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What are the differentiators between someone who makes $100,000 and someone who makes $30,000
June 27, 2009 6:50 PM   Subscribe

What are the differentiators that make one person capable of making $100,000+ per year while another one is only able to make $30,000 a year. Regardless of being an employee or a self-employed entrepreneur. How can I be a $100,000+ per year person?
posted by doppler68 to Work & Money (59 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
How can I be a $100,000+ per year person?

-- Highly sought-after, marketable skills in a field where $100,000 plus salaries are not uncommon. (Some fields, you simply cannot make that much, except at the pinnacle, after paying your dues for thirty years.)
-- Strong work ethic and drive.
-- Able to think constantly about work.
-- Not a clock-watcher (you don't head out the door right at five.
-- Constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve your skills, and new, more lucrative job opportunities.
posted by jayder at 6:55 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, some jobs only pay less than $100,000 per year. So choose a job that pays at least that salary.

Certainly, education, career field, the place you live, and other factors, generate a $100,000 income.

A corporate litigator and a public interest lawyer have the same education but only the former earns more than $100,000 per year.

Etc.
posted by dfriedman at 6:55 PM on June 27, 2009


Gain a skill for which someone is willing to pay you $100,000 a year and do a good job of marketing yourself to convince people that you're worth that much.

Lots of people make 6 figures, including plumbers, business managers, attorneys, high school principals, military officers, technicians, landlords, psychologists, and people in thousands of other professions. The common denominator is that they've figured out what they're good at that other people are willing to pay them to do.
posted by decathecting at 6:57 PM on June 27, 2009


A lot of it is by choice. People who get a teaching degree or a degree in social work are choosing to give up that potential $100K/ year for things that are more meaningful to them. Other people just want to make a lot of money and don't care what they do for work and orient all their effort into qualifying for a job or business that pays highly. Like my plumber, I'm pretty sure my plumber is a billionaire. I have seen his house and his wife drives a Mercedes. He's a good plumber but his real passion is raising tropical fish, which pays terrible so it's a hobby for him.

A few lucky people go into a career they love and end up making tons of money, but that's pretty rare. There are also total fuck ups who can't keep a job but again, that's pretty rare because there is usually some element of choice there as well.
posted by fshgrl at 6:58 PM on June 27, 2009


Be good at what you do.

Also, do something that people are willing to pay $100,000 a year for.
posted by ook at 7:05 PM on June 27, 2009


In general labor market supply and demand. Within a given field I would say sheer aggression: you have to aggressively master the job which means putting in long hours of arduous study (of the market, of the significant players, of the successful strategies, etc), and you have to aggressively market yourself and be able to build political capital. Earning obscene, unsustainable, and unethical salaries really is all about animalistic aggression. It also helps to enter the workforce during a bubble wrought by haphazard monetary policy. USA USA
posted by norabarnacl3 at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Take my dad's advice: The harder you work, the luckier you get.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:23 PM on June 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Largely, it's choice of profession. There are professions in which it is inevitable that you will make that much without being outstanding at the job. And like people have said above, there's many professions that can never command a six-figure salary.
posted by ignignokt at 7:25 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know anything about self-employment, but for the wage slave supply and demand of course: work in a field that pays decent money, and where people are scarce - or people at the level you can eventually offer are scarce.

But you also have to manage, think about and plan your career well over the years - don't just phone it in, jump employers when you have to, network well, ensure your successes aren't buried, be flexible, be responsible, take opportunities to develop your skills, be helpful to people both above and below you because what goes around comes around. Being located somewhere with a somewhat high cost of living probably helps too, as does working for good mentors.

I make $100k + and I'm neither a workoholic nor a particularly aggressive person. I've never even had a blackberry. I started at $30k in the same field nine years ago.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:32 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'd add being a good negotiator. There's no point in being an outstanding performer with the most currently marketable skills if you wuss out at annual review time :)
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:36 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you talking about people in the same career? I can't imagine that kind of gap in earning between peers in the same career.

So what differentiators exist between someone earning 100k and someone earning 30k? Career CHOICE is the main one I can think of, and second to that, career progression. For instance, you are a teacher, right? I would be surprised to learn that you earned 30k while a teacher in a different subject or different district was making 100k. A teacher with a masters degree will make more than one who doesn't have one. I think different specialties (special ed, perhaps?) earn a bit more money as well. Continuing your education and rising through the ranks as an administrator is probably a good way to increase your income. Without doing these things, you can be a 100k a year person, and still will be subject to the regular payscale.

If you're asking how to be a 100k a year person, to then earn 100k a year, I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. The majority of the jobs that pay 100+ are based on education and/or qualifications. If you're a sought after software engineer with experience and expertise in certain languages, you could be the most pathetic loser and you'd earn approximately the same as the equally qualified dynamo who was hired at the same time you were. For the majority of 100k+ positions, you have to be worth 100k on paper.

Then there is the small group of top earners who don't have fancy credentials, but they are amazing networkers, full of confidence, absolutely shameless when it comes to marketing/selling themselves and, did I mention full of confidence? Like bursting at the seams. Hungry, dedicated, exuding power. Donald trump types. These people are top real estate producers, b2b sales people, "consultants", motivational speakers, that sort of person. These types are 100k (actually several hundred K, to a million) or die types. If you are this type of person, you wouldn't need to ask. If you aren't this type of person, you probably won't ever be this type of person. This is not a something that can be trained (ironically, these motivational speakers make their 100k+ "training" people to become this type. Maybe it works sometimes, I haven't heard of it though).

