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Redditors earning $100k+ a year, what are your secrets to your success? (reddit.com)
193 points by acangiano on Feb 25, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments

One thing I've noticed (throughout my career, and by talking to friends in the software industry) is that there seems to be a ceiling on how much you can make as a software engineer at "a company". The exact amount really isn't important, but if you're relying on one company to pay you a higher and higher salary every year, at some point they'll probably stop jumping you up the salary ladder. Or you'll be forced into management to get the bump you want.

On the other hand, if you're a consultant/contractor, you're spreading the money across a number of companies. A company might not want to pay a full-time employee $200k/year, but they won't fret over paying a contractor $150/hr for a few weeks/months of work. The company is happy because, on paper, the one-time payment to a contractor is a lower number, and the contractor is happy because they can jump to the next company after this contract is up. My friends in the software industry who make the most money tend to follow this route. Or, they wrote a Top 10 Paid App in the App Store and got rich that way, but that's a little tougher :)

> there seems to be a ceiling on how much you can make as a software engineer at "a company".

There is. I like to think of this in terms of income scalability. At a company, you are limited to scaling your income vertically, unless you have equity. Owning a company, or part of it, your income can scale horizontally as well.

$150/hr for a few weeks/months of work

Good consultants can get this rate year round and book a quarter million net. The trick is adapting your offering to what the company you're working for actually needs and then telling management about those needs.

I think being the sole provider for my family for the last ten years I've just assumed I needed to make more money year after year. I can't really ask my wife to go out and get a job to make up the slack so I get out there and try to be the best programmer I can be. If a company sounded cool but wasn't willing to pay me what I need to provide for my family I just move on. Given the lack of tech talent there isn't much excuse for not making that much if you're a programmer.

I always laugh when I read people say that great developers (not saying I'm a great developer) don't care about money. Often times that's written by people who don't have children to provide for. I have no choice but to care what I make and therefore it's an important factor for me when choosing a job.

There's a point of diminishing returns to increased income, and it's personal. I have a family, yet I took a job paying less than the previous job because it was enough money and I really wanted to work there. Later, when my wife was unhappy at her lucrative job I encouraged her to switch to a lower paying position at a different company where she wouldn't be so stressed. We still make enough money, and our children are happier since we are happier.

The "don't care about money" thing isn't really true; you must care about money to some degree. But there are people who would rather do things that make them happy than always go for the biggest paycheck.

It's really I don't care about money after taking care of expenses and having a little left over to splash out every now and then. I think it's more commonly used in terms of the engineer deciding between $100k and $200k under vastly different conditions than the engineer deciding to work for free or very low pay.

Earnings are important, I'm sure -- but don't mistake them for wealth. I've known people with ludicrous earnings who still lived pay check to pay check. In fact, I suspect it's all too common.

Here's an eye opener: You're a mid-level employee at a medium-sized company and you realize you're as wealthy as your spend-thrift CEO who is making >10x as much as you are.

This is very true.

My last two tax filings showed I [edit: grossed] less than $15,000 for the past 2 years, yet I generally have more discretionary income now than the years when I was making ~$50,000/yr. I also have a wife and two kids.

I have no debt of any kind (house and car owned outright), am quite frugal, have two monthly bills (phone/internet and power), and three yearly bills (property tax, car registration, and auto insurance). Telecommuting from a rural area helps, as does raising some of our own food.

Sure, we don't live like kings, but my kids always have both parents around and we live a good, simple life. I'm not rich, but I feel quite wealthy in terms of quality of life.

I'm not rich, but I feel quite wealthy in terms of quality of life. actually, that's all that matters.

I like to think so.

I don't want to give the impression than I'm down on anyone earning (or aspiring to earn) large amounts of money. At one time I aspired to break the $100k/yr mark by age 30 (certainly not too ambitious, but it seemed doable at the time).

Obviously I had a change of heart in the intervening years, and so far I'm quite pleased with things. To each their own.

Then your case is special (maybe you are just, well, more mature in years than many of us, or maybe you had family help). Most people just starting out don't own their houses outright.

I'm almost forty. No family help.

What we did was buy progressively cheaper and smaller homes, as opposed to the general trend of buying up. That, combined with a couple of modest (no more than $20k profit) real estate sales of raw land we purchased, we were able to pay everything off a couple of years ago.

I decided a long time ago that working outside the home, and working full-time at all, was detrimental to our quality of life. As such, being financially "secure" meant not owing anything to anybody and having minimal living expenses. It took almost 15 years, but we eventually achieved our very humble goal.

Yeah, this distinction is important. Recently in Germany this report made the news how nearly a quarter of professional football players are broke at the end of their careers. Considering that these are all people who make a lot of money I was pretty shocked about this.

I think spend-thrift means tight with your money, or parsimonious if you prefer.

To be thrifty, is to be careful with your money. Oddly though, a spendthrift is the opposite. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/spendthrift

Here's how the etymology works:

thrive: prosper

thrift (~= having-thrived): prosperity, hence money

thrifty: acting so as to get or maintain thrift, hence not spending much

thrift (derived meaning): the quality that thrifty people have; again, not spending much

spendthrift: a person who spends his or her thrift; hence, someone who spends a lot

spendthrift (derived meaning): the quality that spendthrifts have; that is, spending a lot.

I'm curious - how did you become aware of the net worth of your CEO?

Tip 1: Be born American. If that doesn't work, emigrate.

Tip 2: Be born white or Asian in America. [1]

Tip 3: Be born in a rich country with a growing middle class

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_household_income#Median_...

From what I've seen, it shouldn't matter what color you are. Correlation is not causation.

To be more specific, to be born Jewish American (or to be born in India and move to the US):


> (or to be born in India and move to the US) This chart is be religion, and not everyone born in India is Hindu.

And not all Hindus are Indian. Still, 80% of Indians are Hindus and the second-largest population of Hindus (Nepal) is 41 times smaller.

So, if you are Hindu, you most likely are Indian.

Be born in wealthy family.

From someone who's been failing startups since 2000, I can't imagine what I would do with that much money... It's really baffling..

It's funny how quickly you get used to the mindset that it's a good decision to trade money for time. If I value my marginal time at $50/hr, and unconsciously always choose to pay to save time, the mindset becomes ingrained and is hard to reverse.

Little things that you quickly grow accustomed to like taxis, dry cleaners, restaurants (plus a few big things like a mortgage or high rent from living alone in a decent apartment, car and all related expenses, etc) all add up very quickly.

