$100K Illusion: Why Does It Seem Like Everyone Else Is Raking in 6 Figures?

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There is a facade that a considerable percentage of Americans are making more than $100k. One way this is propagated is the now popular street interviews where a vast percentage of the interviewees reveal earning six figures after being in their industry for just a few years.

Let’s be honest, this trend where everyone seems to be making big money can be stressful for people who have been in their industry for ages but still make way less than $100k. 

What’s the Norm Nowadays

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One good example is a social media user who has been working for ages, is happy with his job, and went to a top world-ranked university but makes $66K. They reveal that they are not married and have no kids, but they live from paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes they go into the negatives. 

Is $100k the norm, or is the original poster just living on the undesirable side of the spectrum? Read on for what social media users had to say about this topic. 

1. Numbers Don’t Lie: The Cold, Hard Truth

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While it may seem like everyone around you is making big money moves, the statistics may say otherwise. 

One commenter revealed how most of the population lived from paycheck to paycheck. They said, “64% of Americans are two missed paychecks away from disaster.”

Looks so bad? It is even much worse, according to another commenter. They disclosed, “This statistic is from pre-covid inflation – the reality is so much more horrifying.”

If you are trapped in the fear of being the only one making less than six figures, the real figures may offer you some needed consolation to escape the perfectionism facade.

2. Bound by Circumstances: When Taking Sick Days Is Never an Option

If you be sick, your own thoughts make you sick
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When many people complain about grocery bills and rent inflation, another major issue is those who cannot afford to get sick leave days. 

“I’m lucky to have a job that offers insurance; my younger brother works a job that does not offer it and told me he can’t call out sick or go to the doctor because of the pay he would lose and the cost of the medical bills. Poor guy barely breaks even every month and works his **s off in the kitchen. It’s not fair.”

Being aware that you have to live as frugally as possible to stretch your balances to the end month is one thing, but accepting that you cannot afford healthcare despite working all day is one horrifying thing to live with. 

3. This Is How Close People Are to the Cliff’s Edge

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A section of commenters revealed how much they could go by not long ago, but they cannot survive comfortably with the same amount anymore. 

Many have had to move back in with their parents, while some are just a break up away from being homeless despite working long hours.

“I work 40 hours a week, rent, and live comfortably, but I would be homeless if I missed two checks. If my fiance left me, I’d be homeless too, can’t afford anything by myself. I try not to think of it, but it stresses me out badly,” read one comment. 

4. Rethink Your Plans: Graduate School May No Longer Be the Solution

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One reason people go back to graduate school is to earn better than they do with their undergraduate degree. While it may work for some, it is not always the case. A section of the respondents revealed that they went back for their graduate degrees to get to the six figures mark, and years after they graduated, they are yet to achieve this mission. 

“In graduate school, I made less than $24,000 a year. We were routinely told, don’t worry, you’ll make six figures once you graduate. Hint: I do not. None of my graduating class does either, as far as I know. But we’re still reminded of the cost of our degree every month!” revealed one comment. 

You may end up stuck with a lower salary than you thought and outrageous student loans. 

5. Insider Perspective: Through the Eyes of a Mortgage Loan Officer

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Loan processing officers see it all. They see how much different professionals earn, and they can tell if the claim and expectation of making $100k is just a facade or not. 

“Former mortgage loan processor here, working up through 2022. The average loan size I processed was 400 to 500k, though I wrote many jumbo loans > 1 million. Here is what I discovered as part of my job was reviewing people’s income all day. Maybe 10% of people buying houses earned 100k+ a year. All this talk about six figures is a myth. Most people don’t earn that. Even many engineers who people talk about like they are bringing in the big bucks are still in the 80-90k range after ten years of working. Also, please note this is anecdotal from my experience. Also, I did not work with particularly legitimately RICH people,” disclosed their comment. 

6. Blame It on the Inflation, the Culprit Behind the Scenes

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The income that was just comfortable pre-covid is barely survivable with the current inflation. 

There were a lot of comments comparing how much less groceries cost a few years back compared to what it does now. While many people may focus on how much they are bringing home and how it is not enough to keep going, the real culprit is the inflation and the ridiculous cost of items now. 

“We make $80k as a family, and it’s a struggle. We were comfortable and could save before the pandemic… Now it’s stressful any time something big happens that takes extra money. Going grocery shopping has become stressful, and I used to enjoy it,” read one comment. 