Finally, and I wonder if this is not at the root of your question, MLM earnings. How do some people rise to the top and make a killing, while others are just hoping to make back their investment, some going bankrupt in the process. The difference between 100k and 30k in the MLM world is the difference between the types I described above, and everyone else. It's just like any other networking/shameless self promotion/abnormal drive to get the sale mentality position. On top of that, you have to be fortunate enough to have these types in your downline, or upline, or whatever it's called in MLM lingo. I've never been involved in MLMs, selling to people, recruiting people, imposing upon people, not my thing. I know some people who have been involved in various MLMs, all but one had various degrees of failure. The one person I did know who was a success did become district manager, but she was one of a kind. Sweet, genuine, caring, but a sales person like I've never seen. She'd set goals for herself and she'd do what it took to make them. She made a goal of selling the program, or at least the products, to at least one person everywhere she went. From the gas station, to the doctor's office, to the waitress at a cafe, to the teller at the bank, or the person behind her in line at the bank. If she wasn't inside her house, and she was anywhere where other people were, she was selling, and she cleaned up. She wasn't sleazy in the least, but she was aggressive. She was a top performer, she was an incredible motivator so the people under her were top performers, she was amazing. She was also a rarity in the MLM world. She was also a top b2b sales person before joining the MLM, and only joined after she retired. I forgot why she stopped doing the MLM, but when she did, she decided to go back to work, and worked as an outside sales rep. A year later, she was one of the company's top 5 sales reps in the nation.

As I said, she had the drive, the guts, the confidence and the people skills to be a sales machine. She also had something else that I can't help but believe was a key ingredient to her success: she was independently wealthy. She earned hundreds of thousands each year, and didn't need a cent. There was no stress, no desperation, she did it for a challenge, to stay busy. It's far easier to make money in sales, or be a success in general, when you don't have the additional stress of needing the money.

Most people lose everything, some also lose their sanity or souls, to MLMs, please stay away from them or any get-rich-quick scheme.
posted by necessitas at 7:43 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


A lot of it depends on the manner of your output as a worker, how much you can produce that is of value to your employer.

Software is great since the company can run off many thousands of copies of your work at a minimal cost, unlike eg. being a barrista, where the production process is all physical and limits the number of drinks you can make per hour. If you can make 60 drinks per hour and the boss is clearing $1/drink, you're not going to be making $60/hr!

So one's output is the maximum the employer is willing to pay, but the minimum depends on how hard the employer has to search for capable talent to perform this labor.

Here, software sorta sucks because there are 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians with computers now, and competing against third-world wages is tough to do here in the US, though off-shoring is sometimes a mixed-bag for the employer and there are still jobs to be had here. They key to being a happy computer professional is to do stuff the Indians can't (yet) learn out of an O'Reilly book.

All the other well-known $100K/yr jobs have barriers to entry. Prison guards and firefighters can make that but competition for the jobs is tough. Medical-related jobs can pay well but the competition is tough too.

Then there's nursing. Here, supply of workers does not exceed demand, so workers have some bargaining position and are generally well-paid. But of course the job is one of the toughest around.
posted by @troy at 7:52 PM on June 27, 2009


Given equal talent and willingness to work hard, it basically all comes down to what field you choose, and how the marketplace is currently rewarding that field.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on June 27, 2009


If you are this type of person, you wouldn't need to ask.

Sad, but true.

If you aren't this type of person, you probably won't ever be this type of person.

Also sad, but true.
posted by jayder at 7:55 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Personality matters a lot, as in having the kind of personality that makes people want to buy stuff from you, collaborate with you, trust your ideas, and give you opportunities.

I'm sure there are ways to intentionally cultivate this but I couldn't begin to give good advice on that.
posted by lakeroon at 7:58 PM on June 27, 2009


Lots of people make 6 figures, including plumbers, business managers, attorneys, high school principals, military officers, technicians, landlords, psychologists, and people in thousands of other professions.

I think it is an urban legend, universally believed by graduate-degree bearing yuppies, that plumbers make 6 figures. It may be theoretically possible, for the superstars and savviest of the savvy, but the common run of plumbers, the vast majority of them, are $30,000 a year folks.
posted by jayder at 8:00 PM on June 27, 2009


It's really not a "type" of person. There are total lazy-ass idiots making $100K plus, and there are brilliant people making <>
I'll reiterate that it's about choice of field, and after that, choice of company. If you want to make $100K or more, it's not about cultivating personal habits or any such thing, assuming you can hold a job, understand a work plan, and execute it. It's about choosing a field in which work generates enough revenue to remunerate you handsomely. It's about having the money as a primary priority in your professional choices, and disregarding things like whether the work interests you, or is mission-driven, or has outcomes you see as negative, or any other 'soft' value that falls outside of compensation.

Some fields pay high - not because they're harder to do, require more innate skill, or anything like that- but because they generate a lot of revenue and therefore distribute a lot of revenue. Nursing home administration, for instance - annoying management job, minutiae-oriented, but because high-end nursing homes take in tremendous revenue, they're able to pay out a lot in fees for good managers. Prisons might be similar. Financial and IT fields are similar.

This is just about going where the market has rewards.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Go to Harvard law school or medical school. Network. Don't drop out. Don't decide you don't really want to be a lawyer or doctor. Even if you are last in the class, you're still a Harvard lawyer or MD and if you don't change fields and don't decide to do something charitable or become a public defender or fuck up profoundly, the odds of you making less than that are slim.
posted by Maias at 8:21 PM on June 27, 2009


Earning over $100,000 depends on factors like years of education, type of education, what university you attended, years of experience, city where you live, in what part of the business cycle the economy was in when you first started, the hours you work, whether the industry you work in is expanding or in decline.

Check out the National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates from the Bureau of Labour statistics to get a sense of which jobs pay over $100,000. Also, see the job site called The ladders.com, it specialized in jobs paying over $100,000.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 8:27 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's about choosing a field in which work generates enough revenue to remunerate you handsomely.

Yes. This. Exactly. For example: once upon a time worked in a hugely interesting and rewarding job as an editor at a book publisher. Not a lot of people buy books = $24,000 salary. With the same experience and education, moved to being a copywriter at an advertising agency (not so interesting) writing copy for dishwashing detergent. A lot of people buy detergent = $90,000 salary.
posted by meerkatty at 8:46 PM on June 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Also, live somewhere expensive, where salaries have to be higher just because the cost of living is higher. Sure, you won't get as much out of that $100k as you might out of $50k in a small town but you'll get that $100k!
posted by mendel at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I went from $50K one year to $120K the next. I did it by contracting, and having multiple clients. For about half of my earnings, I relied on my reputation, past track record, and network of contacts (built up over three years) to land the contracts (a couple of research projects). For the other half, I relied on my ability to write really, really well, and my Japanese language ability (both had taken years to perfect).

