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Ask HN: Those making over $300k/year, how did you achieve it?
282 points by thrwunderpaid on Apr 11, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 283 comments
Recently there was a thread about someone making ~$500k/year at a FAANG company and seeing that there's people who hang out here and make ~$300k/year I always have questions for high income earners. Since I don't know any personally (or at least I think I don't) I'm hoping some are lurking and willing to answer some questions. I've set it to $300k because I think at this range the salary is exceptional even in LA/SF/NYC.

These are my questions and I'm adding my own answers though my income is not really in this range; some are slightly fudged to prevent de-anonymizing.

* What do you do?

* What is your job title?

* What is your total comp?

* Who do you work for?

* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)?

* How long did it take you to get here?

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)?

* What do you do?

- I do frontend development for financial applications; think trader dashboards, openfin, etc. I have done backend work previously and actually prefer it to frontend work

* What is your job title?

- Associate; a generic corporate title in banking

* What is your total comp?

- Last year I made $118k including my yearly bonus and 401k matching

* Who do you work for?

- JPMorgan

* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)?

- A large Texas city; one of Dallas/Houston/San Antonio

* How long did it take you to get here?

- 5 years from my first job as a developer

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)?

- It's been a gradual climb; whenever I feel there's no more to learn at my current job I look for another, each move included a pay bump. This job I managed through an acquaintance who offered to put my resume in although I was not looking for a job at the time

Reading such a post on HN is only fanning my financial insecurity.

I'm a Comp. Engineer in early 30, who used to draw approx. 130K (105 + 25K RSUs) from a major company in the south east USA. Moved to Europe(Denmark) for personal reasons, and have been essentially working for less than half that money I used to make. ($96K after taxes in US vs $48K after taxes in Denmark) - 10 years of experience.

Before you ask, that 130K job was not hell, it was a great experience. Nice people, great working hours/culture/balance. I keep telling myself that the quality of life after I moved here has improved in everything else except money. But, it's not completely true. Yes, I don't need to worry about * healthcare, * gun violence, * fear of being kicked out due to the 10+ year wait for Green card (Indian on H1B), * Childcare when I need for kids in future.

But, I question whether I'm wasting my prime earning years (comp.Engineer) at a place that does not pay well when compared to the US for superficial benefits. I'm not comparing Silicon valley standards..

Any HNers reading my rant from outside USA, care to share your thoughts?


I'm a software developer in South Africa.

We work for usually around half of what our UK/US counterparts earn, despite being an exceptionally capable team out here, arguably more so than any other team worldwide. The same can be said for many other tech companies with teams out here (e.g. ask your friends who work at Amazon about their CPT office).

We have one of the highest income tax rates in the world for 'high income earners' (>42% for me, above the highest international average income, and receive absolutely no benefits (schooling, healthcare etc.) as a result, thanks to our government being rife with corruption.

We have one of the highest crime rates in the world. The cost of living of the city I live in is rapidly increasing, it's becoming unaffordable for all who are not in finance or software, or are willing to be senior in their jobs and live like college grads. We have a tumultuous economy and therefore an unstable currency, consequentially your purchasing power is virtually 0.

The highest salary I have ever seen in the field of software development/engineering in SA is USD80k p/a. I know that I will likely never make +USD100k p/a living in SA working as a software developer, and yet, getting a visa to move away is intensely difficult without a company willing to sponsor you.

And yet, for all this financial despair when compared to my peers worldwide, I climb a mountain every weekend. I feel the sunshine on my face almost every day of the year. I surf before work regularly.

I have it pretty darn good. Don't let this superficial financial insecurity govern your happiness :)

Isn't most important where you're happy? From what I saw, plans to work a decade for a high salary and then do something you enjoy usually don't work out. As long as you earn enough to pay for everything you need (incl. hobbies and pension), comp should be secondary. It's more important to enjoy your work and the area you live in.

In the end, money is mostly relative. It doesn't matter if you don't earn $100k if hardly anyone makes that kind of money. In SV you will have trouble buying a house if you're on a $100k salary, in most parts of Europe that won't be an issue.

These threads are mostly comedy and hot air. Don’t let them fan anything. Everyone here says they’re making $300k. It’s a trope that won’t die. They are either statistical outliers or exaggerating. Median for the Bay Area (which tends to be the highest in the country if not the world) is around $115k plus equity. I’m not going to trot out the links again, but these numbers are Googlable unlike all the anecdotes.

Even the $300k numbers here are 50%+ equity. That's a considerable risk. It worked over the past 10 years because tech stocks have outperformed everything else. If we see a true tech stock crash (50%+ correction), many of those $300k salaries are in reality closer to $200k (or less if you'll never be able to sell the stocks). I don't wish that to anyone but it's important to keep in mind that stock bonus is something very different from cash salary.

Maybe it's because I'm making multiples of what my father ever did, but this is why I'm diversifying my stock immediately on receipt and saving +50% of my income. Anything else seems like insanity, or at least profligacy.

The way I’ve always explained it: if you suddenly got $50k, would you put it all into one stock? No. So if you suddenly got $50k of one stock, why would you not turn it into cash right away? The scenarios are identical.

EDIT: as 0xB31B1B points out it’s worth clarifying that the scenarios are the same only when we are talking about post-tax numbers. Generally when you receive RSUs, the taxes have already been withheld.

No, there is a taxable event in the case of a stock sale

I don't know why you feel you must lie to yourself to feel better. The numbers you find on Google are also anecdotes, and they match here. HN was literally founded to be a home for statistical outliers. Silicon Valley and its extensions are statistical outliers. Why do you think people complain about gentrification and $2M houses , and throw rocks at buses? Because there is a lot of money sloshing around.

I just ran some hypothetical numbers on Amazon based on things people have posted on here about SDE salaries. Let's say you joined April 11, 2014 with a total comp of $200K, made up of $150K base, 400 RSUs @ $353 vesting on Amazon's standard vesting schedule (Y1:5%, Y2:15%, Y2.5:20%, Y3:20%, Y3.5:20%, Y4:20%), and a sign-on bonus that offsets the initial year vests.

At Amazon's stock appreciation, that dev would be earning $150K + (20% * 400 * $995 + 20% * 400 * 1427) = $344K this year assuming no change in salary over that time.

How realistic is this? See the H1B data[1] for base salary numbers or an Anatomy of an SDE2 offer[2] from 2013 showing similar calculations.

So, to answer the question. One route would be to join Amazon 4 years ago as an experienced SDE2+.

[1]: http://h1bdata.info/index.php?em=Amazon+Corporate+Llc&job=&c... [2]: http://www.nailyourjobinterview.com/the-anatomy-of-an-amazon...

>>Any HNers reading my rant from outside USA, care to share your thoughts?

Indian. Working from Bangalore. In hindsight, I would say it was a bad move to leave the USA. But apart from all other reasons you have given for the move, only one thing matters- The green card wait.

But I would be interested in knowing your long term plans, if you wish to never return to India, then your savings outside India could take care of you in those economies. Life is easy outside, you get 401K and social security etc and things like that.

If your plan is to save up and retire in India, then my friend, start buying a home or real estate right now. With a 9% inflation here(Actually its higher, but won't go into that tangential debate now) anything you earn will all be dust by the time you arrive here. I have known people who show up from US with 2 - 3 crore rupees in savings hoping they will retire here and it barely covers their need for a home.

Also one thing I've learned is, if you are working in a first world country, then, you and a billionaire both get same standard of living. The same freeways, the same infrastructure etc. But if you retiring in India, money and savings matter a lot. Good money could mean good life, so early savings and investments matter in India. Optimize for salary all the time. Save and invest relentlessly.

This is all true.

You can earn more in the US for doing the same job with the same hours and good benefits. Life in the US is better.

I am speaking from experience. I have worked in London, Philadelphia and Boston.

The biggest difference for me is family and friends being in the UK which affects my happiness. For me it's best to be close to loved ones.

Life in the US isn't automatically better. It depends on so many things.

That's true. I was lazily making a broad wide sweeping statement.

I'll qualify what I said. If you are in highly educated, able to work, and are in the right field (i.e. software), life for the majority of individuals who fall into this category is better in the US than many other countries. On the other hand if you're dirt poor, have no education, bad health.... you may be better off in Scandinavia or Western Europe.

This kind of thing really needs to be normalised by house prices. Even a dumb metric like "salary * (number of bedrooms+1) / (house value)" would give decent results; I'm paid about one bedroom per year.

