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 with the right money mindset to get rich. I believe $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 five 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 practicing Stealth Wealth because the government and society will begin to turn on you!

Recommendations To Help Achieve Financial Independence

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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.

Completely updated on 11/25/2014

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. Charlie says

    Determination and a positive attitude can bring so many rewards. A lot of people don’t need 100k to live comfortably or to be happy, especially if they don’t live in a big city, but I think it’s a great career goal for city dwellers. Getting good grades and going to a strong school are definitely a leg up to a big salary. If I’m interviewing someone and they didn’t write their GPA down on their resume I always ask what it was – if they had bad grades in school from goofing off and partying why should I believe they would be any different in the work place? I want to hire people that are responsible, driven, efficient, and performed well in college.

    • says

      I wonder if it’s actually worse, MUCH worse to leave off your GPA on your resume. It’s like you’re hiding something, which you actually are, which will make the employer wonder what else you’ll be hiding in the future??

      The great thing about America is that after you mess up in college, you have another chance to prove yourself in the work environment and then in grad school if necessary. No excuses!

      • says

        Is this an American custom? I’ve never really heard of people putting their GPA on a resume unless they had a perfect 4.0; the focus seems to be much more on work experience here, but I guess it makes sense.

        • says

          Definitely an American custom to put your GPA on the resume. That’s what students work so hard for, for 4 yrs in HS, and 4-5 yrs in College.

          Work experience during college is important, but GPA is also important. Where are you from and what happens in your culture?

        • Charlie says

          yeah in the US if there’s no GPA on a resume it’s because it’s not that great. When people get good grades they will put it in writing & it definitely stands out in a positive light

        • says

          Canada. In my experience you just give the degree, though the first job I did also show them my transcript. Focus appears to be more on work experience than GPA. In fact, bragging about GPA could backfire as people might not be interested in hiring an “academic!” I’ve only seen a handful of CVs though, and it’s possible that my career advisor was wrong on this point.

          • says

            Ah, gotcha. No need to brag about the gpa, just showing t in your resume is good enough.

            I’ve literally looked at over 1,000 resumes in my life and not showing the GPA is a serious read flag.

      • says

        I find this fascinating. I’m over 40 and I have never put my GPA on a resume. Of course, I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten a job because of a resume, either, so maybe that means something. I’ve always gotten jobs through networking.

        • says

          Well, I think at 40, what counts more is your 10+ years of work experience and not your GPA at all. The GPA is more relevant for 30 and below imo.

          Still, if it’s good, I’d put it on. Doesn’t hurt one bit, but could hurt if you don’t.

      • says

        My career field is allied health, and I don’t put my GPA on my resume. I should, because it is pretty good. :) But I always thought it was bragging…. in my particular are of work, we are a small interconnected community and word of mouth usually gets the job. Words of wisdom… Don’t be mean to your clinical students… they could possibly be the next person who interview you for your next job.

        @Charlie

        • says

          I think you should add your GPA if it’s damn good and you are looking for a job. Trust me when I say that a lot of employers will think the applicant is hiding something.

          It’s not bragging at all. It’s the truth! Cheers, Sam

  2. says

    Has any of the readers here had any experience with Trump University or know anyone who has. I’ve always been curious to see how that compares with other business schools.

  3. JMS says

    Is Northwestern twice as good since it is listed twice?! Haha, I am just kidding…

    The one thing that is amazing to me is government jobs. You talk about effort required…let me just say that it isn’t always required to land a government gig. My neighbor does logistics for the army…she said it is mindless work, quite boring, and now that the wars are winding down, there isn’t much going on. She makes well over 6 figures for her job. She hired in at 75k. Her previous experience before getting hired? American Eagle…

      • FormerFed says

        Yes, its possible. If you go in as a tech (for example GS-05), however, you will be stuck there forever regardless of performance (consecutive exemplary ratings here), schooling (Bachelors 3.5 & Masters 3.9), a voluntary war zone deployment, or wherever. Go in as a internship with scheduled grade increases (for example GS07 to 09 to 11 to 12) increasing every year or so.

        That being said, i met a lot of good folks in civil service (and a lot of bad ones). Overall, i grew professionally because i welcomed responsibility and i loved the soldiers and mission.

        I sincerely wish you the best of luck in landing a civil service position. If you get in, i hope you are promoted higher than i was.

        Note: if you are deployed overseas in certain areas and you work enough overtime, you will get six figures (this is hard to do if you have children after a while) because of all the incentive pay.

  4. says

    Not that I recommend this as a permanent lifestyle, especially if you want to have kids some day, but you could always take one of those “Most Dangerous Jobs” as an oil platform worker, Alaska crabber, etc. which pay well, or even get into a decent skilled job in a manufacturing facility with a base of say, 50-60K after a few years, but work every shift of overtime you can get your hands on. Granted, I used to see many people miserable doing this, but they were bringing in 6 figures as a mechanic, pipefitter or in some cases, even HS level line workers. Finally, you can get a side job – like blogging!

