a social worker! Hooray for me!"

So - let's hear it, people. A few notes:

1) Feel free to post anonymously, if you choose

2) Try to give some indication of type of work, years doing it, and region of the country

3) I am going to turn on comment moderation for now since it allows me to publish your comments in batches, and with a time delay, so no one associates the timing of your anonymous answer to, say, another comment you leave on here tonight.

If you don't want to play that game, tell us - - what is the minimum annual salary you could comfortably live on.

**Updated questions**
1) If you are a SAHM, is this a temporary state for you, or the long-term plan? Are you freaked out by not having control in earning the paycheck? (I am a control freak and the thought of leaving the money-making up to my man freaks me out beyond belief.)

2) What's the biggest pay increase you have ever earned? And did you get this at an existing job, or by moving companies?

3) Do you know people in your current or past jobs who had/have exactly the same job and made more money? I always like to hear if this bothers people and/or if they have done anything about it.

239 comments

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Anonymous said...

I'm 33 and worked as a content manager at a start up website in Israel and made the equivalent of 33K USD. This salary is actually considered quite good for this country.
I just lost my job in December and after 3 months of looking, I'm still looking! There seems to be nothing out there!
My husband is VP of marketing at a start up website and is making about 51K USD.
After we moved here two years ago, I was able to pay off my $30K loan debt in just one year of living here. This is my biggest accomplishment to date :)
We plan to move back to the States at the end of this year and buy our first apartment, but are both very very scared to do this at such a time of crazy unemployment rates.

Anonymous said...

26, midwest, pharmaceutical sales for 4 years. I make, on average, $78k. My salary is $58k and the rest is performance based bonus. I could live comfortably on the $58k and have been able to pay off my school loans and other debt with my bonuses. I also get a company car, gas, and insurance paid for (but am also taxed heavily for). People alwasy seem to think that I make much MUCH more than I actually do. I know a lot of reps and they make about that same amount. Monetarily, it's a cush situation for a 26 year old, however, I work 60 hour weeks and have so many health issues from driving so much and the stress. I've literally ground my teeth down considerably. I would gladly go back to making much less (I made$22k when I first grad from school but that wasn't enough) not to be so stressed. Bottom line, dont believe the hype: every pharma rep I know hates their job with a passion and is miserable. It's not the glamorus free-for-all that everyone seems to think it is.

deco911 said...

I am a 28 year old interior designer who made (past tense) $40,000 a year at a high-end residential design firm in Manhattan. Too bad the dream didn't last, I was let go after only 9 months because the firm had no new clients and almost no income. I returned to my old job as an EMT in suburban CT (gold coast) making about $50k. It's the same job I worked for 2 years (midnights) to put myself through design school in the first place! I have 12 years experience as an EMT and 6 years with the same service.

I was getting by on $40k in Manhattan just fine. I was living with 2 roommates, jogging for exercise, NEVER bought clothes, and NEVER went out, but I was willing to make any sacrifice for my first job.

$50k in the CT gold coast is harder because of transportation costs, but I am lucky to have any job at all right now. I am determined to find my way back to a career in design. Right now I am redecorating the interior of a new ambulance station...have to start somewhere!

Anonymous said...

Thirteen years ago I had a crazy boss, a crazy job, a crazy teenager and a mother with a terminal illness who lived 500 miles away from me. My husband said if I could live on his salary, I could quit my $55,000 job. I did and haven't looked back. I gave up my car, buying clothes, eating lunch out etc. Everyday I get to be my own boss of gardening and doing home repair/decorating projects that I enjoy. I love to cook on most days. I feel lucky. My husband makes $183,000—at least he did until this month when his company announced a salary cut, elimination of 401K contributions, etc. etc.etc. And while we keep saving for retirement, looming closer by the year, I don't worry too much. I can be very self sufficient. These years out of the job market have taught me what I value: books, the ability to create everyday, to work hard and being able to see results at the end of the day.

kirbydog said...

I am 57, live on Cape Cod, own an ice cream shop and make about $70K a year. It's only for about 4 months, but it's totally intense and then it's over.... until the craziness starts the next year. I've been doing this for 15 yrs and certainly didn't start at this income, but now it's down to a system. We just bought a small pace in the Caribbean, and spend 3-4 months of the year there. Life is great!

Anonymous said...

