Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Salary discussion

Suppose you are a student now and perhaps your parents are generous and provide you with $100 per week to spend on gas, occasional meals out, movies, and other entertainment.  You live at home and everything else is basically free, if you don't count chores or attendance at family dinner as costs. You might be pretty happy.  What would you need to earn on your own in order to support $100 per week of discretionary spending?  Let's estimate it.

Let's assume the national average savings rate is about 10%*.  This means that after all other expenses are taken care of that people save 10% of their earnings, on average.  If you were average later in life and wanted to have $100 per week spending cash and you DIDN'T want to have any savings, then you could use what you would otherwise have saved for fun.  Sounds like a reasonable trade, right?

Since you are average, you could be saving 10%, but you're spending it instead.  $100 is 10% of $1000, so you need to take home $1000 per week.  Chances are you are working at a legitimate job, so you have taxes taken from your paycheck.  Taxes are withheld at about a 15% rate (no doubt an underestimate of all withholding, since this just accounts for the Federal part) so that means that you need to make about $1175 per week or $61,000 per year.  $61K just to have $100 spending cash each week??!!!!  Yup.  That's the estimate.

Please consider a roommate or two, minimal health insurance, gifts from parents, driving old cars and bikes, eating lots of soup and pasta and other cost-saving measures to help pay for your $100 per week spending cash.  It's not a lost cause: Your investment of time now could lead to better financial success later on, but you shouldn't count on buying a new musical instrument unless you play harmonica. 

This also explains why so many actors are also waiters.

*http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PSAVERT/ tells us that the savings rate is currently closer to 5% and reached a nadir of 2.4% in mid 2000s.  One has to go back to the 80s to see a savings rate of 10%.