When I moved away from London I was moving away from all the really highly paid opportunities but my salary in bedrooms/year went up considerably.

I think the phrase you're looking for is "Geographic Pay Differentials" in HR terms.

I'm honestly thinking about not settling down until I'm in my higher 30s and instead move where I'd get the best salary/company hop for raises and set aside a nice amount, then I can move back to the EU, think about committing to relationships and live with a salary lower than what I'd like

You have pretty valid reasons for moving abroad. And I would consider all of them good ones. The only 2 main reasons I continue to stay in the US is because of the incredible number of really cool opportunities and the comp. I know there are cool tech companies all over the world, but the density of them in the US and specifically in SFBA is simply phenomenal. And my desire to work on hard problems is what has kept me here even though the immigration system is broken for people from certain countries.

If you want to earn a bit more, maybe try Switzerland. But are you really not happy? Don't get fooled by money. Rather look around you and ask yourself if you are happy with your situation.

If you can move, consider amsterdam. Great city, great salaries for devs(75k€+).

> I question whether I'm wasting my prime earning years (comp.Engineer)

Gonna be brutally honest. I think you are. Fellow Indian here, also came on H1-B to US, survived 5 layoffs in 2 companies over a 10 month period in the .COM boom and bust. Many of my fellow engineers, waay smarter than me, were not so fortunate. Some went back to India, others found jobs in UK and rest of Europe.

Your complains are what I hear from them even now.

Your comps ( #s ) also check out. I run http://www.visaok.in and routinely find that jobs in Denmark, Germany, UK and couple of other countries pay about 40% to 50% less than the same in US for the same job title and similar description.

Most professions have a prime and a software engineer's career, IMO, peaks at around late 30s or early 40s in terms of the base salary and compensation. I've found the range for a Sr. Software Engineer in a non-Silicon Valley / FAANG company to top around 150K to 170K in San Francisco / Bay Area. If you are average in terms of abilities, you can easily get a Software Engineer job at the IT department of a medium to large corp here in San Francisco for about 110K to 140K. Grow from there.

I would say try to come back to US on an H1B or any other Visa. Try to tell yourself you are here temporarily, and that you can always go back to Denmark as a fall back, or after you've peaked here and want to settle down and work towards FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early).

This may be a harder sell if you are married to a European and went there for that reason. Most western women, I found from experience, always want to move back to their home town after marriage, even if it's a bone chilling place like Siberia or Wisconsin or Alaska.

>>I would say try to come back to US on an H1B or any other Visa.

As a fellow India, who returned from US.

I'd say decide on a permanent home and stay there. Its very hard to retire in places you don't know much about. Also decide on a house, as early as possible.

People who are thinking they will live like nomads and later retire in India have no clue what they are talking about. India is growing by leaps and bounds, nothing that you save will be sufficient 20 years from now. You won't even be able to afford a home.

Pretty normal in coastal areas. I recently interviewed at FAANG and these are the offers I received. I have 6 years of experience as a standard software engineer, I consider myself a solid contributor but nothing special:

- Facebook (SV): ~380k (60% salary, 40% stocks)

- Google (SV): ~310k (60% salary, 40% stocks)

- Netflix (SV): ~410k (100% salary)

- Hedge fund (NYC): ~450k (40% salary, 60% bonus)

Everything is per year, I divided the stock part by the grant period (4 years).

If you're wondering, I did not take any of these offers. My current compensation at a series C startup is ~280k (80% salary, 20% cash performance bonus) and I have ~3M worth of stock options (based on the last preferred valuation, though I am granted common so definitely more at risk to get screwed) of which I currently vested 50%. I hope will be able to get liquid in a couple years or so, though I'm not fully counting on it and I'm taking the risk.

May I ask what technologies have you worked on ?

What skills were required at the NYC Hedge Fund?

From my experience, one of the best (and relatively easiest) ways to reach higher salary levels over a relatively small time frame is to, at some point, go to work as a short term consultant through a consulting agency for a little while. If you have any decent skills, getting in will be no problem. The benefits of this approach is 2 fold; 1) you will obtain a broad and diverse set of skills due to traversing many different technology stacks and dealing with all sorts of issues. 2) As you move from client to client, the consulting agency which is responsible for placing you, will be ever-increasing the rate at which they charge the client for your work. Although you probably won't see any personal gain from this increase, the big benefit comes when a company wishes to hire you long term (assuming you want to be hired also) and it's time to negotiate salary. If you know what the consultancy has been charging the company for your work, you now have a huge advantage in your negotiations. Typically, they will charge the client 3-5x what they are paying you, so just as an example, if you make 75/hr, the client is probably being charged ~200/hr. I would think you could at least double your salary if not more during final negotiations with the company. This approach worked out pretty well for me, but it does assume you have some way of knowing what the client is being charged. In my case, I befriended a few people during my assignment which allowed me to open that door.

tcrow what are some real-world examples of "consulting agencies?" I'm a technologist but examples in any industry would give me a feeling for what kind of company you're referring to. Thanks in advance.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_IT_consulting_firms for a list of some large scale firms. I'm sure there are also plenty of local agencies in your area that you could tap into.

Capgemini, Accenture.

(Using a throwaway, as uncomfortable associating this with public username)

What do you do?

* What is your job title? CTO

* What is your total comp? $600k salary, $500k cash performance bonus, $750k equity mix (RSUs and options)

* Who do you work for? Post C-round VC backed tech company, <500 employees, 200+ engineering on my team

* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)? London, UK

* How long did it take you to get here? ~12 years

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)? Worked for a couple FANNGs, did consulting, built a brand for myself, got hired to replace a founder CTO who maxed out their skillset.

> Associate; a generic corporate title in banking

To be highly paid, get a job at a company run by (former) software engineers who see software as the profit engine of their company. Not a bank that sees software as an IT cost center.

In general, you make the most money at a company where the founder or senior management have the same background as you and are biased to think your job role is the most important one in the company.

Facebook programmer, hospital doctor, Oracle lawyer, etc

Great advice. My father always says that you should go to a company where you work in a profit center, not a cost center. A lawyer at a law firm, instead of the legal dept. at a corp.; a coder at a software company, instead of part of the IT dept.; a marketer at a marketing company, instead of part of the marketing dept. at a corp., etc.

> Oracle lawyer


Wish I could upvote this comment more than once, this was the key takeaway after working in a business where software was a cost center 10+ years ago. I have always made this a rule for all my following jobs.

Oracle LOL :)

> Oracle lawyer


This is actually really good advice.

I've been reached out to before by recruiters for High Freq trading companies and other financial groups, offering 300-500k starting. A friend of mine worked at one of them and basically said that yeah you do make that kind of money but you work 70-80hrs/week and if anything is ever determined to be a crime, you'll be the one who gets thrown under the bus.

I am curious what "thrown under the bus" is: getting fired (which some/many may consider an acceptable risk for a high salary position) or being blamed / framed by a company for a jail time; or something else?

I think this applies to many jobs in Investment Banking as well. Salaries are great but you won't have much time to spend it.

didnt OP say he works for JPMorgan?

CPO for 400+ person, post Series-D private company.

Salary and bonus, about $350k. Maybe $400k or slightly higher if I'm counting options.

Report to the CEO.

I live in Brooklyn, office is in Manhattan.

Got here by my current company acquiring mine; I've been here a little under three years and have resisted starting another company because I like my current one so much and frankly, I've got a lot of impact. I have a CS background from a top-end school which made my first few career moves relatively easy. One difference is that I was always more interested in the product side of things so I started after school as a product/front-end engineering/design generalist (ie: get shit done guy) for Google and then a series of startups, which allowed me to collect a lot of things to point to so far as my contributions. Google was too slow and bureaucratic, the other startups were interesting but not mine.

Mind clarifying what CPO means in your case?


Could take a guess from several of those.

Sorry; Chief Product Officer.

usually Chief Product Officer

At our 5k person company, the CPO has the heads of engineering and product management report to him, and is responsible for them working together well and delivering product.

In my case, I have the product management and UX groups reporting to me. CTO is responsible for engineering, and as you could guess, the CTO and I are joined at the hip relative to keeping a good pace of delivery.

Question from someone not living in the US:

How come you guys have such high salaries compared to ROW? Is the cost of life that much higher than other countries, or is your income simply taxed less / companies have generally more money to spend on employees?