I make 40k as a 30 yr old graphic designer in vancouver canada. whew. so blunt - feels good to get that off my chest! I would like 50+. Although, if I ever want to move out of my apartment and into a house in this city with notoriously high real estate, I will have to aim much higher. I always wanted an ocean view....

life with Spiritualism said...

I own my own business, Spa to be exact. my salary, or take if you like. Is over $90.k per year.

Anonymous said...

Currently, I'm a Spa Director for a four diamond hotel in a small destination city in the Southwest. I've climbed the ladder, fortunately, very fast...that said, I make in the high-$50's, which is barely comfortable in this city...not nearly enough to own a home. I typically work a 50-65 hour work week...in high season, it can hit 70 hours, no problem. Incidentally, my predecessor, who was male and didn't have much more experience than I do, made $7000 more per year than I do.

Which I think sucks more than I can say without feeling my blood pressure rise.

erin said...

I'm a 25 yr. old second grade teacher at a tiny private school (about 100 students in pre-k thru 6th gr.) in a suburb of Houston. I make $25k. I love my job, and love that I only have ten kids in my class. I could almost double my salary working in a public school, but I doubt I ever will.

My 24 yr. old husband has three jobs-- his "real job" is doing graphic design for a local print shop at $12/hr, and he also teaches guitar lessons 4 days a week for $50/hr and leads worship at our church every Sunday for $12k a year. He thoroughly enjoys all of his work.

When we got married, we made about $44k together. We lived in a small apartment in a nice suburb for $700/mo, and though we didn't have piles of spare cash lying around, we never really felt stretched or deprived. We now own a 2 bedroom house with a $950/mo mortgage, and we probably make around $55k. Still no piles of spare cash, but we're pretty darn happy.

Anonymous said...

Oooh a taboo topic-OK let's jump in. I am a SAHM making a big fat zero, although our household income is approx. $140K. I could manage to run our household of four on as low as $60K per year here in St. Louis, although that would be tough, given the cost of living in a good school district, buying lots of organic meats and produce for the family, traveling to see our family who don't live in town, etc.

In response to your query on whether it was hard to give up a moneymkaing role, yes and no. I had planned to stay home before my first was even born, and thought it would be easier than it was, including on my self-esteem. My DH and I both thought though that this was the best thing, as his work schedule was hectic. After several years I have really been enjoying my days taking care of the kids. And, as I also had planned way before, I am returning to work this summer, part-time, as an attorney. Frankly my pay at first probably won't cover childcare costs, but one day hopefully I can make some good dough!

Anonymous said...

I am an Office Manager for an interior design firm in New York City and I make $56,000 a year. Actually, I am finding that that is the minimum that I can live on. I have been in this job for less than a year and I earned $70,000 per year in my last job. I'm no spring chicken, so I don't look for my satisfaction (and financial rewards) to come in the future. I need it now. But I love my job and my boss has promised that as the economy and the level of work we have picks up, he will increase my salary. He gave me a $2000 bonus for Christmas even though I had only been here 3 months. And business is picking up, a lot. At my one-year review I am going to ask for the $65 I originally requested, but I don't expect to get quite that.

Anonymous said...

I realize I'm a few months late but I'm so glad you asked the question. I'll respond first and read teh others later so as not be totally freaked out.
Up until a year ago I made around $70 k as an investigator for two of the biggest companies in NYC. Did it for 13 years. After bouts here and there as a SAHM, I am now home again with my 2 and my 3 steps. My savings will be gone in six months and with it my Target sprees as I will be totally dependent on my civil-servant, child-support paying love of my life. Yikes. I am 42. I do ocassional private investigations and photography for not much money. I stopped wondering what it woudl be like to be on top of my career several years ago and now am just trying to navigate my children's lives and still dress like the cool chick I am. I believe STRONGLY that the successful working mama is a myth. Something will suffer and it will never be your work- therfore either your husband or children will get less attention. That didn't work for me. So I'll be rocking the same boots for a couple of years but damn, it feels good to make unrushed breakfast for my kids every day and a homemade snack every afternoon.
PS. Your site is just plain excellent.

Anonymous said...

850,000k, anticipate that I will be in the 7 figures next year.

Anonymous said...

I make around $65k a year after bonuses and perks. I'm 22 and have one year of experience as an engineer. I'm also pursuing a graduate degree. My husband is a full-time engineering grad student and makes $22k for now. We live very comfortably. When we both finish our graduate degrees we plan to put most of our money in savings. We'll each make $70-90k then. Very exciting.