I think that's one of the biggest advantages college students have when starting a company. They get a significantly longer runway for relatively less effort. It's much harder to adjust from making $200K to $20K.

Warren Buffet is one of the top 10 richest people in the world and he's pretty frugal.

To be fair, the money/time tradeoff breaks down pretty quickly - you've almost certainly used all the easy wins by the time you're even earning mid six-figures.

Basically, there are only so many hours of outsourceable stuff in your day. Once you've made the trade for cooking (eating out/chef/stay-home-spouse), cleaning (maid/stay-home-spouse/etc), errands, scheduling, minor research, and other miscellany (secretary), local transport (owning a car) there isn't much more to do.

If you really value your time, you can fly a private jet at the cost of maybe a few thousand dollars per hour saved, I guess.

And Warren Buffet, even in his frugality, does all of these things.

You say "by the time you're even earning mid six-figures", but "mid six-figures" is a whole lot of money. (Of course it's not much relative to Warren Buffett. but then what is?)

... Oh, wait, by "mid six-figures" do you mean $150k or $500k? Even $150k is a very nice salary by most people's standards, but I was assuming you meant $500k. (Six figures: 100k to 999k. Midpoint of that range is $550k. Perhaps the geometric mean is more natural; that's about $300k.)

The point he was supporting was "no matter how rich you are, there's only so much time you can get by trading money for it," in which context $500k/year isn't out of place--especially, as you noticed, with Warren Buffett as the example.

I meant around $500K. I think that's the point where it's reasonably likely you have a secretary/personal-assistant to take care of those last little bits of outsourceable work.

I think frugal here is relative. He doesn't care about status symbols and living a super extravagant life with huge mansions and yachts that other billionaires do. But I'm sure he has a lot of expenses that most middle class would not have.

If his car breaks down, do you really think he'll take it to the shop himself and start taking a bus to work?

Buffet is the exception that proves the rule.

Sadly, 100K isn't that much these days if you have a family and you live in an expensive city like Toronto or New York.

Yeah, of course. On the other hand, you can live quite comfortably in Berlin for US$20k gross salary. Rent and price of groceries are huge factors in what your income actually means.

Define specific quality of life factors, instead of talking about a number.

Toronto is nowhere near as expensive as New York.

In Toronto, you can get a decent detached house in a downtown blue-collar neighbourhood or (a nicer one in the 'burbs) for under 500k.

You can get a beautiful home in an elite neighbourhood for 750k.

I live in Toronto and I would love to buy a place in downtown Toronto for sub-500K.

The house I live in now is "valued" at $500K and is nowhere special, but it's awesome.


Interestingly, it looks like prices in my old neighbourhood are roughly the same, to 50k higher.

However, in the new neighbourhood things are up 150k+


sub-500K = $499K? I guess you are right, technically. Once you get past $490, they are duplexes.

I lived very comfortably in downtown Toronto (Church/Adelaide, the Spire), in my own fancy highrise apartment ($1200/mo rent), for a measly $56k right out of school. On top of that, managed to save about $15k in my first year.

Then I moved to Palo Alto. Now that's expensive. :P

Vancouver here. 100k is really only enough for a very middle class life.

Totally disagree. I've lived in Van for 15 years and it's hilariously more affordable than LA or NY (where I am now). The Mercer 2010 survey put Van at #75 in the world which was surprisingly one spot ahead of Toronto.

Sidenote: the job market of Vancouver is much slower and lower paying than what's happening state side.

"I lived in Vancouver for 15 years."

Translates to:

"I bought a place 10 years before the epic bubble of bubbles."

Vancouver real estate is INSANITY.

You mean spending $700K for a house a half notch above a fixer-upper isn't sane? :)

700k? What dream world are you living in? What I wouldn't give to be able to buy a house for 700k. Relevant:


The worst part about that site: It's a year old. It's worse now.

Apparently the insanity hasn't spread to the North Shore to the same degree.

Oh my...

Saying a city isn't expensive because it's less expensive than New York isn't exactly a great argument.

3k + food + "benefits"(included) + social

Car? If you are in the city you cab or mass.


Classic what you own ends up owning you. Bartender classic, makin decent doe, anyone can get stuck. All of a sudden its a big risk to leave, with all your obligations you've acquired by making a bit, doesn't matter how much it's at every pay rate.

REF: I live outside nyc in Bergen County NJ, 30min car ride, $500 a room in a 2 bedroom. I can't grab a nyc pay? Train or bus in even with no car.

I think you need to elaborate on what you mean by "not that much these days." According to a bit of Googling, 100k in NYC is about 48k where I live. 48k family income around here for a family with 2 adults and 2 children is far from rich, but it's fairly reasonable middle class and it's certainly doable with a modicum of responsible finance-handling.

$100K in expensive cities is equivalent to a squarely middle class income elsewhere. Not a bad life by any means, but it's far from, "I can't imagine what I would do with that much money". Six figures are still six figures with responsible management of one's finances, but it's not the well-off lifestyle some may imagine.

You must also live in Toronto :)

How do you keep failing startups??? What does it mean to fail?

Well, I still don't know what 100k feels like.. :)

How did you fund yourself for so long? One of my friends who is a consultant doing nothing special makes $100K in 6 months. If you really want to see $100K, just be a consultant for a while.

What does this mean though? What is he consulting people/companies on and how is he finding clients? That is the hardest part of getting into any consultancy (in my opinion): finding clients.

He works through an agency and has some skills that are rare (though not rare like diamonds...)

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you're an entrepreneur and you "can't imagine" what you'd do with $100k, you might be in the wrong line of work. Allocating capital is a big part of being in business.

I can easily imagine how to invest anywhere up to tens of billions of dollars. Spending a $100k salary for personal enjoyment is another question.

A nice place to live, a nice car, and frequent restaurant meals. Easily done once you escape the gripping fear going broke and never making money ever again (irrational).

Strangely, I felt like I was doing all that when I was a grad student making a $30k stipend, and I actually didn't spend all the $30k. Nice condo in a nice location, recent car, ate out all the time, spent a surprising amount on microbrews. Granted, Atlanta wasn't the world's most expensive city.