I am currently working in one of the highest paying (if not the highest) consultancy firms in my country, and my salary is probably lower than your minimum wage. It's actually something that pisses me off more than it should when I think about it.

Other western governments take care of healthcare costs, unemployment benefits, maternity/paternity leave, holidays, education costs and retirement. For example, in France or Germany, tuition fees for your kids are minimal while it's a fortune in the US. Or the governments in Europe mandate companies to pay 4 or 5 weeks of holidays. If an employee in the US wants to take 5 weeks, he/she has to pay 3 weeks out of their own pocket.

If you are working in SV for one of the MAFANGs or tech unicorns, you will have: healthcare covered by employer, generous severance package, 99 weeks unemployment benefits from California govt, parental leaves, 401k benefits. You will not have great public education in most of SV, but the salary differential will more than make up for the cost of private schools.

If you are upper middle class or higher in the US (which a SV software engineer most certainly is), life here is better than most other places in the world.

>If you are upper middle class or higher in the US...life here is better than most other places in the world

Please change to: your purchasing power is better than most places in the world.

Do not confuse purchasing power with better life. 13% of Americans are on anti-depressants. I know many "successful" people in my very affluent suburb of a major US city, who have an addiction problem ( prescription drugs, mostly).

Add growing social isolation, caused by constant uprooting (moving from place to place to advance one's career).

As they say, "all that glitters is not gold"

If you want to quote stats about anti-depressants, please do so for other competing places as well. I do not have those stats, but stats about suicide rate[1] show that other supposedly better places with free healthcare, social bonds and no guns (Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Japan) have higher suicide rates than the US.

Wading into social indicators is a tricky business without the full context of a place, so I will speak only about SV - great climate, progressive policies like enthusiastic adoption of Obamacare, unemployment benefits, good employers provide health/401k/parental leave benefits, non-racist environment (though certainly classist) etc.

Finally, my point was about "a software engineer in SV working at MAFANG or unicorns", who should not have to constantly uproot. A new job should be across the street for such a person.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...

1. Suicides rates are influenced by other factors, such as weather (Finland, etc), societal norms (Japan), etc.

2. The US would move further up the suicide table if you classify deaths from overdosing as suicides.

3. If the US population had not had such an easy access to "happy pills" (mood enhancers), the suicide rate would have been higher.

>A new job should be across the street for such a person

There are a lot of people coming and leaving S.V. on any single day. This has been discussed many times on HN.

If you are happy in S.V., good for you, but don't project the mini-bubble you live onto the whole country.

> There are a lot of people coming and leaving S.V. on any single day.

And yet, bay area population went from 7.15M in 2010 to 7.75M in 2017 [1].

> ... don't project the mini-bubble you live ...

The thread is literally asking for personal anecdotes (Ask HN). Why should one not post about their positive experiences with SV in that case?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Bay_Area#Demogra...

I’ve been in the US for 10+ years, 4 or 5 jobs and have never had less than 3 weeks. Last two jobs have been 4 weeks right from the start.

Competition, and value. At the height of Microsoft's days, the average employee generated something like $2m in value.

Take a dozen companies like that, where the income of the company divided by the number of employees is still in the millions, and have them fight for the best talent.

Lately, tech is especially special for this because a good employee is so much more valuable than a bad one. Some developers honestly produce negative value, while a solid team of good people can pay their own salaries many times over.

There's still the question of FAANG branches in other parts of the world not paying nearly as much as they do in the US, which is bullshit to me - if an employee generates value while working in the US, it does so outside of it as well. Companies this big shouldn't lower their compensation to match the country they operate in, I feel like it's an insult to employees who simply were born/decided to live in a different country

Yes, but they do it because they can. Local talent in those places accepts lower salaries, so they're still getting good people.

There are significant barriers to moving (for the employee) and hiring remotely (for employers) which means the salaries don't equalize across regions very well. Employers are mostly competing with other local employers, so there's not much pressure to increase compensation and salaries change slowly.

Maybe not for the 300-500k/year region, but for the 80-200k/year region: At least for software/engineering roles in big (non banking) companies a salary in the 90 - 120k region is quite possible, for product/sales people with all bonuses probably more. I got around 82k (plus variable bonus and retirement stuff) after 2.5years. 3rd job after my graduation. 6th or 7th (relevant) job all in all.

Considering how much lower the cost for living (compared to eg. SF is) and how much other stuff is covered (insurance, retirement, general infrastructure stuff), the divide is not that big. But it's still there (and pisses me off, too). The company I worked for payed considerably higher salaries for otherwise equal roles located in SF (and constantly complained about the quality they got for their money in SF). That was also often a reason quoted for lower yearly bonuses for the whole company, which again pissed everyone off..

The end reason is always market dynamics. Certain people can have certain rationalizations but the market doesn't lie. Note that it's not a perfect market because of things like immigration control and artificial friction via the broken IMO interview process.

There are many people in China/India who are smarter and harder working and more driven than many people at FANG headquarters. However they're competing with each other in a highly competitive area while in the US there is less competition because of moats dug to create better quality of life. Like how elevators beep when there are too many people to prevent crowding.

So the end reason is very very similar to why any sort of inequality exists at all, just in a more extreme and jarring form because the field in question is supposed to be THE meritocratic field. (Which it is in a way... But most of that disappears in large companies. And in the truly free economic playing ground it's not about smarts but about money and smarts)

Oh, you don't need to convince me. I used to be an Amazon Toronto employee!

But 'value contributed' is only a part of the equation that goes into how salaries are calculated.

It's a very small component actually. "Value contributed over nominal employee" might be a better way to think about it. Compensation is set almost exclusively on "What must we pay you to keep you from leaving and doing the same thing for the company that is the same distance from where you chose to live. If there ISN'T another company, its vastly less. If the thing you do is something that everyone can do, it's vastly less.

Cost of living in the US gets ridiculous. Healthcare is expensive and gets more expensive the more you make. As much as I make I'm probably one bad accident away from being wiped out financially

When you add a family, child care is super expensive; think $350/week for two kids

Not to say we aren't hyper-consuming gluttons, but I think that's only about one third of the picture

$350 for two kids? I pay $350 a week for one kid to go to daycare. And that's in New Hampshire not in a city like Boston of SF.

And that's not counting food, clothing, and other necessary child expenses.

Don’t forget the govt takes over 40 percent when your making upper class to higher level salaries especially if your single.

That 300k is really only 180k annually. So the govt takes the salary of a lower level upper class person for taxes.

When u make the jump from 50k to a higher tax bracket, taxes will shock u!

In Europe you often only get ~50-55% net and that's often from <$100k salary even at hot tech companies. But in many jurisdictions you then won't have any healthcare or education cost plus lower living cost overall. Pension is also taken care of in many countries. That probably still leaves you worse off than in the US but leads to a bit more even distribution of salaries across the population.

> you then won't have any healthcare or education costs

70 to 80% of healthcare plans are covered by US employers though. So maybe we should compare total comp plus benefits? Health plans aren't total costs, though, because cost sharing and care is expensive... But that means adding cost of living adjustments. But if you are using a chunk of your salary to plan for retirement in a lower COL area, maybe those aren't even fair.

An apples to apples comparison is incredibly difficult.


In the UK we are taxed at 40% for incomes above, I think, £45k.

Then above £150k, I believe it's taxed at 45%

Plus National Insurance which adds another 2%. But the average salary in the UK is around £30-35k so it's a problem mostly tech and financial workers have.

Wat? My highest overall tax percentage was 32% when I made 300k as a single person.

This seems to be a common misconception, but taxes in the EU are way higher than in the US

That 40% includes federal, state, social security and other taxes taken out.

You seem to be confusing marginal tax rate with effective tax rate.

People making 300k in California will pay between 33% and 39% effective tax rate (depending on marital status), including State, Federal, and FICA.

And that’s without simple tax sheltering techniques like pre-tax deduction for health care, contributing to a 401k, and deducting mortgage interest.


Actually, that’s a terrible link. Before Trump’s tax increase targeting CA/NY, the SALT itemized deduction lowers the effective tax rate by a further 3% or so, and that calculator fails to include it.

Childcare can be way more expensive in some parts of the US - $500+ a week for 2 kids in the Portland, OR area.

> Healthcare is expensive and gets more expensive the more you make

Huh? Are you self employed? I don't understand this.

