Back in the Day $150K Was a Good Salary — Is It Still?

Ten years ago most Americans thought people who earned $150,000 were rich. The cost of living has increased since then. Is $150K a good salary today?

Danielle Letenyei - Author

Feb. 1 2023, Published 1:52 p.m. ET

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Most people dream of being rich, but how much do you have to earn to be considered rich? A 2011 Gallup Poll found that most Americans believed people who earned $150,000 were rich.

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That was over 10 years ago, and the cost of living has increased considerably since then, so a $150K salary may not go as far as it did back in 2011.

Is $150K a good salary?

An annual salary of $150,000 is still pretty good in today’s world, but it may not get you very far if you live in certain U.S. cities. In many California cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego, as well as Seattle, Boston, and Washington, D.C., a $150K salary is considered a middle-class income, CNBC reports.

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According to 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data, 80 percent of American households earn less than $150,000 per year. Only about 8 percent earn between $150,000 and $200,000.

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How much is $150K a year hourly?

If you have an annual salary of $150K, you are making about $72 an hour for working full-time, 40 hours a week. That equates to about $2,885 per week and $12,500 per month. That’s significantly more than the average full-time employee.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in the fourth quarter of 2022 was $1,085, less than half of what people with a $150K income earn on a weekly basis.

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A $150K salary is better for individuals than it is for families.

If you’re a single person earning $150K a year, you will be better off financially than if you’re married with children. It’s understandable that you’ll need to make more if you have more mouths to feed at home.

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For example, looking at the Living Wage Calculator for wages in San Francisco County, Calif., one adult with no children would need to earn about $55,395 to cover all their expenses. However, two working adults with three children would have to make $206,894 to get by.

How much do you need to earn to live comfortably?

Rising prices in everything from gas to groceries to housing costs could make many Americans question how much they need to earn to live comfortably. The annual inflation rate in 2022 was 6.5 percent. Home prices across the country increased by about 10 percent, CoreLogic data shows. The median home price in the U.S. at the end of 2022 was at about $380,000, up from $258,000 in 2019.

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In the 2022 Wealth and Wellness Index survey released by Empower and Personal Capital, those surveyed said they’d need to earn $122,000 annually to feel financially healthy.

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A women sitting on the edge of a boat at sea.

What income is considered rich?

In 2023, to be considered "rich," you should earn an income that puts you in the top 1 percent–5 percent of Americans. That means your income should be about $500,000 annually to be considered rich, Smart Asset reports.

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