I could've easily imagined being much more frugal in almost every aspect of my life, if I actually needed to save money. But certainly by other standards I was already living very cheaply. I can think of some other things I could've spent money on, but even now that I make more, they don't seem that appealing. Maybe it's just my tastes, but I prefer brewpubs to $50/plate restaurants; you would have to actually pay me to convince me to start eating regularly at high-end places (I currently go if I'm entertaining someone, or occasionally as a novelty, but it's not really my thing). And I could upgrade from "recent, fairly nice Honda" to "new BMW", but I don't really care very much about that. Maybe I'll take more trips or something, but of course I actually have less time to take trips now than I did as a grad student. =]

I honestly am not that sure what I can do with the extra money that would really improve my life, so so far it's mostly being saved, maybe for possible future self-financing, if an idea arises that I want to work full-time on. I guess I could upgrade my microbrew hobby to a Scotch or fine-wine hobby, but again, that doesn't actually appeal that much; it feels like something I would do just to spend money "because I can".

And here's another really thorough response further down that thread:




I run a start up media company. I am 26. This year I've made over $100k. Here's how. ... TL;DR:

1) Work for yourself

2) Borrow [build a credit rating buffer]

3) Become an expert, but fake it in the mean time

4) Sell constantly

5) Hire labour

6) Fire bad apples

7) Look after key accounts

8) Charge properly, make profit

9) Be targetted in your sales/marketing

10) Expand

11) Keep control

12) It is a hard game

13) Give them no ammo


14) Have principles

15) Decide fast

16) Read

17) Learn from mistakes

18) Flexibility

19) Embrace risk

  > [...]
Well, that's just a random collection of business book platitudes. Have principles, flexibility, embrace risk? Seriously?

When he gives more details (in the actual post), it is better.

I'm surprised by the lack of answers talking about market forces.

I know many people who think that doing a job that is complex and hard automatically entitles you to money and complain about people with much easier jobs, who aren't as smart, making more than them.

IMHO the largest salary jumps happen when you switch companies. Once you start with a company, you're pretty much locked into their payscale and salary increases happen in much smaller increments. Ideally, you would stay at a company long enough to get the requisite experience for the next career level and then switch to a new company and negotiate a healthy salary bump. With that said, my highest paid friends are typically the most dissatisfied with their jobs - something to consider.

Be careful about chasing a dollar amount. $100K is pretty baseline for someone who has technical/design etc. skills. Moving into the $200K+ salary range often means working a lot of overtime, which leaves little time for enjoyable pursuits, or side projects which may eventually earn far more than that extra $100K a year.

$100K baseline? That sounds like you're talking about entry-level, which can't be right regardless of where you live. I believe that the mean annual income for a software developer in the USA is about USD 75k. I found one estimate as high as 90k. In non-coastal areas (even big cities in the Midwest, Texas, etc.), entry level positions requiring a 4-year CS degree are commonly 45k-60k.

Entry level at top tier companies such as Google/Facebook/Amazon/Microsoft will break $100K if you include signing bonuses and stocks.

I suppose those are the exception though.

By "entry-level," I mean a first job for an individual. Do those companies often employee programmers with no previous job experience?

Of course. Microsoft and Google are likely the biggest recruiters for cs students.

Usually those CS students have had multiple internships and/or research experience, however.

College recruiting is pretty important for Facebook, Google and Microsoft at least. In programming world "previous job experience" is a bit vague, as contributing to an open source project or building some non-trivial Web/iOS/Android apps is not "job experience" in classical sense, but adds significant bonus points to one's resume.

At any rate, those are "lowest-level" SDE jobs available at such companies. They hire _many_ recent grads with nothing but a few internships worth of experience too.

Career baseline, not entry-level. Making 100k these days with 5-7 years of experience is not all that unusual.

Depending where actually. Most companies will adjust based on the cost of living. So 100k in NY might be on the entry level but in Kansas it is a top salary.

Baseline and "not all that unusual" are very different things.

45k-60k? No. You may be thinking of wages accepted by H1B holders who have just arrived and will take anything they can get. Or people who just don't know better.

Marry someone making $$ in a different field. I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned more :) I'm married to a dentist but I know plenty of hacker types married to professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc).

side note: it is very easy to get to a point where you have no time to spend your money - and you won't know it until all of a sudden you have no time anymore for the fun stuff.

1) live in San Francisco and code for a few years. 2) there is no step 2.

2a) on St Patrick's day, despair that you've already paid more in rent this year than your father in Montana will pay all year.

Agreed, comparison of San Francisco in $100k to San Antonio, TX where I'm at now...

Comparable salary in San Antonio, TX $58,363

If you move from San Francisco, CA to San Antonio, TX....

Groceries will cost: 24%less

Housing will cost: 66%less

Utilities will cost: 13%less

Transportation will cost: 11%less

Healthcare will cost: 15%less

Your also missing something though. The amount put away into a 401K is much higher in SF then in San Ant. TX. I would much rather work on San Fran for a few years, make a ton for my 401k then move some where cheap and rural in my 30s. San Fran people also have more cash for trips compared to Antonio. Overall, The higher salary is better in the long term.

I'm doing this now, but the higher tax bracket (not to mention the California taxes in general) make it not nearly as nice an option as it could be.

Alternate between billing really high to fix really really screwed up projects and billing a bit lower but taking interesting projects that you can use to update your skillset. I've made 125kish a year contracting this way in the non-major, low cost-of-living cities. Plus these contracts typically last up to 5 years so you have better stability than contracts of 6 months. This is just one way, but its an easy way. I've been doing this since 1996 throughout the midwest and southern states.

How do you find these contracts? Especially, before you broke into the industry and created a large network of contacts?

I really never had a large network of contacts. I just used DICE and the like. My technique is just do as many interviews as possible when it's time. If I wasn't so lazy I would market myself better. I have a bunch of other rules but they are for when you are already on site. I can post those too if you want to know.

Kind of tangential, but here's a list of people on the so-called "Sunshine List" - public employees making over 100K in Ontario (Canada). By law, they must disclose their salaries to the public.

There's lots of them. And they're not all super-qualified engineers or hackers. We're talking transit employees, teachers, principals etc. Not to demean those professions, but not typically the professions that come to mind in the US when people talk about 100K salaried positions.


Have some clue about programming. Work for a company with money.

I hear college grads are making $80k out of school at tech companies these days. A few years of keeping your chair warm and you should have no problem getting to $100k.

Move to Australia and become a tiler.

  1. Move to Australia
  2. Take up one of many trades (tiling, concreting, wiring, plumbing)
  3. Answer your phone. Respond to emails quickly
  4. Show up when you say you will, quote when you say you will
From my experience dealing with trades working on my house, I am confident that any tradie who is able to do these basic things would have work on tap and expand with lackeys quickly.

