Most People Make A Lot More Money Than You Think

Hard work pays off. People make a lot more than you think

Most people make a lot more money than you think. When you see headlines from the media about people making poor financial decisions, this is just media schadenfreude. 

The reality is, people not only make more money than you think, people are also wealthier than you think too. We've been a huge bull market since 2009. Therefore, the investor class has gotten a lot wealthier.

The reason why there are so many negative articles out there is simply because there are a lot more people making a lot more money and doing much greater things than one realizes. If you can't make it on your own, it's easier to just try and bring others down. Don't do that!

You know from a previous article that $75,000 is such a silly low range for what researchers and the media think is the ideal income level where happiness rises no more. It's so silly because that is clearly not the case if you ask anybody who has ever made more.

Is it a coincidence that researchers and reporters make on average not much more than $75,000? Of course not and therefore it helps makes them feel better about their wages. It's perfectly rational.

People Make A Lot More Money Than You Think

Ever since the tech bubble downturn in 2000 there's been a secret movement to hide one's wealth and be more understated. I call it the Stealth Wealth Movement. So many people killed it during the dotcom boom that they have no choice but to hide their wealth because the media went on and on about how so many people lost so much money. It's just not true, speaking from experience and the experience of others.

As a result of so much wealth creation during the dotcom days, juxtaposed by the disconnected reality of what the media was peddling, the wealthy had no choice but to start pretending they too suffered. 

It's so ingrained in people's minds that most people lost so much money in the downturn it's just not true. Are people stupid enough to think that everybody bought at the top and sold at the bottom? Don't be silly.

The stock market and real estate markets have had strong runs since 2009. Heck, even during a global pandemic, the S&P 500 closed up 16% and the national median home price went up 8.5% in 2020!

A lot of people killed it during this time period and are hiding their wealth.  Again, not everybody bought at the peak and sold at the bottom and the markets have now recovered fiercely since.

People Are Agitated And Jealous

People who do well are afraid of the government, the media, and bitter people all around. They are afraid they will be hunted down by organizations who will tie you up and burn you at the stake. 

You don't know how many conversations I've had with people who are just so agitated they can't spend 1/10th their income on a car because that would mean they'd be spending $50,000-$150,000, which is fancy by “normal” standards but is absolutely whatever by their standards! 

Instead, they spend 1/20th to 1/50th of their income on a car because anything more than a $28,000 Honda Accord will be frowned upon.

Just the other day, I got a ride home from a tennis buddy who works at a hedge fund. Jack drives a common Ford Explorer and on our way back we started talking about real estate.

He mentioned he and his wife are looking for a new house having recently relocated from Florida. He mentioned his house in Florida costs just under a million, but is nicer than so many $3-4 million dollar houses in San Francisco.  So then I suggested instead of spending $3-4 million on a house in San Francisco to perhaps rent for a while.

He responded, “Actually Sam, I'm seriously looking at buying this unlisted house asking $8 million.  $8 million just seems like a lot though.  I'm thinking it's worth no more than $6 million. I haven't rented since I was 25, so renting feels foreign to me.

Boy were my price estimates wrong, I thought to myself. “Yeah, I wouldn't spend more than $1,200 a square feet on the house either. Take your time!  Houses are like stocks.  If you miss one, there's always another that comes along.

Yeah, you're probably right Sam. But I wonder though, b/c I bid on a smaller house at $1,200/sqft and got outbid. I wonder if there is just that much money out there?“, my buddy vented in frustration.

There definitely seems to be.  Just wait until Facebook goes public!” I responded.

Making More Money Is Straightforward

If you guys want to make money, know that it is very straightforward. There's no magic formula. You just simply have to want to do it and create enough scale. Don't settle if you don't have to.

The following are conservative examples of what people make in their respective occupations according to an article I read on Bloomberg, and knowledge from my own conversations. Many make more.

29 year old MBA student from a top 10 school: $150,000.

Oakland dockworker (Longshoreman): $120,000.

Policeman with 20 years experience: $150,000 with a 6-figure pension.

Cancer researcher 10 yrs experience: $150,000.

4 Star General: $185,000 with 6-figure pension.

Bond trader with 10 years experience: $1,000,000.

Neurosurgeon: $600,000.

Law partner $600,000.

Related: Who Makes A Million Dollars A Year? The Top 0.1% Income Earners

More People Making More Money Than You Think

Professional blogger with 5 years experience: $50,000-$200,000. Anybody can start their own website for next to nothing nowadays compared to before. Here's a step-by-step tutorial on how you can brand yourself online and leverage the 3 billion+ people on the web.

Blogging For A Living Income Example: $300,000+ - Most People Make A Lot More Money Than You Think
A real income statement example from a blogger. Look at all the income possibilities!

Software sales rep at Oracle, and the like with 5 years of experience: $300,000 +.

Strategy consultant 5 years out of undergrad: $100,000+.

Hedge fund manager partner: $500,000-$20 million depending on performance and assets.

Google / Facebook employee with 5 years experience out of undergrad: $100,000+ with potentially millions in stock.

Entrepreneur: Unlimited!

The list goes on and on.  As you can see, practically everybody makes over $100,000 a year with enough experience and many make much, much more.

See: How To Make Six Figures A Year At Almost Any Age

The Economy Is Recovering

Have you ever wondered why the roads are still so busy during a pandemic? It's because more people make a lot more money than you think! There is a serious amount of under-reporting of income, and an obsequious amount of over-reporting of how bad things are.