    • says

      I loved watching the reality shows and discovery shows about those type of jobs. The Alaska crabber would be a good way to hit a million after a few years (and good seasons), but it’s extremely dangerous. If you are unattached though and don’t mind the danger, it could be one heck of an experience.

  5. says

    Interesting post… I don’t think a lot of people really put the goal at a money figure. When a kid thinks I want to be an astronaut it’s not to earn money it’s to aspire to a dream. Working with animals, being a care worker for disabled people and all the jobs that are seen to help the world (apart from high level health care) are low pay…. Finance related jobs usually draw in the cash and it’s a very different and more rare kind of kid who says…. I want to be an accountant when I grow up!

    The closes I got when climbing the ladder was about $70k a year. That was more than enough for me personally but I managed it badly! I would handle that very differently these days.

    • says

      You make an excellent point Forest! To be a kid again. When we are young, we aspire to do and be something. Where does all that aspiration go? It goes out the window when kids mess around too much in school and have little options upon graduation.

      For those who want to make more money, I’m just saying you can. There’s a bagillion dollars out for the taking!

  6. says

    If you aren’t smart enough to get into a top school, then you aren’t smart enough. Period. At some point, you can’t just throw more effort at academics to be better. People have natural limits. So I don’t believe “anyone can get an education at a top university if you try hard enough” is true at all. That would be like saying “anyone can play quarterback in the NFL if he tries hard enough.”

    For those who are not able to get that top education, they can make six figures, but not “at any age” like the title claims. They have to stay at their jobs for many years before they’ve been there long enough to make that kind of money.

    • says

      It’s a good excuse you make not being smart enough (getting into great schools isn’t just academics), however I just listed 24 companies above you can apply to which will make you six figures, and 15 business schools to apply to as well. And if you can’t get into any of them, there are hundreds of other companies in those fields which pay just as well. And if you can’t get into any of those hundreds of companies, check out this whole section for you:

      “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 at the Federal government, police force, and fire department, the majority of workers all make $100,000+. Not only that, their capitalized pensions are worth millions!

      Marrying for money always works. Furthermore, you can start your own business or work two jobs. Making an online income seems particularly trendy nowadays. Join the federal government and rake it in after a while too! Nothing is stopping you from breaching the magical $100,000 a year mark except for your own desire, effort, knowledge, personality, and optimism.”

    • K says

      I support Sam on this topic. Yes you CAN at any age. I did. $100K fresh out of college and 4 years later I make more than double that in Finance. I didn’t go to a top school. I did get a high GPA, but not in a major that anyone cares about (English). I’m not particularly brilliant or talented. I had no connections. I did not do any networking. I don’t work at a BB either. But I am extremely focused, driven, I learn quickly, I don’t repeat mistakes, I am able to work intensely for long hours, and I produce real results.

      • bryant says

        100k out of college is amazing. I dont doubt it because i think anything is possible.
        Im majoring in finance with a minor in management and il have 1 yr of teller experience when i
        graduate. If you dont mind i would like to know how you landed this job and what sector of finance
        Is it in? Thanks

  7. says

    Great article as usual.

    I did the straight A’s in high school and pick a profession that’d pay the bills that I’d incur getting the education.

    There are also plenty of unskilled tradesman making great money. Plumbers, electricians, contractors. My electrician gets $50/hr and it you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do those jobs.

  8. says

    I’m looking forward to supplementing my income as a teacher by writing children’s books. So, for some professions that will never reach that goal of $200K or even $100 for that matter, there’s always ways to supplement it!

      • says

        Even kids books? I have a particular publisher in mind. It’s the publisher of a new and popular math series that our district (and other districts) use. Any suggestions? I’m not a very strong sales person.

        • says

          The kids books side is ULTRA competitive. Trust me on this. I know many women who have tried and failed. This is why it’s partially a great reason to join the Yakezie Product Review Team. After a year of building relationships with agents, publishers, authors… guess what? If you want to write your own book review and make some pitches, you’ve got the automatic in already! Help them, and they will eventually come around and help you.

  9. says

    Wax on, wax off… (That is all I remember from Mr. Miyagi…)

    The one field that always seems to keep people employed (besides medical) is Accounting, so you are definitely right about that!

    I would love to make 100k, but so far, nobody has come up with that kind of cash for me to blog and take care of my kids. However, when I was working in IT, I did ok. However, layoffs were rampant as the push to use ‘off shore’ resources was huge from corporate. So in many cases, I am not sure IT is the fantastic career it once was. I am sure it is different if you work at Google and such, but for people starting their careers in programming, the competition is stiff not only between American workers, but with those abroad also.