The company I work for has what seems to be progressive deductibles. The less you make the lower your deductible will be. For some people here the only choice is a high deductible plan

The hospitals regularly write off bills for lower income individuals, while better paid patients are stuck with the insurance-inflated bill if they aren't covered.

There is a geographic disparity in how tech workers are valued. Might consider working remote for a US company that'll bring your wage up above what your local tech economy will provide for.

As a sibling comment points out, health insurance and child care consume quite a bit of a wage in the US (our employer portion is $20k/year alone for a family of four; childcare is easily $1k/per child/per month for 2 days a week of care). My wife is giving birth tomorrow to our second child, and we're prepared for a bill anywhere between $5k-10k all-in, even with a quality insurance plan at my company.

> [You]Might consider working remote for a US company that'll bring your wage up...

How do you even get to do that ? Most of the time companies that advertise 'remote' mean 'we need a remote worker who resides in the US'

To your question: "How do you even get to do that?" You ask. My current enterprise job was not offered as remote. It was advertised as an in-office job. When the job was offered to me, I asked if I could work remote. Due to how hard hiring is for my role, I was told it'd be no problem (and I had other offers; lesson for another thread, "always negotiate from a position of power").

The below resources come to mind as places to start (no affiliation).




Also, an ongoing salary survey document for your use in ensuring you're not getting undervalued: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1a1Df6dg2Pby1UoNlZU2l...

great resources. I'll check them out.

Please let me know if you have a positive outcome. Happy to have helped.

I’ve worked at many US companies where we had remote workers in other countries. In fact I’d say it was more common than not. Typically they were employees of the local country or region office though from a legal perspective so I doubt they were able to pull a “domestic” salary.

I've thought about working remote but I've heard that unless the company is geared towards making the playing field even for remote/onsite workers you'll be having an hard time getting noticed/pulled into projects.

Might be something I'll look into if nothing I can find in the EU satisfies me.

Don't give up! There are opportunities out there. Contact companies you're interested in who don't have open positions listed and communicate your interest. Despite what the echo chamber will tell you, it's still all about networking and who you know that gets you the job, rarely merit.

The large software groups i.e. FAANG have very high margins and are very profitable. This means they can afford to pay their staff very well.

I live in the UK and the cost of living in London is roughly the same as NYC but salaries are lower for the same job.

Certain companies and countries (Luxembourg, Switzerland, UAE) have structural advantages which means staff get paid more. It is not always merit based. So you will have some very talented people who are are in the 'wrong' region or industry and get paid materially less than they could be.

What really pisses me off about FAANG branches in EU is that they will pay you way less than what they're paying for the same role in the US, which feels like an insult. London I believe is the best market in the EU for cost of living/salary tech-wise - luxembourg, switzerland, UAE have a cost of living which is off the charts, i.e. yes in switzerland you can get 5k€/mo for an entry level job but having breakfast outside will probably cost you in the 10€-20€ range, which is madness compared to the rest of EU

It's frustrating right.

Stating the obvious: the world isn't fair. If you're in software, the US is the place to be. Haven't said that it's not always easy.

I almost got an investment job in the UAE with a SWF. They had a change of strategy which I didn't fit into. This was after 7 stages and me flying out there for two and a half days of back to back interviews. Comp included accommodation and a tax-free salary in the $200k range....

It's definitely not fair to you that you get paid less because you were born in a different country but that's just how it works. The rest of the world simply doesn't have the demand for tech talent that the US does.

Imagining a world where all the candidates from everywhere could move to SF, etc for their ideal job, do you think wages would rise or fall? Hint: They'd fall. A free market economy is left no other choice than to treat the job "environment" as a "job market", complete with the dynamics of supply and demand.

Netflix and Amazon's margins aren't that great. How are they able to afford these salaries?

They are measuring total compensation. In European countries, you have five weeks of paid vacation and money that is put into your retirement fund in addition to your salary. Plus sick days. That is worth 10-24 % more than your base monthly salary.

The spread of US developer salaries appear to be insanely high though. Median is "only" 70k according to this site: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Software_Developer/...

Where are you pulling the five weeks figure from? It's more like 20ish days, after that if your employer is ok with it you can "borrow" vacation and pay it back by not generating more vacation days while you work or pay when you quit your job.

Retirement funds, I don't know about the rest of EU, but in my country are basically a scam - here you are forced to pay 10% of your gross salary per month into the fund and you can start getting pension after 35yrs of work (provided you are older than 70yo), that means I'm paying money I will NEVER get back, since median age is going up and employement down, no one will be around to pay my pension like I'm paying my parents' with my salary.

Sick days are on the company only for the first 3 days, after that the healthcare system pays you (80% of your rate, iirc)

Where are you from? In my country a company would pay 100% of the salary for 12 months and then 80% for another 12 months in case of sickness.

IT, you get 100% for the first three days covered by the company, 50% from the 4th day till the 20th and 66,66% from the 21st to the 180th day covered by healthcare - incidentally 180 days is the maximum number you can be on sick leave in a year

Even taking that into account, the non-US salaries are still 50% lower.

> It's actually something that pisses me off more than it should when I think about it.

1. all that glitters is not gold.

2. what life style does your salary afford you?

I live in the greater Seattle Area. Engineering base salaries are ~130-160k range. Total comp, add $60-100k on top of that (bonus, +equity). SOme make more, some make less. All of us at that level live a pretty good lifestyle, but no one is really balling out.

Cost of living has skyrocketed to match the inflated salaries. Businesses and government are working overtime to extract that money out of workers pockets.

2. I can basically only pay for rent/bills, food and maybe a train ticket back home once a month to see family/friends, I'd say that's a pretty shitty life style - I am paying too much rent atm but even if I was able to shave a couple hundred euros off that it certainly wouldn't make me rich.

You work at one of the highest paying firms in your locale and you are slightly above making ends meet?

Do you at least love what you do (for a living?)

Not really - consulting isn't my line of work it seems. I am lucky in a way because I got into an handpicked team that actually writes code and explores new tech, so I'm not wasting my time entirely here, but still, I am considering going back to uni to specialise and hopefully move out of the country for an higher salary as a more specialised worker rather than jack of all trades SE

I sincerely wish you luck in that.

On paper I make 90k at a startup.. I'm a partner and we're having cashflow issues so -- I haven't been paid in a month and a half... and I don't think we'll be rolling out the benefits we were planning to, and I think we'll be moving away from 'employees to contractors'..so we don't have to worry about benefits till cashflow is fixed, as for costs:

Healthcare for myself alone is going to be about $350 a month, rent for an average condo for a family of 3 is : 1440 here in utah. Healthcare for the rest of the family will be an extra $600...

That's $2500 in costs just for healthcare and rent. Food is expensive and probably costs us about $1k a month as well, Internet is $75 but it's google fiber :) ...

That said IF you work in software -- and you speak damn good english and really sell yourself, there's no reason you can't earn at least 30-40/hour as a dev, I worked on an all remote team and we had a couple employees from mexico/south america and they were paid the same as everyone else.

I'd highly recommend looking for employment outside your country on a remote team. Working from home is also pretty nice, I save a ton on commute time.

I also need to invest for my own retirement, my wife is a homemaker and takes care of the kids, and I need to make sure somehow we can afford to pay up to 200k per kid for college maybe more by the time 2036 comes along... We'd also like to buy a house someday, and I like tech toys...

If you decline the job with your current company in your region, what is your best alternative? What is the employer's best alternative? That determines the limits to what you will accept and that they will offer. (Economists call this BATNA - best alternative to a negotiated agreement)

Cost of living sets a basic expectation, but janitors in silicon valley don't earn the high wages software engineers do there.

The expected value a company can derive from the contributions of an average employee also differ - Google has the market and infrastructure to profiy more per engineer hour than a typical small business.

Mostly cost of living. The locations where these jobs are tend to be very expensive to live (which is why the location part of this question will be interesting).

I work in Civil Engineering for a municipality in the bay area. We are having an incredibly difficult time getting any qualified applicants because it is not enjoyable to live in the bay area on the salary we offer compared to the cost of living. I'm pretty sure the salary for tech workers is not to compensate for cost of living, especially when I look at what my parents could afford on a blue collar salary in the North Bay when I was growing up. It is the wages paid that are raising the cost of living, not the cost of living raising the wages.

what would rent+bills cost in SF, for example?

Rent + bills cost around $3700 for me for a 1 bedroom apartment a 15 minute walk from work but I also get paid $147k salary. I make the maximum contribution to my 401k every month, so after rent, payroll, retirement, health insurance, and taxes I take home around $3500 a month.