Just look at the stock prices of massive companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, JP Morgan and so many more. Millions of people work at our largest companies and they have all done well since the pandemic began.

It's important as a Financial Samurai reader you aren't brainwashed by negativity and the media.  I want you to know that things are actually much better than they seem, and I'd like you guys to stay away from pessimists and those who delight in the suffering of others. Focus on what you can do to make yourself better. Be happy for those who are doing great because when they do great, we all do great.

At the same time please stay humble and follow the movement. Keep your success under wraps. You will have people trying to come after you, and you don't want that. There's absolutely no need to brag about how much you make and what you've done. It's just going to backfire. 

The most successful people are ones who have no need to talk about their success. They let their success speak for itself because they're out doing something more.

Related: Practice Stealth Wealth If You Know What's Good For You

Make More Money With Real Estate

In addition to investing in stocks and bonds, I'm a big proponent of real estate investing. Real estate is a core asset class that has proven to build long-term wealth for Americans. Real estate is a tangible asset that provides utility and a steady stream of income if you own rental properties.

Given interest rates have come way down, the value of rental income has gone way up. The reason is because it now takes a lot more capital to generate the same amount of risk-adjusted income. Yet, real estate prices have not reflected this reality yet, hence the opportunity. 

My favorite two real estate crowdfunding platforms are:

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing.

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends.

Both platforms are free to sign up and explore. I've personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding across 18 projects to take advantage of lower valuations in the heartland of America.

There is a strong demographic shift towards lower cost areas of the country thanks to technology and the pandemic. 

Manage Your Finances In One Place

One of the best way to become financially independent and protect yourself is to get a handle on your finances by signing up with Personal Capital. They are a free online platform which aggregates all your financial accounts in one place so you can see where you can optimize your money.

Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different systems to track 25+ difference accounts (brokerage, multiple banks, 401K, etc) to manage my finances on an Excel spreadsheet. Now, I can just log into Personal Capital to see how all my accounts are doing, including my net worth. I can also see how much I’m spending and saving every month through their cash flow tool.

The best feature is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer, which runs your investment portfolio(s) through its software in a click of a button to see what you are paying. I found out I was paying $1,700 a year in portfolio fees I had no idea I was hemorrhaging! There is no better financial tool online that has helped me more to achieve financial freedom. It only takes a minute to sign up.

Personal Capital Dashboard
Track your wealth to grow your wealth

Updated for 2022 and beyond.

About The Author

100 thoughts on “Most People Make A Lot More Money Than You Think”

  1. Long-time lurker/reader of your blog, Sam. I currently work as an HR Business Partner, and I have also worked as a Compensation Analyst in my past life. I’ve worked at three Fortune 500 companies in my career. In my positions, I have seen thousands of salaries and had to create salary analytics dashboards, conduct salary market analyses, etc. I would argue that geographic regions could impact how “wealthy” a person may be. Also, many sites like GlassDoor or other message board sites where employees discuss salaries, don’t always capture the correct salary.
    For example, people tend to combine base and variable pay–meaning people will lump non-guaranteed money into how much they are making. This can inflate how much money a person may take home.

    Through my experiences, making more than $150k would still put you at a significantly higher percentile than the majority of the employees at a company. I am not including executive pay in this statement of course…

    My point is that some people are making good money but not as much as you think–at least from their employment income.

    I would also argue that someone could be very wealthy but they could also have a lot of debt or actually be very poor managers of their money. Doesn’t this in a way, negate their “wealth”?

  2. Names julian I just like to gain any type of wisdom if anyone can help me with my situation in life I have a low income job that makes roughly $28k a year after taxes I have very dysfunctional poor family that is very toxic to my life that I can’t rely on for good advice or wisdom. I feel as though I been living life on my own without really good quality parents or role models in my life and I make more money then them sadly but that’s the truth. moving up in life seems very hard for my situation of living. Aside from feeling down about how broken my family is and my poor living standards I just want to live a comfortable Life style where I can just be happy. I feel very lonely and wish I had others who I can look up too or speak too for advice but I don’t have Many people like that around my life. I feel like I’m stuck in this dead end job that I been working for 10yrs I’m barely 29yrs old and the only option I see is either going back to college to be a dietitian or searching for another high paying job. If your reading this I appreciate your time. I just would like some good advice and want to be able to afford my own place and I can live in a better environment then the one I’m currently living in. I wish it was easier said then done but my $3000 debt which I’m working on paying it off by the end of this year but money has been tight For me. I also have a 3yr old daughter who lives with her mom who is family orientated compared to my own family. and my expectation of life are different from most Im very humble and appreciate what I have but if I could make $40k-60k a year I can at least say I’m content and happy with that. I’m scared of college because of the student loans and being in debt once I graduate so I’m not really sure what route to take… I always hear about making a business is the best thing to do but without any capital to help it grow I just feel like I can’t even have that as an option either… but whoever’s reading this plz if you can share me some wisdom and help a guy like myself I would Treasure the wisdom you can give me and much appreciate the help.

    1. I’m in the same boat man. From a crappy town in Bama. Family is poor. Friends are poor. Neighbors are poor. Hard to get off the ground without guidance. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about software engineering online so that I might be able to work for a big tech company one day. I’ve read that there’s a huge job market for it and you don’t have to go to college to get a great job in the field. So fingers crossed. I figured it’s a good way to get around the college debt situation. I’d be the first one in my family to make $100,000 a year.

  3. Ha, ever consider the reason everyone around you appears to be doing well is because you’re likely not motivated to take a stroll through the ghetto or Appalachia? If you go to places where people spend money – I know this is novel, but you’ll see…people spending money…!

