How To Make Six Figures A Year At Almost Any Age

Making Six Figures Is NiceIf you want to make six figures, know that you can if you want to. Nothing in this world is stopping you. Remember that $200,000 is the income level that brings maximum happiness, so even if you are already making $150,000 a year, you still have more happiness to go.

Let’s start off with some basic necessities:

* Desire. Your desire needs to be focused. Mr. Miyagi said it best to Daniel-san, “You Karate do “yes” or Karate do “no”, you Karate do “guess so” get squished like grape.”

* Effort. Unfortunately for the lazy, you’re actually going to have to try hard at first. Maybe you’ll wake up earlier than everyone else.  Maybe you’ll network like a mad person. Maybe you’ll stop making excuses? No effort, no results.

* Knowledge. The more you educate yourself, the easier things will be. Lucky for you, you’re reading this post and likely other great financial publications as well. I spent the past 13 years working in finance, received my MBA from Berkeley, and love personal finance so you’re in good hands!

* Optimism. Optimism is what will drive you to keep going when things turn sour. Optimism will make you do great things because you believe things will improve. If you have optimism, you will always find the right direction.

* Personality. At the very minimum, it’s important to be nice. At the maximum, your charisma will make believers out of others.  People will be drawn to you and naturally want to start helping you and doing business with you. Be nice, but also be respectful.  There will be haters everywhere. Embrace them.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s explore the many possibilities of making over $100,000 at any age. I truly believe anybody who wants to make more can make more. This post isn’t meant to be controversial at all. But, as always, feel free to share your thoughts below.

HIGH SCHOOL & COLLEGE YEARS

It’s important not to be a donkey and get mediocre grades. If you’re just coasting with a “B” or worse, you’re going to end up going to a “B” college or worse.  At your “B” college, if you are mediocre again, well then you are going to be stuck with mediocre opportunities.

Do you really think you’re going to be able to compete with the student who gets straight A’s in high school who then gets straight A’s at Columbia for the same jobs and opportunities post graduation? No, because as a rational employer, you’ll choose the straight A student over the B student 9 times out of 10 all else being equal.

Now that you are a terrific student, all you’ve got to do is identify industries that often pay six figures within 3 years out of school: Venture capital, investment banking, management/strategic consulting, high tech, internet. Go apply to the top 5 companies in each field.  Here are some examples:

Venture Capital: Sequoia, Benchmark, Accel, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Kleiner Perkins.

Investment Banking: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Strategic Consulting: Bain, BCG, McKinsey, Monitor, Arthur D. Little, Booz Allen Hamilton.

Tech/Software: Apple, Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, HP.

Internet: Google, Facebook, eBay, Paypal, AirBnB, Dropbox, Quora.

IT Consulting/Accounting: KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers (takes longer to break $100,000, but a high certainty before 30 if you start out of undergrad)

Oil, Mining, Commodities Trading:  Vitol Group, BHP Billington, Glencore International, Cargill Group, Koch Industries, Trafigura, Archer Daniels Midland Co, Gunvor International, Noble Group, Bunge, Phibro

Computer & Movie Animation: Pixar Studios (Toy Story), Weta (Lord Of The Rings), Blizzard (World of War Craft)

Health Care: Doctors, Hospital Administrators, Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, etc.

Classical Music: The San Francisco Symphony’s median salary is $160,000. We know this because they went on strike on March 13, 2013 because they are underpaid by 5% compared to their LA and Chicago peers! 5% and they go on strike!

Cops and Firefighters: Cops and firefighters with a couple decades worth of experience regularly earn over six figures a year. Add on their well deserved lifelong pensions and you’ve got a recipe for financial success! Retired SF Chief of Police Heather Fong makes $200,000+ a year from her pension for example.

Big Government: Reach any top tier position in the Federal or State government and you will make six figures a year a long with a nice pension. In fact, there are more than 450,000 Federal employees making over $100,000 a year. Even prison guards make $150,000-$200,000+ with overtime by the way.

So there we have it. Great grades, great schools, and working in particular industries will make you $100,000 a year in your 20s. This post names 26 firms who employ thousands combined and there are many more firms out there who pay just as well. The great thing is that if you stick it out at any of these firms for 10+ years, there’s a great chance you will be a millionaire in your 30s and multi-millionaire in your 40s.

WHAT IF YOUR GRADES STUNK AND YOU’RE OLDER?

Let’s say you’ve got some work experience under your belt and you just aren’t satisfied with your career or your profession. You didn’t do particularly well is school and read this post a little too late.

You’ve got a second chance by simply going to business school. Again, you can’t just go to any business school, you’ve got to go to one of the top 15 or 20 business schools given the competition, supply, and cost. Lucky for you, the top 20 business schools let in thousands of students a year, so no worries!

