$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..
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 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.
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.
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+.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
$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.
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.
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
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.'