    Perception is not reality in this case. There are real, large groups of people struggling in this country, just like any other (in some cases worse, in some cases better). We happen to live in a largely segregated country, by boundaries that extend beyond cultural and ethnic groups – for example, wealth. The reason those doing so well don’t see so much of those who aren’t is simple – they don’t live by them, eat by them, shop by them or play by them. Not rocket science.

    1. Gary Corson

      Thank You my Friend….That was my exact sentiment as I read his diatribe. I make a modest income of 80/90k and have lived amongst the wealthy
      & the poor all over the US and have found by far there are more people in our country teetered on the edge of financial disaster at a moments notice! But,On a much more important note I have found those with Less Possess the Qualities that “Most” Humans hold dear in our hearts…Compassion,Empathy,Love & Self Respect….I heard nothing of these qualities mentioned in his piece.

  4. Peter Windsheimer

    Wow. As a graphic designer with 20 years experience, I can expect $15/h. 15 years ago it was double that. Some places only pay minimum wage, but you need a degree. That’s in the Banana Republic of South Florida.

  5. So many people here whining about how the world has gone to shit and it’s impossible to make good money.

    You want me to call the whambulance?
    You want a whamburger with those French cries?

    I have a physical handicap. I got laid off from a corporate sales job. My evil boss illegally withheld tens of thousands in commission pay.

    Did I whine? No. I built a business from scratch while working my ass off at Sams Club 40 hrs per week to contribute to my household.

    6 years later the buisness was recently valuated at 2.5M. We are Federal vendors. I am CEO and oversee complex projects with 20 to 30 people on a team depending on size of job.

    So…. please… whiny man-boys born between 1975 and 1995…. please. Shut up. Or go back to Facebook. Or complaining online.

    If you get F’d in the A by life and your only response is to whine like a 13 year old girl then please do collective American masculinity a favor and just be quiet. If you are an American-born male and cannot help yourself in a 13 trillion dollar economy, then no God, social program, president, or motivational speaker ever will. Your effectively doomed.

    Face it ladies…. if you whine, you’re f–ked.

    Be grateful you live here and not in Latvia where it takes the government 237 days to process a business license. The cry-babies have no idea how good they have it.

    Happy 21St Century to you.

    1. You think you’re the only one with a handicap? You think working at Sam’s club 40 hours a week is some sort of hardship?? you should be grateful that you’re one of the lucky few. Yes, lucky. There is millions of us that work hard, have smart business ideas ( and weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouth – you can take a wild guess to who I’m referring to.) I don’t think it’s wise to put down fellow Americans that go through hardships. I don’t believe you’ll be successful in business too much longer with that attitude. there are certain people, dare I say like you that think that you work hard, got lucky and made a lot of money and think that if someone isn’t doing exactly what you did, they must be lazy and not want to work. I can ponder a guess to who you voted for in the last election but I don’t want to add insult to injury. I hope you change your ways and can start to have some sort of empathy and understanding.

      1. I think he has the right attitude to make money lol… He had a goal, he didn’t whine about how to get there he just knew he had do it so he did it….

    2. Trapjackson

      Just curious.. if you were in your early 20’s again but knew what you know now what would you spent your time and effort doing to get to a similar position financially? Obviously excluding starting a similar business to what you have. I’m just stuck on how to get started at being creating my own income instead of drudging along at my 60k a year dead end job with very little advancement opportunities. I’ve worked practically my whole life even as a kid I had a high work ethic but I can’t help but want me for myself and I’m willing to put the work in but there’s a lot of guru get rich quick type of info out there that you assume isn’t very credible so I could use some wisedom from any experienced self made individual generous enough to give some advice to my young and dumb self. Obviously I don’t expect some magical answer to make millions overnight or something. Just trying to gain some practice knowledge to hopefully get my gears turning so to speak. If anyone takes the time to have read all this I’d appreciate any input at all. I’d rather work around the clock for myself than 9-5 for some company that just see me as a number.

  6. 3rdgen4runner

    I think more people than you think are carrying debt than you think, I was just reading an article in the wall street journal that over 27% of people are underwater on there car loans

  7. Lance James

    Is it all online bloggers and traders that are making so much passive income? I’m just confused as to how so many people can be doing so well when I have a Masters degree in Finance, a $35,000 job (just graduated), and two companies I have just interviewed with in Denver have offered me just under $50,000/year. I have $40,000 in loans. I feel like I have done everything right on paper but these offers are not making me feel wealthy by any means. I think the salary market for new grads is still awful or am I just completely missing something?

  8. I also like to challenge some of the salaries. I have an MBA and 20 years experience, and I am barely scratching the 6 figures income, and I work in technology. I live in Canada, far from SF, so I am not sure if those figures are just applicable to the States.

    I am sure that none of my colleagues who graduated from my MBA program were making 150k a year after they finished. The ones who went to finance and hedge funds are probably doing that now, but the rest of us, while better, are not nearly close to the figures. I have explored the job market and the only formula I see to reach 150, 200 a year is to become an entrepreneur or reach the C-level of the company.

    1. You hit the nail on the head! Being a entrepreneur. I went to school and only got an associate degree in kinesiology. After that I got my personal training certification I started working as a personal trainer at all Wellness facility that was run by Hospital. Working there I’m at clients of all different backgrounds. So in order to bring more wealth to my business I went out and also got licensed as a massage therapist. So between massage school and my associates degree my education was less than $15,000. One of my clients that I met saw how hard of of a worker I was and ask me about possibly going into business. He said he would be the capital and that I would be the brains. He had a building that he owned and I paid rent and brought all my clients to the new studio.