    I think part of it is personality, as you mentioned. You have to be able to tolerate the good and the bad. Many people want the perfect job and are unhappy quite easily. If you have a good attitude and are willing to do just about anything, I think you will find success much easier than the guy that grumbles in his cube.

    • says

      I hear you on IT, which is why I didn’t include IT. 15-20 years ago yes, but not now with so much outsourcing.

      Good attitude is so key, I can’t emphasize that enough! Nobody wants to work with or for a grouch who complains all the time!

      • TG says

        The kind of IT jobs that are being outsourced are generally lower skilled programming jobs.
        These aren’t the kind of jobs that would have been paying >$100k anyway.
        Actually the opposite seems to be true: many firms are having a hard time finding
        talented individuals with the right skills. This is especially true for startups looking
        for people with skills in mobile development. It’s not unheard of for a mobile deveoloper
        fresh out of college to start at $85000 with a 15% bonus.

        I graduated with a computer science degree 3 years ago and can attest to the fact
        that the risk of offshoring was overstated. I had many job interview, even though
        I was job hunting at the height of the recession and my GPA was very mediocre.
        I ended up taking a job in the consulting/defense contracting space with a starting
        salary of $60000. I have just recently gotten an offer from a competing firm with
        the result that I will have nearly doubled my salary in less than 3 years.

  10. says

    Well, $100’000/year is HARD. :) Mostly because I live in Russia and our avg. salary is around $1000 in developed region (Moscow) and $200-500 everywhere else (more than 90% of territory). :)

  11. says

    I’d be interested to see a study comparing GPA vs wages out of school. I find in engineering that personality is equally as important a factor as grades.

    It’s one thing to be able to do the analysis, its another thing entirely to explain that same analysis to a client in terms they can understand.

    • says

      So many classmates in business school were engineers, b/c they were topping out at $150-200,000 while their management/sales counterparts regularly breached $250,000. Communication is important for sure!

    • says

      So many classmates in business school were engineers, b/c they were topping out at $150-200,000 while their management/sales counterparts regularly breached $250,000. Communication is important for sure!

  12. says

    “Do you believe it’s easy or hard to make over $100,000 per person? If you believe it is easy to make $100,000 a year, why don’t more people do it than the stated ~5% of the American population?”

    I think it can be hard, although not as hard as it’s sometimes made out to be. If you do well in school, go into a field where you can earn six figures shortly after graduating, do well in said field, there’s few reasons why someone who’s smart, hard-working, interested in working in a high income field, and determined to make a six figure salary can’t do so. That said, how many people do you know who meet all of those traits?

    “Do you think a large reason why people don’t make over $100,000 is simply due to lack of desire and being happy with what they are already making?”

    Perhaps; I think a larger reason for why there are so few $100,000 earners is due to relatively difficulty in getting a job that pays that much (or creating income source(s) to generate that level of income) as compared to a less than $100,000 a year position. I also think there’s more than a few people who happen to gravitate toward professions that don’t pay such high salaries; if you are a kindergarten teacher, and get a lot of personal satisfaction out of your job, you might have no desire to go back to school to become, say, a venture capitalist. The fact of the matter is that not every profession we as a society need pays more than $100,000 a year; which is probably good, because if they did, prices would adjust to the point that you’d need to earn $1,000,000 a year just to be upper middle class.

    ‘What’s your excuse?’

    First, I’m still going to school, so haven’t started earning at my full potential yet. Second, I’m hoping to (at least eventually) have a job as college professor, so my work income will be roughly $65,000 (as you’ve mentioned in past posts), and so I’ll need to build alternative income sources to close the gap. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    • says

      Here’s the thing though. A person who doesn’t have an interest in making money shouldn’t have to worry about not making much money. If you find a fulfilling job that pays $30,000 a year, that’s all that matters!

      I’m getting a strong feeling the reason is b/c people are satisfied with what they have, which is awesome!

  13. says

    Median income is much lower where I live, but so are housing costs. Gasoline and taxes are higher, though. I would say the $100,000 equivalent over here is probably $60,000 to $70,000 since much less income needs to be devoted to housing, which is the biggest expense. Is it possible if you work hard? Yes, I believe that it is.

    I was one of those students that did crap in HS, but eventually went on to get 3.7 and honors at the Uni level. I am not a super-whiz student for sure, and if I had tried harder I probably could have done better, but it is possible to turn things around!

    I also like the point about optimism. I naturally have black thoughts all the time, so to counter that, I force myself to see the more optimistic path. I think it’s one thing that has helped out over the years.

  14. Norman says

    I get the feeling it is actually easier than we think to make a salary up to $200,000 a year because so many people in this country are basically LAZY and feel they are entitled to a certain standard of living with little effort on their part. Not saying everyone is, so don’t take me wrong. I’m guilty of it myself at certain times in my life. Therefore, the folks who strive to achieve the principles that you’ve outlined in your article are way ahead of the pack, just by making an effort. As the saying goes…The cream rises to the top.