That'll make you a millionare!

For 100K you can ignore steps 3 & 4, and you'll still have more work than you can deal with.

Or a chef at a mine.


Here's a FIFO[1] position paying 80K + 9% retirement, plus it provides accommodation while you are onsite: http://www.seek.com.au/Job/mine-chef/in/perth/19143356

[1]FIFO in this context means Fly In, Fly Out. They fly you to the site for a couple of weeks, then fly you back out for a week off.

Only while the housing bubble lasts...

It's not a bubble when Sydney rents are the second most expensive in the world because of a lack of supply.

It's not a bubble when interest rates are 8% and loan conditions are amongst the strictest in the world.

It's true that prices could stagnate or even drop somewhat if unemployment started to rise. But that's a very different situation to a true housing bubble like in the US or Ireland that was driven by cheap credit and easy loans.

The secret -- the difficulty -- isn't one of having a $100k+ income so much as it is not spending it all. Live like you have a $60k salary, and not only will you still be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle, but you'll also be able to put away tons of cash.

As for actually finding those jobs? If you're willing to do consulting/contracting, ask your friends who are doing consulting/contracting for large companies. They're the ones who are most likely to be in the know about opportunities.

In the US not if your paying taxes :) Make $100k, pay at least $20k to the fed, then whatever else to state, make your bare minimum contribution to your retirement, and you don't have tons of cash left over. Makes $200k and live on $60k, and your going to do alright.

People who live paycheck to paycheck and/or borrow money for personal consumption drive up the cost of living. If your trying to be modest but not live someone in welfare it become instantly evident of how much you need to make. Personally I think you should target to spend about 30% of your income. So, make $100k, live on 30, make $1m live on $300k.

alwaysagoodtime had one piece of advice that really resonates: Find the right woman/(man) or don't have one at all.

And I recently reread a PG article where he says he only had a gf two months in the three years he was working on Viaweb. Good to keep in mind, but I read it, and then promptly forgot. Lesson learned!

How much is 100k a year in the US? I thought it wasn't so much for good programmers, at least in SV. Is a 100k programmer something unheard of in the US?

It really depends on where you live. $100k in the Bay Area or New York City is a good salary but doesn't go that far after you pay for the exorbitant rent and other high cost of living expenses. Compared to Raleigh, NC (southeast U.S.) where I live, $100k goes pretty far and is a very good salary for a software engineer since living costs are so much lower.

I believe that 100k a year, even in the most expensive and well-paying cities (e.g. New York City, San Francisco) is rare for entry-level, 4-year CS degree programming jobs.

When you get to 5 years experience, then I'm guessing 100k is much more common. That said, the mean yearly income for a software engineer in the USA appears to be somewhere between 75k and 90k (according to a couple of online sources I quickly found).

100k is pretty standard for good programmers in coastal cities right out of or within a few years of college. Salary increases pretty quickly at the entry level because your opportunities multiply with just a little bit of experience.

Perhaps this is off-topic, but going from $0 income and $0 savings two years ago to mid-6 figures has not affected my happiness. The things that have made me happier have all been free or fairly cheap.

Money doesn't make you happy, but not having money _can_ make you unhappy.

Not that it always does; it depends on your dependencies, in both senses. With a wife, child and mortgage I would be pretty unhappy if my income dropped to 0.

Ha. For the record, I'm an artist and make less than 6000 a year, for nearly a decade now. As you can imagine, I have very few expenses.

Here's an interesting comparison of Software Developer salaries, according to Indeed.com. I kept trying to find a city with a lower average than Kansas City, where I live, but of the ones I tried we still get paid the least (on average).


work for the government? i wouldn't call it success though

People are down voting you, but I don't know why. There has been much written about the explosion of 6 figure government jobs in the last decade or two.

One-fifth of the federal govt earns six figures or more.


So roughly the same as the US population as a whole, where ~16% make > 100K. (Note that this percentage is of all workers, including part time workers. Part time workers are under represented in the federal government workforce compared to the broader workforce)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_...

The median salary for city workers in Palo Alto is above $100k. The amusing thing is many of the jobs below $100k are meter-readers and other parking enforcement. The city runs its own utilities, etc., so has a fairly sizable workforce relative to population.

Do you mean to ask what are the secrets to earning more money? Keep learning valuable skills, do good work, ask for more money (or ask for ways to potentially earn it, e.g. stocks), all while changing jobs from time to time.

There are a couple of comments in this vein already, but I still feel compelled to clamor against such an unreflective regurgitation of the word "success." That so many commenters are diving headlong into this cesspool by applying back-of-the-envelope statistical analysis and makeshift sociology to establish some mythic threshhold for entry into this elite is dismaying and speaks to a serious cultural void in the community. We might as well start whipping out the rulers and unzipping our pants right now.

Get a valuable skill, some experience and carefully build your resume.

It doesn't even have to be a skill in high demand, even a hard to find skill can be extremely valuable to an organization.

How should such sum ($100k) be counted?

Do you take a company car into account?


Yearly stock grants?

Employer deductions into pension?

Or is it just the base salary?

Because all of this can make a big difference

$100k isn't successful, it's the bare minimum as a professional. If you're an engineer, all that's required to earn that much is show up on time and be good at your job.

The cold, hard truth is if you don't earn at least that much, you either suck at your job or suck at negotiating. Your bosses and many of your peers earn twice as much as that.

Edit: IF you work in the corporate world. Clearly if you're a lifestyle-biz/consultant working over wifi at the beach in Thailand this doesn't apply at all. In fact, congratulations, if you're this guy, you probably win the game.

If you asked a lawyer, a CPA or a banker if they'd take $100k to work their ass off for a corporate master, they'd laugh in your face.

Edit: It's quite typical of HN when this topic comes up for someone to be downvoted by people who make very little money when they come out with the cold, hard facts. This place is full of millionaires and super-successful entrepreneurs who mostly stay quiet in threads like these. Wake up and smell the coffee.

$100k isn't successful, it's the bare minimum as a professional. If you're an engineer, all that's required to earn that much is show up on time and be good at your job. The cold, hard truth is if you don't earn at least that much, you either suck at your job or suck at negotiating.

This appears to be true of the Americans I know but this level of salary is.. uncommon amongst the Europeans (particularly the British) I know. I know you weren't speaking for other countries, but salaries are a lot 'flatter' over here.