      I’ve been so successful with that that I met a doctor who came to my studio and told me that he was opening a medical building where he would like to have somebody with my background and kinesiology run a fitness studio for him inside of his medical building. He said that I can still operate under my own company and name sort of like how Dasani is its own company but under Pepsi I believe. I turned that studio into a very successful location. I was extremely swamped at both locations and eventually did so successful I was able to hire virtually a general manager to run one of the studios for me. One thing I forgot to mention was that between opening the studio, I went online and did online personal training as well where literally the whole globe was available to me.

      So as you see, the mentality of an entrepreneur is to always excel in their lives. It was when I got away from thinking that’s cool and job-hopping was my only option, that I was able to finally break the chains and be who I was meant to be. Whatever it is you want to do in life surround yourself with those people, go to networking events, when your friends want to go out drinking, put together a business plan instead

  9. In the present, it is extremely difficult to become wealthy or to even afford things because of the screwed up economy and the fact that we are over populating the Earth, in which, all opportunities are already sucked up. The only way you can MAYBE be wealthy is to become a famous writer or composer, which is still extremely hard with all of the cigar chomping celebrities that have already sat their duff on your chance to succeed. There is so much competition that everyone hates each others ideas and thinks that their ideas are better than yours.About the only way you will get wealthy these days is if you rob a bank or sell dope. So, don’t listen to those bimbos telling you “Like omg, you should have a ton of money. I make $2000 a week.” This is bullshit. They are either a hooker (which men can not be) or Mommy and Daddy spoils her with money from a settlement or inheritance from back in the day when being wealthy was possible. Same thing goes for bullshit stories among men. Men have a tough time in surviving in this hardcore feminist world we live in.

    Also, you can go to school, but it will not make you wealthy. In fact, you will be lucky to even find a job after you graduate with so many bungholes that have already sucked up all the positions. If you do manage to obtain a career, it will not be much money, but hey, at least it will be enough to bay the bills. Honky honky honky. Don’t listen to these butt wipes in here saying you can start a business. Been there, done that with many different business ideas that are suppose to make a ton of money (like real estate) and nobody ever buys anything.


  10. Ridiculous.

    People have more money than we think simply because People have the illusion that what they buy is good quality.

    People buy chinese low quality good which are cheap, and thus can afford more stuff.

    But People, the common folk that is, never taste a real cup of coffee (for which you need a capital investment of at least 500 dollars), much less a real glass of cognac (which would set you back at the very least 120 dollars a bottle).

    Look for quality, and you’ll soon realise that people make much, much less than they themselves think they make.

    Now that is something to ponder.

  11. This is a rather ridiculous article. He cites salary data, almost none of which I have been able to find corroborating evidence for, and then does not even provide a source. Journalism at its worst.

      1. Your first comment is very incriminating. It is obvious that by making the distinction that your are not a journalist or authority, that you claim no responsibility to give accurate figures when you cite concrete data. I’m sure your readers will like to know this. On the top 10 MBA salaries, I actually thought that those numbers sounded reasonable, even conservative. The policeman salaries, or the oracle software sales rep salaries were very different than I found. I think the law partner salary is inflated as well. From what I could find their incomes had such a high variance that average is likely>>median, which is a more meaningful figure in this instance.

        1. I’d much rather read articles from people who actually have the experience, rather than from a journalist who pontificates. I spent 13 years working in finance, got my MBA from Cal, and retired at 34 with a six figure passive income stream and a very healthy net worth. I’m sharing my experience and what I’ve observed. That’s it, and I don’t expect anybody take heed.

          It’s good you are a skeptic. I can assure you that the income figures are all real. People make MUCH more than you think. People are just much more hush about it now due to big government and social unrest. Stealth Wealth is a very important movement for those who’ve been able to accumulate some wealth over the years. There is A LOT of RAGE from society against people with money. Perhaps you are one of them?

          Can you share some details about yourself? I really like when I receive fiery comments b/c it means there’s something behind the commenter that is pretty interesting.


          1. Yes, it was an interesting article. A little about me: 24 year old male, going to dental school, son of doctors. So, I’m in the odd position of having a lot(relatively speaking) of money(inherited from grandpa), and the prospects of a very good income. I came to the article because I had been reading about how dentist’s income is often reported as lower than the true figure. Dentists are business owners and find ways (i’m no expert on this) of making their taxable income seem low. So, I actually agree with your premise. I suppose this is why I felt annoyed that you might be fudging figures. I think there is plenty of evidence to support your thesis, but the salaries I questioned beforehand seemed inflated.

            As far as the rage against the super wealthy, your intuitions are pretty spot on. I am very irritated by people who think that making more money necessarily means that one contributes more to society. I don’t fully understand what finance and banking people do, but I know they don’t make scientific discoveries, they invent nothing that makes a lasting contribution to society, and they laugh their way to the bank. You probably think this last comment is being made from a position of ignorance, and to some extent you are correct. Many of my college educated friends are in a lot of student debt with dismal jobs/job prospect, and I think the antics of the finance/banking system are largely to blame for their predicament.
            You take criticism well and seem intelligent and levelheaded. This probably has a lot to do with why you are retired at 34. :)

  12. It’s so hard for me to see that people can make money. I’ve made low wages my entire life, and all my friends are dirt-poor too. Most of my friends work retail (I’m going back to school now for a degree in Accounting, and working freelance doing graphic design) and most of us barely make enough money to even survive with the most basic of things like food and rent.