This doesn't include my stock bonus, free breakfast lunch an dinner which I do take advantage of, and other small perks that add up to thousands a year.

That's crazy, my MORTGAGE is £455 a month, my factors are ~£160, then the rest of the bills is about ~£200-£300ish

So my living costs each month is around £900 ($1200)

I have a large apartment, living room is about 600sq feet and I have 2 big bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, gated entrace to the complex, a handy man, a concierge, my own private parking space as I'm in a big city...

$3700 a month is ludicrous. I'd want to live in a castle for that.

Unless you bought a long time ago, I'm going to take a guess you're not in London. You could expect to pay £900 for a room (maybe including, maybe excluding bills) in a flatshare in a decent(ish)/popular location.

>$3700 a month is ludicrous. I'd want to live in a castle for that.

I'm the person you are responding to and I agree, but this is what I get if I don't want to commute.

man where the fuck do you live to get all of that for only 900£? I pay 750€ish per month rent+bills for a bedroom in a shared apartment

I live in Scotland (Glasgow). THe place was £170k to buy and needed about £40k ish work done to it.

The £40k came out of savings, £70k deposit and you end with a really cheap fixed mortgage on £100k that comes to £445 a month, in fact it's low enough that I overpay it some months by double to get the mortgage paid off quicker.

Glasgow is tiny compared to NYC, SF, LON, etc. In an equivalent sized city in the U.S. you could easily find a house for $200k.

it's probably not size but rather the "hotness" of the city, i.e. afaik Rome is the biggest city in Italy by far (maybe the biggest in EU as far as actual size is concerned) but cost of living is quite low compared to other EU capitals and even other cities in IT, Milan i.e.

$1.5-2k will get you a single room in an apartment, a studio will run you at least $2.5k. Forget it if you have a family

There is a bit of a bias on HN toward FAANG salaries and experiences. Outside of coastal cities, the salaries appear like Monopoly money.

This thread is depressing me as well, and I'm doing "okay" compared to my other friends in other professional fields.

300 tc is pretty standard for FAANG and the big unicorns. I pull down 330k w 5 years experience at a Uber. 180 cash, 150k equity. I’m incredibly average, 5 years exp.

Shouldn’t there be a distinction made between public and private company equity?

150k of Facebook stock seems much more desirable vs 150k of Uber stock because at least with Facebook stock you could liquidate it on the public market?

Or am I missing something?

Paysa puts Uber at #1 for compensation, but their stock isn't liquidatable like a public company. Doesn't make sense.


> 150k of Facebook stock seems much more desirable vs 150k of Uber stock because at least with Facebook stock you could liquidate it on the public market? Or am I missing something?

If you're fresh out of school and need to cover the student loan and the rent - sure. If your previous employment includes significant time spent at GOOG, FB, AMZN, NFLX, AAPL, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, NVDA or even YHOO or AMD or TWTR, your everyday cashflow situation is likely taken care of, and what you're looking for is potential growth.

right. stock compensation is your independence fund and I don't think about it like I do salary or cash bonus.

The secondary market used to be an easy way to liquidate, back before FB IPO. Is it still ok?


Ask anyone you know who works at those companies. They will confirm that paysa's data is absurdly wrong. Their "median" is the minimum at my company.

What's the company?

Uber stock has more promise of growth. Also there are private markets (idk to what extent one can participate tho).

And more risk that they will never even go public. I've had options for more than one company that no longer exists.

Can't you sell the stake privately? Does it have to be approved by some higher up? I'm guessing it depends on the company.

Uber Stocks don't feed you tho.

Can't pay the rent with private equity!

It’s definitely not standard. Esp at say amazon.

You forget: Everyone on HN makes $300k, drives a Porsche and has a supermodel as a significant other. I’d regard the self-reported anecdotes as outliers. $300k (total including equity) is at least one, possibly two standard deviations above the mean for software professionals. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and work at one of these ‘top’ places and don’t make anything even close to that. These threads are always good for a morning laugh though.

this makes me sad... On paper i make 90k, but haven't been paid in > a month because of cashflow (dev firm with one major client (MLM Company) who's not paying recently and not happy).

Before that most I've made is 65k.. as a jr/intermediate web dev.

The rest of my company quit, because of the pay issues, so I'm now the sole dev trying to pull us back up from the void, as a bonus now I'm a partner and President of Software Development... with 10% equity should we succeed.

I'm always 'planning' on groking ai/ml but I never did algebra 2 or calculus, so I've got some math I need to brush up on before I get there.

Before I get there i'll probably have my own tech agency/consulting firm and just go the entrepreneur route, rather than become a level 10 developer working on ai, but I can always dream right?

Cost of living mustn't be too high where you're at or I wouldn't imagine you'd be able to make ends meet with the savings that $65K would afford. I hope the absent payroll doesn't last long for you. One has to wonder what your hours are if 'the rest' of your company quit. Good luck.

Lately it's about 12 hours a day... till I get us to launch day on the clients app. Then we should get all back-pay they're withholding...I can burn both company/client to the ground, if I'm not paid eventually, and I'll pull the nuclear option if I have to.

Hopefully after launch we can afford at least 2-3 more devs, as pres. of software, I'm planning on making us be more 'lean' and spend less money. We got rid of the office/went remote for one thing. We'll focus more on full-stack devs instead of having frontend/backend people who would sometimes sit around and wait for the other team to finish something that was blocking them... working the back/frontend of the stack can alleviate those bottlenecks some.

Lol, I know.

Amazon is a huge exception. You do well at Amazon when the stock price explodes upward and the equity value grows more than your total salary, because Amazon cuts salary and equity refreshes to cancel out stock growth as much as possible. Amazon stock price had been exploding updward on average for the past decade though.

Ignoring stock appreciation Sr. SDEs at Amazon have a total comp target of ~$250k-$350k. Same for L6 SDMs. It’s definitely “standard” for some levels/job families.

May I ask what's SDM?

Right now it's happening a lot actually, because of stock growth. There are a mountain of people making over $300k whose total comp should be lower.

It depends on position. Total compensations for AI positions in top tier technology firms are well beyond $1M mark, some go as high as $3M annually.

talk about an edge case. top of the top of the top.

What is the job title for one of these positions? Background required? What is the daily work like?

I donno. Research Scientist/Machine Learning Researcher?

They're probably tasked with analyzing data and create AI models to assist AI-assisted product features / apis, etc.

How many people are making 3M?

I think a PhD is compulsory at that level

Do you have data/sources?

Is that equity you can sell? Or does it have several years lock-up? In that case I can imagine that the value is hard to estimate, e.g. SNAP employees will have had a significantly lower comp than thought.

Companies generally under-value private equity precisely for the purpose of compensation, as potential hires are attracted to upside.

SNAP employees who started around IPO time or a few months thereafter are likely having a bad time, longer time employees have received equity at much lower prices than today's $15.

Amazon comp is below 300 until probably principal level. Maybe a few seniors have it.

That implies that there are thousands of employees, including very hard to achieve senior engineer level who work at a Amazon only because they dont care about making an extra $100k/yr or are in love with the company or can't pass interviews at any of Microsoft or Google or Facebook or one of the many local startups. I believe it for juniors who all quit after 2 years if they can, but seniors?

Depends also on location. Toronto amazon employees have lower salaries because there isn't enough local competition for talent.

Seem to highly depend on date of joining. Is it unreasonable to assume that someone who joined around 2015, when the shares were in $300-400 range got an offer with a grant of 1,500-2,000 shares for mid-level?

An L6/SDE3 that started a few years ago might do it with stock appreciation

What was your salary trajectory? Where did you start and at what point did you start reaching the 200k+ to 300k+ range?

200k range is L4 at most big cos and mega unicorns. So 2.5 - 5 years exp. I studied chemical engineering in school, started at a bigger company, then small start up, then to Uber. Reached 300k this year w promo from L4 to L5.

cool! then there's some hope yet!

By 5 years experience, do you mean 5 years out of school? If so, where did you go and what did you specialize in?

Currently earning $300k base with 100k in RSUs annually at Oracle as an engineer, though my title is different (director title). All they've asked from me so far is engineering IC work.

I had to negotiate hard for it, and my expertise spans multiple currently hot tech domains. Also a former founder of my own startup.

