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>As a coder, your pay will definitely plateau.

Mine seems to keep climbing. I'm hearing reports of >$300k, and have received an offer in that range myself (counting signing bonuses and stock grants). Granted my pay might plateau there, but honestly that's enough money to keep me happy without having to see it go up every year.

I'm a total generalist, but I also have a few areas where I would qualify as a specialist; that offer I'm sure was because of the specific skills I've built up. I've also been programming professionally since 1989, and I try to keep learning, which can't hurt.

Agree that keeping it fun is key. :)




">As a coder, your pay will definitely plateau."

There are two problems with hitting a plateau @ 300K: Housing costs and College Tuition.

At the traditional 3x debt to gross income metric, your home mortgage would be capped around ~$900k, vs the $1.3-1.5MM range of current trading prices. Which is not terrible if you lock something in. However, once you are at 4x paying for schools becomes a far greater challenge. You could be looking at anywhere for $175-250 per kid. So, capitalize this and you are at $350-500K. That is, your combined "future obligations" would be something in the range of $1.7 to $2.0MM (exclusive of retirement). Which is something closer to 6.5x gross income. Which is pretty highly leveraged. You're after tax cash flow without real-estate tax shields could easily be ~200k, so you are looking at something like 10x cash-flow leverage. That is about as high as most PE guys will take a decent c-corp.

Just start shielding your income and assets as soon as possible. Strategize to minimize exposure to asset inflation (housing, education). The IRS (tax man) and the "doo gooders" in academia (ironically, the new "alternative minimum tax" man) have really boxed in the middle class (read: the not-rich enough) from the perspective of lifetime earnings. Most of your "savings" will be at risk to get swept from you, thanks to "financial aid" effect driving college tuitions.

These numbers get bounced around every now and then but they are worth considering. Inflation in "raw materials costs" for knowledge workers (kids) need to get passed on to customers (ie, employers) if you want to stay in the same place (red queen effect and all that).

This is relevant when you are evaluating career moves down the road.

========

3 bedrooms (Weekly Average Prices, San Francisco)

$1,339,274 $1,573,313 $1,805,297 $1,720,736


Just throwing this out there: if there's a problem with developer salaries being capped at $300K, think of how hard it is for all the families who are making the U.S. median household income of $53K/year, or hell, the Santa Clara County median income of $45K/year.

I understand that everybody wants more money - hell, I want more money too. But a lot of that is because everybody wants to be in the top 1% of nice neighborhoods, nice homes in nice neighborhoods, nice colleges, etc. You can have a life that is just fine on far, far less than $300K/year.


Point is don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Also, these things drive observable behaviour today. It's not a question of passing judgement on it (or not).


I don't really disagree, but neither do you want money to feed a sense of insecurity. You want to rationally pursue means that maximize your take-home income and wealth, but usually if you get emotionally attached to money you a.) will be a lot worse at rationally pursuing lucrative opportunities and b.) are in for an unhappy life.


Problem - the school systems are funded by property taxes. Live in a low rent area, your kids will be at a crappy school. It's why a family needs to be earning at least 200k, preferably 300k. Rent for a family of 4 is at a minimum of 5k - 6k. The alternative is to live in the midwest, with snow. And a lot of people who don't understand working in tech. And less opportunities.


I deal with snow, yes. Though it's not THAT bad.

>And a lot of people who don't understand working in tech

Boulder, CO, has the highest density of people working in tech in the country. You were saying?


Its sad. But the solution seems to not marry at all.


How about private schools?


I make 1000$ a month after tax, selling enterprise software, and honestly - I don't understand what are you talking about. 300k annually seems really a lot even if you live in an extremely expensive place like Denmark (mnimum wage 2000$ a month). So many people have less and live happy and successful lives, get degrees etc.


Sounds great, can you share what ]helped you become a top earner?


That a serious question or are you making a point? It's often hard to tell on the Internet...