    I dream that one day I will earn something decent. I’m tired of being on this earth four decades, and earning barely enough to keep a (rented) roof over my head.

  13. Funny you post this!

    I was doing some expense reports for my boss last week and saw an excel sheet on his desktop that said TEAMSALARIES_2011. Great! Of course I opened that thing up.

    Well our team of 12 make good money! Ranging from 42k (me the receptionist) to 110k to be exact. They don’t know that I know how much they make, but it’s nice to see how down to earth and humble my co-workers are based on money conversations.

    1. Ah ha! Cool that you got to peek behind the curtain! Glad you took it in stride being at the bottom of the range.

      I don’t know if I want to know how much others make.

  14. So I’m a little confused. I specifically remember when you posted this article nearly a year ago now, and thought that before I even looked at the comments. Yet, it appears second in your list of posts as of today. Do you re-post articles? Not that there’s anything wrong with that but…

  15. For us, we are doing well, but I’m not back to salary level of 2008, I’ve got another $25,000 to go to get back to my 2008 level. Although, my husband is making more than he made in 2008, but together we are not yet back to 2008 levels.

    I agree, as to the malls and when we go out to eat, I always say the same thing, I thought the economy was bad and then I see all these people out and about spending. We live a pretty simple life and we save up for big purchases but when we make a bigger purchase or go on vacation I have no problem telling people (if they ask). I was recently on a girls weekend and with two girlfriends whose husbands own a company together and who are doing very well (my girlfriends don’t work but they have lots o cash courtesy of their husgands). These are people with vacation homes and multiple cars, etc. We were shopping and I could not, and did not want, to keep up. I would never spend $1000 on LV shoes, but I enjoyed the free champagne.

    But in my county, 1 in 5, or 20%, public school students lives in poverty, 10 years ago it was 12%. Unemployment is at 10.3% in my county and the median household income is $45,000. But then those that are doing well are doing very well and I see them driving around in their Bentleys, Rolls, etc.

    1. I totally hear you on the free champagne at LV, Gucci, etc when shopping! lol.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on income compared to 2008. Looks like we’re still rebounding with today’s 8.6% unemployment. Keep the faith!

  16. Well, how about it is holiday season and people are out doing stuff they are not usually doing during the year. Malls are full, restaurants are packed, resorts overbooked because people want to get out and make themselves feel good. Maybe feel happy for a minute. Also, if you think about 9.6% of unemployment it is not too bad. Back home unemployment is at about 20-25%. Malls are empty, resorts are closing, restaurants celebrate when you come in for a dinner. Let’s talk about full malls and packed restaurants in February. :-)

  17. I love this post, as I have been thinking about how much people are making recently as well.

    I think the top earners don’t reveal their salaries because they are reluctant to share how much more they are making than their peers.

    I am personally one of these people that decides to hide their income from peers, because I am making substantially more. I was specifically asked by HR/recruiting not to reveal my salary figures to anyone.

    Salary figures that are posted on,, etc. usually only reveal the average employees, and not the outstanding ones.

    (I work in the Silicon Valley in semiconductors.)

  18. I’m 25 years old fresh out of graduate school making $130,000 with a degree in a specialized subfield of physics. I never tell anyone how much I make (I make “enough to get by”) and I drive a beat up piece of junk car and will until it dies at which point I will get a new piece of junk car.

    When you live in an area where the average income for an entire household is barely $30,000 you don’t do yourself any favors by telling people you are making over 4x that by yourself. Plus I could care less about stuff like BMWs (though I think I could afford something a bit more than 10% of my salary should I desire it).

  19. Invest It Wisely

    Many people can get jealous at least to a certain extent. I think it’s better to not share the info if there’s risk of that, and you’re right, many successful and wealthy people don’t ostentatiously show off their wealth; in fact, many of the ones that do aren’t even that well-off. Of course, you do have a few that have it and show it off, too. ;)

  20. yesiamcheap

    Bad new sells and nothing sells better than doom and gloom with your money. Anyway, there are plenty of us wage slaves making far less that are content with what we make. I am not making what I want to make but I’ve made the decision to sacrifice a nice wage now for a good retirement later. Is it a good tradeoff? Maybe, maybe not.

  21. I’ve always been reticent about disclosing my income and net worth. While on my blog I detail some allocations and share some of the trades I’ve made, I’m personally not comfortable with revealing hard numbers. In the manufacturing world though, the situation is less than optimal, notwithstanding happy talk from the ISM.

  22. Steve Sildon

    I can never figure out driving around my neighborhood how it seems that everyone can afford to drive around in an Audi or a 5-Series BMW. I mean, you don’t have to be rich to drive a nice car, but is everybody making 100K+ or is it a combination of more income than we think is out there and a lot more debt? Seems crazy to me…

    1. I believe it is indeed the case where everybody who drives that new BMW is making 100k++. It’s perfectly rational as people pay in cash, are good creditors with cash etc. Many are following the 1/10th rule too, so 50k bimmer = 500k salary etc.


      1. I disagree. I think we still live in a age where people are spending far beyond their means. Many people view have flashy cars and LOADS of debt. I do not think most people are as financially responsible as you make them out to be.

  23. Money Reasons

    When I first started reading your blog Sam, I followed the average income media mantra too. Ironically, I’ve been preaching not to follow the media and have been pointing out their inaccuracies at the same time (ironic huh…).

    After reading articles similar to this one about earnings and what people make, I too have joined your bandwagon and believe as you believe. I do think there are depressed areas where it’s tough, but in non-depressed areas, I think you are right and it’s all just make believe with respect to average income.