  15. says

    This is an interesting post. I did well in HS, but not fabulous in college, although I attained the bare minimum to get a honours business degree.

    In the end, it was more luck and natural gravitation towards a certain industry that everyone avoided that started me at $65k. From then, it was just more luck that it happened to be a great industry to stay in if you were able to understand what was being done (which some people can’t grasp because it’s too conceptual).

    I can’t really attribute it to desire, ambition or working super hard that got me where I was.

    It’s a lot of luck — being born in the right year, graduating in the right cohort, getting that lucky job out of college and making smart risks to quit and go as a freelancer.

    It’s not just working hard, although that was a part of it. I was trying to make the best of every opportunity that came by, and I think a lot of people ignore those opportunities because they’re scared of change or unwilling to open their mind and take on another job that might not seem so interesting or great, but ends up being your dream career.

    I should note that in every industry you’ve mentioned there are different careers within each and different disciplines. Not every discipline pays as well as others, because they’re more difficult, more technical/math oriented, etc.

    To make 6 figures, it’s so cliche, but you have to do what you love and your passion will naturally exude into your job and make you a high performer who fits perfectly into the job without trying as hard as others who can’t seem to get it.

    Have to play to your strengths.

    Last funny anecdote: I knew a woman who liked to clean/organize her home. She ended up scoring this very strange job of cleaning stores at the end of the day (overnight) and shining the floors with a machine. She makes over 6-figures now, doing what she enjoys doing (cleaning) and making a good living from it.

    Those are good general industries up there, but don’t forget about the mundane, boring, dirty jobs where you don’t go to work in a suit. :)

    • says

      I think we create our own luck. I have the phrase, “The harder I work, the luckier I get” at work. I believe in this entirely.

      Yes, some are luckier than others, but few are so unlucky as to not believe.

  16. Greg McFarlane says

    If I were hiring a college graduate, I’d pay more attention to field of study than GPA. Given the choice between someone who got a 4.0 in English or a 3.0 in mathematics, I’d be far more inclined to hire the latter. Even for a job irrelevant to both disciplines. The math student had a tougher workload and almost certainly knows how to attack a problem better.

    And it sickens me to point this out, but you did leave one crucial criterion off your list of basic necessities: connections. This may be wrong and stupid, but in my experience, it’s far better to be an underachieving college kid with influential friends who have rich parents than it is to be a diligent kid who doesn’t know anyone important.

    • says

      Connections are key, but I do mention this in my post, it’s just tied in with EFFORT. Check it:

      “* 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.”

      I donno man… 3.0 is pretty average, even if it is in Math. I’d take the English 4.0 if they had the same work ethic and personality in a mathematically biased job still!

    • BD says

      OMG, Greg, you hit the nail on the head, in both points.

      To your first point: I graduated with Honors back in 1994 with a BFA in Graphic Design. I haven’t been able to find work in my field now since 2006. My little brother has a degree in business, which he only obtained after 6 years of just barely flunking out, and is now employed making 80k/yr.

      To your second point: I have no connections whatsoever. My little brother was a party animal (hence the reason why he almost flunked out of college for 6 years to get a 4 year degree), and because he was a party animal who hung with influential friends, he got that 80k/yr job. It’s all who you know.

      Consequently, I’m now back in school (just started this fall) to get a degree in Accounting, since I see my BFA in graphic design and Honors mean absolutely nothing. Still haven’t been able to make any influential friends though. :(

      • says

        BD, since you did Graphic Design, you goal wasn’t to make money right? It was to follow your passion for graphic art! Hence, isn’t that the more important and fulfilling thing?

        If you wanted to make money, you would have just entered one of the fields in the post no?

        Good luck in your master’s!

        • BD says

          Following my passion was definitely the wrong thing to do. I never advise anyone to ‘follow their passion, after what I went through. If your passion doesn’t pay a living wage, don’t follow it as your main career, follow it as your hobby. I wish someone would have told me thatthe first time around. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the internet and all these wonderful blogs when I went to college the first time.

          Thanks for the good wishes. I’ll have my Masters in Accounting in 2.5 years. I’m looking forward to actually making a living wage. I only wish I had done this sooner, rather than holding out and trying to find Graphic Design work.

          • says

            Ah, gotcha. Hmmm.. maybe you should write a post!

            But let me ask you this. When you were 16-21…. if you read this post, do you think it would have swayed you to go into one of the 5 fields that makes a good amount of money? Somehow, I find it hard to believe that you’d be willing to throw away your dreams of being a graphic designer, just to make a very healthy income no?

