The Infamous Six-Figure Salary


In mid-December, Yahoo! Finance posted an article titled “$100,000 income: No big deal anymore.”  The article states how the magical six-figure salary isn’t the benchmark for success like it was once viewed.  With inflation and the rising cost of lifestyle expenses, such as iPods, digital cameras, high-speed Internet access, and cell phones, $100,000 doesn’t go as far as it once did.

I posed this issue on Twitter, and @gerryvz said “the 84.3% of Americans who earn $100K or less would likely beg to differ that [a six-figure salary isn’t what it used to be].”  True, I think it’s still an important milestone in the American psyche.

The drive to obtain one of these jobs has not diminished.  Job boards focused on six-figure jobs, such as 6-Figure Jobs, The Ladders, and ExecuNet, market specifically to senior executives or leaders looking for $100,000 or more.

However, once you get there, did you find the red carpet treatment that you expected?  Once upon a time, $100,000 was associated with a nice home, two nice cars and nice family vacations.  Nice. 

The article poses some interesting statistics:

  • $100,000 salary in 1990 would be $162,760, with standard inflation
  • $100,000 salary in 2000, would be worth only $82,609 today
  • And, a family earning $100,000 per year today would need to earn $244K in Manhattan and $203K in San Francisco just to maintain that same lifestyle

Yahoo! Finance claims that “many now consider $250,000 the new $100,00 income.” 

But, is a lot of that just our need to “keep up with the Jones’?”  You can still own a nice house and a nice car – but your definition of “nice” needs to reflect the reality that money doesn’t go as far as it once did.  Don’t fall into the trap of the $30,000-millionaires, as they are called.  A six-figure salary can afford you a nice life, if you’re smart about it.


3 responses »

  1. You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. There is a great point made here. I believe that the closer you are to the infamous 6 figure mark, the less it seems to be. Is this just the theory of perceptual contrast in play? Maybe. I remember when thirty seemed old, and now that I am less than 2 months from that milestone, i don’t know why I ever thought that it was ‘ancient’.

    Regardless, I am sure that once I begin making 100k/year, I will begin striving for the 250k mark as well. ( I am such a sheep )

    • That is so true! The more you have, the more you buy, the more you want, the more you need. I still think that six-figures is a career goal for most people.

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