Top 15 Business Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Penn, Columbia, Dartmouth, Berkeley, Chicago, Northwestern, Michigan, Virginia, Yale, Duke, and Cornell.

Get in any of the above schools, and enter any of the five industries I mentioned and you’ll likely make a median total pay package of $120,000 your very first year. Five years out, you’ll probably make double. You can attend business school at 25 or 55 and so long as you go to one of the best schools, the vast majority will make well over $100,000 a year upon graduation. Even if you don’t go into one of the aforementioned fields, you will still probably make six figures in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola), retail, and hospitality industries.

OTHER OPTIONS ABOUND

There are plenty of different avenues you can take to breach that magical six figure mark. Doctors and lawyers routinely make multiple six figures. Longshoremen (dockworker) average $120,000 a year as we discovered during the Oakland longshoremen strike in 2001. After 20 years on the police force and fire department, the majority of our brave men and women make $100,000+. Not only that, their capitalized pensions are worth millions!

Marrying for money sometimes works, but you’ll have to often sleep with a less than desirable looking spouse. Furthermore, you can start your own business or work two jobs. Making an online income seems particularly trendy nowadays. Don’t forget you can always join the federal government and rake it in after a while too!

Finally, to help you visualize your path to $100,000 or more a year, simply break down the annual income by month and then by day. Doesn’t $8,333 a month sound a little less daunting? How about making $274 a day? That’s surely possible isn’t it? Of course it is!

If you are happy with making $99,999 a year, more power to you. Just remember that your happiness, as measured by income will continue to grow until $200,000 and then stop because of government persecution and the bitter populace who want to keep you down. After you break $200,000 you need to start going into hiding. So if you discover after taking my advice that you are on pace to blow by $200,000 a year, don’t forget to create an exit strategy!

Recommendations To Help Achieve Financial Independence

Proactively manage your finances: One of the best ways to build wealth is to track your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts on their Dashboard so you can see where you can optimize. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 28 different accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to track my finances. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how my stock accounts are doing, how my net worth is progressing, and where my spending is going.

A great feature is the 401K Fee Analyzer which has helped me save over $1,700 in annual portfolio fees I had no idea I was paying. You just click on the Investment Tab and run your portfolio through their fee analyzer with one click of the button. Their Investment Checkup tool is also excellent because it graphically shows whether your investment portfolios are property allocated based on your risk profile. Aggregate all your financial accounts in order to get a good over view of your net worth and start building those passive income streams! It only takes a minute to sign up.

Check Your Credit Score: Everybody needs to check their credit score once a year given the risk of identity theft and the fact that 30% of credit reports have errors. For over a year, I thought I had a 790ish credit score and was fine, until my mortgage refinance bank on day 80 of my refinance told me they could not go through due to a $8 late payment by my tenants from two years ago! Thanks to the late payment, my credit score was hit by 110 points to 680 and I could not get the lowest rate. I had to spend an extra 10 days fixing my score by contacting the utility company to write a “Clear Credit Letter” to get the bank to follow through. Check your TransUnion credit score for free at and protect yourself. A good credit score is vital to get the lowest rates on mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit card loans.

Best,

Sam

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Dan says

    Financial Samurai – Just found your site and lovin it!

    I’ve got an industry you could add to your list of jobs that pay well over $100,000 a year – the oil industry. Now, most people think that working in the oil industry is dangerous, dirty, smelly, gross etc. That’s if you work on the labor side of the oil industry not if you’re working for an operator (Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP, Conoco) in the office. If you’re lucky enough to land a job at one of these 5 companies out of school as an engineer or geologist you can easily expect to make $125,000-$200,000 starting.

    After a few years (3-5) of hard work you could very easily see $250,000+. On top of that if you’re working for an operator there are field jobs to available to manage rigs or construction projects which pay $300,000-$500,000. Now to top it all off, if you work for an operator in a field position OVERSEAS… expect to make $500,000-$800,000.

      • jon says

        you need to revise your 100k per year guidelines. youre implying that simply doing well in university will get you a good job. thats not the case. you need to elaborate on type of degrees. you can do super well in a degree like asia. american studies and that wont do shit.

        youre also implying that you can only make this amount by going to university.also not the case. same with mbas some dont benefit you at all.

        you need to add i trades as a source of making a six figure incomes.

        university grades arent everything. yoy just need the bare minimum to reach whatever goal it is you want. 90% of the time youll learn everything on job and your grades wont mean shit. btw check out how many phds, masters, and undergrads work st your local starbucks. right now btw my friends and i, all who have degrees, the median is around 40k. with the upper end at 80k.

    • Lana says

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for sharing this information. I actually work as a Project Management consultant in the technology and healthcare industry but I really want to get into construction project management because I love architecture I was also interested in natural resources project management just for a change but, it is very difficult to switch from one industry to another any advice?

