High Earner Careers?

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ctraveler
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High Earner Careers?

Post by ctraveler »

Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?
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JDCarpenter
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by JDCarpenter »

Here is a prior thread that revolved around this question and has 315 posts:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=150595&hilit=earning (If your net worth is over 3 million, how did you do it?)

(I'm in law, DW is med, so not much help to you as your question is phrased.)

:happy
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mak1277
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by mak1277 »

Accounting Degree followed by ~14 years in external audit at Big 4 public accounting firm, then hired into VP level position at Fortune 1000 company.
furwut
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by furwut »

You might benefit by spending some time looking through the US Occupational Outlook Handbook.
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sdsailing
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by sdsailing »

Engineering and related fields can pay a great deal.

There will be 100 other answers at least...
new2bogle
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by new2bogle »

sdsailing wrote:Engineering and related fields can pay a great deal.

There will be 100 other answers at least...
Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers. Hard to go over $250k though (unless you win at life and become a director or above). But a lot of age discrimination and industries are very cyclical, so layoffs are always coming up.

I wouldn't recommend engineering though.
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TheTimeLord
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by TheTimeLord »

ctraveler wrote:Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?

http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings
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stoptothink
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by stoptothink »

While there are certainly a lot of physicians and lawyers on this board, my impression is that the majority of the very high earning posters here are in tech. When it comes to compensation, at least right now, you really can not compare tech to anything else. No $300k+ salaries in my household, but 1.5yrs ago my wife took what would appear to be a large demotion (going from managing a 20+ man team in a private health-services company to a bottom-rung salesperson at a new tech company) and her compensation immediately more than doubled. More than a few not formally educated, very young, and very inexperienced people in her company (and countless similar ones in this area) making serious money.
MikeZ
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by MikeZ »

I would say this based upon my observation: it's a lot easier to find a high income career than it is to find a high income career where you love the job enough to put in the hours and deal with the stress associated with it and not blow up your home-life.

It's generally easy to spot which group someone's in.
magicrat
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by magicrat »

I make $300k (all in) in a Director-level role for a consumer packaged goods manufacturer. Age 35, joined 1 year ago after 5 years as a consultant at McKinsey and MBA before that.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by new2bogle »

TheTimeLord wrote:
ctraveler wrote:Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?

http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings
This data suggests that the median physician salary is "only" $186k. That is a far cry from $300k.
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zaboomafoozarg
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by zaboomafoozarg »

new2bogle wrote:Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers.
I guess I only have 2 years to double my salary. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing this wrong.
furwut
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by furwut »

Everybody should do a Venn diagram composed of what they love doing, what they are good at doing and what pays enough to allow a decent living standard.
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sdsailing
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by sdsailing »

new2bogle wrote:
sdsailing wrote:Engineering and related fields can pay a great deal.

There will be 100 other answers at least...
Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers. Hard to go over $250k though (unless you win at life and become a director or above). But a lot of age discrimination and industries are very cyclical, so layoffs are always coming up.

I wouldn't recommend engineering though.
It is most definitely possible without being a director, in fact without even being in management track. I'm talking EE senior engineer.
randomguy
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by randomguy »

ctraveler wrote:Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?
It is a variation of survivor bias. You take 10k people in pretty much any field, and a couple of them will do very, very well. You will notice when those people post a heck of a lot more than when everyone else does. I am not sure it is very actionable. How people get to the top is a combo of luck (The person choosing to work for apple versus microsoft in 1999 end up in vastly different places. At the time it wasn't clear what the right move was), skill (i.e. you need to be able to do the job), and lots of hard work (i.e. you were not working 40 hours/week at apple).'
new2bogle
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by new2bogle »

zaboomafoozarg wrote:
new2bogle wrote:Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers.
I guess I only have 2 years to double my salary. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing this wrong.
Depends on industry. Civil won't pay anywhere near that, especially if you work for the state. Chemical (gas, oil, etc) pays well (not sure about past 12 months with oil glut). Semiconductors is good but very cyclical (just look at the giant Intel - it's either boom or bust there, perpetually). Software is probably easiest to make $300k plus as "just" an engineer, but you really do give your life away.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by YttriumNitrate »

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new2bogle
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by new2bogle »

sdsailing wrote:
new2bogle wrote:
sdsailing wrote:Engineering and related fields can pay a great deal.

