How Much Money Does the Average American Make a Year by Age?

magnifying glass on dollar bill

The typical American earns about $45,000 a year, but salaries vary considerably by age. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Ever wondered how your salary measures up to that of your peers? The typical full-time worker in the United States earns a median of $865 a week, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s equivalent to a yearly salary of $44,980, assuming 52 weeks of paid work a year.

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story though. For one, the BLS data only include pre-tax earnings from full-time workers. People who work part-time aren’t counted, nor are those whose income comes from a source such as Social Security.

Plus, earnings rise and fall throughout a person’s life, which means it can be more instructive to compare yourself to people who are roughly the same age as you. The government has those numbers, too, which means you can see just how far ahead (or behind) you are compared to everyone else. Gauge your progress by checking out this breakdown of the typical American’s salary by age.

Ages 16 to 19

  • Median weekly earnings: $426
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $22,152

Only about 1 million teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are working full time, according to the BLS. Those who do have regular jobs earn a median weekly wage of $426, equivalent to $22,152 a year. That number is fairly low, which isn’t too surprising.

Workers in this age group are unlikely to have a college degree, which significantly boosts earnings, and some might not have graduated from high school. If these workers stay in or return to school, they can expect to see their wages climb later on. The median weekly earnings for a worker with a bachelor’s degree are $1,156, compared to $692 for someone whose education stopped after high school.

Ages 20 to 24

waitress with plates

A waitress serves food. | iStock.com

  • Median weekly earnings: $528
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $27,456

The 8.46 million full-time workers in the 20-to-24 age group earn $528 per week, or $27,456 a year. Men earn a median of $578 a week, while women earn $502.

If you’re in this age group, it’s time to get serious about your long-term career strategy, noted Fast Company. Start identifying your passions and talents, and think about how you can apply them to a career. That will position you to start making the income leaps that often come in the next couple of decades.

You’ll also want to avoid common money mistakes young people make, such as choosing the wrong career path, spending way too much on college, and running up debt buying stuff you don’t need.

Ages 25 to 34

woman walking and carrying a briefcase

A young woman is on her way to work. | iStock.com/diego_cervo

  • Median weekly earnings: $778
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $40,456

People in their late 20s and early 30s earn significantly more than workers in their early 20s — a median of $778 a week, or about $40,000 a year.

By this point in your life, you’re hopefully settling into some kind of rhythm with your career. During these years, many workers start moving from entry-level jobs to mid-level and senior positions, boosting their salary along the way. As earnings climb, you should be able to move from just-getting-by mode to focusing on reaching important money goals, such as buying a house or investing for retirement.

Ages 35 to 44

A man works on his laptop.

A man works on his laptop. | iStock.com/warrengoldswain

  • Median weekly earnings: $947
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $49,244

There’s another big jump in earnings for workers in their late 30s and early 40s, when the median weekly wage rises to $947. If you haven’t already, now is the time when you need to get serious about financial and retirement planning.

You also need to keep an eye on your budget. As your salary goes up, it’s easy to let your spending increase with it. That’s normal, but you should be careful not to fall into a “keeping up with the Joneses” trap at this stage in life. Such a move can wreak havoc on your financial future if you’re not careful.

Ages 45 to 54

middle-aged man working on a computer

Your 40s are the time to get your finances in order, if you haven’t already. | iStock.com

  • Median weekly earnings: $1,001
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $52,052

The typical American’s earnings peak in their late 40s and early 50s. The median weekly wage for people in the 45-to-54 age group is $1,001, or about $52,000 a year. This is also the period when the age gap between male and female workers is the largest. Men in their late 40s and early 50s earn a median of $1,141 a week. Women are earning more than ever, too, but at $863 a week, their median wage is $278 less than the average man’s.

At this stage, you’re probably starting to think seriously about retirement. Now is the time to start meeting with a financial planner (if you haven’t already) and mapping out a retirement strategy. If you’re like a lot of Americans you might find you’re not where you want to be when it comes to your savings, but don’t panic. You still have some time to catch up.

Ages 55 to 64

businessman smiling

By your mid-50s, you should be thinking seriously about retirement. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

  • Median weekly earnings: $962
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $50,024

Earnings start to slide once a person reaches their late 50s and early 60s, declining to $962 a week. If your wages are starting to slip as you get older, it’s all the more important to protect what you already have. Older workers should have an adequate emergency fund and keep a close eye on their company’s financial health because they are often vulnerable to layoffs, financial experts surveyed by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors said.

You should also make sure your investments are tax-efficient, review your estate planning documents, and plan for any major financial expenses that could arise in the next few years. Consider caring for an aging family member or paying for a child’s wedding.

Age 65 and older

older woman teaching

Not everyone gives up their career when they reach retirement age. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

  • Median weekly earnings: $900
  • Equivalent yearly earnings: $46,800

Relatively few Americans are still working after age 65. The 4.23 million who are still drawing full-time paychecks earn a median of $900 a week. Some of these older workers are still clocking in every day for financial reasons because a delayed retirement means they can save more money and leave their nest egg untouched for longer, noted The New York Times.

Some might not have any retirement savings at all beyond meager Social Security payments, so not working is not an option. But others are working because they want to. They like their jobs and find the traditional idea of retirement less than appealing.

Sticking with your job can have other benefits, as well. People who worked past age 65 had an 11% lower risk of death than people who retired earlier, a study by researchers at Oregon State University found. Another study found people over age 65 who worked were healthier than those who were unemployed.

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