I'll also say that despite the common hater mentality against Oracle, it's been a nice place to work in my experience. As long as your boss and team are a good fit, you can have a good life, interesting work and good balance.

This makes me wonder whether Oracle's unpopularity raises the wages they pay.

It's definitely possible.

I've also learned that a lot of folks at Oracle don't make that much money, but like their teams, projects, and stability. Can't say I completely get it. It's definitely more chill than startup life, though.

May I ask what's IC?

I think it means Individual Contributor work, so he's coding stuff not managing people

Surprised no one has linked to this yet https://www.levels.fyi/?compare=Google,Facebook,Microsoft&tr... where you can view the salary grades of the FAANG's compared to other public/private inc stock, as reported by staff.

For the most part you'd live in a place like NYC or the Bay Area to come up with these kind of salaries. So let's assume you live in the Bay Area (California). New Federal income tax is 35% for that salary range then add 13% coming from beautiful and sunny California. We're at a 48 % tax rate. Let's round that up to 50% to simplify our maths. Congratulations - you are now making $150k/year! From 300 down to 150 just like that.

Housing in the Bay Area... rent is minimum $2500 for a 1 bedroom. If you want to buy that one bedroom instead, let's make it cheap and let's pretend it's only $800k for a 1 bedroom in San Francisco. You come up with 20% down ($160k) cash and get a mortgage for the remaining $640k. Assuming you've been eating potatoes for a few years to save $160k. We're looking at a monthly payment of about $3500 at today's rate. That's roughly $40k per year to live in a tiny 1 bdr. You are now down to $110k/year from $150k.

Property tax + home owner insurance + bills, etc. We're looking at %1 per year property tax so that's $8k then about $2k for home owner insurance we're now at $10k just to have the right to "own" a place. We're at $100k per year now without food, bills, etc. This is about $8300 net per month. You live in a 1bd apartment, you owe $600k to a bank, you work your butt off everyday and the only way for you to afford something bigger than bicycle is to either save money for a few months or to get a loan.

You're getting paid $300k/year you can't even buy a normal car. You have to get a loan. $8000 net per months is still a lot, but in today's life you ain't rich.

> Let's round that up to 50% to simplify our maths. Congratulations - you are now making $150k/year! From 300 down to 150 just like that.

That's not how it works. Anything above $200,000 will be taxed at 35%.

You're taxed in brackets. For the first $9525 you're taxed at 10%, from $9525 to $38,700 you're taxed at 12%, and on we go.

Your actual federal income tax at $300,000 is going to be more like $80,000. California state income tax is the same way, and the 13% doesn't appear to kick in until you're above a million [0], so that's more like $25,000, for a total of $106,000ish[1].

You "simplified" $44,000 away.

[0]: https://www.tax-brackets.org/californiataxtable

[1]: I'm really bad at my taxes, so take that number with a grain of salt, but it sure as hell isn't a flat $150,000.

While I agree on your main point, I think that you are confusing marginal tax rate with average tax rate. E.g. the 2017 federal income tax for a single making $300k is in the "$46.6k + 33% in excess of $191k" bracket. This means an average tax of 27.5%. Same for state income tax. So you aren't quite down to $150k/year.

That said, one _does_ face a marginal tax rate of over 50%. So any _additional_ income opportunity is basically cut in half.

On the other hand, an addition expense (but pre-tax) is retirement savings. People in their early-to-mid careers (especially those making $300k/yr) should not be planning for getting anything out of social security.

Certainly you should plan on getting Social Security. There is zero chance Social Security will go away, except in the fever dreams of Paul Ryan, who just retired.

The precise inflation adjusted return you’ll get on this social insurance scheme will be very low, and the retirement age may go up a bit, but unless we get effective immortality in your life time, the US can just pay for Social Security out of general funds.

> New Federal income tax is 35% for that salary range then add 13% coming from beautiful and sunny California. We're at a 48 % tax rate.

My Federal AGI was 260K, California AGI was roughly equivalent.

My Federal Total Tax was 65K

My California Total Tax was 22K

My total rate was therefore 33%.

Source: my 2017 1040 & 540

So, you've rounded up to exaggerate your point, failed to understand marginal tax rates, included costs of mortgage payments but not the associated tax deduction, and all those errors are in the same direction.

Why are you including state tax of 13% but not social security and medicare which is 7%? Also note that state tax is deductible so it feels more like 9%.

I think the math of going from $300k to $150k went by too quickly for me. Can you go over it in a little more detail?

> So let's assume you live in the Bay Area (California). New Federal income tax is 35% for that salary range then add 13% coming from beautiful and sunny California. We're at a 48 % tax rate. Let's round that up to 50% to simplify our maths.

What's unclear about that? 35% + 13% = 48% = about 50%. After that, it's just a matter of removing 50% from 300k to arrive at 150k.

35% is the marginal tax rate. The actual tax on 300k is 27%.

Tax (federal + state) in California is close to 50%

300k gross income at 50% income tax is $150k net.

That's not how tax brackets work. You only pay the higher rate on the income over the bracket. For instance, (assuming you're filing single) you pay 10% tax on the first $9,525 of income. You pay 12% on the next $21,175, and so on.

Here are the tax brackets for this year:

  $0.00+ 	10%
  $9,525.00+ 	12%
  $38,700.00+ 	22%
  $82,500.00+ 	24%
  $157,500.00+ 	32%
  $200,000.00+ 	35%
  $500,000.00+ 	37%
Only 1/3 of your income would be subject to a 35% tax rate. Less than half of it would would be hit by a 32% rate. The majority of your income would be taxed at 24% or less.

People not understanding progressive taxation on a thread about making 300k+ is a bit funny.

I wonder how many libertarian ideologies get forged simply because they don't understand progressive tax rates.

If you already believe taxation is theft, why would you bother with the specifics?

IME, lots of people start out with revulsion to the specifics (often based on popular misunderstandings of those specifics) and only later adopt a “taxation is theft” ideology to rationalize that revulsion.

So, I understand GPs question.

FAANG is Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet’s Google.

Thanks! Not even a quick Google search could tell me the meaning.

You might wanna try DuckDuckGo ;-)


Their search results aren't always better, but sometimes you might find some surprising features (e.g. direct StackOverflow results).

The acronym seems to change every few weeks. I saw another one all over the comments a while ago.

Friendster Alcoa AmerisourceBergen Nestle Glencore

* What do you do? Software engineer working on the machine learning side of the company. I help research scientists build working large-scale systems that can actually be used in production. Working on production, user-facing applications makes it easy to justify why your salary should be high: if I can show a 20% improvement in performance, I can save the company $X00,000/year in costs. It's also important to work in the area of the company they care about. Your managers (and their managers) will have more power and influence. Working on plumbing doesn't get you paid as much as user-facing.

* What is your job title? Senior software engineer

* What is your total comp? - 150k base salary - ~30k bonus / year - ~100k stock / year (at current stock price) - [not counted in the above] 60k one-time signing bonus

* Who do you work for? FAANG, don't want to be more specific

* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)? Live and work in SF

* How long did it take you to get here? - Undergrad BS in 2009 at top-4 CS school, hired directly into top company at 110k total compensation. Worked on maintaining a large distributed system. Was paid "less" than I could have but the work was technically difficult and I learned a ton. Economy was down and getting a job wasn't as easy. - Switched jobs and company in 2011 and started making 140k total compensation. Now working a more standard software engineer role on a user-facing application. - Switched jobs and company again in 2013 and made 150k total compensation at a startup in the AI space (hire #~10). Company did well for the first year, then started to do not so great. I left before it failed to do a one-year MS in AI. - Went back to school for one-year MS 2015-2016. Didn't learn as much as I hoped, and cost me a chunk of change, but networking and the diploma was critical in landing my current job. - Hired as a senior software engineer at 240k in 2016. Have stayed with this company and got a salary bump last year (and the stock is now worth more).

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)? All of the above. Well-off parents to help me get to a top undergrad school who could pay for my education so I could focus on classes. Was always top-20% of class, but never top-5%. Went to lots of job fairs, negotiated my first offer. Always look for new hard problems. Switch jobs often for a higher salary. Work in whichever area the company cares about.

May I ask from which school did you finish your MS?

The US compared to the UK is insane salary wise. A good developer in the UK might make £40-£45k a year ($56k)

According to glass door at Amazon in the UK you can make anywhere from £30k to £50k.

Microsoft goes a bit higher (in London, but everything is higher in London) to around £65k for SE2.