        • Vicki says

          I respectfully challenge your assertion that your graphic design degree mean
          absolutely nothing (in terms of achieving a large income.) I know four
          graphic designers (all freelancers) who make between $90,000 and
          $150,000. They just made a conscious choice to go after high-paying
          gigs in high-paying industries (entertainment, biotech, well-financed
          startups.) Think of it this way: biotech (pharmaceutical) companies will
          always need graphic design work as they bring new products to market. AND
          most of those big pharma companies are laying off their designers right
          and left, which means a wide-open market for freelancers. Another person
          I know makes just over $100,000 doing graphics design for corporate
          communications departments at large organizations.

          My only point is that in some industries (such as graphic design), it IS
          nearly impossible to make good money IF you work for someone else. But
          if you really like what you do, you will find a lucrative market.

          Fourteen years ago I quit my day job to become an executive presentation
          skills coach. Everyone thought I was nuts. My first year, I made $65,000;
          my second year I made $114,000. Why did I focus only on executives,
          when there is a much greater demand (and a larger market)
          for presentation skills among sales people? It’s called “follow the money.”
          I found the C-Suite people, entrepreneurs, and even some best-selling
          authors who were doing national book tours had the need, the desire, and
          most importantly the MONEY to pay me and pay me well for what I did.

          Is it easier to make a six-fig income in some of the industries mentioned?
          Absolutely. But if you hate what you do, you won’t stick with it.

          I firmly believe you will never get rich working for someone else. Being
          your own boss, where what you make will usually (although not always)
          equate to how hard you work, seems a slightly more reliable path to
          financial security. I have friends who have worked that tails off at big
          corps, only to get a standard 2-3% salary increase each year? WTF??

          • says

            Thanks for your thoughts and good rebuttal. Can’t argue there, although there are some occupations where you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars and over a million a year. You can certainly get rich that way too, and that is also following the money occupation.

  17. says

    I don’t make 100K (most years…) but my little sister does. Don’t forget engineering and the big engineering firms. (And with engineering there’s no grade inflation most places so you don’t need a 4.0 in college to succeed.)

    And suuuure nothing about the post is meant to be controversial. That statement is like a microcosm for your posts! Innocently offering something controversial as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Definitely makes for fun reading.

  18. says

    Good post! I think that you also need the right breaks to break the six figure mark. If you do some of the things listed above, you can strategically position yourself to be in line to make $100k or more.

  19. Mike@atfinancialplan.com says

    I think there are two basic ways to get to 100K. First is to plan a career that offers jobs that pay 100K as FS talks about above. The second is to follow a passion that can lead to 100K due to your skill or making a good business out of the passion. (So, the passion job is not typically a 100K job – but you find a way or you follow it to a direction that leads to that income).

    The jobs that out of box offer 100K or more usually aren’t the most fulfilling. That’s why they pay so much – they suck.

    • says

      I disagree that all the industries and jobs in the post suck since they pay so much.

      They pay so much b/c the revenue these people generate is 10X+++ more than they are making as an income.

      Don’t tell me an Apple Design engineer hates his job, or a Venture Capitalist who found Zynga and is about to make a 100 bagger hates his job. A lot of people LOVE their jobs, which is why they are so successful in the first place!

  20. says

    I don’t agree with A and B students. I actually make 6 figures and I was a B student at college. I got A’s all the way while doing my master but it didn’t impact my income yet.

    you need to be smart while most schools teach you how to act as a monkey (monkey see, monkey do).

    There are some field of study where making 100K+ is quite tough (think of any child related job; teacher, daycare worker, child animation, etc). There are people who will never make 100K because their talents are not rewarded by money in our society (you will have a hard time finding a firefighter or police officer making 6 figures while all doctors will make it).

    In order to cope for your day job limitation, I think that starting a company / side line income would be an alternative.

    cheers,

    • says

      But you could have made $100,000 at 25 and not have to do the online revenue thing if you did get straight As. That said, you’ve clearly showed initiative, creativity and gumption! Which is why you have breached the 100K mark!

      100K is just the beginning for many who initially breach it. I’ll be curious to see after a couple years if you long for more!

      • says

        Making 6 figures after one or 2 years out of college is almost impossible in the financial industry in Montreal (mind you, jobs are very limited in this field, we are not in NY ;-) ).

        In fact, making 100K+ in Quebec is quite hard (when you consider that a doctor will make between 100K and 200K… not like in the states where they could make 500K+ ).

        Last year, I have barely made the 6 figures (106 or 107K), this year, I’m heading toward 130K… I hope that I’ll be making 150K next year. You are right, we always want more. However, I think there is something else; it becomes easier once you breach that psychological mark.

        • says

          Gotcha. Keep on going to $200,000 or whatever the level is that the Canadian government starts persecuting you by taxing you more than others.

          Curious to know what income level is that in Canada where taxes go up a disproportionate amount? What is considered “wealthy”?

          thx

        • says

          I’d say that once you make 100K+, you are part of the very wealthy in Canada. This is a weird country where you pay a lot of taxes and salaries are lower… doesn’t make sense for an American, right? hahaha!