I also worked my fucking ass off for about 6 months - 16 hour days, 7-day weeks.

Generally, the key is multiple income streams
posted by KokuRyu at 9:42 PM on June 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think the key is to "follow the money": find out where people are making money, and imitate them.

If you look at statistics on high income jobs, you will see that they are clustered amongst certain fields. Whereas a lucky plumber can make more than a litigation attorney, on average the attorney will make more. Try to use these distributions to your advantage as much as possible.
posted by gushn at 9:52 PM on June 27, 2009


I agree with KokuRyu, but another thing is to have people working for you. He says "16 hour days". That's a hard limit -- only 16 hours per day. If you have one other person working for you, they add another 8+ hours to that 16. Two people add another 16+ hours to that day. If you pay them $5 less than you bill your client, and there are 2 people helping you, then you make $10 every hour they work.

So, multiple streams of income while contracting for multiple clients. And, having other people share the work with you as sub-contracts.

Here's something to think about, though: The basic answer to your question is, people make as much money as their labor is valued by the greater society. (How much is this apple worth? Exactly as much as someone will pay for it.) So, what does it say about society's values, when you compare the average income of a lawyer or stock broker to the average income of an artist or teacher?
posted by Houstonian at 10:19 PM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


If you are this type of person, you wouldn't need to ask.
Sad, but true.
If you aren't this type of person, you probably won't ever be this type of person.
Also sad, but true


Nonsense. For a all we know the poster is 16 and deciding what to major in in college. Going from being a highschool student to $100+k in 10 years is fairly easy if you're smart and manage to get good grades. In some fields $100k probably wouldn't even require much effort.

You can also get to that level simply by plugging away at some company for decades, although that doesn't sound like much fun to me.

But I think if you plug away, study economics and computer science and become a wallstreeter or quant you can make that kind of money, or even add a zero.

There are plenty of $100k jobs out there, if you're smart and willing to dedicate your life to making that kind of money.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 PM on June 27, 2009


Why do you want to be a $100k-a-year person? Are you looking for a large disposable income? Do you want financial independence? Do you want to have a family and looking to be a single earner? These questions matter because they'll affect your long-term career choices far more than whether you end up in the type of job that pays $30k vs. $100k.

I originally had a goal of being a $100k+ person because I wanted to have a family and be able to support my wife and kids without needing my wife to take a job outside the home. In the last six months, I've realized that the money has very little to do with my goal -- I might be paying back my student loans for the next 25 years, but it looks like my wife and I and our son will be able to survive just fine on $35,000 a year. (And if we make more, well then that's just gravy.)

An interesting book I read that you might want to check out is The Millionaire Next Door. The book is basically a comparison of people with different goals and different lifestyles, and how they achieve their goals in life. The authors of the book found that people who are worth more than $1,000,000 are much more likely to be self-employed, much more likely to drive an old car than a new car, much more likely to be financially-savvy and more often then not, have a career where high consumption is not expected. That's why the plumber stereotype exists - perhaps most plumbers make closer to your $30k mark than the $100k one, but a plumber doesn't have to live in a fancy neighborhood or drive a nice car. They can actually save their money, and they probably don't have six figures in student loans like I do. Something to think about anyway, when you're making your career choices. The book's a good read, I highly recommend it.
posted by Happydaz at 11:52 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


>I think it is an urban legend, universally believed by graduate-degree bearing yuppies, that plumbers make 6 figures. It may be theoretically possible, for the superstars and savviest of the savvy, but the common run of plumbers, the vast majority of them, are $30,000 a year folks.

I don't think that the point was that all plumbers, or even most plumbers make that much. But some do, based on the factors that have been described here. Those who combine excellent work with a strong work ethic and a decent entrepreneurial bent will tend to become the owners of a plumbing company that employs several tradesmen, and that will often translate into

The bigger point is that what appears from the outside to be ordinary and dull work will often make lots of money for the right person in the right environment. One guy I used to know had made a tremendous amount of money before he retired and sold his company. He started out handling document destruction for businesses. He did well enough in that area until someone asked him about handling medical waste. He did a little investigation and found that there was a strong need. He branched out into this area and started making money hand over fist. Businesses will pay OK to have you securely destroy their documents. Hospitals will pay extremely well to have you safely handle their medical waste - if you do it right.

It is all about supply and demand. For another example of a field where people are happy to pay hugely for work done quickly and professionally, see http://is.gd/1gMAY. There are pivot points in people's lives where demand surges, and if you can supply the need, you can, er, clean up.
posted by megatherium at 2:25 AM on June 28, 2009


...often translate into the six-figure income.
posted by megatherium at 2:27 AM on June 28, 2009


In order to work in a job making $100K+, you have to:
1. Succeed in high school enough to be accepted into the course or qualifications which are a prerequisite for your chosen $100K job.
2. Be capable enough in your course to actually pass your exams and graduate with the qualification.
3. Finish with a good enough rank in your qualification to be hired by a firm which pays employees $100K+
4. Exceed the abilities of those around you at work sufficiently to be promoted into a role which pays $100K+

Fact is, many many people simply don't have the intellectual or emotional capability to do it. Or, they rationally don't want to invest the significant time required to pass these steps.

To join the $100K crowd, just follow the steps above! Problem is, they are sometimes easier said than done.
posted by dave99 at 3:59 AM on June 28, 2009


jamesonandwater: I make $100k + and I'm neither a workoholic nor a particularly aggressive person. I've never even had a blackberry. I started at $30k in the same field nine years ago.

And I guess you're not going to tell us what field that is, eh?