    For those that don’t try to make more money, it won’t come. But for those that do, I don’t see why they couldn’t make over $100,000… I’d rather try doing something extra (like blogging) to make extra money or career advancement rather than seeing someone else live their fake life like those on Jersey Shore…

  24. I doubt I’ll ever get to that 8 million level as well. It was just another example of how much money is out there where I am constantly surprised on a weekly basis.

    Seems like your debt is really manageable and no big deal based on your income no?

  25. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there with crazy amounts of money, I just don’t know any of them. :) I think the economy is doing better but it definitely depends where you are. If you live in a big city it’s easier to hear about more job openings, people getting paid better bonuses, and more hustle and bustle. I think there are still a lot of communities that are still seriously struggling, especially the smaller ones. I have relatives that live in a small town in the east coast that still has high unemployment and the real estate market is so terrible if you want to sell, auctioning is the only available option still. Ok so that’s an extreme but I hope the growth in the cities will start spreading to the smaller communities too!

    1. I actually think you know plenty of wealthy people, you just don’t know it, because as I’ve said, they keep their wealth very well hidden. Observe them carefully and you will see!

  26. Awesome post Sam. I think too often I get suckered into taking a short-term look and throwing blame on my current job for sucking. Creating wealth really is about perspective and scale. Find something that works and replicate it. Scale it in any way possible. Use other people’s time if it’s cheaper than your own. I’ve recently started implementing the use of other people’s time in my online projects and it’s going okay for now, and definitely improving. While I’m working to bring home money, someone else is working for me at 1/8th of what I’m making per hour.

    1. Gary Corson

      How repulsive you are!! It’s lowlifes like you using our less fortunate in society to advance your greedy ways…As for me I am of above average wealth & I say that only to stress my point. I have traveled around this great country & mingled with the rich as well as the poor & I have found that the less blessed with wealth one is the more they hold to the values that “Most Humans”hold dear to their hearts…Friendship,Empathy,Kindness & Self Respect. Qualities that you don’t seem to possess! As for me I’ll pick the latter rather than pick my brothers pocket! I do feel sorry for you my friend as until you WakeUp you’ll never know what life’s all about.

  27. So I’m guessing there will be no income report on your blog any time soon lol!

    I totally agree with your points on there being no need to brag about your income. Too many bloggers these days are eager to brag about their earnings.

    1. Probably not, but do people really want to know? I actually really enjoy it when bloggers highlight their wealth and how much they make. It’s fun to see, and kinda chuckle sometimes.

  28. I think that people are getting more cautious about talking about their income and what their assets are. The mood of the country is just a lot different than it was back the late 1990’s during the tech boom. There are people making good money who have great savings that don’t want to share this information. A large part of that, I think, is the reality that there are many people – MANY people – who have really suffered with recent economic issues in this country. There are many areas of the country that have seen many residents just crushed by things.
    So it’s easier to alienate people now than in the past with bragging, and it’s logical why people aren’t talking. The money is out there though, it’s just distributed a bit differently now. But it’s there. Might be a different viewpoint, but it’s how I see it.

    1. Your use of the word “distributed” perturbs me. Is as if we all have done nothing and are just getting fed by a money distribution machine :)

      People have got to get out of that mindset, and start fighting for themselves. We live in America! Peace.

      1. I think you’re misunderstanding my use of distributed. Did no mean that there’s a distribution “machine” feeding people cash . Rather, the distribution – as in statistical – is different these days. More polarization of wealth, more haves/have nots. Again, that’s based on anecdotal evidence.

        We’re on the same page with people taking care of themselves and having individual responsibility.

  29. 20 and Engaged

    I’ve never hid how much I make because it was something to definitely be humble and modest about. $38k isn’t that much, but it was enough to pay my bills and live comfortably. When I’m making more, maybe I’ll conceal how much but only because it’s no one’s business.

  30. It depends on what you want to do. If you plan to go into money management, getting your CFA is a no brainer. So many firms I know ONLY hire CFAs or CFAs + MBAs. If you can get through all 3 levels sooner rather than later, you can then leverage the certification for that much longer.

    Go for it!

    1. Since you don’t have good grades and don’t come from a top school, all the more reason toget your CFA! The CFA will give you more leverage than the straight A student from Yale.

      Do it, and don’t look back.

  31. Sam,

    You are probably right in your thinking. 2010 was the best year I ever had.

    So why isn’t the FED increasing interbank lending rates? Seems a bit foolish to keep a zero interest rate policy in the face of this recovery, don’t you think?


  32. You forgot to mention the current administration has completely villified high earners as “rich fatcats”. They should feel guilty about their earnings, their health insurance, their lifestyle, etc…while the political life is rife with corruption and greed. Just a bit too ironic for me.

    But anyway, it is a lot easier to make 6 figures than it may seem, but on the coasts, the cost of living is much more expensive as well. It’s all relative to location! Longshoremen shouldn’t make what they do – that’s a union stranglehold. Same with policemen and well…the white collar jobs as well. I read the same businessweek snippet. Rather generic titles (I’ve met bond traders who don’t make a lot; these must be Goldman Sachs specialist types making millions), etc. Very few can make it through medical school or run a hedge fund. While these are high incomes, it’s a select few who make it to the profession. All part of the bell curve I suppose.

    1. Policemen/women make way too much money? When is the last time you volunteered to tote yourself to a gang-banger reunion armed with only a service revolver and a bullet-proof vest? It’s a tough gig in mostly unsavory environments and try 10-hour rotating shifts to boot.

