If 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:
1) 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.”
2) 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.
3) 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!
4) 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.
5) 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, LEK, Oliver Wyman, A.T. Kearney.
Tech/Software: Apple, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft, HP.
Internet: Google, Facebook, eBay, Paypal, AirbnB, Dropbox, Quora, Uber, Slack, Pinterest, Netflix.
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)
Engineering: Mechanical engineering, Electrical engineering, Software engineering, Structural engineering. Engineers have the starting highest paid salaries around and can find jobs at many tech, internet, software, research, and construction companies.
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!
Police Officers 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. Prison guards make $150,000-$200,000+ with overtime. San Francisco janitors and elevator technicians make over $270,000 a year.
Government Contractors: The average total compensation for a Navy, Army, and Air Force contractor is $180,000 according according to a 2016 report by the Defense Business Board.
Education: Principals, Head Coaches, professors
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 30 firms which employ thousands combined and there are many more firms out there which 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 a multi-millionaire in your 40s.
What If Your Grades Were Terrible?
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.
Many Other Money Making 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 and 2015. 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.
You can start your own business or work two jobs. Making an online income seems particularly trendy nowadays. I started Financial Samurai back in 2009. Three years later, I was able to leave my investment banking job to work on this site full time. You never know what you might be able to do. At the very least, register your name online and build your brand.
Visualize The Money And It Will Come
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 about $250,000 and then stop because of government persecution and the bitter populace who want to keep you down.
And if you’re really smart, you’ll learn how to negotiate a severance from a job you hate before moving onto your next great opportunity. In 2012, I was able to negotiate a severance worth over $600,000 to take my time building this site stress-free. Always be thinking ahead before making any drastic career moves.
Wealth Building Recommendation
Sign up for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances. You can use Personal Capital to help monitor illegal use of your credit cards and other accounts with their tracking software. In addition to better money oversight, run your investments through their award-winning Investment Checkup tool to see exactly how much you are paying in fees. I was paying $1,700 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying.
After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator that pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible using Monte Carlo simulation algorithms. I’ve been using Personal Capital since 2012 and have seen my net worth skyrocket during this time thanks to better money management.
If You Want To Quit Your Job
I recommend everybody negotiate a severance if you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training. Since you got laid off, you’re also eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.
Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance. I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.
Updated for 2020 and beyond.