In any case, there are several ways to earn $100,000 a year guaranteed with no education and little experience. As people above have said, it's really all about the level of dedication you're willing to put into making that kind of money and the amount of hard work you're willing to do. Two examples:

(1) I have a friend who pulled down a contract job with Halliburton-KBR. These jobs are probably in decreasing supply, but if you have a college degree and you stick your foot in the door quick enough you can make $120,000 tax-free your first year. My friend worked in the Green Zone in Baghdad and then later in Kuwait, both places as a supply clerk, which meant that he never actually left the base and wasn't really in danger at all. He worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for four months; then, they gave him ten days off and an airline voucher so that he could fly anywhere in the world he wanted to go. He repeated this cycle for three years.

(2) I also have it on good authority that it's possible to earn $100,000 a year and more as a truck driver. To get into that bracket driving truck, however, you have to (a) train and (b) ‘slip seat.’ Training means you spend most, if not all, of your time with a random trainee who's been assigned to you to learn the ropes of trucking. ‘Slipping seat’ means you take the trucks they give you instead of driving your own. Both of these things earn bonuses; but the upshot is that you're in a different truck with a different person every 48 hours or so. Some people can do that sort of thing.

And in addition to those, there's the Alaskan Salmon and Crab industries.

The thing is, I'm not willing to work 12-hour days in some middle-eastern nation, and I'm also not willing to drive in strange vehicles with strange people every minute of every day. I'm also not willing to work more than a little less than 40 hours a week, and I don't really need money at all. I'm far happier with my $25,000 a year in the job I do.

The point of all this is: the biggest differentiatior between the $30k-salary person and the $100k-salary person is this: what field they're in. You might find $100k elementary-school teachers, but I sincerely doubt you'd find many. Whereas there are certain fields where that sort of thing is common: it used to be that if you were willing to spend 70-80 hours a week grinding away at a telephone and making careful but fast-paced number crunches, you could make that and more at an investment bank; those jobs are gone now that investment banks don't really exist anymore, but that was a field where that worked, and the people who went into that field were the people who were willing to make the sacrifice to do so.

In other words, the root of that differentiation between $30k-salary people and $100k-salary people is generally what they're willing to give up and what they're willing to sacrifice for the money. If you really want to earn $100k a year, you have to determine what that's worth to you and make the necessary sacrifices.

It's not really worth it to me, but your mileage may vary.
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 AM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


decathecting: Lots of people make 6 figures, including plumbers, business managers, attorneys, high school principals, military officers, technicians, landlords, psychologists, and people in thousands of other professions. The common denominator is that they've figured out what they're good at that other people are willing to pay them to do.

jayder: I think it is an urban legend, universally believed by graduate-degree bearing yuppies, that plumbers make 6 figures. It may be theoretically possible, for the superstars and savviest of the savvy, but the common run of plumbers, the vast majority of them, are $30,000 a year folks.

megatherium: I don't think that the point was that all plumbers, or even most plumbers make that much. But some do, based on the factors that have been described here. Those who combine excellent work with a strong work ethic and a decent entrepreneurial bent will tend to become the owners of a plumbing company that employs several tradesmen, and that will often translate into the six-figure income…

Frankly, I think the salient point that everyone appears to be missing is this: the plumber with a six-figure salary didn't get there through simple hard work, dedication, savviness, skill, or ‘superstardom;’ he got there largely through luck. I know for a fact that most markets won't support a plumber that makes that much; hell, a lot of the franchising home-improvement companies are going bankrupt right now because the dramatic dive in homebuilding has flooded the market with guys who normally would be doing new builds but now find themselves forced to do maintenance and repair work. To be making that much in the industry at this moment in time, to have missed the crash that really caused a lot of suffering amongst all realms of the construction and contracting fields, you would have to have been lucky enough to live in an area where the real-estate crunch wasn't as bad as it was in most places; you would have to have a job that isn't really as tied to the market as most; you would have to have found just the right niche to weather the storm from. Now, you can tell me all day long about ‘making your own luck’ and ‘dedication and perseverence means making more money,’ but I've met a lot of plumbers (I used to work in the industry in certification) who worked their asses off and still have no job now—what were they missing? To be truly dedicated, would we have had them researching real estate trends twenty years into the future and predicting market shifts that society's most brilliant economists seem to have missed?

A lot of us have opportunities. It's nice when we can take those opportunities; it's much better than simply letting them pass by. But I think a time is soon coming when, as in the days of the great depression, people learn that a large chunk of the money-making art is less how hard you work at it or how qualified you are and more just what cards are dealt to you in particular.
posted by koeselitz at 5:12 AM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


This person has asked several questions about MLMs. I think necessitas has it right.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:09 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add leverage to the advice.

Profitably sell the labor of other folks and increase the number of folks you do that with. That's how manufacturing works.

Ok, so there's enough implied above to write a book about, but it applies in accounting, engineering, pizza shops, etc.

I'd also like to add the general statement that income is seldom free. You have to give up something. Free time is usually the biggest casualty. How much is that worth to you?

Personally, I'm more invested in 'right livelihood' than income, but that's because I conciously decided a while back that while I have always made a fair amount of money (100k for the first time in the early 90's), I never wanted to be that guy whose entire life was money centric. I could retire on what I've given away over the years, and certainly on the 'opportunities' I've turned down. Life is awfully short to spend excessive amounts on income when there's life, friends, love, curiosity, music, reading, inventing, helping, etc. to do.

Balance applies to more than one's checkbook.

(BTW... I do recommend technical fields... engineering particularly... pick your discipline well.)
posted by FauxScot at 6:37 AM on June 28, 2009


As a contrast to the Horatio Alger-type advice given above, I'll suggest that it doesn't hurt to be a tall, white male.
It also doesn't hurt to be the lazy-ass son of a landscaping daddy (or other profession) who's so besotted with his male kiddies that he puts "Tillman & Sons" on the side of his truck.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


when there's life, friends, love, curiosity, music, reading, inventing, helping, etc. to do.

The people most likely to earn six figures or more, probably consider their jobs to include these things. Someone earning a huge income is less likely to think of their job as drudgery, than a wage slave making $30K, who can't wait to leave at 5 p.m. sharp.
posted by jayder at 7:00 AM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I guess you're not going to tell us what field that is, eh?