There will be 100 other answers at least...
Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers. Hard to go over $250k though (unless you win at life and become a director or above). But a lot of age discrimination and industries are very cyclical, so layoffs are always coming up.

I wouldn't recommend engineering though.
It is most definitely possible without being a director, in fact without even being in management track. I'm talking EE senior engineer.
Right, I said hard, not impossible. Also talking EE/semiconductors. There are more many more Staff engineers earning $175k+ than there are Principal engineers making $250k+. By a lot more I mean 10x more in the companies I have worked for.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by Crow Hunter »

zaboomafoozarg wrote:
new2bogle wrote:Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers.
I guess I only have 2 years to double my salary. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing this wrong.
More than double mine and I have negative 8 years to do it. I guess I better get to work on my time machine design.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by newbie001 »

I work in the estate planning field and my firm's clients are generally either physicians or, more commonly, small business owners. The business owners are often in industries that never struck me as being lucrative (e.g., scrap metal), but 300K is chump change to most of them. It's amazing how much wealth one can build by offering an in-demand good/service and then hiring people to do the grunt work.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by new2bogle »

YttriumNitrate wrote:
stoptothink wrote:While there are certainly a lot of physicians and lawyers on this board, my impression is that the majority of the very high earning posters here are in tech.
The salaries in law are quite bi-modal.
Image
And not only bimodal but the area under the curve for the right peak is very small compared to the left peak
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by stoptothink »

zaboomafoozarg wrote:
new2bogle wrote:Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers.
I guess I only have 2 years to double my salary. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing this wrong.
Ditto. Sounds like my current position is very similar to Magicrat's, but I make quite a bit less than half what they do.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by randomguy »

new2bogle wrote:
TheTimeLord wrote:
ctraveler wrote:Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?

http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings
This data suggests that the median physician salary is "only" $186k. That is a far cry from $300k.
186k is for GPs who tend to be the lowest paid doctors (I think peds is lower). When you look at specialists (Surgeons, pathologists, dermatologists,....) getting into the 300-500k range is pretty common. Lawyers are the same. Most are making <100k. But the high end ones are high six figures and up.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by randomguy »

stoptothink wrote:
zaboomafoozarg wrote:
new2bogle wrote:Engineering is good $200k after 10 years for mid level engineers.
I guess I only have 2 years to double my salary. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing this wrong.
Ditto. Sounds like my current position is very similar to Magicrat's, but I make quite a bit less than half what they do.
Depends a lot on where you live and your speciality. And of course what you count as compensation. Those software developers talking about 500k incomes are often something like 150k salary, 50k bonus, and 300k RSU. That 300k RSU may or may not be something you can count on for more than 3 or 4 years.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by sdsailing »

new2bogle wrote:
YttriumNitrate wrote:
stoptothink wrote:While there are certainly a lot of physicians and lawyers on this board, my impression is that the majority of the very high earning posters here are in tech.
The salaries in law are quite bi-modal.
Image
And not only bimodal but the area under the curve for the right peak is very small compared to the left peak
That plot looks very odd. No doubt the averages are accurate but I suspect there are some sampling issues.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by newbie001 »

YttriumNitrate wrote:
stoptothink wrote:While there are certainly a lot of physicians and lawyers on this board, my impression is that the majority of the very high earning posters here are in tech.
The salaries in law are quite bi-modal.
Image