Contractors will be earning at that level without too much difficulty but for a typical full-time employee to be earning $100K in London, say, they'd need to be an experienced manager or be into the 15+ year point of their career in my experience. It's night and day from the US experience.

This is part of the reason I work for myself. If I were in the US, I could earn $100K full-time pretty easily with my skillset. In the UK, it would be really hard work getting a similar position. Self employment wins for that here since I can just have American customers used to American prices anyway ;-)

$100k == £60k. 60 less 33% / 12 = 3300 take home per month. London rent for 2 bedrooms is about £1500-2000 anywhere you would want your kids to go to school. £100 for commuting. £200-£300 for food. Car £150. Local tax £200 ...

That's why it's not very common for young professionals to live alone in London. Anyone earning a typical software developer salary in London and renting somewhere in town at £2000 a month just for them is a fool. Most people live out in the suburbs and commute in or live with other people and split the costs. You can get a nice flat in somewhere like Croydon or Kingston (hardly bad places to live and only 30 minutes out on the train) for £800 a month - call it £1000/mo after council tax and utilities. Split that with the girlfriend/roommate and you're spending peanuts.

All that said, the point is that £60k/$100k isn't a common salary for this sort of full-time worker outside of management or in an early stage of their career (<10 years). Clearly people are managing on a lot less because that's what people are earning. The most common solution for the older family types is to have multiple earners in the home which, again, splits the costs down. I can't think of any British family I know around my age where both partners aren't working except for me and my wife..

Never thought I'd see living in Croydon discussed on HN. (I currently live in Croydon, very close to the station, for commuting into London)

I used to live in Warlingham so Croydon often comes to mind :-) You think that's weird though.. you try bumping into people from Lincolnshire on here (where I live now). It happens!

Well I wasn't earning anywhere near £60k when I moved away. But it's not an unreasonable salary for soho creatives or a random job in the 'city' with 5-10 years experience. I used to live in Clapton about 6 years ago just off the 'murder mile' it was a bit like living in 'the wire', but we were younger and didn't care. We shared a two bedroom basement flat between 3 people and the rent was about £900. The second bedroom didn't have any windows. I'm sure you can find rents below £1300 for two bedrooms if you go further out. But you pay in train fares and commute time, especially if your office isn't central. You need two incomes for sure, but when you have young kids all of the second income goes on childcare as both earners need to be out of the house 11hrs per day. That's why we recently gave it up and moved to the country. Is that why you're in Lincolnshire?

one strange thing about the UK IT industry is that the majority of jobs are in London and the SE, where the cost of living is so high that you may well in fact be better off financially if you live somewhere cheaper and work in retail or as a bus driver or some other job that while not totally stress-free, does not require constant updating.

It's uncommon in much of America, as well, except in metro areas -- and not all of us want to live in a metro.

It's not that uncommon, it's in what people look at as 'salary'. In Europe, salary is not just what you get (net pay), it's not even your gross salary (as it is on your pay slip), it also includes the taxes your company pays on your salary, too; plus any pension benefits, health care/SS contributions (including those paid by the employer), etc.

Once you count those, European 'salaries' come much closer to US equivalents (discounted for regional differences etc, of course). The 'US salary' is much more 'what it costs the employer' than the 'EU salary'.

I can't speak for Europe as a whole but in the UK a "salary" refers to the amount of money earned pre-tax by the employee (and not including any taxes paid by the employer). All job ads are written that way and salaries are discussed and negotiated in this way. Perhaps continental Europe is different in this regard, as you suggest, however.

Go and work for a Bank. Grad trainees in Investment Banking IT get north of £35k ($56k) when they start at 21/22. An AVP would get £70k, and Vice Presidents (mid-level manager, maybe 20 direct reports) get about £80k & maybe 30%+ bonus on top.

"If you asked a lawyer, a CPA or a banker if they'd take $100k to work their ass off for a corporate master, they'd laugh in your face"

Actually, I know plenty of lawyers who would GLADLY take 100k to work their ass off for a corporate master. You must be out of touch with the state of the legal job market. Top firms have cut summer programs or significantly scaled them back which has a trickle down effect--the top candidates usually took jobs at top firms. When these top firms stopped hiring 50-100 new associates straight out of law school the top candidates had to find other places to go--the places that the less desirable candidates would often count on (gov jobs, mid level/small firms, nonprofts, political work etc).

75-90k was considered a good wage for a person coming from a decent law school with decent grades. Now you have top candidates from decent/top schools clawing for these jobs. It's really a sad state of affairs right now. Many people I know are unemployed lawyers.

This post is a good example of a phenomenon I keep seeing when it comes to how people view incomes- People pay much more attention to their own circle and to those making more money than them, so they get a skewed outlook on what is 'normal' and 'average'.

That's why everyone in America thinks they are 'middle class', whether they make 30k or 500k.

Lawyers and i-bankers are a different story, but you won't find any statistic to back up your claim that pedestrian engineers who just show up regularly make 100k+.

97k is the median income in the valley. That's why you keep seeing this figure. Pedestrian engineers a couple years in earn this all over the valley....and drive 60 minutes because they can't afford a 3 bedroom house near their work on that salary.

Those all seem to be senior positions, and only in certain cities. So I would agree that $100k+ is a common salary for an engineer, especially a senior one. But the original post was talking about the bare minimum as a professional, which should include various kinds of professionals, at different levels of seniority and various locations.

For example, I'd consider jobs like this to be "professional" --> http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=electrical+engineer&l1=c... http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=software+engineer&l1=sea...

In the US, good software engineers or sysengineers get a "senior" title with 2-4 years experience, and probably closer to the 2. So, it's a "senior" position in title only.

My experience recruiting Senior Developers (not a coder, take it for what its worth) for top-3 eCommerce firms, top 10 Las Vegas Casino's and Casino game design firms (which normally offer lower compensation) and top financial firms.

Low-cost of living, "Senior" developers were making ~$80-$90,000 base upwards to $120,000 base (rare).

High cost of living areas the Senior developers were making $90,000 (probably poor negotiation or "title" based "Senior" vs skill level) to $160,000 base. In higher cost of living area's the benefits and "perks" were always higher, but tended towards a lower work-life balance. The work-life statement is generalized, since it is, of course, company dependent. In lower/mid level cost of living, "breaking" $100,000 was difficult to negotiate.

Yes, I can vouch for that.

I've worked with several "senior" developers who had "decades" of experience but had no idea how to write good code.

Things shift significantly when you start looking outside the 10 most populous cities in America. I'd even bet that if you exclude SF/The Valley, Seattle, and New York, you'll find a pretty decent cliff.