I'm a quantity surveyor in T/oronto.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:01 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree with KokuRyu, but another thing is to have people working for you.

Exactly, I totally agree.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2009


I have family members who earn well over 100K, into the 500k region. They have friends who do the same. Never in my life have I met people who are more miserable and helpless and dull. I think a lot of the qualities that make them "moneymakers"- WIlling to stay until 10/11 every night, disregard for the moral/ethical implications of their actions, a 100% laser focus on their "career"- lead them to be broadly miserable in anything that's not the pursuit of wealth.

Of course, that's not true for everyone. But the quickest path to that kind of wealth is- well, was - something like Investment Banking of Real Estate etc etc. Union Work in a big city will also get you up there. NYC Plumbers and Elevator Repair dudes make obscene amounts of money, as do truck drivers. But do you really want those careers?

I'd rather make the 30k I make now and have time to spend with my wife and my hobbies than make 100k and be at the office until 10 every night.

Which is to say, there are probably lots of ways to get up to 100k, not all of them have the exact result I think you're looking for.
posted by GilloD at 7:56 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Find a career that generally pays pretty well, and live in a high cost of living area where that career is valued, as mendel said above. Sure, that 100K won't take you as far as less would in a smaller area, but you will find it much easier to cross that boundary. I would also say that you will find it somewhat easier to go much higher than that boundary. If you live in a place where many middle-level people in your chosen career get paid 100K, and you work hard and are talented at your job, you will probably make well more than 100K. That has certainly been my observation living in NYC.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:26 AM on June 28, 2009


Barbara Ehrenreich, a reporter for a well known highbrow magazine took the challenge of working in some of the lowest paid (legal) jobs in the country. One thing that struck her as interesting was that nobody ever said "what the heck are you doing here? You're too smart to be here."

A famous business coach once put two ads out for the same job - one for $50,000 and the other for $150,000. Other than the salary, the job description was the same. He got dozens of responses for the $50,000 version, and very few for the $150,000 version.

After the whole Elliot Spitzer/Ashley Dupre thing, I saw a TV special about high priced prostitutes & the woman being interviewed said that the difference between a $200/hr prostitute and a $5,000/hr prostitute is the ability to look someone straight in the eye and say "I'm worth $5,000/hr" and believe it.

Moral of the story: Believe you're worth it.
posted by MesoFilter at 8:45 AM on June 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


Some of the answers here are really odd. I do not understand the repeated suggestions that this is doable without education and choosing a professional career. Maybe it is, but doable for 1% of the people in that field is completely different from doable for 80+%. Go for the 80%, which means choosing the right major.

$100,000 is not hard to obtain at all in certain areas, meaning both career sectors and geographical locations. Once you're in your mid 30s, if you're friends are mostly white collar professionals they will average close to or more than $100k a year.

Tech, for example. There are techwriters making $115k to $125k in the valley, though they average far lower ($80k+). Software engineers make from $60k (recent graduates with bachelors) to over $200k (once you factor in their grade level bonus), for anyone with more than a few years experience they are going to be over $100k if they are not doing something trivial like website development.

The guys who live on the east coast make substantially less, but their cost of living is far lower (especially once homebuying is a factor -- houses in the valley are still selling for 2x their 2003 prices despite a big decline).

Money is not the end-all for a career. People making the most tend to find themselves pigeonholed pretty quickly, so even though they liked their focus at one time, and are very well compensated for their work, they find themselves stuck doing the same thing, over and over, for a decade.
posted by rr at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, the question is about a number, but that number is entirely arbitrary and doesn't bear on quality of life.
I'm sure there are jobs that pay $100k in NYC that would only pay $40k in Peoria, but the guy in Peoria can afford a nearby house with a yard but the guy in NYC is in a one bedroom apartment. So if living space and a yard and a car etc matter to you, the guy making $40k could be working as hard at the same job and making less money, but be subjectively richer.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2009


Dangerous work sometimes pays well. If you stay alive and resist the temptation to throw away all your money that first weekend back in civilization, wildcatting or deep-sea trawling or drug dealing can pay handsomely. The skills you learn are the sort that will keep you alive out there, and any of the more sociopathic tendencies you pick up will help if you ever decide to make the switch to the workaday world. If you can picture humanity as just so many lumps of meat, you're halfway there already.

There are plenty of low-paying dangerous jobs, and plenty of high-paying ones that have all-or-nothing contracts; mind you don't work your ass off four five months just to fall victim to an "accident" that leaves you unable to complete your end of the deal. Good luck, and watch your back!
posted by breezeway at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2009


I'm also surprised by all the "hard work and dedication" style answers. A friend of my mother's is an illustrator, very talented, extremely hard-working, but her main problem is she always offers overly reasonable prices for her work. She works her ass off basically to pay the bills, and does great work, and she gets hired back because she delivers, but she is too fair-minded, perhaps too meek, to demand more money. In a way she doesn't realize that her talent is special, because it comes easily enough to her, so she'll do a whole series of illustrations for a textbook or something where each one ends up paying her like 50 cents (but it's worth it because there's a thousand of them in the book and each one only take a few minutes).

But then I have a friend who works as a graphic designer who will charge thousands of dollars for pretty simple work. When I worked as a graphic designer I was always amazed how much he was charging freelance clients because I was working through temp agencies for an hourly wage, and getting what i thought was a pretty decent rate, but nothing like what he could pull off by doing it from home on a per project basis. The difference was he was willing to find the clients, invest in the original portfolio, business cards, suit / etc so he could walk in and convince them he was worth that much. He either finds clients who want to feel Important and make him feel accountable by spending real money on the project, or just mammoth companies who won't even notice the price - under five figures, whatever.