Edit: Oh, I see - you've confused me with the person way up-thread with the $300K income, I'm not the same poster as he. I don't like to reveal my income on the Internet, but I'd describe it as "enough", so, to answer your question:

1.) Be alert to pure, dumb luck when it happens, and willing to take advantage of it - including dropping previous plans - when appropriate. I thought I would always work in small companies or startups, but I applied to Google in the depths of the 2008 recession and somehow was accepted, so I figured I'd give it a try. I've been there 5 years, with a fairly generous option grant, and the stock price has quadrupled in that time.

2.) Always hone your skills so that when an opportunity arises, you can pounce. I learned a lot of Javascript in my previous startup, and in 2008 (and now), that was the hot skill that everybody wanted. Learn things even if you don't know they'll be useful, particularly things outside of your comfort zone; you never can tell what connection will be important in the future.

3.) Be curious about the world around you, and in particular, about what the people around you are doing. Every single job I've had, I've gotten through my network. In some cases, those connections were several years old, but I reached out and asked them what they were up to and it turned out what they were up to needed people.

4.) Don't be afraid to leave when you've outgrown a place.


I'm the poster from up-thread, and I agree with this message. :)

With one caveat:

>Always hone your skills so that when an opportunity arises, you can pounce.

My strategy has been to follow my passions, which include digging into various technologies that interest me. I don't do it "so that" I can be relevant. I do it because it's fun.

It just happens that, when you get good enough at enough things, you'll find that at least some of those skills are in demand. I know a lot about so many programming topics that one coworker just accused me of having "an encyclopedic understanding of just about every topic."

A lot of people have their curiosity tortured out of them by their experiences in school. Anyone reading HN likely is at least on the road to lifelong learning, so anyone reading this is likely on a path that could result in a strong salary. To those who complain that reading about every latest new technology is boring, I say: Find your childlike curiosity and reclaim it.


This is one of my fave posts ever on HN. Nicely done, Tim


"There are two problems with hitting a plateau @ 300K"

Luckily, since you're making $300K you have essentially no problems outside of this. Aside from your sourpuss attitude.


Agreed. I am a solid developer with ten years experience living in Spain. 1/5th of that salary is good money here.


>There are two problems with hitting a plateau @ 300K: Housing costs and College Tuition.

I moved out of the Bay Area and own my home outright. The offer lets me work from home where ever I want (with some restrictions). So home cost isn't relevant to me.

And on the college tuition front: While I wouldn't necessarily advise it of today's high school graduates, by the time my kids are ready for college I don't expect college to look like it does today.

Or rather, I expect companies to be more concerned with what you know instead of how you learned it, and with the huge movement toward making effectively entire college educations free online, I think that the face of college will be transformed -- and made correspondingly less expensive -- by then.

It's already true to some extent, and if the question is between going into serious debt or getting a college degree, I think the prudent choice might be to use free or inexpensive online courses to get a degree rather than piling up serious debt for a questionable advantage in getting a job. It seems like "free internships" are already the way to get on-the-job experience, and that's a lot harder to accomplish if you've got a huge debt that's demanding to be paid.

In addition, politically speaking I think we're at the extreme right end of the pendulum swing right now, and once things swing back a bit to the left, state schools will become more affordable again. A lot of the rise in costs has been correlated with the fall in state funding. Though the rest of the rise in costs can be attributed to the rise in administration salaries; almost a half million/year for a UC Regent? [1] How much value can that regent possibly be bringing to the UC system? How many others like him are burning up the money that people are paying to get a good education?

[1] http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Brown-slams-regents-...


According to globalrichlist.com, if you earn $300,000/yr, you earn more than 99.97% of people in the world. If you were to walk past a random sampling of 10,000 people on the street - only three of them would earn more than you.

It also happens that the same basic financial strategy one might employ whilst making $30,000/yr applies whilst making $300,000/yr. That is, spend less than you earn.

Or to put it a little more brazenly:

Debt to gross income metric? You fucking make $300,000/yr! Why on Earth do you need to be borrowing money? So you can afford to live in the bay area? So you can "put it all on black" investing in something-or-other? I'm not saying you're wrong to do it, but for Christ's sake don't complain about not having enough opportunity. Your problem isn't your leverage, it's your stupidity.

