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July 18, 2006


Thanks for the salary disclosure. Last year I had $55,000 + medical, dental, and a slew of minor benefits + educational expenses and 7 weeks paid time and 10 days of holidays off as an actuarial "student" (means you haven't completed the series of 10 exams). Co-workers were terrible, and commute to a shit-hole office park in NJ made the total time cost well over 50 hrs/week.

Please don't bitch over literally 10x what some people are making. Its a solidly middle class salary. Benefits aren't worth nearly as much as their equivalent in cash unless you take bad care of yourself or got screwed in the genetic lottery. One can live VERY well in NYC with a wife and still spend under $62,500/year, so it looks to me like you have the realistic option of working 1/2 time and trying to make some web-business work.

Instead bitch to Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution for his advising someone to go to Law school rather than studying economics on the appearent assumption that the grass is greener on the other side.

Salaries are a matter of public record for some workers in the public sector. At least this is true in a general sense, with an employee's actual paycheck being a matter of some conjecture. For instance, we may know that a first-year teacher in a particular shool district makes, say, $32,000/yr., but we have only a very rough estimate of what a specific first-year teacher's paycheck might be once various deductions are taken into account.

In my last job as a programmer in the Bay Area I made $92,000/year.

Right here you run into one of the reasons people don't disclose salaries. On an hourly basis, you make quite a bit more than I do. (Though with call time, benefits, etc, my annual pay isn't too shabby.) So disclosure shows very clearly where you are in the hierarchy, and nobody wants to be low man on the totem pole.

I do software testing and get paid $62K yr. Health, vision, dental, 4 weeks paid vacation (nice in the USA). Also until recently (until this small software company was acquired by General Dynamics) six weeks of *paid* paternity leave, which thanks to a grandfathering agreement at the time of acquisition I'll be taking advantage of in about 4 weeks' time.
$62K isn't a princely salary, but considering that our 3000 sq ft house cost only $50K and is all paid for, it's not bad. My wife can afford to stay home with our kids.

Also, you haven't disclosed something important (that I can see), your real name. Personally, though I'm proud of my salary, Id have to think whether it's a good idea to disclose my salary on my blog.

"our 3000 sq ft house cost only $50K and is all paid for"

Wow, my annual rent on a studio apartment is $27,000.

"you haven't disclosed something important (that I can see), your real name"

My real name isn't a secret, I just choose to keep it off the blog so that people can't find it by typing my name into Google.

Yes, it's nice to have inconsequential housing costs. Of course, the local school district is IIRC in the second percentile nationwide (that's the bottom 2%, not the top), so once kids are of age our choices are homeschooling, private school, or move somewhere that's going to cost a lot more.

The funeral home industry is EXTREMELY lucrative.

I am a lobbying consultant and I make anywhere from $5000 to $20,000 per month (depending on the season- this is a slow year), but there are lobbyists who make a whole lot more than that.

The funeral home industry is EXTREMELY lucrative.

And one which has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Until the 1980's, almost all funeral homes were locally owned and operated. That changed completely as several nationwide chains moved into the field and bought up funeral homes right and left. Something like half of the nation's funeral homes are now corporate-owned.

What is unusual about the corporate takeover of the funeral home business is that in almost all cases the funeral homes continue to operate under their prior names with little or no mention of their corporate affiliation. In addition, most of the funeral directors who used to own their funeral homes were kept on, now as salaried owners rather than sole proprietors - though few of the customers* are aware of the change. It's as if Luigi's Family Trattoria, a neighborhood fixture practically unchanged for decades, is actually part of the Olive Garden chain. Given the very sensitive nature of the industry, the chains figure that most people are more comfortable dealing with what they think are local businesses, even when the economic reality is different.

