Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

By Timothy Moore · August 07, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Is a $100,000 Salary Good?

In most parts of the country, a $100,000 salary is considered good; maybe even very, very good. It can be more than enough for an individual or even a small family to live comfortably. With $100,000 a year, a person could cover typical expenses, pay down debt, build their savings, contribute toward retirement, invest, and still have enough money for entertainment, hobbies, and vacations.

But there can certainly be exceptions to whether $100K a year is good, as well as ways to make that salary go even farther than it might otherwise.

Key Points

•   A $100,000 salary is considered good in most parts of the country, and can cover typical expenses, pay down debt, build savings, and allow for entertainment and hobbies.

•   According to the U.S. Census, only 15.3% of American households make more than $100,000 annually.

•   A $100,000 salary can yield a monthly income of $8,333.33, a biweekly paycheck of $3,846.15, a weekly income of $1,923.08, and a daily income of $384.62 based on 260 working days per year.

•   The five cheapest cities to live in 2022 are Hickory, North Carolina; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Huntsville, Alabama; Quad Cities (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois); and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

•   Tips for living off a $100,000 budget include getting on a budget, saving your money, getting out of debt, and creating a retirement plan.

Factors to Determine if a $100,000 Salary Is Good

Is $100K a good salary? In almost every case, yes. It’s well above the poverty line as well as the American median income for both individuals and smaller families. Even in the face of rising inflation, a $100,000 annual income can typically afford a comfortable lifestyle and financial stability.

Here are some factors to determine if $100,000 is a good salary:

•   Location: While $100K can cover expenses in most places across the U.S., it won’t stretch as far in places with a higher cost of living. In some of the most expensive cities in the U.S., a $100K salary might mean spending a significantly higher percentage of your income on housing. For instance, in the summer of 2022, the average rent in Manhattan hit $5,000 a month.

•   Taxes: As an individual, $100K a year puts you in the 24% federal income tax bracket. That means that you’d only bring home $76,000 after federal taxes — even less depending on state, city, and school district taxes. Married individuals bringing in $100,000 total are taxed slightly lower (22%), meaning $78,000 after Uncle Sam’s cut at the federal level.

•   Family size: A $100K a year salary can yield comfortable living for most individuals, but the larger a family becomes, the harder it is to make that money stretch. Additional children or other dependents may result in higher grocery bills, utility usage, school costs, and doctor visits.

How Does a $100,000 Salary Compare to the American Median Income?

The American median household income is roughly $67,500, per the latest published U.S. Census results. More recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median weekly income for a full-time worker is $1,037, which translates to a $54,000 median annual salary.

Either way, a $100,000 salary is almost double the American median income. If you live in what’s known as a DINK household (dual income, no kids) and your domestic partner also brings home a sizable paycheck, you are sitting even higher above that median household income.

Recommended: Typical Bills for One Person Per Month

What Percentage of Americans Make Over $100,000 Annually?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15.3% of American households pull in more than $100,000 annually. However, a “household” might consist of two or more salaries totaling $100,000.

$100,000 Salary Breakdown

So is making $100K a year good? It’s almost surely easier than living on $20K a year. Let’s look at how it breaks down into monthly, weekly, and even daily pay:

•   Monthly income: $8,333.33

•   Biweekly paycheck: $3,846.15

•   Weekly income: $1,923.08

•   Daily income: $384.62 based on 260 working days per year.

Keep in mind that this salary breakdown uses pre-tax income. Actual paychecks will likely be lower after taxes and any health insurance premiums and retirement contributions are deducted.

Can You Live Individually on a $100,000 Income?

It is indeed possible to live individually on a $100,000 income. At that salary, many individuals will be able to cover not only basic living expenses but also discretionary expenses, like dining out and traveling.

Individuals making $100K annually often have enough disposable income to pay down debt, contribute to retirement, work toward multiple savings goals (like home ownership and vacations), and even invest.

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How Much Rent Can You Afford Living on a $100,000 Income?

The conventional advice on how much of your income to spend on housing is no more than 30%. While economists may need to reevaluate that number given current inflation and soaring housing prices, that would mean an individual could afford $30,000 in rent costs each year, or roughly $2,500 a month, on $100K a year.

However, at $100,000 a year, an individual could consider buying a home instead. A $100K salary might make it easier to save for a down payment and keep up with maintenance expenses, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.

Best Places to Live on a $100,000 Salary

At $100,000 a year, an individual or small family can likely live in most locations. In fact, $100,000 is higher than the annual median income ($65,290) of America’s most expensive city, Los Angeles.