      Thanks in advance,

      L

  2. Jon says

    Hey Dan,

    This post is a little late, but can I ask where you’re getting your data? The top paid positions at these oil and gas operators are petroleum engineers and I’ve never heard of a 200k starting or even 150k…?

    If you work for a major (Shell, Chevron, BP, Conoco) they pay about 90 – 100k starting for petroleum engineers and about 70-80k for mechanical/chemical/electrical engineers. The exception is Exxon (they pay more because it’s a terrible work environment, but they make the most profits). If you work for a smaller independent, perhaps it gets bumped up 10k or so. Bonuses are typically 10-20%. I’m a recent graduate in Petroleum Engineering working for Shell.

    If you make it into management or expat assignments w/ 10 yrs of experience, I agree you can make large amounts of money.

  3. Her Every Cent Counts says

    This forumla you have makes sense for some people, but not all. Case in point – I went to a college in the midwest that no one has heard of, graduated with a 3.2 GPA, and at the age of 29 closed the year with a $110k salary. My boyfriend went to one of the top 10 public institutions in the country, graduated with a 3.8 GPA, and last year earned about $20k. Yes, having a degree from a top-tier institution may have increased my current salary even more, but I think had I gone that route I would have went into a less exciting career and given myself less chances to fail. Instead, with my average academic background, I’ve been able to live out many careers in my 20s – as a business journalist, and then in a variety of roles in startups where I could put my writing skills to use. I learned how to negotiate and that’s why I’m making six figures today (and I also have a sizable stock package that could be worth more a few years down the road.) My salary clearly has nothing to do with my academic performance. Sure, Google would never hire me because I don’t meet their hiring criteria, but who needs Google when you can start out as one of the first employees of a startup and help make that startup worth hundreds of millions of dollars?

      • Her Every Cent Counts says

        I don’t think I would have done worse financially at all. I just think it evens out in the end of you make the right choices. I probably would have started with a much higher salary out of the gate. Put there’s a possibility then I would have been spending my time with people who put value on superficial items, and I’d spend more money on my apartment, car, clothes, etc. I’d probably try to stay in that job for many years, if it were paying well, versus having a real reason to leave positions to quickly move up and try different things. Right now I’m in a private company that is excelling and due to being open to any opportunity I was able to work a job that paid relatively little compared to market rate in exchange for a large amount of options. It’s yet to be seen if these options are going to be worth anything, but at this point there’s a reasonable change that I could meet or exceed the amount of savings I would have had, say, if I were making $100k out of the gate after graduating from an Ivy League school. Having a low income out of undergrad forced me to prioritize and learn how to save, and also how to live on a salary of under $30k a year in the Bay Area. While I’m still scared of losing my job, I understand how to live cheaply, which I consider a value-add to not having such high expectations and requirements for lifestyle out of the gate. Now, I am considering getting an MBA if I could possibly score well on the GMAT (I believe if I could get a high score on the GMAT I’d be an interesting candidate for a top-tier MBA program given my experience working with multiple successful startups as an early employee) but I’m not sure I want to take two years off to do that. If I were to go back to school I feel it would be more valuable to specialize in technical development or analytics, to really address areas where I am weak that would lead me to be a much better professional today. It’s unclear if an MBA program would be able to address my weaknesses — or give me the salary boost you speak of as with bonus I now make up to $130k per year (last year I closed out the year with about $110k.) I’m 29 and 7 years into my career. I save, I invest, and I’m glad I didn’t make all of the “smart” decisions in my life because this made me hungrier, potentially more well rounded, and less scared of taking risks as I had so little to lose.

        • Her Every Cent Counts says

          Well, Chico State has a reputation as a party school, so this might not be a fair comparison. I personally went to a program that was extremely well respected in the arts, but as an academic institution was just fair. In actuality I had some really amazing professors (some who had PhDs from Ivy League schools, some who didn’t) but my choice was made based on the quality of my program versus the overall school. I did decide on a liberal arts school versus just an arts school because I wanted the option to expand outside of just an arts population. So, in that sense, if Chico State happened to have a better program in the field my “son” was going into versus Harvard, I’d say go for it. I’m not making the argument that if one has the academic intellect to do well in school that he/she should avoid going to a top-tier academic institution, what I am trying to say is that it’s not the only way to do well in life. In fact, I’ve met many people from top-tier schools who act entitled and think certain work is below them, whereas I’ve been hired and tend to be a respected employee because I’m willing to get my hands dirty. Again, this is not saying every Ivy graduate is this way, but same goes for every graduate from a “Chico” as you put it. When I was applying to college I got into Rutgers which is a fairly good school academically (not an Ivy, but at least up there with the top public schools) and I chose to go to a school that was less prestigious on the academic front because it was a better fit. I was a theatre major. I ended up switching to minor in journalism and sociology. I had an internship with Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmakers who had a program set up with my school, and was able to help compile research for cable TV news programming. Point being, the opportunities for success are everywhere. If you’re really smart, you’d skip college altogether and spend your college tuition building a business or two. Sure, you might never have the stability of working in a consulting firm or at a big tech company, but the people who get really rich (or at the least who lead “rich lives”) are often the ones who don’t follow the typical road to success.