I've seen this with other areas of work too - some organizations can pay and some can't. Some organizations like to spend money and some don't. If you're in a certain tier, people don't blink at some numbers, whereas when you're in another they don't believe it's possible. You want to normalize yourself among folks who just make that kind of money. You work at an oil company, and making less than 100K would almost be weird. Go into, lumber, say, and you have a different environment. If you're doing something with multiple clients, know what kind of clients to have, if you want them to spend big.
posted by mdn at 9:30 AM on June 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


The differentiator is risk aversion. If you have two people with equivalent skills and one is making $30k and the other $100k, some of it may be luck and/or market forces, but it's far more likely that the $100k person took risks the $30k person was unwilling to take. Perhaps $100k got a credential that proved valuable but had a significant opportunity cost. Maybe $100k switched jobs or even career fields to make more money. The risks may not be financial -- $100k may have a job that has made him or her a pariah in his or her social circle.

If you make $30k and wonder why you aren't making $100k, ask yourself what you would do if someone offered you an equivalent job tomorrow that pays $100k with the caveat that, of the people that are hired for the job, two-thirds are fired at the end of a year. Would you take the job?

(Which may be another way of stating MesoFilter's point -- it's a lot easier to accept that job if you believe you're a bargain at $100k.)
posted by backupjesus at 9:36 AM on June 28, 2009


GilloD said: I think a lot of the qualities that make them "moneymakers"- WIlling to stay until 10/11 every night, disregard for the moral/ethical implications of their actions, a 100% laser focus on their "career"- lead them to be broadly miserable in anything that's not the pursuit of wealth.

***

I'd rather make the 30k I make now and have time to spend with my wife and my hobbies than make 100k and be at the office until 10 every night.


But there are factors that your simplistic contrast ignores:

(1) A lot of these people with laser-like focus on their careers actually really enjoy what they do, and so are more fulfilled than the poor schlubs who see jobs as a necessary evil and slink home after work to putter around with their hobbies. Their lives may look boring to you, but you're not the one doing their work.

(2) Even if these "moneymakers" you disdain are not enjoying the present moment as much as you are, there's a decent chance that their hard work is directed toward saving money for retirement and/or providing security for their families. It's actually a mature, admirable thing to defer gratification.
posted by jayder at 11:20 AM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was a tech writer in the SF Bay Area and earned on average between $70k-$90K excluding stock. I took some time off. The next job I took that involved writing paid close to $200K, had much shorter hours, and was relatively much less stressful. It was for a bank. They have all the money (usually), and can afford to spread it around (exceptional circumstances excepted). They also have better free food. The plumbing industry? Not so much.
posted by meehawl at 12:10 PM on June 28, 2009


As children we are taught the hard-work = success equation, and it's interesting to see how many responses echo this sentiment. Of course, we all know that we don't live in a meritocracy. Few would argue against the adage: "It's not what you know, it's who you know". And does anyone think the person supervising the ditch digging is a harder worker than those with the shovels?

Those economically-minded argue that the people are paid according to the value they add. A nice idea, and possibly true that we lived in a perfectly rational world. We don't. Look at the salaries and bonuses taken by auto and financial people who destroyed billions of dollars of value. Clearly, people are rewarded arbitrarily and independently of any "value" they create.

But, the OP asked for the difference between people who made $30k and $100k. The answers that spoke to having a high sense of self-worth and confidence ring the truest to my experiences. I have worked on a variety of freelance projects over the years, and when I was self-doubting how much value I was adding and I would bid low and (surprise!) ended up working for less money. This became a negative feedback cycle. Word gets out that you are cheap and you help make projects with questionable upside viable. It took me a while to realize I was in this trap. I had to fire a few clients, and learn to say "no" to begin to pull out of it.

To become a $100k person, you have to believe that you are worth it. And you have to be able to sell that idea to other people. It's easier if you have hard skills, but you can always hire people with lower self-esteem (or who believe that hard work = success) who possess those skills.

This idea makes me a bit sad (i would prefer a meritocracy), so I'd love to be corrected.
posted by kamelhoecker at 12:45 PM on June 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you are into IT, especially programming or a related job, it's easy to make > $100,000 if you move from being an employee to being a "consultant" (aka hourly contract employee).
posted by blue_beetle at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2009


jayder: A lot of these people with laser-like focus on their careers actually really enjoy what they do, and so are more fulfilled than the poor schlubs who see jobs as a necessary evil and slink home after work to putter around with their hobbies. Their lives may look boring to you, but you're not the one doing their work...Even if these "moneymakers" you disdain are not enjoying the present moment as much as you are, there's a decent chance that their hard work is directed toward saving money for retirement and/or providing security for their families. It's actually a mature, admirable thing to defer gratification.

This is an interesting question. We don't think often enough anymore about what it means for each of us to choose the best ways to live; we do indeed have more choice in this matter than ever before, but we are hardly ever encouraged to think about what this means. A small point at the outset: I don't think it helps anybody to deride either people who love their hobbies more than their jobs or people who love their jobs more than their hobbies; neither group is necessarily made up of 'poor schlubs' or people who are 'miserable and helpless and dull.' This subject is for every one of us wrapped up in our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and disappointments; as such, it's likely to inspire some strong emotions, but we have to try to avoid those when attempting to discover the best path.

Now, I think it's interesting to point out that this is certainly not a new subject. If anyone would like to read a very good consideration of these issues, one was written about two and a half millennia ago by one of the great philosophers, Xenophon. It's a dialogue--that is, a conversation, in this case between Socrates and Critoboulos--entitled Oeconomicus. That's the Greek word for 'household management,' and it's where we get our word 'economics.'

In the dialogue, Socrates begins by wondering, among other things, what wealth is. This is important; it's easy to focus on money above all whereas money is actually for the sake of something else, but it's just as easy to dismiss money as though it didn't matter as much as it actually does. (This is a simplistic and very basic explanation of the dialogue; I highly recommend it, as it's not difficult or complex reading and as it is very rewarding.)

The crux of the discussion, I think, though it's not mentioned, is this: while Critoboulos is asking Socrates to tell him how he can be a household manager who increases his wealth, Socrates is in an interesting position; for Socrates is a person who has deliberately chosen not to increase his monetary wealth. He does not deride those who do, however, and lays out a course of action for the careful and thoughtful management of the household based on advice that Socrates got from another person who he claims is an expert in such things. Socrates chose something between 'middle-class life' and poverty; he had many friends, and enjoyed their hospitality, but he made no secret of the fact that he was not ashamed to depend for his livelihood in large part upon other people and their kindness. His pursuit was spending time in the city square discussing matters large and small with people of all kinds; he sought wisdom, and didn't feel as though he was being lazy in making that central to his life and leaving aside as much as he could the habits most people associate with being 'hard-working' and 'responsible.'

