Reflections on Salary

My first job out of college paid an annual salary of S. (The actual amount S represents is unimportant.)

For a brief period of time, that was more money than I could imagine. (We didn’t discuss money in my family, but I have reason to believe that my dad supported us–four kids, mom, and himself–on less than that amount.) Two years later, when I moved to Bell Labs, I also “right-sized” my salary to 140% of S. Then S didn’t seem so impressive.

What’s interesting is that my 1984 salary is 70% of what I make now, 26 years later, according to the web site. (Actually, they provide a bunch of estimates, ranging from 71% to 140%. I picked the lowest one.)

Now, that was in Albuquerque, which is cheaper to live in than Yucca Valley. According to the cost-of-living comparison at Sperling’s BestPlaces, a dollar there buys as much as $1.06 does here.

So my first job out of college paid effectively 75% of my current salary. And I only had one car and three less mouths to feed. But what’s really amazing is that within two years of graduation, I had run up more than 10% of my salary in credit card debt. To be sure, I do have a mortgage today, but (so far!) we’re paying our bills and living within our means.

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