When we have babies I want to be a SAHM but I also love my job and can't imagine not doing it everyday. As the current breadwinner, I know switching positions is going to bother the hell out of me. Oh well. Hopefully he'll be making over 100k when we get to this point.

Anonymous said...

I make ~$170k/year as a consultant. 29 years old, married.
$130k in savings, plus condo in Chicago of $400k.

My monthly take-home ($6000) used to feel like a lot, but my husband's going back to grad school for a year, and with his upcoming tuition ($50k) and our monthly mortgage ($3000), things are a bit tight.

We're very financially conservative and mindful of my relative lack of job security, as consulting is notorious for its up-or-out culture. I'll sleep more easily once we're back to two salaries.

My biggest concern is how we cover costs once we have kids. Hiring a full-time nanny in Chicago runs around $20,000/year; private schools range between $7-20k/year. How to pay for all that while still saving adequately for the future is a question I'm still trying to answer.

Anonymous said...

I have two masters degrees in Health Administration and Health Education, I'm 25, and working as a Research Coordinator (read: glorified secretary) in Philadelphia. Definitely not my dream job and pulling in only $36,000/year. Meanwhile, my husband has an AS degree in HVAC and is making $80,000 at the age of 26 with no debt and more growth potential...go figure. We make an additional $25,000/year on a rental property for a total income around $140,000. I can't imagine living on less, but we never want for anything, so I'm sure it's possible!

Sheila Monaco said...

I'm 28, a receptionist, make about $44k with overtime and before taxes in the Bay Area. I am finishing my college degree and am feeling an acute sense of anxiety and pressure about creating a "grown up" life for myself. I have huge dreams and wish I had the cajones to match. I would take purpose and joy over money any day, but I still want the money

Anonymous said...

I am an Account Director for a small Ad Agency. I have been in the Agency business for 20 years and I make $65,000/year. I was making more but I cut back to 3/week five years ago when my son was born. My husband makes $80K a year and we live very comfortably in a medium sized midwestern city.

We live in a small 50's ranch and our kids go to Catholic school. We have no debt and do not use credit. We could definitely live on less but it's nice to be able to save and invest and fix up the house, etc.

I am probably going to stay in my current line of work until I retire or my husband gets his salary up to $95-100.

beyondbeige said...

Hey, I get to be the last comment! I am an art teacher living in Phoenix. I will make 70,000 this year. My husband is in curriculum sales and usually makes 120,000 a year but this year it looks more like 30,000. We lost everything in the stock market. And are starting over again. Thank God we have no debt and our cars are in great shape. No school loans, no credit cards. We are renting until we can save up to buy a home for cash! We spend very little but are very aware that we probably won't be able to retire. Cest la vie

Anonymous said...

I live in Seattle..as an on-air personality at a radio station. I make $65,000 a year. This is my second year doing this. Last year made $55,000. I do make a lot of extra $$ in endorsements and bonuses..so probably make closer to $80k. Most people in my position make much much more. But I can't complain...I work 5 hours a day.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe I'm commenting on a post that's a year old! Also, can't believe I just read 220 posts about what total strangers make for a living. Who knew I had such status anxiety?

My husband and I both have theatre degrees (why were we such foolish dreamers?!) and neither of us work in the field. We are 25 and we live in Alabama. I work for a very large bank and he is an adjuster for an auto insurance company. I make a very meagre $25k a year and he makes a more comfy $37k. Each of us also get several bonuses a year, but these have been greatly reduced in the current economy.

We have a giant, expensive Great Dane that we adore, but probably should have waited a little longer to buy. We're in the process of buying first home, which I think makes anybody feel a little bit poor.

The good news is we have zero debt. None. Nada. Zilch. We may have useless degrees, but they are paid for in full. Our cars are both old clunkers that we own outright. They are not glamorous, but we take scrupulously good care of them and they are in good shape. No credit card debt whatsoever. We fear it like the plague.

I hope we can get ahead a little when the economy calms down. We work so hard. I know we could get by on less if we had to, and we've done it before, but it is so hard. So freakin' hard. I mean, I haven't bought a new article of clothing for over $20 since I graduated college. We own no new furniture and hardly anything that wasn't free hand-me-down from remodeling aunts, except an Ikea wardrobe that I treasure as if it were from Christie's.