  33. I completely agree with this post. Our media has done an excellent job of freaking this country out, and it’s doing nothing but harm. I don’t even watch the news or read the papers, but the few times I glance at them, I know exactly what I’ll see. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

    People need to realize that the media is there to sell stories, and traditionally, negative stories about other people tend to bring in the viewers (I think this is changing, slowly). By seeing people in situations below ourselves, we feel better about ourselves.

  34. SPENDaholic


    Great post because it gives me hope. I keep reading about how states will default, people are dumping bonds, gold and oil is skyrocketing, etc. Then I read your article and don’t know what to believe.

    As a younger guy (26) making a decent income, I’m debt free and looking to invest in some physical silver just to hedge against another stock market downturn. Do you think this is a good move? I can’t buy a house and already contribute to my 401k, so what should I do with the money in my account?

    P.S. It’s always packed when I go to the malls and restaurants in and around Los Angeles. People seem pretty excited about Restaurant Week here too, which is strange considering California is in the dumps.

    1. I actually just bought 10 pieces of pure silver for 37 bucks a piece. I’ve always believed that having a certain amount of gold and silver is a great hedge against fiat currency. Gold and silver are limited in quantity. The dollar, as demonstrated by the fed’s QE measures, is not. It’s a simple rule of economics, that the more supply of something you have, coupled with the same amount of demand, will result in lower value of whatever commodity you are talking about.

  35. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    i agree with the underlying premise, and a lot of the detail is true.

    however, i also agree with commenters on the lower end of the income spectrum. a lot have it worst than we think or hear about.

    it is true that restaurants remain packed, but how many have shut down in recent times? i look around me and i see more have shut down than have started/opened. hypothetically a 15% decline in people that dine out to eat and a 20% restaurant shut down would still give the appearance that they are all packed. But what about the 15% who are no longer dining out?

    i will also ask, why is it so bad to disclose your income? i understand the personal preference for privacy, and by all means not advocating walking around with the kimono open, but so what?

    i’ll give you an example that we have previously discussed. for a blogger/internet marketer, showing proof of payment is social proof. sure, for some it’s bragging, for some it’s both but for others it is just social proof and it is proven that it works. when social proof works, a marketer is able to accomplish his or her objectives. so what if they have to flash a 10k check to accomplish that? they are simply doing their job.

    highly interested in further thoughts . . .? ? ?

  36. I’m trying to book a ski house for a work outing in new england and I can’t tell you how many areas are already booked solid for the whole season. The Northeast and CA have certainly rebounded.

    I think you’re right. People resent you if you make more money than they do and I certainly think we hide it well. I don’t know though. I think it might be that rich people don’t need or want to flaunt their money. I know in my case, almost all the technicians at work have homes that are MUCH more expensive than ours. They max out how much they can borrow so they can show their peers they’ve “made it”.

    If you’re educated and have a good job, I think there’s less peer pressure to show other people that you’re doing alright for yourself. I think in the blue collar world, people care more about appearances than a lot of white collar folks. If you don’t have education or status to fall back on, all that’s left is your possessions. Just a theory based on being in both worlds, each for half of my life.

    1. Hmmm, interesting theory on being overly revealing bc one doesn’t have “education or status” to fall back on.

      You are perhaps right, bc the more you believe in yourself, the less likely you are worried about failing.

  37. I suspect there’s a lot of selection bias in those numbers, ie who are you/Bloomberg asking (or who is willing to divulge what they make)? For example, Google/Facebook. Yes, some engineers at those companies are most certainly making 6-figure salaries, but the majority of those companies are not engineers and are definitely not making anywhere near that. As far as the millions in stock, that’s a total pipe dream. Sure, a few of the lucky (and super talented) engineers that got in on the ground floor may have a hefty amount of options, but the vast majority likely have much more modest amounts. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great companies to work for (I have had the opportunity to work for both at one time or another), but they’re not the millionaire-makers everyone paints them to be. :)

    1. I will guarantee you that anybody who has worked for Facebook for 5 years has at least a million dollars worth of stock options along with their salary.

      Google, many of them earn well over 6 figures after 5 years. Most are not “Multi-millionaires”, I agree, but most do extremely well.

  38. While I think you are right about the economy turning around I think you are WAYYYYYYYY off on the income.

    In 2008 Just about 4% of the entire country had an AGI above 200K…

      1. Sam, what do you believe the average income is? Do you think more people who make above “average” hide their wealth or is it more people below that line who probably need the money?

        1. I definitely think leading an invisible, no showy life is in. The government and the masses are going after anybody and everybody who is making above average.

          The average income is also skewed lower by part timers and students.

          The median income in SF is $70-80,000. Yet the median house is $650,000, but really more like $1 mil for something decent where you won’t get mugged and can see daylight. The income level is what too low based in official figures.

          1. Me too- I still think those that either come from money or marry someone who does (bssically a safety net is somewhere so they can take risks) are the ones who make it. The rest of us need pur money to go too many places to afford the luxury of risks and experimentation.

  39. Randy Addison

    Actually being a blogger could be a possible stepping stone of being an employee on one of those respected blogging sites or even Facebook and Google. Online jobs are already getting on the trends. Blogging and all jobs concerning the internet is a great option for people who want to work at home!

  40. For the past few years, in the Vancouver area, I have not noticed any changes from an economical perspective. Housing market did not crash, it underwent a slight correction. Malls and restaurant are packed. Everyone can afford a smart phone and the new gadgets … Either, they are packing on huge debt or they can afford it.