Very true about the bi-modal aspect, at least the first few years out of law school. I don't know if I deal with a representative slice of lawyers, but based on my experience, the lawyers who survive in the field for 10+ year seem to do pretty well.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by lthenderson »

randomguy wrote:Depends a lot on where you live
This has a huge influence on salary ranges. I was offered four times what I made at one point to move out to New York City to do what I do. However the cost of living was a lot higher out there too. I see a lot of responses in this forum from people living on the coasts and in large urban centers, all of which skew the salaries greatly.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by JDCarpenter »

sdsailing wrote:
new2bogle wrote:
YttriumNitrate wrote:
stoptothink wrote:While there are certainly a lot of physicians and lawyers on this board, my impression is that the majority of the very high earning posters here are in tech.
The salaries in law are quite bi-modal.
Image
And not only bimodal but the area under the curve for the right peak is very small compared to the left peak
That plot looks very odd. No doubt the averages are accurate but I suspect there are some sampling issues.
Actually, it is accurate for starting salaries and has been for quite a while (was similar back in the 80's when I started). The 165,000 is big law. Top 12 law schools and high end of other law schools need only apply (more or less--and the lower rep of your law school, the higher you'll need to be in your class, on average). Remainder is for everyone else who passes the bar and gets a job. 10 years later, the numbers will look different. The top earners will, on average, tend to continue to do well--but they will be passed by the highest performers in the other group... So too, some will choose to depart the demands of big law for teaching, judging, business, "normal" legal practice, or even raising kids.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by Will do good »

newbie001 wrote:I work in the estate planning field and my firm's clients are generally either physicians or, more commonly, small business owners. The business owners are often in industries that never struck me as being lucrative (e.g., scrap metal), but 300K is chump change to most of them. It's amazing how much wealth one can build by offering an in-demand good/service and then hiring people to do the grunt work.
Bingo!
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by killjoy2012 »

+1 on the area highly affecting salaries. You're not going to make $200-250k as senior engineer or manager in "Tech" below the Director/VP level unless you live in CA, NY, etc. Bay area & NYC are not the norm.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by vitaflo »

If you want to make real money you need to go into business for yourself. You will only get so far being an employee. I went off on my own 5 years ago as an independent contractor in the web/mobile space and it has paid off handsomely.

That said it took 15 years of prior work as an employee at various companies to allow me to launch into my own thing. Networking and past performance get you gigs and you don't get that overnight. The only limitation to pay is what someone is willing to pay you and your time. Both can be overcome by finding the right clients and outsourcing workloads.

Of course this eventually leads to owning a company with employees. That's a whole 'nother level. Now you have other people working to make you money, which starts to multiply your income. This is why being an employee only goes so far. The real money (and risk) is in business ownership.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

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Watty
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by Watty »

High Earner Careers?...
You might be asking the wrong question if you are looking for what career to go into. You might instead ask which career will make you the happiest.

There was a study and a lot of news stories about a year ago about how much family income it takes to be happy, and if having more helps you be happier. The national average was only $75,000 and have more that that didn't have a good correlation to being happier.

Here is an article about that study and the state by state numbers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/1 ... 92194.html
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by dubsem »

Watty wrote:
High Earner Careers?...
You might be asking the wrong question if you are looking for what career to go into. You might instead ask which career will make you the happiest.

There was a study and a lot of news stories about a year ago about how much family income it takes to be happy, and if having more helps you be happier. The national average was only $75,000 and have more that that didn't have a good correlation to being happier.

Here is an article about that study and the state by state numbers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/1 ... 92194.html
Very true! I imagine happiness overrules career earnings, but everyone may be different.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by am »

75k won't cut it if you want to have kids, a decent house and live in a good school district especially in more desirable areas. A job is a grind for the great majority. Few truly enjoy their job- think Bogleheads is not a representative sample. May as well spend your working hours doing something that will allow you to have a good life, build wealth and enjoy some of the expensive pleasures. My 2 cents.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by MathWizard »

Don't worry so much about those people who state they have a $300K job.