          However, since life is cheap on many aspects (housing, insurance, medication), it’s not too bad.

          Marginal tax rate hits 45% at $80,000 and reach 48% at 125K in Quebec. Also, you get hit at 38% starting at 41K… we like paying taxes… maybe a little bit too much!

          avg income in Quebec is around 27K so when you make 100K, you are considering to make a lot of money.

          • says

            Oh WOW! Those are some low income hurdle rates to be paying 45 and 48%!!! But, there is no province or state tax to add right?

            We have 35% tax beyond $380,000, but also have to pay 5-10% state tax usually.

            Canada sounds like a cheap place to retire! But, maybe too cold??

          • says

            Nice. So I guess if one was making $500,000-$1 mil a year in California, they would be paying roughly the same taxes in Canada. Can you guys deduct your mortgage interest or anything, and is there a socialistic income limit to be able to do so?

      • says

        Sam, in eastern Canada, anything over 40K-50K per person is starting to be considered “wealthy”. The oil province is a little more lenient in this regard since they have oil money to compensate. In fact, in Canada we practice wealth redistribution on a provincial scale, and the rich provinces must contribute in order to support the poorer ones. Quebec receives a bit more than $1000 per capita IIRC.

  21. says

    Even if you have no interest in those professions, the idea of maximizing your career and income is important. If possible, take advantage of opportunities and make some if necessary.

    You always have some food for thought in posts-great job!

    • says

      Thanks Elle! I’m just thinking, if someone is doing a job that doesn’t pay well i.e. teaching, then they are being fulfilled wholesomely by the job and it’s all good.

      If someone wants to make money and teach, well then there are just so many opportunities out there for one to grab!

  22. says

    Sam, I’m close to six figures right now, and doing all I can to get over that hump. I appreciate you taking the time to share specific ways to gain knowledge and then what companies will pay for top notch ability and talent.

    • says

      No prob Jeremy. Once you get there, you’ll feel a temporary relief and feeling of triumph. Then you’ll realize, wow… not that difficult and you’ll continue on an upward journey. It’s a fun goal and a game. But it’s not the end all be all.

  23. Peter says

    If you are going to work for someone else (ie a company), I think you left out one the most lucrative careers to make 100k-200k plus: sales.

  24. Patrick says

    The easiest way to make 100,000 dollars a year is inflation ;) I’m young, when I’m old we’ll all be making 100,000 a year

  25. says

    Becoming a longshoreman is hard to get into unless you’re family or have very close ties.

    I thought about marrying rich, but I would probably get bored shopping.

    And if I go to one of the top business schools, not that I am older, my salary will now just pay back my expenses.

    Hmmm… I guess that just leaves me with needing to make a bit more in my online income, combined with my current job and yes, $100K is possible. Now, if I would just throw 1/2 of that income into an investment… I’d hopefully be better off.

    • says

      Not the end of the world to get bored going shopping! You can always blog as you do on the side even if you married into millions!

      Investments can go either way, so just be careful. Good old savings is just fine with me!

  26. says

    I think there is a high representation of state college C student that are millionaires, at least, according to the stats in “The Millionaire Mind” by Thomas J. Stanley.

    But then again being a millionaire doesn’t necessarily mean that you made the big bucks to get there, high earnners and millionaires are the same species, but different animals…

    Thanks for the great analysis above Sam! It’s very inspirational :)

  27. says

    when i was younger i thought 100k was a lot of money. it is no doubt, but i hit the mark much sooner than i expected. now i think 1M isn’t much at all. it’s amazing how perspectives change with experience. after all perspectives are relative aren’t they?

    to answer the question – yes it is very easy to make 100k – or more. why don’t many do it? many do not know how to go about it (how to even start). that issue stems from education and awareness (no exposure to that environment). those with the awareness do not have the will, or desire as you called it out. it takes a combination of awareness, desire and action to get there. you are right in that anyone can get there – IF they really wanted to

    i would add entrepreneurship to the mix to expedite the journey. establishing multiple streams of passive income has been the best experience for me from a financial perspective

    • says

      It is sad that our perspectives change so quickly. I think $1 million a year is a lot of money, but it would mean MUCH more if the government didn’t take 40%+ of it.

      Entrepreneurship is definitely a great way, or a really bad way. But, to do both, have a steady job and something on the side would be great.

      All it takes is making $9,500/month gross… people can do it if they wan to and try.

      • says

        I don’t see change in perspective as a good or bad thing, it is what it is and inevitable I think.

        I too regret that effectively a large chunk of what we earn goes to the government, but is there an alternative solution to how the country could be run? How much can 40% really be reduced and us still getting everything we want from a government/service/infrastructure perspective?

        Help me understand the last comment on making 9.5k/month. I agree that it is totally achievable, but I am not sure I understood the context of the entire statement?