Spend less than you earn!


Most of the $300K/yr jobs are in locations where housing is expensive. SF, NYC, etc. It's not like there are tons of $300K/yr work-from-home-in-Indiana jobs out there.

If your $300K/yr job is in the Bay area, and you like the job and area, it seems eminently reasonable to borrow money to buy a house there.


Unless you want to be increasing your net worth. It's certainly a matter of opinion, but I think if money is your priority, you're much better off in the wop wops making $120k/yr with little to no debt.


Your net worth difference between those two scenarios hinges almost entirely on how your real estate purchase in the Bay area changes value. (You are highly leveraged and concentrated in the Bay area home ownership case. That can cut both ways.)


Over 25 years on both coasts, I have yet to see someone strictly coding (no exec or mgmt duties) break $200K.

All the families I know in SV are either lawyer/finance/medical, 2-income households, or cashed out.


It's dangerous to extrapolate from there to "nobody makes that much". It's only a short leap to "I'll never make that much" and eventually, "$70k/year isn't so bad".

There are in fact lots of developers doing nothing but development making well north of $200k. That's less than a $100/hour bill rate, which is not at all uncommon as a contractor. If that's something you want, know that it absolutely is attainable.

I think you'll find that, in all walks of life, people who make lots of money tend not to post on internet message boards (or salary surveys) about how they make lots of money. Definitely don't take the lack of people spouting off here about their 1%'er incomes as a sign that those people don't exist (or aren't, in fact, here reading this thread).


Most devs with ~10yrs experience at a B2C software company you've heard of earns >$200k total comp.


> Most devs with ~10yrs experience at a B2C software company you've heard of earns >$200k total comp.

I don't think that's accurate. Most? Really? Maybe the top 5 or 10%, and in most cases I suspect they are team leads with 3+ devs either reporting or defacto following their lead.

It's absolutely not the case outside of USA coasts.


Only a problem if you curiously believe that you must buy a home in such an outlandishly expensive place. If you make $300k and have money problems, it's 100% by your own choice barring unavoidable emergency medical costs, etc.


Aren't you forgetting your spouse's salary?


Given that each educational cashflow is 0-22 years in the future, carrying at a discounted NPV would be more appropriate. Whatever the assumption, carrying at the multi-decade-forward FV is a bit punitive.


> At the traditional 3x debt to gross income metric

Can someone give more information/source on this?


Traditionally, a mortgage would be 10% deposit + 3x your salary. That's what I did. In retrospect I should have done what everyone else did, 0% deposit and 5 or 6x salary, then let the govt bail me out by artificially holding interest rates so low. People who behaved irresponsibly made out like bandits, and honest folk are seeing their savings destroyed.


+1 What's the point in saving money when it gets eroded by near 0% interest saving returns combined with continuing inflation?


Traditionally a mortgage would be 20% down.


Did some research. To answer my own question: DTI is a debt-to-income ratio that is considered during mortgage negotiations. It's desirable to have less than a 36% DTI such that your monthly debts (CC payments, mortgage, car payment, etc.) do not exceed your monthly income.


Congrats on the pay grade! but you need to look at averages not anomalies like yourself

300k is definitely not the tract most programmers are on


Actually, I hear LOTS of reports of people with $100-$140k salaries who receive signing bonuses close to their salaries. To the point where it seems like the "new standard."

No, you don't see this in start-ups. I think HN may skew toward people who usually work in start-ups, so the perceived average will be lower as a result. Until this recent offer, it was my perception as well.

And no, that's not quite my pay grade, but a lot higher than the plateau that I think people are imagining. I think some developers do get sick of the programming, or they stop learning and go stale, before they get to be an anomaly like me. ;)


Where exactly are developers reporting six-figure signing bonuses? Google, Amazon, FB, etc I assume?