  4. Vee Viston says

    I’m 26, and I have served 6 years in the Navy. I am out, and using my GI bill at The University of Nevada Reno. I was an engineer in the navy, and I worked on potable (drinkable) water systems. My degree is going to be in Hydrology. My 6 years of solid experience and 5 years in school, I feel are going to give me one hell of a leg up in the working world. I am also a yacht captain at Lake Tahoe. One thing that is driving me is getting property in the most beautiful part of the country for my future wife.
    Do you think that is a bad motivation? Am I making the right steps to make 150,000k to 200,000k a year?

    • Financial Samurai says

      I think that’s GREAT motivation! Have a goal of why you want to make money, and go for it. Otherwise, making more money for money’s sake is a waste of time b/c I firmly believe none of us need much more than $50,000 a year to live a comfortable life.

  5. E. Rek says

    Wow, these salaries and success stories are amazing, and making me wonder what I did wrong. I earned my BS in Computer Science in 1986. Now, after an MBA and an MS Risk Management, two lay offs, a few missed/blown opportunities, and the Great Recession, my 2013 annual salary is exactly the same as 1999 – well under $100K, in a mid-sized, mid-cost, coastal FL city.

    There is little opportunity for me to hit $100K with my current employer, but benefits, flexibility, and job security are good, and my round trip commute is two miles.

    On the other hand, due to good saving and consuming habits, at 49 y/o, my net worth is $800K and growing.

  6. Anna says

    I also wanted to point out, there is a reader Slava who compares 100K salary ti Russian ones. He might not know that we are talking 100K before taxes… so at the end, it’s not as big as it sounds.

  7. Keith says

    A few corrections need to be made here:

    1) If your grades stink, you can’t go to a top MBA program. You can still make six figures honorably by going entrepreneurial or by getting hired despite poor grades, but you’re probably not getting into an elite business school.

    2) Business school, even a top-20 MBA, isn’t usually lucrative after 20 years. The degree “expires.” I’d look more into other, more productive uses of education. The business schools publish these dubious studies by including very small sample sizes.

    3) Anything over 3.0 puts you in the running for most jobs in engineering, but projects and experiences are much more important than grades.

    4) Medicine is the only profession where a GPA over 3.5 is usually needed.

    • Financial Samurai says

      1) How do you know? Is this from your experience of getting rejected due to poor grades?
      4) What about law? That is 90% plus focused on grades.

      What is your background so I understand where you are coming from? Do you have an MBA? How old are you? Do you make six figures?

      • Keith says

        I know that you almost always need good grades to go to a top MBA program
        because most B-school advisors and admissions directors state this fact. I’m also closely related to someone who went to a top MBA school and he doesn’t recommend pursuing that
        course because he thinks the salary statistics are inflated via clever sampling survey methods. Also, people can use other degrees to do what most MBA’s do.

        Regarding law, while the top law schools require great grades, most law schools consider
        applicants with GPA’s over 3.0. My sources on this are primarily law school websites and
        admission counselors. I also know that there are successful attorneys from all tiers of law schools. There are definitely lawyers from fifth-tier law schools earning well-over 100K.

        I’m twenty-three. I was very late to go to college due to personal reasons, but I’m an undergraduate studying engineering. I do not make six figures currently, but I’ve find your blog generally informative so far and hope it will help me make six figures some day.

        • Financial Samurai says

          Gotcha, even though you have not graduated undergrad yet, do not have an MBA, and do not make six figures, I appreciate your correction and your perspective.

          If you have any more thoughts on how to make six figures, please share.

  8. Johnny Moneyseed says

    If you put forward no effort and receive no results, you are also not entitled to complain about your situation. I’m still working towards $200k/year. That does have a nice ring of happiness to it.

  9. orchestra player says

    I have been reading for a while but first time posting. Thank you for your great blog! I see that you added the classical music (symphony orchestra) as one the high paying industries. I hope you don’t mind me adding some insights to that…

    I think you should add major sports league before you add classical music as one of these high paying jobs. It’s similar, people don’t do music/sports for money! But people do it for the love of it AND the money it brings at the very very top of the industry! In sports it is millions of $, in the case of symphony orchestra, it is 100k+. I work in the industry and it is misleading to list it along with other jobs in your post.