        • says

          Sorry, I meant $8,333 a month. Was waking up from a hangover. It only takes $8,333 a month in income to get to $100,000 a year. People can work backwards ie from 0 to try and reach $8,333. Let’s say you make a decent $5,000/month from your day job. That’s just $3,333/month you need to make on a side income to break $100K.

  28. says

    I do believe that those five basic necessities you had pointed out are needed by anyone for any endeavor they may want and be successful. Whether they may want to attain six figures a year or more than that, it’s doable if they believe it is.

  29. says

    Love the message, Sam! You have to work your butt off to get there.

    Then again, Patrick is right too: $100,000 per year isn’t what it used to be.

    It’s still nothing to sneeze at, but inflation has made that number kind of average now.

    I think the new benchmark to shoot for when it comes to “nice salaries” is $150,000 per year, minimum.

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  30. says

    The people that get paid the most are the ones that take ownership of problems, demonstrate leadership, and show their employers they are people who can be entrusted with the most difficult and sensitive tasks.

  31. says

    There are lots of jobs that can lead to $100,000 salaries. Having said that, they might be something people want to do. I believe in doing what you love; money is not enough!

  32. igotadose says

    Sam Sam Sam….

    Supply and Demand. Unis are turning them out like hotcakes, because there are just Too. Many. People. 100k a year jobs aren’t a result of optimism and good grades – grades are badly inflated now anyway. It’s connections and luck, which is why going to an Ivy is probably a better chance at a good paying job than going to the local Whatsamattayou.

    Look around the blogosphere; law school grads are taking perma-part time jobs, MBA’s are a dime a dozen, and on and on. As long as the population keeps climbing uncontrollably in the US, and as long as businesses can manipulate the government into helping them keep downward pressure on jobs through slimy programs like H1B’s, big salaries will be a thing of the past. It’s why you should think *really* hard about going to college. It’s not for everyone, and its no guarantee that you’ll do better than if you don’t. The old fable of going to college means you’ll make $1m more in your lifetime than if you don’t, has been disproved time and again.

    Save your money. Don’t rush to have children if at all. Don’t develop bad habits like needing to consume. We’re in a reset, we may have 10% unemployment (17% on the U6 which is a more realistic measure).

    -i

    • says

      Think really hard about going to college? As in, don’t go to college? No, I will never advocate that if someone has a chance to go.

      Luck is only a SMALL portion of success. It is what you do with your time that matters the most.

      Failures blame luck, or bad luck may it be. Winners believe in themselves.

  33. Sandy @yesiamcheap says

    “Marrying for money always works.” I love this line. I’ve worked at investment banks and can’t tell you how many women worked there to up their chances of snagging a big fish. The older I get, the less a chance I have of marrying up. Damned scruples.

  34. says

    I think the key to making lots of money is testing a business model in a small scale and if it works, then multiply that business model ten folds then 20, 30 and etc..

  35. says

    Making money is hard and easy. Being good at school and getting high grades doesn’t mean you’ll do the same through your working years, every centavo we earn we exert effort some may have a good fortune in doing business and while others is working really hard to achieve their goal.

    • says

      You’re right.. good grades doesn’t mean you will be wealthy. It just means you have some smarts and good work ethic… which is also what’s need to do well in your career or endeavors.

  36. says

    Love this article and the suggestions. I recommend learning from life masters and mentors in addition to the suggestions. Sometimes who you know is more important than what you know. I personally favor Tony Robbins as he is extremely practical. I also feel his teachings are especially important in this New Economy.

  37. Nate says

    It’s unfortunate that you left IT out – yes portion of it have been outsourced. However I have several friends who work as social media technologist (monetize YouTube videos, twitter relationships etc.) that make over 6 figures. Also I work as an IT Business Analyst for a large consulting firm and make over 6 figures… My boss last year made over 200k (with bonus) for a midsize software development firm in retail. There is so much money to be made out there – BUT a lot of the old jobs are gone. I mean have we stopped to think about how some of those “crazy kids” running around on the internet blogging everywhere are now making 6 figures? That is a legit job that was created during the recession. Yeah people let’s make our own economic stimulus package! You have to find what the market is paying for these days – the money is out there.

    • says

      Thanks for the heads up. I need to edit Accounting to say Accountig/IT Consulting. That’s what I mean and will do so now as that’s what most of those firms do.

      Money is out there indeed!

  38. says

    I still believe that if you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get want you want as well and the best part is that there is no greater reward than to be able to help others be the best they can be.