* = by "customers" I actually mean the family members of the true customers :)

I work as a graveyard freight clerk at a Portland, OR based privately owned grocery store chain that occupies a unique niche in the grocery industry by emphasizing locally produced natural/organic foods in addition to standard namebrand products (e.g. Tide, Crest, Coke, etc). Briefly, imagine Whole Foods combined with the typical midscale grocery. Despite the menial nature of the job, the sheer volume of applicants allows the company to hire a staff of intelligent, genuinely sociable people. Everybody is so nice it's ridiculous. The downside is my hourly wage is only $11.50 but benefits are quite good. The rent for my one bedroom apartment is only $450 per month, and I have no car or gas payments (beautiful commute by bike), so I'm really not that bad off.

Anyone poorer than me? ;)

Portland is a nice enough place to live that most jobs have a lot of applicants. Much like New York in that enough people want to live there for one reason or another that the ratio of housing costs to median salary is very high...


I'd say you're one of the richest people that have posted so far! Reminds me of that story where a mexican fisherman has a nice little boat and sells what he catches at the local market. One day a rich US businessman tells him how he could expand his business with more boats, etc. and one day become a multi-millionaire. To which the Mexican asks what will that get him? And the businessman replies "it will let you come to this nice beach and fish in a small boat and relax."

sometimes we need to see the whole picture to realize who is 'poor' and who is 'rich'.

You say you work with nice people and you commute by bike and you have benefits (so any unexpected health issues are dealt with). So the real question becomes, how is that 'poor'?

Not poor, that is, until family arrives.

I'm currently working at a summer job (starting at an Ivy in the fall), earning $10/hr testing videogames in Southern California. I overheard that there is a 50 cent pay raise per year worked.

I don't think TV is good evidence.

Do you have any comments on people discussing salaries with coworkers vs discussing salaries (perhaps not their own) of professions? Isn't the latter what guidance and career councillors do? As you've discussed, they have incentives to fabricate a rosy picture, but is their relative information about careers accurate?

I think this is a great idea, HS, and the anonymous blogosphere is a perfect venue. Dennis, I think the only way to do it is anonymously, for exactly the reason you mentioned -- people who are lower-earners don't want to face scorn (or hassle from employers or the competition). When I saw how much HS made, I was too intimidated to post until Vassar graciously weighed in. Plus, lots of people are dishonest and egotistical, and under their real names there are always lots who will inflate to make themselves look good.

Moreover, some blogposting stranger's real name isn't helpful to my worldview. But it is helpful, for instance, to know that a Wharton graduate in his 30s with an ASU law degree makes roughly $120K a year, doing computer programming, and NOT practicing law. And yet, rather than owning property, he pays roughly my monthly mortgage for a studio apartment in Manhattan. Illustrating how big a factor cost-of-living and geography are.

I live in an outlying area of SoCal, and earn $63,500 a year as general counsel for a smaller, family-run corporation (not my family). I get medical but not dental. I took a pay cut of 25 percent from my last law firm job -- because the owners here knew and approved of the fact that my husband and I were planning to get pregnant. I'm planning on keeping the job after giving birth in a few weeks. Fortunately, I have my own office, live 5 minutes from work (a huge benefit in SoCal), have a lawyer husband in a position to be helpful, and don't have to make many court appearances. I don't even think I could have made it through my last job pregnant, because of the many far-away court appearances where I had to leave the house at 5 a.m. I had to bill 9 hours a day in every law firm job I had.

I know several young(ish) lawyers who have taken this route. These jobs, however, usually are not advertised -- you have to know someone. I do wonder about what my career will look like in 10 years, but most non-government lawyers I know are in a similar position. A conservative person would say I *chose* the mommy track over bigger success, and this is why women make less money. In reality, most of those law firm jobs don't lead to long-term success or security for women (or lots of men) regardless of whether one reproduces or how hard one slaves for The Man.