    Yes, people who perform on stage look like a big group of people and they have union. Perhaps when you read the article about the strike you were surprised to know symphony players earn six figure salary, but only about 1% gets to play in the 100k+ salary orchestra from top music schools (Juilliard, Curtis, NEC, etc). I am a lucky few who plays in a major orchestra with 100k+ pay, but I spent my 20s practicing everyday earning $10k-$20k until I finally won the audition at age 30. (33 now) In order to be competitive in auditions, I own (parents and grandparents paid) an instrument that costs $300k. Most of the straight A students from top music school I know now earn below $50k. As a music student, it is a big success if one wins an orchestral job with $50k salary. Many try to teach and freelance at a $5k orchestra job to scrape by.

    There are less than 10 orchestras in the US that pay $100k or more. Depending on the instrument there are only about 0 to 5 position openings total (5 being maybe violin, 0 is maybe a tuba position) per year from those top orchestras. Each year, there are thousands of graduates from top music schools and they compete for that position in auditions. I auditioned and failed so many times I lost count. Of course when the economy sinks, the number of auditions decline even more. (orchestra tries to save money by hiring temp subs instead which is detrimental to the artistic quality)

    In the classical music industry, teaching at school and orchestras are about the only jobs that pay living wage. Also, students (especially string instruments and piano) almost never get into top music schools if one starts after 10 years old. I started practicing my instrument when I was 5. You cannot decide in your high school years that you want to become a member of the SF Symphony, it’s too late.

    Is becoming a $100k+ earner in orchestras like SF symphony just as competitive as joining a major sports league? Maybe. It’s just that $100k+ symphony job openings are so rare that no one can really count on it. Orchestra is a very unique job and often general public don’t know how people got there. Of course not everyone value and want to support arts. But when those few $100k orchestra job salary disappear, the live symphony music we hear today will die.

    I hope you agree that SF Symphony job don’t really belong in the list! Thank you so much for reading.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Howdy! U added orchestra/symphony player after discovering the SF folks went on strike for a 5% pay increase. Making $150,000 a year to be a top player is not huge by any means, but it is six figures. I hear what you are saying completely.

      The point I’m trying to make is that six figures can be achieved in a variety of industries, not just finance, high tech, law, and medicine. If one is the top of their field, they will likely earn six figures. I want to eradicate the limiting beliefs people have about making a six figure salary. By removing the musicians, I am denying reality.

      I will add professional athletes to the list. Thanks!

      • orchestra player says

        Thank you for your comment, but I don’t think I felt the need to comment if your post was about “six figures can be achieved in a variety of industries if one is the top of their field”. Don’t we all know that? College prof, photographers, athletes, actors, dancers, musicians, designers, personal trainers etc. You wouldn’t list these as $100k+ industries, do you? I wrote my last comment to explain that symphony orchestra industry also does not fit into the “industries that often pay six figures within 3 years out of school”.

        Furthermore, symphony orchestras are non profit organization and cannot support itself without the donation from the public. We know this is a challenge. I explained in the above comment that top symphony musicians have been dedicating their whole life to this traditional art form and that is why they have to fight hard to keep our salary competitive (even mere 5%).
        Should market dictate how much symphony musicians get paid? If that happens, those few $100k jobs or even $50k jobs will disappear. And let me say it again, currently, only 0-5 people in the whole US per instrument group get to have those $100k symphony positions every year.

        Of course it’s up to you whether you keep the classical musician in the list of high paying industry. I just took the time to explain because I wanted to let an influential person like you know the reality of those $100k symphony musicians on strike. I can say this with confidence, though. If someone is looking to make six figures, classical music industry is the last place to consider getting in unless you have already started practicing at age 5! :)

        • Financial Samurai says

          You make good points. My overall point is for folks to stop pitying themselves and know that if they want to make more, they can make more in many different fields of choice.

          We cannot discount the dedication of others who spend their lives to write well, sing well, invest well, and so forth. It’s good to fight for one’s rights. I would probably not go on strike for being underpaid by 5%, but that’s just me.

          We go into professions with our eyes wide open. I do believe in market forces at the end of the day. We do what makes us happy in our free world. We can riot, picket, or choose to do something else.

  10. 42 year old with 4 kids says

    My grades were terrible in high school. I did better in college. I still graduated debt-free, and made very little money the first few years in business. With positive mental attitude and a game plan in place, I was able become debt-free by 35, and my income is very good for my age. Now that I’m debt-free, I’ve been able to save for retirement (what I should have done first).

  11. Jit Singh says

    You got a good article here but a lot of points are way off in real world sense. Any monkey that can read and regurgitate information can graduate with a high gpa. The real truth behind success is thinking outside the box. I’m 22 avg student yet run a successful business (100-120k/yr) while in college. With this article your saying go from box to box first your in an educational institution spending all your time and effort getting A’s then your working for someone in a corporate box. Let your bank account be your resume. The world needs more entrepreneurs

    • Financial Samurai says

      But will you be capped at $100-120k/year? What’s your upside if the business fails and you graduate a average student from a mediocre school? What is your business?