Agreed. As a software engineer around here (Utah), $100k-$120k is a senior position. Just look at the job listings or Glassdoor ranges from companies in the area if you don't believe me. In fact, most senior positions start around $70k-$75k, so if you make $100k-$120k you're doing better than many of your peers. In Kansas City or other midwestern localities, the salaries are even less.

I was just gonna comment about Utah. I'm 25 and I just moved out of SLC to the Bay. I'm starting out at 85k in sort of a mid-level position, and I was hoping just to get 60k coming from Utah. I had absolutely no clue what to even ask for. I asked for 60, hoping to get 55, the HR person put it in as 60-70, and they came back and offered me 85.

Put in in perspective from a working student: In my 2009 taxes, I filed for 13k. 2008, 12k, 2007 15k.

Average salary of my friends is probably somewhere around 40-60k, with educations varying from some college to a masters degree.

I work at a national lab, but I'm completely within the confines of the Office of Science. I make 30k more than the Research professors I worked for at the U.

On the other hand, I'm thinking of saving up to buy a house back there and just renting it out because there's no way I could buy one here unless I was making 150+.

> $100k isn't successful, it's the bare minimum as a professional.

As a professional what? Man this place can be a fucking drag sometimes.

$100k might not be "successful" to anyone living in SF or NYC, but in 98% of the rest of the country, it is certainly a nice income. Don't buy into the ego.

According to WSJ, the average developer in the bay area makes $99k:


So if you're making $100k, you're just making what everyone else is making :-)

You must have missed the part where I said outside of SF and NYC.

They must be including part timers and interns, because a normal salary for an experienced engineer is significantly higher.

Professional is almost any area that requires either higher education or some hard to learn skill.

I used to associate professional and one's education or income until I realized that often the most professional people I've encountered don't make much money. Professional to me means excellence at a service for which someone is paid to perform. Improving the human condition or chasing money both attract professionals of a completely different definition.

It's true, there are idealists out there who don't care for money.

However if you're skilled and/or educated, getting $100K shouldn't be a problem.

Now getting $500K/year is a much more serious problem. I'm failing to get to that level by just being professional (and good). It requires more of a business type of mindset (or lots of luck).

my wife has my same background (PhD molecular biology). a couple of years ago she decided she didn't want to stay in academia for pressure and competition are too high and moved to a company, making 2-3x times as much as she was making before (and than I am making).Funny thing is that the common silent opinion in academia about those like her is that they are dropouts....

  > Funny thing is that the common silent opinion in
  > academia about those like her is that they are
  > dropouts....
Why is it funny? Different strands of people apply different criteria for success. You appear to think it's money (versus time spent working/stress level); others rank academic credentials, willpower or whatever else higher.

Whore, a professional whore - we are all whores; after all we are not girlfriends, we are in it for the money.

It depends where you live. In San Francisco or New York, 100K isn't going to go very far. In Houston or a rural area, it will.

According to a cost of living adjustment calculator I found online, 100K in Houston is equivalent to 186K in San Francisco.


That is so incredibly misleading.

The problem with these cost-of-living adjusters is that they don't consider which goods are location-dependent and which aren't. So yes, your rent will probably be double in SF what it is in Houston. However, if you make $100K, rent is only a small portion of your income. And a dollar of savings in SF is just as good as a dollar of savings in Houston.

The way COL-calculators should work is that they should take a basket of monthly expenses typical for someone in the given income bracket, index that to the given location, and then subtract that from your salary offer in the new area. It's not a straight linear sliding scale. I would much rather be making $186k in SF than $100K in Houston, because I'd only be spending about $40K in living expenses in SF vs. $25K in Houston, and $186k - $40K = $146k is much greater than $100K - $25K = $75k.

You have to factor in taxes also:

186000 SF Income -46497 federal income tax - 8170 FICA tax - 2697 Medicare tax -15473 California state income tax -40000 Living expenses ------ 73163 Savings

100000 Houston income -21709 Federal income tax - 7650 FICA tax - 1450 Medicare tax -25000 Living expenses ------ 44191 Savings

SF still comes out on top, so I imagine the breakeven point is somewhere closer to 160K in SF.

This a million times over. I've tried to explain this so many times to my friends who insist on making sub $80k in backwater places citing cost of living "advantages". Uh, no. A BMW or iPhone will cost about the same in Tulsa as it does in New York City.

As much as I love New York, this isn't true, at least for the car. The base payment on the BMW will be the same (call it $600 if you buy) but your insurance will be higher in urban areas, you may pay as much as $300-400 a month for parking in Manhattan, and gas is probably higher as well.

So that car ends up being 20-30% more expensive in NY vs. a rural area, or even vs. say Los Angeles, where a parking space runs about $100 a month. This is why so few people living in Manhattan have cars - the net cost is well over $1,000 a month and you might as well just rent all the time.

Actually, insurance is not the killer in Manhattan. Parking is. Insurance is a very flexible cost.

Although I always assumed that living in NYC, I wouldn't have a car. Take the car insurance, gas, and depreciation costs of the car and put it towards rent and call it even.

Fine, some things cost more but my point still stands: national products are the same or almost the same cost.

For people in typical earnings ranges, the majority of your income is spent on location-dependent costs: taxes, rent, insurance, food, entertainment, etc, not on discretionary spending like BMWs* or iPhones.

*) Also, BMW's only cost you the same everywhere if you pay sticker for a new car. Used cars have significantly different prices in different zip codes.

Sounds like a great project for someone: realcostofliving.com

Just wait until the Square API comes out.

One big thing: you probably need to maintain one car per adult member of the household in Houston, but can live well with <=1 car in San Francisco proper.

With insurance, maintenance, and amortized vehicle cost, you're probably $1500/year/car minimum. More if you want a car that's a status symbol.

Cost of living calculators are probably not that misleading for people in the $100k range.

Your after-tax income in Houston on $100k salary is $73k. Your after-tax income in San Fran on $186k salary is $111k.

So taxes alone reduce the initial $86k difference to $38k.

A similarly nice apartment in San Fran will easily run you $2k/mo more than in Houston, reducing the difference to $14k.

The difference will be further reduced by other location dependent expenses: property and sales taxes, food, insurance, gas, entertainment, etc. A Big Mac in New York costs 50% more than a Big Mac in Miami.* Movie tickets in New York are about $12.50 versus $7.50 nationwide. A drink at a bar is about double in New York versus in Atlanta (where I used to live).