And another thing, my highest-paid reporting job paid half my lowest-paying law job. Since you're not supposed to care about money in journalism, it's impolite to talk about it. The public salary estimates, low as they are, are still inflated because of the 5 or 10-percent big-paper jobs that pay a living wage, but only hire from select schools and connections. The bottom 90-percent of papers are often pretty profitable, but still screw their editorial staff because people are under the outdated impression they can work their way up.

I work as a civil engineer and make $43/hr, no benefits. I work 3/4 time so that I can paint (hobby), exercise, and relax in my spare time. I could live more cheaply than I do (and will, once my current lease is up), but all in all its good.

The career track is definitely overrated, in my opinion. I'm single, but I could easily see a professional couple working part-time like this doing very well, and having enough time left over for a life. All I had to do is ask for it from my employer (which I did at the interview). Of course, I do a very good job, that's a given--you have to be profitable and reliable. But I never feel burnt out on this schedule (3 to 3.5 days per week, sometimes more for big deadlines).

Think about it.

I make nothing. No, hang on, I made $37 in half.com sales last quarter. My partner makes $110,000 +bonuses bringing it up to maybe $150,000 being a computer programmer for a large Silicon Valley company. He is selftaught and has no degree. We support a family of five on that and pay $2300/month for an SF apartment. He commutes around two hours a day. We just paid off $500,000 in divorce debt. We homeschool and the largest chunk of money after rent goes to lessons, books, and classes for the children -probably $20,000/year. We all have excellent medical and dental.

When I was a nanny, I made $10-$15/hour under the table.

I do IT consulting for about $60 an hour. Fulltime, that would work out to about 100K+ without overtime, but I lately make about 50-60K, so I go bike-riding and spend time with the kids. My net worth is about $1.1 million (house $400K), so I'm not too badly off for retirement and paying the kids' university. I do expect to work a little harder next year.

Playing along, a PhD student in Electrical Engineering (wireless) in rural Virginia (which is more than sufficient for identification, but I've never tried to be anonymous), I made 30k last year as a graduate research assistant and a little over 30k doing consulting work on the side.

US concensus website has information regardign all median or average income of all proffessions.

You're absolutely right to say that the anonymous blog is the right environment for this discussion. I recently read another blog whining about how anonymity makes people irresponsible, but how many in the US want to take public responsibility for their income?

Most people I tell in person assume I'm trying to lowball and act morally superior, but this is sadly the best job I've ever had, with a BA-liberal arts and MA-journalism.

I live near Indianapolis and make $27,600 annual salary as a book editor, with full medical and dental that add up to about $70 per month. Our budget is tight but manageable and allows my wife to stay home and homeschool, which costs about $1000 per year. The downside is I commute two hours per day.

Two homeschoolers and also me (90% likely we will homeschool our kids). Interesting.

I'm the founder and president of Technical Video Rental. I take a salary of $0 / hr. This makes me the lowest paid person in the corporation. :-)

In the past, I have been a salaried software engineer ($90k / yr or $45/hr), and a software contractor ($70-$90/hr).

David, if you're not wedded to the more prestigious end of publishing, you might try editing technical material, a lot of which does not require any real technical knowledge. You'd certainly make more than you do now, and could easily double your income over a couple of years. My wife worked as an editor at a Famous Publisher and was also paid peanuts. But, then, at parties people were actually interested in hearing about her work.

There's a lot of home schooling mentioned. I think this is the most interesting thing that's come out of this post. Is this such a burgeoning trend. Is it allowing middle class whites to live in the inner city enjoying all of the good things (walking everywhere, cultural attractions) and none of the bad things (bad schools)?

Isn't Patrick Henry College a college that caters to home schooled kids and regularly sends interns to the white house?

I think reading this blog would be frowned upon at Patrick Henry College.

I'm an airline pilot. It's a union job. We all know what we make.

airlinepilotcentral will give you all the numbers, as a matter of fact.

People think I make huge money. I make very little as a first-year pilot at a small airline.