      Do share your insights.

  12. Corinne says

    About the GPA, I am from Germany and my grades don’t exactly translate well into the American system. It seems hard enough anyway to get an interview being from another country with a totally different education and job market culture, not to mention we add our picture and a bunch of personal information on our CV versus the American resume.

    Once I go for my Masters, I suppose I should pick an American school, so companies know what the degree stands for? And what about online studies? As long as it’s from Penn State or NYU, is it okay? I work full time in supply chain management and have a second job on the side. In-class education is simply not an option.

    Also, what do you think about certificate programs? Penn State offers certificates next to their degree programs. For example, project management exists as a Master’s degree program, but the certificate they offer is just as well a PMI respected education and much cheaper and faster. What do you think, Samurai?

  13. James says

    You put a lot of emphasis on educational institutions. Do you deem them so important because of the diplomas they provide or because of the skills they promise to teach you? Because if it’s the latter, you might be better off just learning it all on your own—faster, cheaper and, in many cases, more effective.

  14. Matt says

    I agree with James, you have placed too much emphasis on education. Your article starts and ends great, but your own limits are revealed in the middle.

    I imagine you value your own education very highly.

    As a service provider to several different types of business owners over the past 25 years, I think it is not the education but rather the execution of process and people that make the difference. More times than not I have seen educations get in the way of continuing education than not. Truly the learning or connection making does not stop at school and to imagine that it only starts there is foolish.

    I really liked how you opened though, I have taught my kids all of those things with the emphasis on being nice, I have seen the most incompetent people at the highest levels of management because they were nice.

    The real limit for most people to six figures is their own mentality and the unwillingness to let time do it’s thing.

    Nicely written. Great Job.

    @James

    • Financial Samurai says

      I used to think education was overrated, and personally swore off not going back to school after I finished my undergrad. Then the economy hit the skids form 2001-2005 and I went back to get an MBA part-time. I know think education is underrated, not only for the things you learn, but for the connections you make and the confidence a good education gives everyone.

      The biggest difference in helping kids who live in difficult environments is to get as much education as possible. Once you have knowledge, you can free yourself to do so many new things. One of those things is earning six figures as this article mentions. But there are many other things.

  15. Duke Student says

    I’m going into a Top 10 school (Duke), but am unsure of what to major in other than something math/science/engineering related–I’m fortunate enough to enjoy all technical fields. I initially considered Biomedical Engineering, since it’s Duke’s strong suit, but it seems like quite the gamble; electrical/computer engineering or computer science seems a far safer route.

    I want to be 100% done with school by 25, making ~100k by 30 and 150-200k in my 40s–hopefully more. However, most technical careers seem to top out at around 100k mid-career, which doesn’t satisfy me.

    In your opinion what college degrees and respective careers are most likely to help me accomplish this financial goal? For example, I was once advised that a BS/MS in electrical or computer engineering paired with an MBA was one of the safest routes to a high-paying career (meaning you don’t have to rely on working for a specific company or in a specific area). Would you agree with this, or do you have other thoughts and ideas on the subject?

    • Financial Samurai says

      BS on Engineering plus MBA from a top 15 school is going to give you a great chance at making six figures for the majority of your career.

      Just remember to work on your writing and speaking skills. Social skills are important too.

  16. Jack says

    Hello,

    I love your blog and financial advice. You are very knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.

    What fields do you think are most lucrative for sales people? I want to consider all my options at this point and maximize my earnings potential.

    I have spent the last 4 years doing B2B business development for a small electronics engineering & manufacturing firm. I am going to break 100k this year, but it has been a struggle given that my products are commodities essentially and my engineers won’t tackle anything too difficult (lucrative) unless I put up a massive fit or try figuring it out myself. My company treats me very well, nice office, great boss, flexible hours etc.. but I sometimes wonder what greener pastures may exist for me in the future. At the last small company I worked for there were three sales managers making 200-400k, but they were all in their 60s, 70s(yep), or the son of the owner. I would like a faster track to higher pay. By the way I live in Chicago, I’m in my early 30s, and I have an MBA(although not top 15). I think that education is extremely important, but in sales it is very much my impression that it is all about experience and results.

    Any advice you could offer on other more lucrative fields for sales would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Jack

    • Financial Samurai says

      Making 100k in Chicago is solid given how inexpensive housing is comparatively.

      If they treat you well and you have a 100k income , I wouldn’t move. I’d do something you want to do on the side to fill any voids. That’s what I did and three years later I just blog full time while I’m here in Switzerland at the moment.

      Always good to have a new subscriber!

      Cheers

      • Jack says

        Thank you for the sound advice. I really do like how my company treats me, especially compared to the large corporations I used to work for. I have been in discussions with my wife to start a small side business for over a year. We are still preparing to launch(lots of legal red tape), but it is probably time we took our efforts to another level.