I only know one friend who is a developer on £100k+, most of us are on around £30k to £40k.

I know one Senior Developer doing Web Development on around £25k ($35k)

The fraction of people in the UK pulling in £100k+ in any job is tiny, nevermind tech workers.

Are you including contractors? My understanding is that tech contracting in London is where the money is at. You can make £400 a day or ~£84,000 a year. This is with a lower all-in tax rate so your take-home pay is higher if you take it as a dividend.

I used to be a software engineer but changed to finance (asset management) to get paid more. I went from £23k a year to £50k.

You can easily make £400+ a day with tech contracting in London, yep. I've been doing it for years and I'm defiantly middle of the road.

If you're a niche expert (MUMPS, KDB, etc.), you can probably make double that.

If you work with undesirable technology then it's entirely possible to double it.

As an example, a friend of mine is a Sitecore developer. Sitecore is an enterprise-level CMS on the .NET framework that is used by large companies, and it's feature set boasts some impressive marketing tools. He recently went into contracting after around a decade of experience, and he's pulling in £400 a day in Bristol and Nottingham. This, for him, was a "really low rate" because he was starting out, and for his next contract he'll probably bump it up to £600 a day or more for London. The top Sitecore architects that contract will earn anything from £800-1200 a day, which is insanity to someone earning a fairly standard developer salary.

Then again, I'd argue that dev salaries in the UK are low in general, and contractors only illustrate the huge difference.

@zimpenfish do you have any advice on contracting?

I was thinking about going into one day.

I have a diverse background and have been a quantitative analyst, software engineer, and investment analyst. I have a MEng in Mathematical modelling (from a good UK uni) and a CFA Charterholder. My current tech stack (about 1 year experience) is React, JS/Typescript, GraphQL, Apollo Server all on AWS (AWS Lambda, AWS RDS and Docker on an EC2 instance). I used to work with Java, Linux servers and SQL (2 years experience). Would it be possible for me to contract? I could leverage my non-technical skills as well like my CFA and investment experience. :)

> do you have any advice on contracting?

If you're ok with employment gaps and the consequent lack of income, go for it. But if you have dependents and/or mortage and/or other constraints, I'd definitely put a whole lot of thought and financial planning into it first.

With that list of skills, I reckon you should be able to find some interest in London, yeah. Might have to lowball the daily rate to start with just to get going but people are definitely hiring those skills.

Thanks for the advice. I would be fine with the lumpy income as I have no dependents or financial commitments (mortgage etc.).

I not far off affording a small 1 bedroom flat with cash so fairly relaxed.

May I ask what's MUMPS , KDB?

MUMPS is a bonkers database language popular with healthcare and banks.


KDB is another bonkers database language popular with banks and high-frequency traders.


(There is a common theme here!)

* What do you do?

- Specialist consulting? I help large organisations migrate systems, develop API's in-house, train existing staff to use good tools and frameworks.. I wear a lot of hats, but it's mostly API development. I think most developers could manage it with a good foundation and knowledge of how things "should be done".

* What is your job title?

- Often something with "API", "Integration" or "Engineer" in the role. Varies by client, I let them decide.

* What is your total comp?


* Who do you work for?

Varies; usually banks, education, government, insurance - not traditionally IT places.

* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)?


* How long did it take you to get here?

5 years from doing an internship where I was made to write VB6. In 2013.

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)?

Mix of luck, soft skills, good mentors and really hard fucking work. First job was a fluke - found a great team who I learned a lot from. Got the right title bumps at the right times. Was happy to tell people no and give ultimatums on pay and titles. Didn't put up with bad managers, shit code and toxic culture during downturns. My resignation is always the same, "right now I don't think this is the right environment for me at this point in my career, I've found another opportunity I wish to pursue. It's been great blah blah blah". Eventually just started selling my time by the hour, now I put up my rate every 3 months (or at the end of a contract which is usually 6+ months) until I can't find a job, then I take a holiday and usually land something within a few months at the new rate.

Honestly, I think most average developers at large organisations are just that - average. The kind of people who've been writing code for 20 years but still not using source control properly or in some cases at all. Ask them something obscure about anything in their code-base and they'll tell you what you need in under 20 seconds. I think this is usually because they've had a manager in the past who said no and questioned everything, so they stopped improving and just maintained.

Not FAANG, but in SV.

* What do you do?

-Product management

* What is your job title?

-Senior Product Manager

* What is your total comp?

-To be super clear:

  -Total is ~$250k
    -150K base salary
    -50K in RSU (basically equivalent to cash for public company)
    -7-10k from ESPP
    -40k in bonus
* Who do you work for?


* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)?

-Bay Area

* How long did it take you to get here?

-Hired after internship. Its been 3.5 years at current company.

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)?

-Started as an engineer and quickly took the lead on a high visibility project. Lots of politics in between.

Total comp in the 3.5 years: year 1: 145k year 2: 195k year 3: 225k year 4: expected to be 250k+

Anecdotally I can say that 300k/year is also achievable in Chicago working for a non FAANG startup.

I've worked for a fair number of high profile startups in Chicago and I've seen a number of people reach the 300k+ realm.

Generally these people have been highly skilled directors, executives, or principle engineers and they have an exceptional track record of delivering results. In general I would estimate most of the ones I have worked with as having 10-20 years experience and I believe they got to where they are by having a great combination of raw talent, a great personality, drive, and the ability to coach and mentor others.

Note that I have also come across at least two or three people at this level that had gotten there simply by being friends with a founder or early investor. Usually these types of people don't last more than a year or two though. Once the company starts gaining traction and brings in real leaders that expect real returns these types of individuals are usually the first to go.

Also in Chicago the principle engineers that I have seen hit this level tend to have a strong understanding of stream processing, real time analytics, the smack stack, systems engineering, and data science. From my own interviewing and hiring experiences in Chicago I can also say that if you can demonstrate skills in these areas as en engineer and have some greenfield experience it's pretty easy to hit 150k-200k total comp with no more than 5 years of total experience. I haven't seen anyone under principle hit 200k+ with a reasonable work life balance, I know a few fintech engineers that approach 250k+ but they work 80 hour weeks and hate their life.

The savings rate on that budget is insanely aggressive. Also, the budget is treating mortgage like it's rent.

The most egregious example is college.

JUST the 529 has something like $38k when the kid turns 18.

The house will eventually be paid off, and 15 year mortgages are still possible in many expensive coastal cities on $300k/yr. So you have an additional $3,900/mo = $46,800/yr, some of which you can burn on college expenses. Let's say half.

That means you have at most 38+8.5+46/2 = 69 PER YEAR of college. AND that's with additional 46k/2 retirement savings! Even for a huge family of 4, after discount rates [1], that's enough to pay for tuition at an expensive private college with zero scholarship over the discount rate. Especially if you forego constantly making car payments on an expensive car (drive that 5 year old car for 5 more years while the kid(s) are in college). That level of saving isn't necessary! If you're spending more than that on college, the loans to cover the difference will more than pay for themselves. (Oh, and you're in a coastal city, so there are top-tier universities within driving distance, so no ned for room&board.)

[1] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/05/16/discount-rate...

edit: I can't read columns correctly. need coffee.

> * A 26 year old middle school teacher making $55,000 a year plus her $250,000 a year VP of Marketing wife

Strange article. It's a creative way to connect a teacher's salary with a $300,000 income but in the end, this kind of salary remains the exception and is only normal in small pockets of the US.

TBF $2k minimum rent and $500,000+ minimum housing prices are also only normal in small pockets of the US. I have no idea how teachers survive in expensive coastal cities.

Food for three is $2100 per month? That's ridiculous. I spend less than $5000 per year on myself. Probably right around $10/day, and that's with at least 80% of my meals coming from restaurants. I'm working on doing more home cooking for various reasons.

> Food for three is $2100 per month? That's ridiculous. I spend less than $5000 per year on myself.

That is ridiculous, but $5000/yr is also pretty low. Remember that this is a budget for 2 people working full-time and also raising (perhaps multiple) children. That means purchasing time wherever you can. Food prep is labor intensive.

Unless you have a stay-at-home or part-time parent, the first child is NOT a linear progression in life costs!

I wasn't expecting this depressing of a read in the AM, but its helpful.

* What do you do?

"Internal Tools & Automation". String together data pipelines (source and sink), write system tools, rapid app development for small and time limited tasks, review and optimize code for the team at large, public API reviews for usability / sanity.

