December 9, 2022


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How to Figure out How Much Money You Should Make

7 min read

As you make your way on your chosen career path, you may wonder the answer to the question, “How much should I be making?”

The good news is there is data available that can give you an idea of what to aim for in your salary as you progress in your career.

Of course, you must keep in mind that median salaries can vary widely based on the field in which you work, where you live, and your education level, as well as on things that it shouldn’t, such as gender and race.

Let’s try to answer these questions:

How much money should you be making based on your age? What is the average salary figure for your job? What are some factors that can affect pay but shouldn’t? How can you increase your income? How do you find a job you love at the salary you deserve?

How much money should you be making based on your age?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regularly releases median weekly earnings of full-time workers by age, race and gender. Find out where you stack up by age, based on results for the first quarter of 2020.

Ages 20-24Ages 25-34Ages 35-44Ages 45-54Ages 55-64Ages 65 and overAges 20-24 Women: $600 a week, or $31,200 annually Men: $609 a week, or $31,668 annually Overall: $605 a week, or $31,460 annually Ages 25-34 Women: $807 a week, or $41,964 annually Men: $924 a week, or $48,048 annually Overall: $872 a week, or $45,344 annually Ages 35-44 Women: $942 a week, or $48,984 annually Men: $1,197 a week, or $62,244 annually Overall: $1,080 a week, or $56,160 annually Ages 45-54 Women: $927 a week, or $48,204 annually Men: $1,245 a week, or $64,740 annually Overall: $1,101 a week, or $57,252 annually Ages 55-64 Women: $922 a week, or $47,944 annually Men: $1,223 a week, or $63,596 annually Overall: $1,082 a week, or $56,264 annually Ages 65 and over Women: $774 per week, or $40,248 Men: $1,098 per week or $57,096 annually Overall: $938 per week, or $48,776 annually What is the average salary figure for your job?

Using just your age to determine how much you should make in the workplace is, of course, just one factor to consider. As noted, different industries and occupations can have widely different salary expectations. For example, a surgeon might make $237,570 annually, while a food service manager might make $59,820 and a veterinary technician might make $36,670. So you definitely have to consider your salary based on your field, as well as your own experience level.

You can take a look at this full BLS chart to get an idea of what the median salary might be for your chosen field.

Note also that sometimes the same job might pay differently depending on where you live. Consider this map from the U.S. Census Bureau showing how incomes vary widely across the country:

For more research on fair market value salary figures for your occupation, you might also consider checking out websites such as PayScale and Glassdoor. These companies allow you to review self-reported salary figures from other users in your industry and at your experience level, and to target specific companies you might be interested in.

What are some factors that can affect pay but shouldn’t?

While it might be reasonable for different jobs to pay differently based on the type of work, experience required and sometimes even the local cost of living, there are other factors that should not impact your salary but that all too often do.

Specifically, let’s look at pay inequality based on gender and race, along with what you can do to push back against these disparities.

The gender gapThe race gapFighting discriminationThe gender gap

If you take a look at the figures given in the income by age section, you might notice something: The median salary for men is always higher than that for women, in each age category given.

The reasons for this are varied and complicated, as well as controversial. A 2020 report by PayScale noted that women are more likely to take a break in their careers to raise children, for one, and employers may have an unconscious bias against all women because of that, assuming they will eventually leave for a time to have and raise children.

And although women have made serious career strides over the past several decades, they are still less likely to, overall, have the highest-paying jobs, particularly in powerful leadership roles.

And even when men and women occupy the very same roles in the same field and in the same company, there may be a gap. A Pew Research study in 2017 found that 1 in 4 women reported they’ve earned less than a man who was doing the same job, while just 5% of men said they have earned less than a woman doing the same job.

The race gap

The BLS chart not only tells the story of a gender gap, but also of a significant race gap. For example, white men ages 25 to 54 earn an average weekly median salary of $1,128, which translates to $58,656 per year.