The interesting point is that Xenophon was most certainly not like this. He was a military hero, first of all; and, when he returned from the wars, he retired to his ranch and subsisted there for the rest of his life, breaking horses and working the land and, of course, writing as well. But Xenophon, though he was different from Socrates, clearly recognized something significant in him, and wrote about both paths in life with openness and clear-headed thoughtfulness, and without bias.

One of the lessons here, I think, is that in matters of practicality all of us have to make the best of what we're presented with. I have a friend, for example, who is a brilliant artist; he can draw a single line with a pencil that expresses deep beauty to me, much like Picasso could. But he works in a library for little money and depends almost solely for his living (in San Francisco--not cheap!) on his wife's very busy (50-60 hours per week) job at a non-profit educational institution. This is not to say that as a man he should be making more money--I think that's clearly sexist--but the fact remains that many men in that situation would feel some shame, as though they were being irresponsible. But both of them are quite fulfilled; he knows very well that the job he has isn't a lifelong career, and certainly isn't his central pursuit, but merely supplements their income, while she feels as though she's doing something that really fulfills her, and this stimulation is very rewarding to her.

There is a very common myth nowadays gaining popularity: it is the myth that we have absolute control over our lives, and can have anything if we only wish for it enough or work for it enough. It has an air of nobility about it, this myth; it would seem to encourage responsibility and diligence, as it promises us attainable success in whatever we wish. In recent years this myth has taken on more pernicious and silly forms (the popularity of the film 'The Secret' is what I'm thinking of chiefly) but it is certainly not new. However, it's still a myth; we don't have absolute control over our lives, there are unknown factors which we can't possibly predict. The forces with which we come in contact--call them 'the gods' or 'fate' or 'luck' or 'the laws of nature,' the end result is the same--shape our lives in ways which are certainly beyond our control.

(It is easier, incidentally, for the parents of starving children in a ramshackle village in Burundi to see that fate has a lot of control over our lives, just as it's easier for parents of healthy children in the United States to believe that they are in control and can through hard work accomplish just about anything. That's why we're generally taught this as we're growing up.)

To put it simply: some people are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity and intelligent enough to seize it, and thus are able to do what the love and what they are dedicated to as a life pursuit and get paid enough to make their living that way. Some people are even able to do this and make a larger amount of money. Whereas other people are not that lucky; though it's hard to call anybody in the United States 'unlucky,' and those people generally just choose a job to which they are suited and must pursue their higher goals on their own time.

Theoretically, it seems to me less and less likely that a career that earns 100k per year could be identical to a person's life pursuit; at that point, I believe most people are making that mostly in order to spend it elsewhere. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that; it's the way most of us must live. But what I worry is that today there seem to be more and more people who don't even think about what they really want out of life anyhow; they're too busy working and earning money to have contemplated something like that and worked it out. But, of course, there are probably people at that level who do indeed have the time and the inclination to examine who they are and what they want to do; it only seems to me that you should make that decision before you choose a career rather than after.
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on June 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm also surprised by all the "hard work and dedication" style answers.

The formula for most self-help books is "work hard and pray" and that's just flat out wrong.

The formula for success is to a) believe you're worth it, b) convince other people you're worth it.

For more, read Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer.
posted by MesoFilter at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great comment, koeselitz. And to be clear, my reference to "poor schlubs" and "hobbies" was somewhat tongue-in-cheek and meant to provide a bit of rhetorical flourish in countering the view that people who work long hours and make a lot of money are morally deficient or vacuous.

You say: But what I worry is that today there seem to be more and more people who don't even think about what they really want out of life anyhow; they're too busy working and earning money to have contemplated something like that and worked it out.

I don't know why this worries you. I think getting up every morning, going to work, and coming home to one's family, can be a perfectly admirable life project, without ever contemplating or working out what one "really wants out of life."
posted by jayder at 1:34 PM on June 28, 2009



(1) A lot of these people with laser-like focus on their careers actually really enjoy what they do, and so are more fulfilled than the poor schlubs who see jobs as a necessary evil and slink home after work to putter around with their hobbies. Their lives may look boring to you, but you're not the one doing their work.


But I don't think they do. Or, at least, they don't claim to. The 500K guy hates his job. But he's wrapped up in a culture that values people who make a lot of money and so he's trapped in it. He actually feels poor next to a lot of his friends, his drive comes not from work but from the desire to maintain his status.

As much as it's unfair for me to suggest that all rich people == unhappy, it's equally simplistic to suggest that they're somehow deeply fulfilled by their work simply because they're focused. I agree that a lot of "schlubs" also hate their jobs, but then this becomes a discussion about labor in a capital society.


(2) Even if these "moneymakers" you disdain are not enjoying the present moment as much as you are, there's a decent chance that their hard work is directed toward saving money for retirement and/or providing security for their families. It's actually a mature, admirable thing to defer gratification.

Agreed. But I can tell you from firsthand experience that they're not working because they can retire early. They're working because if they don't have as much money as they used to, people stop calling them. This happens, I've seen it. And it's stressful for them.

I think what I'm getting at is this: Some people make a lot of money by finding something they love an zeroing in on it. Other people make a lot of money because they're willing to just brute force the work and sacrifice their "life" to get to the top. You could do that. But it comes at a huge cost.

I don't mean to be mean, but I know lots of creative, talented, hardworking people who can barely come up with the rent. On the other hand, I know lots of rich people who absolute dullards. I'm not saying it's EITHER/OR, there's a lot of gray in there, but "HARD WORK" != "Success", always. Necessary and sufficient conditions, etc.
posted by GilloD at 1:41 PM on June 28, 2009


Delmoi, That is not the scenario, the OP is not 16, not in high school and not trying to select a major (not for a first degree, at least). Read the OP's history. He's a grade school teacher (music, iirc) with MLM leanings.