) http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/03/11/pak..., p. 24.

*) http://jabcatmovies.com/2010/01/movie-ticket-prices-new-york...

>....if you make $100K, rent is only a small portion of your income.

I'm not sure what you are thinking here.

If you make 100K, your take home pay after taxes is ~$6,000. For any reasonable place to live in SF - your going to be between 1800 and 2500 for a two bedroom.

Thats not "a small portion of your income"

Additionally - you may have health care costs of as much as 750 per month if you have a spouse and child on your plan.

Figure as much as 400 to 600 per month for a car. 100 for cable, 150 for an unlimited family cell plan. School costs for your kid, and god-forbid you. like me, have child support to an ex.


6000 Income

750 insurance

2000 rent

100 internet/tv

150 cell

100 power

1000 kids school/child support

250 other debts

600 car+insurance

== 4950

That leaves 1050 for the remainder of the month. Which is ~260 each week for expenses such as food, gas, savings, a beer with friends, date night, a bottle of wine etc...

100k is literally the bare min in SF to live moderately comfortable.

Now assuming you didn't have the school/child support, you can replace that with savings, which is great. but for a lot of people it is a 1K expense not savings.

Additionally - this doesn't account for a lot of other potential monthly expenses that are common.

I was one of the poor, unprofessional slobs who only made $100K or so in SF and NYC. I thought I was living a pretty good life, but maybe I should be ashamed that I'm not a millionaire CPA (huh?).

Here's a typical programmer bachelor situation.

I made about $6000K after tax and contributions to retirement account in SF and NYC.

car = $0

insurance = $0, paid for by employer

other debts = $0

iPhone = $80

rent = $1000 studio or share

utilities + wifi = $250

metro card/transit pass = $80

You can fudge those numbers a bit for a better apartment/room and maybe zip car or even your own beater car, and you're still usually under $2K. I didn't put food in there because that was highly variable, even for me. I saved $24,000 a year without thinking about it, and still experimented with motorcycles, snowboards, music gear, travel, etc.

You essentially have $4000 - $4500 a month to save or spend on food + whatever you want.

"rent = $1000 studio or share"

Uh huh. Now, do that when you're 35, with a wife and two kids.

I think it's easy to forget that people in other parts of the country do things like raise families. Also, most people don't generally want to live with roommates past their 20s. It gets old.

I know where you're coming from -- I live a fairly frugal lifestyle, and I'm doing fine while renting an apartment in SF with no wife and no kids. But I'm also in my 30s, and I think I'm on the extreme outer edge of tolerance for the kind of life I'm leading. My friends with children tease me all the time: they wouldn't dream of living the way that I do.

That said, I'd also be going nuts if I lived like I did when I was 25. YMMV, but probably not by much.

If you're married with kids, presumably you have a second income. The great-grandparent poster did figure in $1000/month for childcare. That $6k/month becomes $12k/month if your wife makes as much.

Anyway, my parents raised my sister and I on a single teacher's salary that was a lot less than $100K. Yes, kids do cost more than being a bachelor. However, a lot of the expenses I see batted around as justification for why you need $100K just to live today are utterly ridiculous. 90% of American households get by with much less than that.

"Anyway, my parents raised my sister and I on a single teacher's salary that was a lot less than $100K. Yes, kids do cost more than being a bachelor. However, a lot of the expenses I see batted around as justification for why you need $100K just to live today are utterly ridiculous. 90% of American households get by with much less than that."

Yes, they do. In other parts of the country.

What your parents did 20+ years ago has very little bearing on the cost of raising a family in San Francisco, today. It takes more than one spouse with a sub-$100k job. Again, $100k just isn't that much money in a place where rent on a decent one-bedroom starts at $2,000 a month.

>...Anyway, my parents raised my sister and I on a single teacher's salary that was a lot less than $100K

Sure, when? 15+ years ago?

Also, why would you assume that my SO also makes 100K? She doesnt, as a hair stylist - she makes very little comparatively.

What egregious expenses did I have in my post if anything? The ONLY luxury items I had in my list were a beer with friends and a bottle of wine.

The problem I think we are seeing here is that everyone who thinks that 100K is a lot of money is:

Not/has not been Married

Has no kids

Is under 35

Also, @JasonKester: "wearing monogrammed blazers to school"

You fail to understand that simply having a kid is going to cost you ~1500 in childcare expenses, assuming you dont have a stay at home SO to watch after the child.

Its not a status statement -- try looking up what freaking baby sitters/nannies cost for an infant, whom you cannot slap a monogrammed badge on their blazer and dump them off on the corner.

This is a common problem with YC/HN -- there are a lot of <30-somethings thinking they have it all figured out.


But 15 years ago was only 95. I mean, that's not old... that's only....

Dear god. >_<

Well, I did say it was a bachelor's perspective.

FYI, no one is paying $1,000/month for rent in NYC... At least not anywhere reasonably close to Manhattan.

I shared a 3BR apt in Williamsburg and paid $1000, then moved into a 1BR down the street that was $1500. 12 minutes to Union Square.

I pay 1150 for a one bedroom with a one hour commute to Manhattan via subway.

One hour each way or total?!

One hour each way.

I hope you realize that most of those numbers are either entirely optional, or have been inflated to suit your tastes.

If you were willing to downgrade your lifestyle, you could surely find an apartment for $1,500/month, DSL for $20/month (and no cable tv), a prepaid phone that runs you more like $20/month (but doesn't let you throw birds at pigs), a car that costs you less than $200/month to run (and sits in your driveway instead of commuting you to work), and no other debts whatsoever.

That still leaves you with your expensive health insurance and kids wearing monogrammed blazers to school. And an extra grand for beer money.

Isn't going to go very far is such an interesting statement. When I was making 100k a year in SF, I felt plenty wealthy. I guess if you have really expensive tastes 100k won't seem like much, but it's more than enough to be happy and do everything you could reasonably need to do.

did you buy a house? did you plan to? the main increase in cost of living compared to other parts of the country is the rent or down payment + mortgage.

Just want to chime in real quick re:

all that's required to earn that much is show up on time and be good at your job.

I liked the "all thats required" bit, because as it were, I am fully employed remotely, and while I don't make $100k, I seriously wake up at noon, code at 3am when I damned well feel like it, and overwhelmingly love managing myself. (oh yeah, zero commute).

So I guess you'd be right, "all you have to do is show up", ehhhh I'd much rather not show up!