* What is your job title?

Whatever I want :^). But my card currently says Lead Automation Engineer

* What is your total comp?

Amortizing my RSUs, it's about 300K/Y, with about 50% stock in a public company.

* Who do you work for?


* Where do you live (assuming you don't work from home)?

Moved around the Bay Area a bit

* How long did it take you to get here?

2 years at a low volume / high value / esoteric material semiconductor foundry 4 years here.

* How did you get here (networking/raw technical skill/job board/dumb luck, etc.)?

Cold call from recruiter after passively posting my resume on a job board (never asked which one). Once here, just through performing well and getting exposure to other teams and how the OS works through experience.

Can you talk more about your experience, or what sort of projects you worked on in previous roles to become a "lead automation engineer"?

Anything in particular? I touched on this a bit in the description.

In short, I would say it has felt like a straight forward progression after performing well yet being aggressive with pay negotiations. The latter becomes easier when you realize it’s not money out of your managers pocket, just a spigot guarded by HR.

> The latter becomes easier when you realize it’s not money out of your managers pocket, just a spigot guarded by HR.

Hah, I like this characterization. I've often walked away from lowball offers only to be contacted by hiring managers with much better offers. I can't say I agree with a company's policy of trying to bring in engineers at the lowest rate possible. I'm still somewhat Mid-Level though, when I do get to play a more important part in hiring decisions, I will most certainly try to change these shitty policies.

At first I kinda felt that I deserved the higher comp. because of how firm I would be in asking for what I wanted, but lately I've come to realize that most engineers don't really want to negotiate hard but they do need a good compensation to be happy (lets not fool ourselves here).

Its noticeable to me that FAANG companies get to this heights because of their stock compensation. An economic downturn or hit to the tech sector will immediately drop the compensation for its worker significantly. (Not to say that they are still noticeable salaries).

I wonder outside of FAANG how easy it is to get 300k salaries.

Does it normalize -- will you get granted more shares at the lower share price? In which case the only risk is when the share price drops during the time it takes to vest. Certainly a bummer for that year (or years) they're in a down trend, but seems less likely that a "plummet" kind of slope would happen year over year.

If the company gets a 30-40% stock hit, its not going to still be generous, and of course salaries across the board will drop. Netflix has the most solid business model that could keep up the salaries (they give little to no stock i hear), but the rest would take a hit before anything can be thought of.

Here's the real question. If you are pulling that much, why are you still working? Why not head straight to the beach and live a wonderful life of idle luxury?

Because you wouldn't be earning $300k+/y if you headed straight to the beach?

You have to do it for many many years to build the amount of wealth you'd need to live a life of idle luxury

What I know about those who make $300k+/y or more, money is just one part of the motivation that makes them work. The reason they make loads of money is that because they aren't the type that wants to go to the beach to live idle life.

would still take 10 years to get enough money to maintain a beach lifestyle. Then, you have the boredom.

There's a decent chance you're above the 70th percentile in the US, and the top 99th percentile globally. You can already afford to go live on the beach, why haven't you done it yet?

Some comments here mentioned that it's more like $180k base salary plus around $130k in options. Depending on where you're living, you'd still need to pay for living expenses (rent, insurance, food, etc.) before amassing a good chunk of change for retirement. So, it's possible that those making that amount of money are putting a good amount away while they work to live that life of luxury where the dollar goes further.

It's also very likely that people pulling $300k/year really like the work.

A lot of them do, eventually. Most of these positions are high pressure with a lot of hours. A lot of these people leave this kind of work after 5-10 years and do something more rewarding and less stressful. A guy I know used to be an investment banker but now runs a tea farm on Vancouver Island. There's a lot of those type of people about.

If you've never experienced burnout: it's not pretty, and can easily destroy your mental and physical health. At the first hints of burnout, you should get the fuck out!

...for a few years until the money runs out and your skills have atrophied.

It goes away extremely fast.

The skills or the money?

Yes :)

From what I've noticed, there are 2 answers:

1. The smaller group: People who do retire quietly. You don't hear about them.

2. The larger group: People who are capable of earning that salary are the type who can't just sit at the beach. Much as youth is wasted on the young, wealth is often wasted on the wealthy.

> Why not head straight to the beach and live a wonderful life of idle luxury?

This might sound nice to many, but for it might be preferable to work on something meaningful as well.

work @ $300K pre tax for a year == a life of luxury?

You from a 3rd world country?

Depends on your cost. But If that's >$150k post-tax, a few years of savings can go a long way in lower-cost states. Probably won't work in the Bay Area though.

Lifestyle inflation, especially if you don't like your job and sometimes spend as a compensation. Many/most making higher incomes have large debts and little savings.

Because there is more to life than "happiness"

"I am happy when I'm unhappy" - a line from the movie, The Big Short

An excellent film

Not everyone is depressed or parasitic by nature

How is that "parasitic"? Participating in investment banking, surveillance capitalism, weapons manufacturing and lots of other fields where these salaries are payed are much worse for society than sitting on the beach (IMHO obv).

> What do you do?

Quantitative strategy research and trading. I own all aspects of my strategies' research and development, and also fill in as architect for some components that are owned by other teams.

> What is your job title?


> What is your total comp?

$1.5mm ($200k base) cash. Last three years have ranged from $1.25-2.5mm.

> Who do you work for?

A hedge fund.

> Where do you live?

NYC tri-state area. I go to the office two days a week.

> How long did it take you to get here?

Similar roles with less upside after college (4-5 years). Current role since 2015

> How did you get here

Superior technical skills, having developed 10 or so "unique" ideas that have been profitable over several years and zealously guarding the IP. Being intimately familiar with another 100+ (from academic/practitioner literature, information leakage) that I can layer on and tweak. And in this industry, luck always helps.

How would you classify your firm? Hedge fund or prop shop? Size and AUM? What percentile would you say your compensation is compared to your peers?

Where does the 1mn USD come from, and how do you keep ownership of it? e.g. why doesn't your company hold say, 700k back? as 300k is still a massive 150% bonus.

It comes from a profit-sharing agreement. Mine is roughly formulaic but not contractual (keep X% of profits). Contractual agreements can have X ranging from 10 to 50.

Does anyone have this kind of compensation at FAANG but outside of those megalopolis, ultra-expensive real estate cities?

I've read previously of machine learning specialists in Atlanta reaching this level of compensation

I am one of these Atlanta-based machine learning specialists, here to confirm that we do exist. But I think it is very rare, and I am not sure many at all are doing $300k+. Since the cost of living is comparatively low, though, I am doing way better than I ever could dream of doing in the bay.

What on earth sort of companies? I grew up near Atlanta and can’t think of any that would pay $300k for machine learning expertise. (I’m just curious because I will probably be living there again at some point in the future and I have a background in ML).

well damn, now you've piqued my interest.

Do you have any company names to go with that?

Denver area.

10-15 years experience coding, ~3 years experience in leadership/management. Currently in webdev, spend 50/50 time coding vs management work.

$165k base, ~$190-210 total comp depending on year. Work 35-40 hours a week.

Mostly feel that I got here by being in the right place at the right time (luck), and being able to evaluate opportunities and accept a little risk chasing promising, but uncertain companies/positions when they become available. Also learned the importance of self-marketing and how to make yourself valuable.

What is a FAANG?

Edit: so many responses at once!

Facebook, Apple, Aamzon, Netflix, Google


Why is Netflix in there? Seems like an unusual addition to the other four?

Netflix pays exceptionally well and is very selective, and I understand they are quicker to fire underperformers than most. So it is fairly prestigious and ranks at the top in compensation.

I'm guessing it's from the financial perspective, not a technical one. Netflix is a reasonably stable, well-known brand worth over $100bn and that has 100m+ subscribers.

From a salary perspective, I'd suspect they have to be competitive with the other companies for tech talent, so it's reasonable to include them here.

Netflix and Apple are both weird additions. A lot of people skip Apple (FANG), but these days a lot of people just mean "big tech company" with it.

The acronym without Netflix is less than desirable

They are know for high compensation

Because they are known to pay more in salary than the average tech company.

The big 5 tech stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

From a quick Google: Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), and Alphabet (GOOG)

Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix?, Google

FAMG = Includes Microsoft

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netfilx, Google.

I think Facebook, Amazon, Apple Netflix, Google.

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

Facebook Apple Amazon Netflix Google

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