  39. says

    whilst in many situations having good grades etc helps your chances of earning more money it is by no means a sure start to riches and huge bonues. how many millionaires and billionaires started from nothing and worked up!! I will agree the one thing they have is work ethic

  40. LilBug says

    I just want to point out that all though it is fantastic to go to college & to have great grades, innovative thinking & motivation can land you an awesome job. I graduated HS top of my class & went to a small private college for 2 years. I only have an AA degree (nothing to brag about though I always earned As). I decided to get married at 19 (I know, right?!) but when I was staying at home with the kids, I started my own real estate business & started making a 6 figure income within 3 years. I have doubled that within the past year & rake in over $300K per year working from home. I sell around 200 properties a year. I just hit 30 & make over $300K per year & started making 6 figures at only 28. I’m sitting pretty with a high paying job where I am in control of my own destiny. Work ethic & seeing an opportunity & knowing how to seize it is how I got there. With that said, I do value education & will likely go back to get a degree someday just so I can say I have one. For now though, I will focus on my $300K+ per year income & know that I made this for myself.

  41. says

    I guess the grades that we got when we are in high school or college should not only be the basis of what we will be in the future. Haven’t heard of high school and college drop-outs making more than top executives make?

  42. elle says

    Get good grades, go to a top school, get hired by a prestigious company in IT, finance or become a doctor, lawyer, engineer. DUH!!! Nothing Earth shattering that I didn’t know. If you don’t have the aptitude for those careers, you’re screwed for 100K salary I guess. Actually, you can become an entrepreneur, buy a franchise, write and sell a screen play to a hit movie, write a best seller, or offer specialized personal services to rich people (chef, trainer). Of course there’s also pornography. The sex trade makes billions.

  43. DCM says

    Interesting article and dialogue. I went to a lower end UC, and graduated in Political Science, a major which doesnt pay right away. I instead got into direct sales for a cable company and made 130k my first year out of college by selling cable door to door. I made even more the second year. Been there for fooir years now – earning 100k-150k but dont see it going mucb higher. Not sure what to do to hit that next level. Toying with the idea of going ack for my MBA to take that next leap of faith but its hard to leave my income and incure a 100k debt for a goood business school. I agree, being motivated, working hard, being positive, not being a hard partier- but a hRd worker has helped me reach that sox figure mark. Thanks for the article.

  44. B says

    The funny thing of all this conversation is that I strongly believe that so long as one is a bit slow, or a dumb ass as i’d say, all the education from any school will not help them. There are many brain surgeons and such out there that should not be tampering with peoples oblangatas for obvious reasons. Furthermore, all of the business driven political asswipes in this country is exactly why we are kinda the laughing stock right now. Our beautiful reputation has been shot to hell by citizens who run their mouths for large amounts of money for a living. Then buying up multiple properties and multiple everything else’s, thus driving up the costs of everything and the majority of people are truly in this lower class because the middle class has vanished.
    When the power of love is greater than the love of power, then the world will be a better place.

  45. Jason says

    Before my Dad passed when I was thirteen, he established in me a strong mindset of ” no matter what you do son, don’t half ass anything. I hate a half ass! ” Now I’m 26, and this mindset has blessed every part of my life. With nothing more than a high school education, self learning, and an “I can do better, learn more, and give my all” attitude, I now earn 120,000 as a maintenance mechanic at a chemical plant. I believe it’s smart to know that success isn’t just about how much you make, it’s about what you have vs. what you owe. I bought my first house at 19, and a 100+ acre farm at 25. You may not get that dream job right away, but if you don’t give it your all at everything, all the time, you can’t blame circumstances. The day, or days, you decide to be lazy, there is someone out there who is pushing, who is going the extra mile, and who might get that dream job you wanted because they put in the extra effort. If you are looking at college, I can say that everyone I know that got a degree in biomedical engineering landed high paying, travel the world jobs right out of college.

  46. Starr says

    Hello, I am a Sophomore in college at Humboldt state majoring in Biology currently and I am only doing that because I wanted to be a vet but now I have changed my mind but people around be are saying to stick with biology. I have heard of the idea applying to the top companies but I am interested in what field i should be majoring in. I went and talk to the business major counselor and that didn’t sound like anything I would be good at and enjoy ( as with all the majors right now). So my question to you is what major would be good to do to apply for the top companies ? and will the career be just like the major?

    • says

      Hi Starr,

      I recommend you do what you like and get the best grades possible so you have options when you graduate. Do not mess around because this is the beginning of your life.

      Be prepared to go where the opportunities are and be flexible!

      S

  47. Vance says

    I’m now in my late 20s working in the media industry but not in sales, where the money tends to be in media. I’ve been working for 5 years and am in programming management, but not even close to $100k.

    I didn’t graduate high school, but have definitely proven my ability to be a driven, productive and successful employee and manager. I attended a private career college as a mature student then climbed the ladder rather quickly. Although, I love the industry I work in I am very interested in earning a 6 figure salary.

    Is it worth the risk of more student loans, knowing that you’re targeting an industry that will pay 6 figures quickly? I guess you just have to jump up an do it, eh?

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