I'd imagine a lot of people's idea of success involves a whole lot of Freedom so I'd hesitate to be so overly critical of people not making your "baseline" figure of $100k and then assuming it has to be because they suck.

You might be taking it too literally. In your case, "just show up on time" means you still have to work (almost) every weekday, even if it's remotely. The implication is that you don't have to be a super ninja rockstar, just do your job and eventually you'll earn 100k (assuming you're an IT professional in US).

Clearly it's subjective. Working a schedule that fits your preferences has a huge value associated with it. Others prefer cash, and lots of it.

fwiw, just read your updates. I think your post came off as confrontational so naturally people get defensive. Since rereading it, I think you mean well; people should know their worth and work toward maximizing that worth. So recognizing that there are farther stars out there to shoot for is a good thing! And for those engineers that get offended by the OP's comment, actually its quite good news! You are worth way more than you have settled for.

I don't have an opinion one way or the other, just my two cents.

You've got a pretty narrow definition of professional. Where're all the elementary school teachers? And if you think that teaching is not highly-skilled, professional work, I'd like to see you keep a class of 5th graders from destroying the place.

In the Bay Area and a few other places, you're absolutely right -- but there are other places where $100k for a software engineer is pretty generous pay. Of course, the cost of living in those places is typically a lot less than in the Bay Area.

I've worked with professionals located in SF, LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Atlanta, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Boston, New York, DC, Miami, and Charleston.

$100k is still the minimum professional salary for someone who has a highly skilled, technical job like sr. engineer, architect, investment banker, CPA, attorney, etc.

You're arguing a point that's a given; a professional that's highly skilled. I believe the intent of the question posted on Reddit was what it took to get there.

$100k is so ten years ago. Things have gone up now, at least in the bay area.

My lifestyle-biz friends working over wifi at the beach in Thailand are making 1/4 - 1/2 million/year. Just like any other job, you just have to know what you're doing and do it well.

I'm amazed, what kind of work is entailed by that exactly? I don't have a clear concept of what lifestyle biz work even is!

These two are doing affiliate marketing but there are many other ways.

Then they are winning the game.

$100k puts you in the top 15%. Maybe that doesn't fit your definition of successful, but I'd argue that having a good, stable, professional job was not only successful, but being, in the majority of cases, off the back of a decent education, pretty fortunate too.

Source: http://www.americablog.com/2011/01/us-income-distribution-20...

I just want to quickly point out that making $100K puts you into the top 6% with $150K putting you into the top 2%. The 15% figure is for household income, not personal income.

The income distribution tables from the last US census can be found at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032010/perinc/new11...

That list includes everybody in the US, gas station attendants and CEOs included. Computer programmers live in a tiny slice of that graph, way over on the right.

Well that's sort of my point. You're pretty fortunate if you've got that kind of job no? The problem is everything is relative. The banker who takes home a million probably thinks he's underpaid when he compares himself to a hedge bond boss. But sometimes you have to a look at the bigger picture.

Indeed. As you say (and I tell every dev I find whining about it), computer programming is the single best job you could ever hope for.

Where else can you convince people to pay you well into six figures to sit at home in your boxers and solve puzzles?

Of those industries, how many of them not only allow, but encourage you to work short contracts at your whim, allowing as much free time in between as you'd like to spend that massive overpayment.

A good developer can produce so much value in such a short time that companies can afford to pay you pretty much any number you can say with a straight face. And if they balk, the bad/cheap developer they hire in your place will teach them such a lesson that when they finally come back you can double your figure again and they'll probably take it.

I tell ya, I used to bag groceries for a living. It was nowhere as good as this.

> $100k isn't successful

While I don't disagree with the sentiment, I think you miss a couple things. First, the question wasn't geared toward defining success; rather, what was the key to your success in obtaining $100k+. Sure, the person's perception of success is defined by an arbitrary number, but that's beside the point, and meaningless in context.

Granted, strictly defining success based on income is silly (which I'm not saying you are). As you said, it depends on your lifestyle and chosen profession. Outside the context of the original discussion, successful people aren't strictly defined by just their job. For example, numerous people mentioned other professions where the standard pay is lower. Take 5th grade teachers for example. Basing success strictly on their salary as a teacher is ignorant (same for anyone, really). Successful teachers will achieve more than their base salary.

Basically, success is more than just salary, but salary usually follows success.

> It's quite typical of HN when this topic comes up for someone to be downvoted by people who make very little money

Leave the karma discussion on reddit.

Maybe true for the people you hang out with. In the rest of the world, there's plenty of people who prefer doing meaningful or engaging work over earning the highest possible salary.

And I take it physicians, lawyers, dentists, and other professionals, on top of all of the entrepreneurs who have sold their beloved companies for millions, aren't doing meaningful or engaging work. If you're good at any of the careers I just listed, you can easily make at least $300-400k+ per year. It's attainable, and there's a ton of meaningful work to be had at those levels.

Success and meaning can be found at levels other than the dude settling for $20/hr because he gets good free time to really 'discover' life and find 'meaning.'

Maybe you're hanging out with the wrong people.

Personally I have two (unrelated to each other) friends who've been living without really working for the past twenty years. They're really happy, and live on 500 euros per month each. YMMV.

$100k isn't anywhere near the highest salary possible. What in the world are you talking about?

$100k at what point in your career?

being a little pretentious aren't u? 100K a year is damn good. It's not "Fuck you" money but it's a damn good and a comfortable life. That's successful in my book.

$100k = £62k which might be enough to get you a mortgage on a 1 bedroom house round here in the SE UK (based on 3x income)

Time and experience. A kid out of school isn't going to crack that figure because a) they have no real-world experience and b) if any of the more experienced people find out they'll have a brain drain on their hands. Yes, you'll hear stories about this and that, but always ask for a pay stub as proof when someone opens their mouth.

I've been making over $100K for several years now and even though I recently joined a startup, I held the rate up over other offers. The key is to work somewhere that requires specialized skills and understands the value of hiring someone experienced who can self-manage their work on various aspects of a project and produce results that will win more business. Make your contributions a positive part of the bottom line and you will receive no hassles.

I tend to work with technology-first firms, avoiding business-first firms as they tend to view developers as resources, not assets. Also, in this day and age, if you don't write code or have an intimate IP unique to the product, you don't get a seat at the table and you should steel yourself for a sales job or worse.

Also, keep your skills fresh (edge, not bleeding edge) and avoid dreamers, MBA types and serial wantrepreneurs.

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