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New Study Reveals Average Income According to Age (Results are Alarming)

For many people and families, age-based earnings don’t match cost of living.

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BY Tom Popomaronis - 27 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As a worker (or anyone, really), having some immediate cash flow is a given. But if you're serious about financial planning, it's crucial to have an idea of how big your paychecks will be in the future, too. To help you out, Amelia Joseph of SmartAsset has broken down the latest full-time earnings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


The income-by-age breakdown

Starting at age 20, salaries break down as follows:

  • 20-24 = $528 per week ($27,456 per year)
  • 25-34 = $758 per week ($39,416 per year)
  • 35-44 = $950 per week ($49,400 per year)
  • 45-54 = $962 per week ($50,024 per year)
  • 55-64 = $954 per week ($49,608 per year)
  • 65+ = $888 per week ($46,176 per year)

Because these are averages, they can hide issues like gender income gaps. That said, the key takeaway is that your income likely will be highest between age 45-54. Because income probably will drop well before you hit retirement age, it's critical to start saving as early as you can to ensure you can handle inflation and make up what you lose from the salary decline.


Why the data is alarming

Starting out at $27,456 a year doesn't sound completely horrible. It's well above the 2017 federal poverty line for an individual, $12,060. But here's the problem:

The annual cost of living for a single individual with no children, 1 child, and 2 children is $28,458, $47, 324 and $57,821, respectively.

The annual cost for a married couple with no children, 1 child, and 2 children is $39,649, $56,176 and $65,597, respectively. Many young couples might not be able to afford children, and for many families, having one parent stay at home simply isn't realistic.

If you only earn minimum wage ($7.50), you'll have to work 64 hours a week to be above the cost of living threshold for a single individual with no kids.

All those Gen Zers and millennials who have roommates, live with their parents or demand $15 an hour ($31,200 yearly) suddenly don't seem so unreasonable.

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