At the same time, a black man in the same age range earns $891, which is just $46,332 annually. A black woman in that age range earns a median of $767 per week, or $39,884 per year, while a white woman in that age group earns $906, or $47,112.

Latino men in that age group earn just $796 per week, or $41,392, while Latina women earn just $701 per week, or $36,452. The data tells the tale of minority women experiencing the largest wage gap overall.

You can see the full BLS chart here.

Fighting discrimination

There are many laws on the books protecting employees against discrimination based on their gender, race, age and more. However, that doesn’t mean people don’t actually experience discrimination in the workplace.

If you feel you are not being paid fairly at your work place because of your sex, race or both, and not because of your performance or job level, you should do some research on what other people in your same field, and at your experience level, are being paid.

If you can talk to other colleagues about this without it causing disruption or getting you in trouble at work (some companies have rules against discussing your salary at work, and you don’t want to risk your job), you might consider doing so. Going on the above-mentioned Glassdoor or PayScale might help give you an idea of what other employees at your company are making, without having to have face-to-face conversations.

If you do believe you are being unfairly compensated for what you do compared to others at your company, consider having a talk with your boss about your value to the company, and see if you might be able to negotiate a higher paycheck. If there are serious problems at the company, you might consider consulting an employment lawyer, although this option is complicated and should not be pursued lightly.

How can you increase your income?

If you discover you haven’t reached your full earning potential, here are some ways you can start increasing your annual income.

1. Focus on your current job 2. Look for promotion opportunities 3. Look elsewhere 4. Learn a new skill 5. Start a side hustle

1. Focus on your current job

You don’t have to leave your job to increase your income.

If you feel like you’ve worked hard enough to deserve a raise, brush up on your negotiation skills and ask for one at your next performance evaluation.

If you’re in a job that pays overtime, volunteer to take on more hours whenever possible. Also, look for additional projects that may justify you coming in earlier or staying later to rack up more hours.

2. Look for promotion opportunities

If you’ve made yourself indispensable as an employee, your manager and others will take note.

Talk to your manager about ways you can prepare for a promotion in the next six to 12 months. Then, take their feedback and work to develop your skills and earn that pay raise.

3. Look elsewhere

Some companies are better than others when it comes to overtime, raises and promotions. If you’re skilled at what you do, you may be able to leverage your qualifications for a better salary in a similar job, but with a different company.

If you feel like there’s no clear path in your current job, look around for other jobs. Websites such as Monster, Indeed and SimplyHired offer access to thousands of job listings across the country.

You can also update your LinkedIn profile and get notifications on jobs that fit your experience and qualifications.

4. Learn a new skill

Looking to beef up your resume and skill sets? Consider taking a few online classes or attending night school to learn a new skill.

General Assembly, Udemy and Springboard are all great online platforms for continuing education. You can take courses from experts and university professors from the comfort of your home.

You might also consider getting a new degree at a traditional college. Your employer might even have a program that reimburses you for furthering your education.

5. Start a side hustle

If your passion lies in what you do outside of work hours, consider turning a hobby you love into a side hustle or full-on business.

Depending on how much time and money you’re able to invest in yourself, you may be able to increase your income significantly.

Check out these side hustles that have the potential to be lucrative from the get-go.

How do you find a job you love at the salary you deserve?

Once you find out average salary figures for your age and occupation, take some time to figure out the next steps in your career.

If you’re underemployed or feeling trapped in a low-paying job, develop a plan around the next couple of career moves you can make to improve your situation. Creating a five-year road map for your career can also help you visualize and formulate a strategy for accomplishing your career goals.

Remember, finding a career that makes you happy and pays well is possible. It’s just a matter of pursuing your opportunities and using your current skill sets (or improving them) to make it happen. Here are some sites that may help you find your next dream job, as well as some tips on creating a career strategy.

Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report

The post How to Figure out How Much Money You Should Make appeared first on Student Loan Hero.

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