That said, if you want to make your dollars stretch as far as possible, consider what U.S. News has deemed the five cheapest cities to live in 2022:

•   Hickory, North Carolina

•   Green Bay, Wisconsin

•   Huntsville, Alabama

•   Quad Cities (Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois)

•   Fort Wayne, Indiana

Recommended: Cost of Living by State

Worst Places to Live on a $100,000 Salary

A $100,000 salary can typically afford at least basic living expenses even in America’s most expensive cities. However, living in such places can make it harder to build your savings and invest toward your future.

If you want to live comfortably on $100,000 a year, it may be wise to avoid what have been deemed America’s most expensive cities in 2022:

•   Los Angeles, California

•   Miami, Florida

•   San Diego, California

•   Salinas, California

•   Santa Barbara, California

Is a $100,000 Salary Considered Rich?

Many people may consider a $100,000 salary to be rich. However, “rich” is a relative term with a vague definition, meaning an abundance of wealth and assets. Much of it depends on where you live and how you use the income (spending vs. saving vs. investing).

Also, consider how personal circumstances can differ. If you earn $100K a year and your spouse doesn’t work outside the home and you are supporting three children as well as a relative with medical needs, that high salary may not stretch as far. Add some student loans, a jumbo mortgage, and car payments to the picture, and you realize a person earning $100,000 a year might not qualify as rich in most people’s estimation. They may be barely making ends meet.

Tips for Living off a $100,000 Budget

How can you make the most of a $100,000 salary? Here are a few tips for living off a $100,000 budget:

Getting on a Budget

No matter your salary, it’s a good idea to design a monthly budget. At a minimum, keep track of your monthly expenses vs. your monthly income. After you have accounted for all your mandatory expenses, like your mortgage and your groceries, you can calculate what you have left for discretionary expenses (the “wants” in life), savings, debt repayment, and investments.

Saving Your Money

It’s a good idea to have emergency savings at the very least; being able to cover three to six months’ of expenses without any income flowing in is ideal.

Beyond an emergency savings, you may want to allocate money in your budget each month to other savings goals, including a house or car down payment, wedding, vacation, or home renovations. Having a high-interest savings account with automatic savings features can help you get to your goal faster.

Recommended: How to Save Money From Your Salary

Getting Out of Debt

Paying down debt can be a good use of funds when you have room in your budget, especially if you have particularly high-interest credit card debt. You can weigh options like the debt avalanche vs. debt snowball method when you have multiple sources of debt or even consider a credit card debt consolidation loan.

Creating a Retirement Plan

If you’re wondering “When should I start saving for retirement?” many financial experts would likely say the answer is “yesterday.” The sooner you start saving, the sooner your money can grow via compound interest.

If your employer offers a 401(k) match and you can afford to funnel a percentage of your paycheck into a retirement account, it’s often a wise idea to opt in. But employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts aren’t your only retirement option. Depending on your situation, it may be a good idea to take advantage of a rollover or traditional IRA and other retirement strategies.

Investing Your Money

Investing isn’t only for retirement. If you are earning $100K a year and have extra money after having built up emergency savings and wiped out your debt, you might benefit from investing in the stock market or even real estate.

Learning how to invest can be intimidating; if you’re not sure where to start, it can be a good idea to work with a trusted investment broker.

The Takeaway

For most individuals and small families, the answer to “Is $100,000 a good salary?” is a resounding “yes.” Cost of living and family size can affect how far $100,000 will go, but generally speaking, you can live comfortably on $100,000 a year.

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What jobs pay over $100,000?

Many jobs pay over $100,000 a year in various fields. These jobs include doctors, lawyers, software engineers, business leaders, pharmacists, psychologists, IT managers, finance managers, and many others. Those in creative fields, from writers to hair stylists, can earn that salary, too.

Is making $100,000 a year common?

Making $100,000 a year is not common in the U.S. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15.3% of American households make more than $100,000.

Can you live comfortably on $100K a year?

Most people can live comfortably on $100K a year. If you live in an area with a high cost of living and/or have a large family or very high expenses and/or debt, it may be more difficult to live comfortably on $100K a year. In either case, it is usually not challenging to afford basic living expenses.

What is considered wealthy in the U.S.?

Americans said in one survey that they believe it takes a net worth of $2.2 million to be considered “wealthy.” When calculating net worth, you’ll factor in more than just income; it also includes assets (like a house and retirement account), less any debts and liabilities.

Photo credit: iStock/Inside Creative House

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