I'll only go above $100K for the first time this year, 25 years in and with a PhD working in a technical field.

If you are not in a HCOL area, $100K is a reasonably high salary.

$100K puts you just about in the top 20% of household income.
(see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... t-map.html )

This site puts $100K at the 96th percentile of personal (not household) income.
http://www.whatsmypercent.com/
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by stoptothink »

MathWizard wrote:Don't worry so much about those people who state they have a $300K job.

I'll only go above $100K for the first time this year, 25 years in and with a PhD working in a technical field.

If you are not in a HCOL area, $100K is a reasonably high salary.

$100K puts you just about in the top 20% of household income.
(see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012 ... t-map.html )

This site puts $100K at the 96th percentile of personal (not household) income.
http://www.whatsmypercent.com/
Absolutely. I'm a director-level employee in a multi-billion dollar health-related company, PhD, 34 with a decade of middle-upper management experience (though this is my first year in this particular field), and I have not quite cracked $100k. A fairly low COL area, with maybe the fastest growing tech sector in the country. This area is known for having very low compensation, even compared to the COL, and tech pays WAY more around here than any other field. We're losing salesmen, finance, HR, technical writers, etc. in droves to the tech companies popping up. I'm probably underpaid, but it's a fantastic and low stress work environment; I'm not going anywhere.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by jjbiv »

If you want to make a lot of money as an employee, get a job selling something with generous profit margins, like software, to enterprises and other large customers. Technical people are also needed to keep the sales people out of trouble when the discussion turns to specifics. But the sales people will always earn more than the technical folks. Caution: if you don't hit your number, you'll be looking for a new job. This is not a field for people who cannot deliver.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by A-Commoner »

Watty wrote:
High Earner Careers?...
You might be asking the wrong question if you are looking for what career to go into. You might instead ask which career will make you the happiest.

There was a study and a lot of news stories about a year ago about how much family income it takes to be happy, and if having more helps you be happier. The national average was only $75,000 and have more that that didn't have a good correlation to being happier.

Here is an article about that study and the state by state numbers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/1 ... 92194.html
With all due respect, the OP asked about what careers earned $300k or more. He didn't ask about which careers will give the most happiness. While I don't disagree with your point about happiness lacking correlation with higher income, I would hope that a straight answer be given to the actual question being asked.

As a physician, I'm in that "high earner" camp. My highest income came when I was self-employed. Ironically, my highest year of earnings was in 2008 during the financial meltdown. I attribute that to the rush of patients who came to the office that year to be seen, perhaps anticipating that they would lose their jobs soon and therefore their health insurance coverage. When we sold our practice couple of years later, there was a one time surge in income that came from the sales. Now as an employee, I'm just making the median for my specialty.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by livesoft »

am wrote:75k won't cut it if you want to have kids, a decent house and live in a good school district especially in more desirable areas.
I'll disagree with this because I see families every single day who have income of less than $75K, have kids, live in a decent house in a good school district in a desirable area. Every. Single. Day.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by Watty »

am wrote:75k won't cut it if you want to have kids, a decent house and live in a good school district especially in more desirable areas.
It depends on where you live.

Here in suburban Atlanta if you are careful you can get a decent house like for around $175 to $200K (or less) in some desirable areas with very good schools.

That is in a desirable area(because of the good schools) but not a prime location close to downtown. That would be doable but a pretty tight budget so a bit more would be better but here a $100K family income would be pretty comfortable.

For reference in the same area there are LOTS of McMansions that start at about $300K and go way up from there.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by White Coat Investor »

ctraveler wrote:Hi everyone,

I hope I’m posting this in the correct area.