Lots of reasons for homeschooling. The economic ones you mention are one, but it's a lot of work, so I don't know if it's a clear win on that front. Certainly it got its start from religious folks of various stripes who didn't like the secular nature of public schools but didn't care for catholic schools either. Quality arguments aside, my wife and I don't like the pro-authoritarian culture being promoted in public schools (transparent backpacks, metal detectors, mandatory drug tests to participate in sports, and so on). Non-religious homeschooling is definitely growing.
I believe one of the senators from my state (Santorum) has homeschooled kids.

I'm a systems programmer in GA. I get 50,000 a year, health/dental insurance, 401k employer match. There's an automatic raise of 2000 a year.

I think that one would have to be almost insane or terribly stupid to have kids and then NOT homeschool. What is the point of having kids and then not raising them? The happiness research is very clear that in normal circumstances children make their parents less happy, not more.

While i'm sure there are arguments to be made for homeschooling... I went to a private school from k-8th grade that had a lot of kids who were homeschooled at one point or another come in, and i never met one who wasn't socially retarded.

Well, Christy, you got the ones whose parents were sick of them and dumped them back into a school.

I don't buy that happiness research. Children make normal people happy, but it's hard to be normal if how you make your living is radically divorced from your family life.

I like homeschooling personally but I think there's a place for school. The thing is, though, unless you're on a farm, children require more resources put into them than they are going to give back. People just need to accept this. Either you homeschool, foregoing income, or you pay for good schooling. THERE IS NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE. Generations of free-to-user public education have masked this simple fact. But if you are not prepared to put either your own unpaid labor, or a lot of money, into your child's education, you shouldn't have children!

Housewife, I think it depends on where you live. In my area, the chicago suburbs, the public highschool outperformed any of the local private schools.

Last year I made 66K salary with a 14K bonus. I guess that totals up to 80K, with a wife and two kids.

This year, I will make about the same. It seems like a lot, on paper, but my wife doesn't work, so it's been tough.

I'm one of those MBAs everyone derides and I make somewhere around $165k, with full benefits additional.

Half Sigma: You might want to consider the hypothesis that the taboo about discussing salary specifics (and I agree it is a taboo) has the utilitarian purpose of reducing workplace grousing and promoting team cohesion. I know there are certain drawbacks to the taboo but there are, I believe, benefits from it, too.

jult52: "the taboo about discussing salary specifics (and I agree it is a taboo) has the utilitarian purpose of reducing workplace grousing and promoting team cohesion."

It would indeed be hard not to be pissed off all time at work if you knew that the guy in the cubicle next to you who was an utter moron earned $30K/year more than you.

But then this would force employers to be more equitable about their pay in order to prevent a pissed off workforce, and that's exactly the goal I have in promoting the end of the salary taboo.

Christy: I am personally far from convinced that social skills even *translate* from school to adult environments anyway. Habits of dominance/submission translate, and that may create an illusory correlation. School is an extremely artificaly environment. If your children EVER end up having to use school-relevant social skills it probably means they are in prison or at best in the army in which case I think it is fair to say that your parenting constituted a complete failure. Complete failures of parenting are thus (unsurprisingly) more disasterous in the home-schooled, as it is more disasterous to be a socially unskilled prisoner or private than a more socially skilled one.

michael vassar, the popular kids seem to succeed better than the unpopular ones, so they are picking up something.

It's not clear if they are all learning social skills or if it's just a zero sum game where the popular kids are learning, to use your word, "dominance," and the unpopular ones are learning some negative trait that hurts them later.

"You might want to consider the hypothesis that the taboo about discussing salary specifics (and I agree it is a taboo) has the utilitarian purpose of reducing workplace grousing and promoting team cohesion. I know there are certain drawbacks to the taboo but there are, I believe, benefits from it, too."

yup, drawbacks for us, benefits for you.

Seems pretty obvious this is a way to attack your power. Let's do it!

"It would indeed be hard not to be pissed off all time at work if you knew that the guy in the cubicle next to you who was an utter moron earned $30K/year more than you."