Also, making $150k with a $150k signing bonus is not anywhere close to 'making $300k'. What do you earn in year 2? $150k (plus whatever raise and annual bonus, but annual bonuses don't typically make up a huge part of your annual income in software, as they do in finance).


>What do you earn in year 2?

Almost the same in cash, but a little more in stock grants.

Years 3 and 4 have a lower salary but much larger stock grant vesting, that at today's stock price mean that I'd be making roughly the same amount in each year. If their stock crashes, then I might leave, though they mentioned that after the second year they may up the stock grants for the following years.

And if their stock keeps going up (as it has been), then I would be getting a de facto raise in years 3-4. But I'm fine with the first 2 years; my personal burn rate is low, and it would let me work on personal projects full time again after the two years are up.


I kick ass. Where do I sign?


On the dotted line, of course.


>not anomalies like yourself

Several people I know are in that range. But they all specialize in one thing or another.


Could you share some examples?


I'm a senior software engineer in the Bay Area and spend most of my days writing Javascript/Ruby. I don't manage anyone directly, but have technical/product leadership responsibility on my team.

My gross comp is ~$350k, 60% cash.

The 3 main learnings that I've leveraged to get that high are:

0) be the top performer on your team, no excuses

1) ask very explicitly for the things you want [0]

2) negotiate from a position of power (have a BATNA [1])

---

[0] "I'd like a raise" != "I'd like my salary to be $X"

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


Would also be interested in some examples, just for curiosity sake. COBOL maybe? Wild guess at something specialized/scarce.

Personally, the only people I know in the 200+ club are in some form of management and rarely, if ever, code anymore. But then we are back into the anecdotal realm..


Example specialties of people I know in the $250k+ range:

* Machine learning + finance * iOS (I know several examples here) * Android * Enterprise Java * Embedded development * Specific scientific expertise (a friend is into optics and diffraction and makes $250/hour freelance, with some coding and some design)

I don't know any COBOL programmers. Or at least if I do, they're in the closet. :)

This is universally from big companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Ball Aerospace, etc.


In the Bay Area or New York?


Agreed - Around here @100K is higher than most. It all depends on your geography. I would live like a king with 300K!


I wouldn't... I would live like a miser for 2-3 years and retire to do whatever I wanted. Maybe 4 if I felt like travelling the world for a decade. :)


You sir, are smart.


It would be relative. The ideal is to work somewhere that pays top whack, save, then move to somewhere with lower average incomes. Tricky to do though.


Ok, let me change 'would' to 'could'. I'm way too frugal (my kids call it cheap) to waste.


Thank you! Reading some of these posts, I was worried that it was some law of providence that when you've been writing software for some number of years (15-20?) you magically stop wanting to learn about new tools. As a new tools junky, I was worried. I'm glad to see someone who's been doing this since I was 1 year old still loves learning new tools.


Making an annual salary + bonus of $300K at a mobile games studio, in Boulder CO is pretty impressive. Counting stock though is always a bit dicey, especially if you coded through the 90's :-).


On counting stock: It's a big public company I'm talking about, a modern blue chip, so the stock will be worth something.

But I'm not counting it right now, regardless. The cash part of the offer is entirely enough to keep me happy for each of the first two years, and the stock is a bonus.

Starting in year three, though, compensation is nearly half stock. I did code through the 90's, so I'm going to take any stock valuation with a grain of salt. I'll reevaluate my options at that time, if I decide to stick with them for that long.


that reminds me of a quote in J. G. Ballard's 2003 "Millenium People"... "anyone making less than 300.000£ does not count. You're just a prole in a three button suit." a statement which might not be that off the mark


Too true. Too true.

I think that if salary levels hadn't been effectively frozen starting from the '70s until now, $300k would be about "normal" for a middle class income.

It's not that $300k is a lot of money, it's that the people of the US (and the world in general) have been cheated out of their share of productivity improvements. There's a great video that talks about stagnant wages and the problems that are the underlying cause of the recent collapse(s) of the economy. [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-KqeU8nzn4




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