In my case, finance. It's really not hard to make $300k/yr and the sky is the limit if you learn how to help generate revenue. You can do this in just a couple years easily. The problem is that (for me at least) the work is not satisfying (or worse) and the culture is terrible. Most people don't last all that long or aren't very happy.
The other way I've earned significant compensation is by being hired at a senior level, a VP of Dev or really any very senior technical position. At a company with money, these roles can easily make $200k in base salary, and much more with bonuses/equity.
The thing to keep in mind I think is that inflation is a very big factor. Making $120k in 2003 is effectively the same as making $150k in 2013. The numbers keep getting bigger, so $200k salaries really aren't that extravagant.
And it doesn't matter how much you make if you don't save. Plenty of $200k earners save less than $100k earners do. Anyone who can save $50k/yr is going to be a very happy camper in the future, and most young people could easily do that on $120k if they wanted to.
> Inflation have been crazy for the last decade, salary is finally starting to catch up, especially this year.
Not really. Housing prices raised significantly in a few markets (the SF Bay area a prime example), but inflation has been average for the past decade. That makes sense considering we had a recession, it canceled out high inflation years like 2007.
Disagree. If you have an easy recipe feel free to share :). You have to be a front office VP to be guaranteed this kind of money. Aleynikov made 400k as a senior VP working on HFT infrastructure at Goldman.
2) Steady promotions (you are good technically, work well with people, and pick good projects, and -- hardest of all -- your management chain doesn't suck) for a few years, until you hit L65 (Principal level)
3) Stock awards over the next 5 years take care of the rest
Oh yes. They lump levels together in "bands" and you're basically competing with your peers for slots. The ranking has forced buckets, so someone always gets screwed. It's about as fucked up as you're thinking right now.
Seriously, there are groups who actually hire people to fall into the seven percent "knucklehead" bucket, so that none of the (presumably) good employees need to be fired.
I looked for your contact info in your profile, since a buddy of mine who is brilliant is looking into getting into quant/finance work. I'm going to introduce him to friends of mine in the industry, but all my contacts are in Brazil and it's good for him to meet people in the US as well. His strength is C#, C++ and C, but he picks up new languages quickly. He worked as a key engineer on the CLR team at Microsoft for a while. Ping me via my personal info if I can introduce you to him.