I feel that all in all, we're pretty lucky. And I'm truly amazed at how different the cost of living is in NYC and on the West Coast. I had no idea -- for real.

Anonymous said...

I'm an auditor by trade living in the Bay Area doing what I'm doing for about 4 years. I make approximately $85k a year. I work a lot of hours and every hour spent at work is intense. So, the average 11 hour work day really seems like 30 hour day. I can't really afford to quit my job and be a SAHM ever given the cost of living here. On top of that, owning a house here will dictate that I am a slave to corporate america for the rest of my life. Everyday, I feel like I'm giving up so much of my life already for this job and the desperation of wanting to leave and paying the bills is killing me slowly.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see women discussing their incomes here. I'm in the education field in Seattle and earn an average salary with a net income of $4500 a month. Some might say that's pretty good, but my family situation tanked about five years ago with a problematic and protracted divorce. Everyone's fine now, but my financial situation got a troubling and tremendous hit that year and set me back at least ten or more years.

I do count my blessings as I have a house, a healthy child, a healthy self, and a pretty stable position. Mostly I've adopted a frugal approach from early on, and budget to the near penny. I've relied on books by Mary Hunt among others to be as creative as possible.

The rock bottom realization is becoming more clear as I've been living within my means for so long, but with very little extra. It takes two incomes to live in the city with a child. So, I'm considering a return to school for the fourth time, and come out a school administrator. I would be earning over 100K with an easier job than what I do now.

That's one idea. I've also thought about earning my licensure for insurance and work part-time in the evenings and weekends. The flexibility and financial potential appeals to me more than anything. It does mean that I'll need to add to my overall debt in order to attend classes.

So, Decorno community, what would you do in this situation?

Decorno said...

Too many people think that more income is the answer, but it's easier to reduce expenses. I am not sure if it's possible, but you might consider a city/town/state with a lower cost of living. Adding to your debt is probably not a good idea unless you feel like being an administrator is something you will be passionate about. I wouldn't just do it for the money. When do you break even on the investment? And how confident are you that you will get an administrative position? I am sure you are mulling over these questions already, but that's what I would be asking myself if in your shoes.

Anonymous said...

For no reason I just read all of these comments, so I might as well comment myself, even if it is forever late:

Full time grad. student, 23, working part time teaching English (which I love) with a non-profit making about $15k a year. I throw in about a couple k more doing some editing. With 2 roommates, a cheap cost of living (medium-sized Texas city), and rice and beans several times a week I make it with enough left over to give about 11 or 12% to charity and save every penny I can to hit up Latin America when I graduate in a year. I thankfully have no debt (parents paid for my undergrad, and I have scholarships covering almost all of grad school), a paid for car (even if it is a 94...). It's not much, but for now I scrape by just fine and am enjoying life.

Anonymous said...

i've been following this thread (and all things decorno) since the post was created, and for some reason am just commenting now.

i was laid off from my job in advertising late last year. i am 26 and was making $85K in california. luckily, we saw the writing on the wall and were able put aside the savings to pay the mortgage/car payment/bills for a few months (unemployment covered ~half total monthly expenditures). we have one car which will be paid off in october of this year, and besides our condo and $2K of husband's student loans, that's our only debt. my husband is in school full time and earns about $150 a week at a part time job, but hopefully that increases when he goes to work full time later this year. we would need at least $55K a year to keep afloat here.

fortunately i got an offer recently to join a marketing company and am expecting to make $120K next year (my salary was $35K in 2005). advertising in general is fickle in terms of salary allotment - for me, i just got lucky in negotiations and do my best to earn my keep.

we bought our condo in jan '09 during what we thought was the end of the downswing - but have already seen it's value go down $12K or so. nonetheless, we've gradually made (and will continue to make) improvements and are hoping for a net gain of ~$50K when we sell in 5-7 years. ultimately, we want to buy a home in the south (with cash) when we sell the condo and are ready for babies. getting laid off really put the fear of God into me about being a one income household - so we want to make sure we are as financially sound as possible when and if that happens.

money scares the shit out of me. i budget all the time and scribble the same savings calculations on scrap paper constantly to re-affirm that what we want for the next 5-10-20 years is possible.

Anonymous said...

I'm in my early 30s. in 2007-8, I was working in cubicle hell making 38k, but with bonus anywhere up to 45k to 50k. My hub was working making 30-40k at the time. I have one kid and we were saving money, putting away 20% in 401k, and still wondering where the hell we got all this extra money. We were living in MD at this time renting a townhouse for 1200/mo, no debt other than my student loans.