        You are right about inexpensive housing in Chicagoland. To each their own, but in my very humble opinion moving to the Northside of Chicago from New York City proved to be one of luckiest/smartest things I ever did lifestyle, career, marriage, and savings wise. Salaries are comparable to other large wealthy metros, but housing and other expenses can be as much as half due to zero physical constraints on sprawl. That is other than Lake Michigan to the East, which is like a freshwater sea with city parks, beaches & waves. The lakeshore is also where population density is highest and property most expensive in the 10 million person metro…yet still reasonably affordable for what you get.

        By the way, your blog convinced me to more than max out all my retirement plans and then some. I naively neglected my savings during my early/mid 20s as I pursued more adventurous(low paying) work in Europe and took out loans for an MBA. I envy your ability to live and work from beautiful Switzerland. I hope that I too can establish myself in such a way to split my time between Chicago and S. America (where my wife is from).

        Thanks again,

        Jack

  17. Nita says

    Hi, I started reading your blog this year, and came across this article you posted in 2010. By 100K, do you mean just the base salary or does 100K include bonus as well? This may be a stupid question, but still decided to ask :)

    • Financial Samurai says

      Hi Nita, welcome. I include all income, so that includes base. But don’t include benefits value like health insurance.

      I’ve written a lot of new posts since this post. Enjoy perusing through the categories!

      Sam

  18. Colleen says

    I was just searching around on the net and found this blog. I saw an ad for inside sales that paid 50k as a base and FULL benefits 401K and all. With commissions it would max out at 85k if you hit quota according to the ad. Tempted to apply but when I see what is at home although Im not at 100k yet (not even close) I am not going back to the cubicle farm. Working for someone else will not get me to the 150k mark. This blog has given me more motivation!

  19. JOhn says

    Since when is it an American custom to put your GPA on your Resume?

    Been reviewing Resumes for 10+ years and the only time I see a GPA is 4.0 from a prestigious University, but certainly never a high school GPA.

  20. yawn says

    “You’ve got a second chance by simply going to business school.”

    Ha, right. Pile on debt, slick your hair back, get your teeth whitened, palm press with other dead-behind-the-eyes extremists and hope someone hands you mega cash.

    OR

    Obtain a technical skill-set that employers demand, work on problems that matter, make a modest gain in base salary, and live a less stressful, balanced life.

  21. Drew says

    Hi -

    Interesting and motivating article. I didn’t take high school very seriously, and I only took my last 3 years of my 4.5 years of college with strong intentions to succeed. I got my GPA back up to a 3.33 from a 2.76 and landed two summer internships with Fortune 500 companies during school. I now work at one of those said companies and will gross just north of 85k after base salary, relocation, and sign-on bonus (also, could be closer to 88-90k depending on my performance bonus).

    I do have to comment though on your section where you mention pursuing an MBA for a higher salary. This is risky. In order to attend one of those top universities full-time (because I’m fairly certain those universities don’t have part-time programs, and if so, part-time programs are not looked at with the same respect as full-time from recruiters), one must give up 21-24 months of employment (which, in my current situation is about $140-145K) as well as pay $120-140 for the program. That’s $280,000 in costs.

    Also, to assume you can land a job with one of the fore-mentioned companies in your article, you must be a top performer. Not just in grades, but in networking, social groups, and even down to kissing ass to your professors. For example, It’s even been said that HBS (Harvard Business School) is one big networking program, if not almost a party (any HBS or Ivy League readers – I’m not saying that being intelligent, knocking out your case studies, and making those great grades aren’t important – I’m just emphasizing the importance of networking). Plus, you must assume you have a hand up against the students who are there solely based on nepotism. Also, most universities won’t let you go with less than 3 years of experience. After three years of experience, you may face some really – I would hope – great opportunities with the company you began your career with, even if they aren’t six figures right away.

    Although it’s an attractive way to make six figures, it’s extremely difficult. It’s obviously possible, and saying that, doesn’t compromise your article’s point. However, I think you should have stressed the blood, sweat, and tears that people put forth to go through those programs and not advertise it as a, “Hey, almost anyone can get into one of these top fifteen schools and make $240,000/yr. after two years of employment” in such a nonchalant manner (oh, and the 70-80 hour weeks).

    On another note, my question to you author – Let’s assume you’re single, no debt, no kids. Would you rather work 70 hours a week and make $100,000/yr. or 40-45 hours a week and make $85,000/yr.?

  22. Shaun says

    I think setting a goal of a 100k salary is a joke step outside the box and be realistic make it to a million , I’m 20 years old and making well over 100k selling diamonds in Scotland unitedkingdom

  23. TJ says

    Medical Sales. I’m 5 years in and clearing 250K.

    This job is not for the faint of heart however. Salary is mostly commissions-based and you’re always under pressure to meet sales quotas.