    I have to agree with you Sam, as you get older and you get experience, if you have skills in the tech industry, there is money to be made. It’s whether or not you want it.

  41. Pessimism is coming from the media! Good news is not newsworthy. Some of what you are describing is regional. Do you think things are that good in a city where there are plant closings or an industry with high unemployment?. Not all professions are doing well! I think you are describing successful people rather than the economy. Success generally has very little to do with how everyone is doing. I go to some of those crowded restaurants too. I wonder if the sales are the same or just busy. Everyone could be spending less than before.
    Outwardly, I live a very normal life, modest home, cars etc., however no one sees my portfolio of investments. In many ways, I exemplify the characterization in the book “the Millionaire Next Door”. I also do not share the specifics of my earnings with anyone. Regarding the flashy bragging types, I do not know any them personally, however I agree they’re insecure. Why else do they need other people to praise or envy them.

  42. Yeah, you just live in a special part of the country. Tech. is doing very well and money are flowing again in Silicon Valley. Other parts of the countries are still down in the dump. I think the reason people are down on economy is because once you lose the high paying job, it’s difficult to get it back. My company is still getting rid of older more experience engineers so they can hire cheap new college grad. replacements.
    I kept in touch with some of those older guys and they can’t find any job that pay as well. I told them to move to CA, but they are just too settled.

    I know a new grad. who looked for a job in Austin for over a year and couldn’t find one. He moved to the Bay Area and found a job in a month.

    1. Check out the list of occupations again. Only a small minority is tech.

      As for the older folks you know, they have probably saved up a lot over the years and invested too right?

  43. Oh there’s hope for me yet: Professional Blogger with 5 years experience! Especially since I noticed that “teacher” was glaringly missing. ;)

    1. Indeed! I don’t think teachers get into teaching to become rich, but out of the love of educating our youth. Correct me if I’m wrong. Hence, most teachers couldn’t care less about having a lot of wealth, otherwise they’d go into another profession. Thoughts?

      1. Teachers enter teaching for a variety of reasons, one of which is to educate
        our youth. Some teachers enter teaching because it is secure, summer vacations,
        it is secondary income to the spouse, they majored in subjects like English, Physical Education, languages, social studies and don’t have a commercial application. These are just some of the reasons! Teaching like many professions provide a good middle class life. Unless you are successful, many professions would fit that definition.

        1. Depending on who you talk to, the rate goes all the way to 25% unemployment right now. I’m not sure I believe that, but maybe in certain areas of the country it’s true. The fact is, though, is that humans like to blow things out of proportion and focus on the negatives rather than the positives. Why don’t we start talking about how we have a 91% employment rate? It doesn’t sound as bad that way.

  44. Well, there is pessimism near me because a lot of people have lost their jobs. HOWEVER, people are starting to hire again, and it is exciting. What drives me crazy is the mindset of some people still “I can make as much on unemployment as I can at any job I find”. Is that laziness or ignorance or both? Maybe that person needs to take advantage of the free education that unemployment offers so they are able to find a job that pays more than 350 a week.

    We took my youngest out for his birthday this weekend and the restaurants were packed. I am getting more optimistic by the minute to tell you the truth. Even small manufacturers here are starting to hire, not just the Big 3.

    I don’t really know people that brag about their income anymore. I will never forget talking to a guy from high school that would brag about how he uses all the cell phone minutes his plan offers – and that was 250 a month! I guess everyone has different benchmarks for success!

  45. “Have you ever wondered why restaurants are so packed, malls are so busy, and traffic is horrendous all the time despite the media droning on and on about 9.6% unemployment and 16% real unemployment? Well now you know!”

    Ha! I have this discussion with someone at least once per day. It is very eye opening. We sit around watching he news tell us how bad it is. We talk about how bad it is. Yet everyone I know had a pretty great year in 2010. Everyone who wants a job has one. My wife and I just moved into a brand new house in September…there have been about 20 lots sell in our neighborhood since we bought ours! The neighborhood is almost sold out…

    I am just not convinced that things are all that bad. The problem is that the media can only report 2 things when it comes to the economy:

    1. It is absolutely horrible.
    2. It is absolutely unbelievable.

    I’d say we are not yet to the point where the economy is absolutely unbelievable, so the media sticks with absolutely horrible. They have to have something sensational to report….but I am not buying it.

    1. The media is in business to sell stories and make money. People enjoy hearing about the misery in other people’s lives, even if it’s blown out of proportion, because it makes them feel better about themselves.

      Although, I do believe most people now don’t even watch the news, or read mainstream papers. I haven’t touched either in years, its all engineered anyway.

    2. robert perry

      I am very talented and intelligent and have almost never made any money in my life. I have never seen clear opportunities to make a lot of money, in my entire life. I know many people who have no ways to make a lot of money.

      1. Same here. Whether it’s bad luck or my lack of confidence in job searching, nothing has been there. I made the mistake of majoring in chemistry rather than chemical engineering or something more specific. My advice to anyone wanting to study the hard sciences but not pursue a pre-professional program: don’t do it.

        1. I did go for Chemical Engineering and am not anywhere near 6 figures yet (7 years total experience). Maybe I made the mistake of working for smaller companies? IDK. Google says the average ChemE salary is 82k?? Sounds low considering that is the average of all people 30+ years in the field.

          Then I hear donut munching police (no offense but you don’t have to be that smart) are pulling 150k?
          Sales people with no technical knowledge are making well over 100k?

          Makes me think I’ve worked really hard and am being punished for not working “Smarter”.

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