While we don't know for sure that he is asking for himself, I made the assumption it was for him. Using the previous MLM questions for context, I felt that it was valid to point out that for those sorts of money making schemes (and asking why some people make a bundle and others not so much isn't an unreasonable question for someone interested in that sort of "business" option), that you're either the sort of person who gravitates toward that because you already possess the million dollar mentality, or you're the sort of person who gravitates toward that because you either are desperate for side money and/or a get-rich-quick option. To some extent, sales skills can be learned, so long as the function doesn't run contrary to their personality. But MLM is a whole other ball game.

So, with that in mind, I felt that it was best to address the generalities of why some people are 100k earners and some are 30k earners, and the specifics of how/why in industries already mentioned by the OP previously (education and MLM).
posted by necessitas at 3:15 PM on June 28, 2009


... it was valid to point out that for those sorts of money making schemes ... that you're either the sort of person who gravitates toward that because you already possess the million dollar mentality, or ... you ... are desperate for side money and/or a get-rich-quick option.

Exactly right. The answers supplied in this thread are pretty self-evident; what functioning adult does not know that some careers pay high salaries and some don't? So for someone to come to Metafilter and ask, "what does it take to have a six figure mentality," is pretty strong evidence that the person asking the question is looking for a high income in a field that does not involve traditional, high-value marketable skills and hard work. In short, the question reeked of the MLM mentality.
posted by jayder at 3:46 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think we're making some assumptions with the MLM thing. It's just as likely -- since he doesn't say one way or the other -- that underlying this question and the previous ones about MLM is this: "I'm a teacher. I make very little money. I'd like to branch out into something, anything, that will make quite a bit more than I make now. If MLM is not the answer, what careers/methods/skills/personality traits/etc. would get me there?"
posted by Houstonian at 4:41 PM on June 28, 2009


Houstonian, that would be a reasonable question, but that's not the one he asked. He asked what are the differentiators between 100k and 30k people, unrelated to careers, etc., how does someone become a 100k person. That's not a question about the job skills that will get him there.

He has asked about MLMs, and whether he could possibly rise to the 5k per week, mercedes-driving VP-in-the-MLM-biz position w/in 9 months, he has mentioned inspiration from books like the 4 hour work week, he has asked about suggestions for being self-employed in the music industry, and now he's asked this question, providing absolutely no context whatsoever, the only way to get context is by past questions. Just reality.

Answering it: do you really think there's an adult, or even a teenager, out there who doesn't know that what you earn is based on at least one, if not all of the following: ability, credentials, experience, network, work ethic, industry, luck? Outside of those realities, all you're left with is personality traits. Those who make fat stacks of cash based on personality alone are either sharks (who would consider earning only 100k the same as earning 30k, 100k would be unacceptable to them), or sleazeballs, like the self-help guru he asked about in a previous question.

The fact is, not everybody can make it big, or make it at all, in a career based on self promotion (this would include motivational speakers and MLM sales people, and actual legit careers like consultants, some freelancers and even the music careers he asked about). It requires confidence, belief and determination out the wazoo. It also requires a high level of resourcefulness. Some people have it and some people don't. The person who has all of these untapped skills does not come to askme to ask an non-specific question about why, regardless of career, some people make a lot and some people make only a little. There's no shame in not having those qualities. There's also nothing wrong with pointing out when someone might not have those qualities. If all signs point to certain career interests, is it not more realistic to dissuade someone from setting their sights on such things?

If the OP gave us more to work with, what he was willing to do, what he wasn't willing to do, if he is willing to go back to school, is he willing to move to an area that would support his dream career. Hell, he could have even asked which CAREERS earned the most in his region, and then next week, he could have asked how someone with his background could transition into one of the previously suggested careers. The OP specifically asked how to make 100k without taking career into consideration. Do you know many people who earn 100k because they want to earn 100k, not because they deserve to? If all it took to make 100k was just the ability to be a "100k person" and all it took to be a "100k person" was to get some personality trait tips from strangers on the internet, there would be far fewer people losing their homes to foreclosure (just an example).

You suggested a reasonable question, and I suggest that the OP consider asking that question next week. But that's not the question he asked this week. I offered my opinions based on the contextless question he asked this week, and based on context gathered through his history. Keep in mind that my opinions are just that: my opinions. They will not determine whether or not the OP is successful and they will not prevent the OP from doing whatever it is that he's planning to do anyway.
posted by necessitas at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2009


Be born to the right people and thus have networks that allow you to make that kind of money. That is the main way 90% of the world does it.
posted by tarvuz at 7:40 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Be born to the right people and thus have networks that allow you to make that kind of money.

You can build those networks, you don't have to be born into them. But, again, you have to believe that the rich aren't necessarily "better" than you.

Paul Fussel in his book Class says that the poor don't don't care what people think of them & the rich don't care what people think of them, but the so-called middle class spends inordinate amounts of energy trying to appear to be upper class, and in desperate fear that you can see right through them to their working class roots.

That's a lot of social conditioning to overcome.

I've heard (perhaps true, perhaps not) stories of Africans that arrive from Africa setting up successful small businesses in the United States, especially New York, and doing much better than the "African Americans" who've been here for centuries. The African American community has mixed feelings on this - on the one hand they're a great example of what can be done to overcome oppression; on the other hand, they're proof that the oppression they feel may be in their own heads.

The fact that you say you have to be born into money is pretty much proof that you think some people are just born better than others, or with more opportunities. That may be partially true, but it's really not difficult to start getting invited to society parties. As a native New Yorker & someone that's peripherally involved with the movers and shakers of the city, I see it all the time. Someone who's just like me in terms of background & opportunity starts networking their ass off, starts working for & with the right people, and eventually become a mover-and-shaker themselves.

The bottom line for most business people is - can you deliver. Can you help me to make money & if you can do that, then you'll build your network like wildfire (provided you start going to the right parties, talking to the right people & promoting yourself as someone worth more than $100k - regardless of your birth rank).
posted by MesoFilter at 8:10 PM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


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