First I want to thank everyone for sharing so much knowledge, I’ve learned a lot from reading on these forums but as I read through the posts I’m always amazed at how much some of people on this forum make for a living. I’ve seen many making over $300k. I know some are doctors and lawyers which makes sense but I’m curious what the other people making these very high salaries do for a living? Is it all from a day job? Do you have a side job or are you in business for yourself? How did you end up in these positions/what training was required etc? How long did it take you to reach these levels?
Blogger. 5 years
Doctor. 19 years

Seriously though, if your goal is to make a lot of money, get a job handling money. That's where all the money is. Reasonably intelligent, reasonably personable, reasonably hard working people can get to those levels very quickly working in real estate, mortgages, financial advising, money management etc.

The other thing is that you want to be an owner. Doctors who are owners make more. Lawyers who are owners make more. Owners of successful businesses make far more than their employees.

If you want a high income, start a business you're passionate enough about that you'll be willing to work on it every day until after midnight and you wake up wanting to do nothing more than to work on it.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by stoptothink »

livesoft wrote:
am wrote:75k won't cut it if you want to have kids, a decent house and live in a good school district especially in more desirable areas.
I'll disagree with this because I see families every single day who have income of less than $75K, have kids, live in a decent house in a good school district in a desirable area. Every. Single. Day.
$75k around here is a decent living. Our household income is significantly more, but with two young kids, a mortgage, and childcare which is a lot more than that mortgage, we could (and do) live off much less than that.
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MikeWillRetire
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by MikeWillRetire »

If you and your spouse both work, then neither of you may need to have a "high earner" career. Your combined salaries may suffice. Keep that in mind. Having a working spouse really pays off as you approach retirement, believe me.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by am »

Yes agree depends on where you live. Around my midwest surburb with greatschools scores of 9-10/10, an inhabitable 3 bedroom probably starts around 350-400k. Tough to pull that off on 75k and live a half way decent life assuming no other income or help.
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by AZAttorney11 »

newbie001 wrote:I work in the estate planning field and my firm's clients are generally either physicians or, more commonly, small business owners. The business owners are often in industries that never struck me as being lucrative (e.g., scrap metal), but 300K is chump change to most of them. It's amazing how much wealth one can build by offering an in-demand good/service and then hiring people to do the grunt work.
Yes, those people are called associates :happy
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market timer
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by market timer »

I've had two high-income careers: the first in a role where performance was hard to measure, the second where it is much clearer. This switch was deliberate. Unless your value to the company is very clear, it is easy to find someone with a similar background to replace you, which limits your upside.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

My wife and I both stumbled into our careers, because it was what we enjoyed. I started programming after I decided grad school wasn't for me and convinced the manager of the programmers (at the company where I was employed as a clerk) that I knew how to code (based on a semester of coding Fortran). It turns out that I have a knack for telling a machine what to do. My best year I made >$400k, but it was 25 years ago; never matched that again, but I did well enough, until I became a SAHD, for which I'm even better suited, if I say so myself.

The point is that I didn't look to see where income was good and choose to work there. It just happened.
Last edited by TomatoTomahto on Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
sawhorse
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by sawhorse »

There are no non-physician professions where you can count on making >$300k every year for several decades.

The reliable > $300k salaries only apply to certain specialties. The salary imbalance between different specialties is enormous and cannot be fully, or even mostly, explained by rigor, training, or hours. It depends a lot on the politics within the AMA and the Medicare reimbursement committee.

There are many fields where there exist people who make much more than $300k, but at least one of the following is true: i) You can't count on that salary every year for decades . Investment bankers and corporate lawyers can make millions in a bull market, but they are subject to layoffs and/or salary reductions in bear markets. Professional athletes have short careers. ii) The highest earners earn a ton, but the median is much lower. Actors for instance. Lawyers too. iii) The highest earners risk, or at one point did risk, losing everything they had. Entrepreneurs for example.

Keep in mind that cost of living makes it hard to compare two salaries of equal amount. In addition, don't confuse cost of living with net worth, particularly the role of student debt.
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ClevrChico
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Re: High Earner Careers?

Post by ClevrChico »

A lot of it is being at the right place at the right time. I know a few people in this category, and they've honestly said luck played a big part.
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