    And get ready to live out of a suitcase.

      • TJ says

        wat? man, i could do this forever lol ;)

        i don’t know how much stock you place in matching people’s temperaments with their jobs, but after working standard 9-5 salaried jobs early on, i quit because i couldn’t stand it. i think it’s important to know yourself (personality, work ethic, motivations, etc). i couldn’t be a doctor, for example, even though i know they make 6 digits.

        i learned several years back that producing better results than others and not getting paid more for it royally pissed me off. if i’m going to bring home the bacon, i should get a fat slice of it, right?

        all my coworkers are like that. just a different breed from ur typical security-craving salaried workers. we hate micromanagement, cubicles, office politics, and anything slow. most of us like to live extravagantly. i like all the ideas presented on your blog, but i just know for some reason that i’ll never be as frugal or smart about my money as you. i like buying big shit like cars, boats, motorcycles, and luxury condos. i tried living frugally, but it really bothered me. like i was hiding a part of me. and it affected my confidence levels at work! i bet this sounds really weird, huh? lol sad but its true. so i just decided to make peace with myself. i’m a big spender so i better be a big earner.

        so, i guess the point of this comment (haha, i get off track sometimes) is that while the jobs you list can all net 6 figure salaries, the most important thing to do FIRST is recognize what really motivates you. hope that was somewhat coherent.

  24. kane says

    Hello I just stumbled across your blog and I needed some advice, which is greatly appreciated. I graduated with a degree in accounting with a B average, got fired as a trainee after 4 months out. Decided to try my hand at med. Did a few courses did a little better. decided to go back to accounting and could not for the life of me a get a job, not even at the small firms. Finally got another accounting job 3 years after graduation, which i also got canned from. Then again tried to go back in to accounting cannot get a job. I am now almost 30 working a crap job and i really don’t know what to do. I want to go into IT possibly cyber security; I am thinking fuck it maybe nursing; or maybe a diploma program as an electrical engineer technologist . Part of the reason I can’t get a job in accounting because I have a shit reputation with my peers and the city I live in. Long story short I was a bit of a hot head in college and did not take shit from anyone. Great at making enemies not so could at making friends. I figure if I do IT I will stick with accounting as well if I can get my CPA that would make me valuable. But with this linkedin environment I am afraid my reputation will deny my opportunity in the IT field. I just don’t want to be in this position. i want more but I don’t want to make any mistakes. I really don’t know what to do or what strategy would be best. At the end of the day I want to provide for the people I care about. I have crap reputation and I think starting over is the best route, I can do IT + accounting; healthcare; electrical engineering. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  25. kane says

    Hello I just stumbled across your blog. A bit of back ground. I garudated with a degree in accounting in 2008. I got a job at a small firm, but got fired 3months in. I tried my best but I wasn’t getting it and no one was helping me learn. I went back to school did a year of sciences and tried to come back to accounting. I didn’t get another job till 2011 and got fired 11 months in. I learned and applied myself but I also felt I just wasn’t wanted despite my best effort. Tried to get back into it to get my CPA but could not find a job. I found many recruiters to be rude and condescending. A bit more info on me I was a bit of a hot head in college and took shit from no one. I managed to make a lot of enemies very few friends. I feel this is another reason I can’t get work in my home town I just have a bad reputation, and my resume does not look good. I am now almost 30. I want to support my family but and I feel I need to go back and find a useful skill to do so. I was thinking about doing a two year engineering diploma in the energy field; doing IT + accounting; or going into nursing. Any advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you for hearing me out.

  26. Destiny says

    This article has been so inspiring to me! I’m a junior in high school and I’m so ready to get out of it and into the real world. They always say money can’t buy happiness, which I agree with to an extent. But I have my standards… I wanna live at the beach in a nice house. And I want to live comfortably. And I want to be able to take care of my family. And a little money would go a long way to helping that. So thank you for all of this wonderful advice!

  27. Giovanni says

    Hi there Financial Samurai! I’m a young artist and though I’m not making art for the money, I do hope to make something out of it. Do you think it could be a profitable field if done right or should I pursue something else if I would like to be in the six figure range?

    Thanks!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Art is one of the toughest things to do to make six figures. The first thing I would do is set up your website so you can own your brand and build your brand online. There needs to be a combo of making great art and marketing your art. Good luck!

  28. Jay says

    Regarding your comment:
    “Just remember that your happiness, as measured by income will continue to grow until $200,000 and then stop because of government persecution and the bitter populace who want to keep you down. After you break $200,000 you need to start going into hiding. So if you discover after taking my advice that you are on pace to blow by $200,000 a year, don’t forget to create an exit strategy!”

    What kind of government persecution? Are you referring to the bump up to 33% fed tax?
    What should one do if they make over 200k? What do you mean by going into hiding and creating an exit strategy?

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