Some of us wish it was only $30K and not literally ten or 20 times that amount. I know what some people I work with make.

"It's not clear if they are all learning social skills or if it's just a zero sum game where the popular kids are learning, to use your word, "dominance," and the unpopular ones are learning some negative trait that hurts them later."

If the second, all that left-wing nicey-niciness in schools would actually make some sense.

Or it could be that appearence, IQ (yes really, though only up to a point, probably about 120) and socio-economic status contribute to popularity in school and to success later. Correlation != causation. Standard gnxp schtick.

I'm a mid-level fed and make 100, my wife is a lawyer and makes 265. We live in an area where houses cost 800. We're both at our tops, I think, no increases on the horizon, and will be needing to put kids through college at or after retirement, so we are trying to squirrel away as much as we can while the getting is good.

In my office, everyone knows what everyone else makes - there are pay grades, raises are for longevity. And it's very rigid: even if they like you, what you make is what you make.

In my wife's, wages are secret. Everyone's wage is the result of negotiation with the boss. I think the day-to-day has less tension in my office.

Re the social skills subthread and homeschooling, I think social skills are overrated as compared to common social *experiences.* A homeschooled kid usually has fewer opportunities to find a peer group and do things with peers. When he goes to college or work, he may be left out of the scene when people start talking to potential friends about the bands they like, parties and concerts they went to, wild capers with their friends, who they know in common, and all those other little stories people tell to signal that they're fun and popular.

But, if the kid isn't getting that at school anyway, he's probably better off at home avoiding abuse.

Christy, good public school is paid for by gigantic property taxes. Where do you think the money to run the things comes from? The Spaghetti Monster?

If people want to pay for good schooling via property taxes and working hard enough to afford a house in a good school district - fine. If they want to pay for it by writing a check - fine. If they want to pay for it by having the children run a coca farm out back, I don't really have an objection. The point is that education is extremely expensive, and I will repeat, free-to-user public schools masks this fact, and has caused people to believe that educating the young should just sort of happen, without any pain or sacrifice on anyone's part.

oops, that was me.

And the socialization argument is bunk. Parents are going to do what we're going to do, and unless you feel like paying even more taxes to support even more intrusive social services, you can't stop us. And outside of a very very few criminal cases, most parents know their children and are trying to meet their needs. I know a lot of homeschooled children who are complete social nightmares; but what I recognize and y'all might not is that they're autistic. Lots of parents keep their children out of school BECAUSE they are going to be socially rejected. On the other hand, a parent recognizes that a child is unusually social almost from birth. Parents are more likely to place socially adept children in school, because that's where they will flourish.

Hey, now, you can find a polite way to debate without mocking The Church.

Financial consultant to tech company. Made $75 per hour. No benefits. No withholding. Just a check. Worked about 55 hours per week. Helped them find a buyer of the company. Got $250K for that. Now am looking for something else.

I make $12.90 an hour and with overtime that comes out to $30,000 a year, plus 10% in profit sharing. My studio apartment is $400 a month, heat included. I don't have a car, but I'm about to buy one. Then my lifestyle will be costing more than $7 an hour for the first time in five years.

Anyone else curious as to how much wowgold makes for spamming blog comments?

On topic, I think the income taboo has a lot to do with the way we treat income as almost a "score" on how you are going at life. As if you're monetary value equates to your real life value.

I suppose it is just the way we give status to different people we meet, we ask "what do you do?" so we can easily slot them in to the social heirachry. I don't know if this is a bad thing, it is at least a little arbitrary though, but people do like to accord a level of status to other people, and job/income is no worse than basing it on family or skin colour, which were common in the past.

I earn less than almost everyone on this thread, and to some that would give me a low status, but I do work 3 days a week, and spend most of the rest of the time with my young children.

Wow, I had to justify my low salary, and didn't even realise until after what I was doing. Makes me think...

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