7. Doubling Up: Why a Second Job Has Become Essential

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Not long ago, second jobs were either to get some extra cash for entertainment or to keep busy after the primary job. It is no longer the case and is such a terrifying situation.

 As one comment revealed, many people now have to work second or third jobs to keep surviving. 

“In the local Facebook groups, everyone’s asking for recommendations on where to apply for a second job. It’s a shame; no one should need to work a second job to keep food on the table and a roof over their head,” read a comment.

8. The Unspoken Reality: Why $40K Doesn’t Make the Brag List

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There is nothing much to brag about making a $40K salary. Typically, anyone making this salary would not be on social media revealing details of the income. You cannot say the same to many people making big bucks; they have all the reason to talk about what they make, what they started with, their growth, and what they do to make good money.  

This could be the reason you are hearing more about six figures than $40K. 

“I think it may be because the people who make that sort of money are more vocal about it than those on the opposite side of the scale, so the sentiment is heavily and falsely skewed,” said one comment. 

9. Patience Pays: The Journey to Six Figures May Take Time

Patience Pays
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One of OP’s sentiments was people expect to make nothing less than $80K after a year or two of being in the workforce.

While it may work for some people in specific professions, it does not happen every day. This is not what many people experience, and making six figures or anything close to that may take ages.  

“I recently turned 50 and just got my 1st 6-figure job. Took decades to get here,” said one commenter. 

10. Escaping the Perfectionism Trap: Navigating Life’s Intense Pressures

Escaping the Perfectionism Trap
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Many people receive pressure from their friends and parents, pushing them into the perfectionism trap. 

While making six figures could be the goal, you do not have to get there. Many people make it a matter of life and death, only to end up in stress and depression. 

One commenter said, “My wife and I make about 70k combined. My next-door neighbor just got her first job out of college, and she told me she was making 80k, which she described as “way too little, but it’s just a first job” and I wanted to cry. I’m in my 40s; my dad made six figures just before he died at the age I am now. My mom criticizes my house because it’s ancient and hasn’t had any cosmetic renovations since it was built in the 70s. She keeps telling me, “You’re an adult now. It’s time your house looked like an adult’s house” (meaning I should renovate the kitchen and bathroom so they are modern), and I’m like, I can barely keep the lights on, I’m never going to afford to do these kinds of renos.” 

 Such situations may have people evaluating where they went wrong when the majority of problems could be solved by resisting the urge to fall into the consumerist perfectionism trap. 

11. No Magic Recipe: Decoding the Complexity of Success

professions make
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Ask anyone what professions make $100K; they will likely tell you dentists, medical doctors, lawyers and engineers. While it is true their careers were the formula that got them to 6 figures, it is not always the case. For instance, one commenter, a mortgage loan processor, revealed working with lawyers and engineers that barely made $90K. 

Nowadays, people still get to the six figure mark using different paths. There is no precise formula for getting there. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for you. 

“$115k is not the norm. And getting to it doesn’t seem to have an easy, clear path. I’m 38, and I currently make $120k. But how I got here, I couldn’t recommend to anyone to replicate. I started working while at school at $10/hr at a temp job and jumped to $14/hr at my first full-time job. Then all my major pay raises came from changing jobs, $39k, $50k, $65k, and now $120k. And some of my early jobs have nothing to do with my more recent jobs. I got my current job by just happening to have my resume on a site, and a random 3rd party recruiter reached out to me. So when my daughter asks me what major she should look into when she’s ready for college, all I can do is shrug. Because nobody knows anymore.”

12. Could the Secret Be in the Blue Collar Jobs?

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We are all conversant with careers that are perceived to be high-end. It is almost always common knowledge that the people in those professions are making big bucks. 

However, many blue-collar job people are also making good money. One of the comments revealed, “Going into construction was the best decision of my life. I was dumb as bricks trying to get a degree and spent seven years on a four-year program trying to make my parents “proud.” Worked some garbage office jobs for $40k/year. Got laid off and went into construction. It’s a slow start, but I’ve been making over $100k for the last five years and am on track to break $200k this year. It is labor intensive, and the days can be long, but I’m happy and doing better than most friends.”

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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey.

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I am deeply passionate about making money online, saving money, investing correctly, traveling affordably and living frugally.