I quit working and we rearranged our lives. Moved to TX. Live in a house that is mortgage free (inherited). Hubs works and goes to school. I spent a year off being a mom to my son. In 2010 I went back to work part time. I make 15k/yr. We also bought a new to us car, and are paying payments, which we will probably never do again. It's just not worth it to us. I'd much rather have the money in the bank, especially since our "free" house has cost us tens of K's in very necessary reno. All together, we've got an emergency fund of $4k, 401k of approx 15K and 15K, cash in the mattress, no credit card debt, some student loan debt, and we're working to make it better every day. Making more money would be nice, but not if it means I have to go back to the way life was in cubicle hell.

Anonymous said...

I'm a registered dental hygienist in NYC and earn 95-100,000. a year with a 35 hour work week, vacation, health insurance, and a 401K plan. I'm the luckiest hygienist I know but I'm sure there are others. Downside: I have not had a raise in salary in more than 3 years and don't expect one. I can make more money if I work more, that is, on the weekends as a temp for the day or a half day. I have been doing this for 23 years and I really do receive a lot of satisfaction in my work. I like it! I have a BA and an AS in DH. However, if I were to rethink my education and career choices, I would have invested two or more years in myself and become a dentist or a physician.

Mad said...

I work as a lead generator for the sales department of a broadcast monitoring company,in NYC, residing in Brooklyn. my base is $35,000 plus commission, so I can potentially ear a lot more. I've been here 4 years and the first 3.5 years my base was $30,000 and when the economy tanked I made NO commission for a full year - I managed to live on it just fine, but I have a trust fund which I pay my $850 rent out of, so that major life expense doesn't hurt me like it might others.

Lady Blue said...

I am in nearly the same exact position as the commenter above me: I'm a 22 year old nannny, making 30K, losing the "status game" but for the first time in my life, having some semblance of financial stability. I am not a college grad and I live in NYC [where I pay $700 for a studio apt in a quaint and safe neighborhood, 15 mins from Times Sq - I GOT LUCKY!]. I debate going back to college, feeling that as a "creative" it won't do much for my career. I am at a point in my life where I feel as though I need to make some weighty decisions lest I ruin the rest of my life. My salary is comfortable, I can cover my expenses, save money and still enjoy myself some, but I would hate to make this for the rest of my life, and would go into a deep depression if I was forced to live on any amount below it [again]. I have debt of about 15K and no savings, but luckily with this job I can tackle both of those head-on. That is at least, a huge relief. Truthfully, I am happy - for now.

Lady Blue said...

I was gonna do an anon post but in the end, who the fuck cares =)

Lady Blue said...

I changed my mind [I forgot I have e-stalkers] please do not post my comments. Thank you Decorno!

Anonymous said...

I am truly humbled by all the posts I just read. In 2001 my husband was layed off when I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter. He struggled to find a steady job (he was in the internet start up boom) until 2006. For a time I supported us making $200 a week as an art teacher at the YMCA. Our neighbors bought groceries for us, we didn't have health insurance and my parents had to buy diapers and formula for my kids. So, I would say we could have been happy with $50,000 in the NY/NJ area for that amount in 2006. Thank god my husband got a job and we have moved all over the country to new and better opportunities for him. I am a SAHM now expecting my 5th (yikes) in Southern California (SD not LA) and my husband made $350,000 last year. However, all of our expenses are bigger, too. My mortgage is $4700/mo, my electric is $350, cars are $600/mo, etc. It never feels like enough and I know it keeps my husband up at night. I just think back 5 years to when our friends brought us a bag of groceries because we had nothing in the fridge and had been searching the couch cushions for change to buy milk for our babies and marvel at what my life is like now.

Anonymous said...

I'm 54 am a school librarian. I make about 50,000 a year and have been in education about 25 years. I have a master's degree. I won't make much more money as I am retiring next year. With my husband, we make about 120,000 a year, which is pretty good for the rural town I live in in Texas. Our house is paid for and we have a second house on the other side of the state where we go to see our grandchild. We also have a small farm with a cabin on it. We have lived modestly and have more than most and are ready for retirement.

Wheelchair said...

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Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
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Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
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Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
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Keep Posting:)

Wheelchair said...

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Wheelchair Travel

Keep Posting:)

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