Is a $40,000 Salary Good?

By Timothy Moore · February 27, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Is a $40,000 Salary Good?

To answer whether a $40,000 salary is good, you need to consider your perspective. For a recent grad in a small town where the cost of living is low, that might be an annual income that pays the bills. But a $40,000 salary is not typically enough for a household to live comfortably in most parts of the United States. To put it another way, a single person can live more comfortably on a $40,000 salary, but a family — with or without children — may find it more difficult.

Rising inflation has made it more challenging to get by on $40,000 in 2024, but this salary is still far above the United States Census Bureau’s poverty threshold for families of up to six people. The $40,000 figure represents earning more than the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour).

So is $40,000 a good salary? Well, it depends.

Key Points

•   A $40,000 salary may be sufficient for an individual in a low-cost area, but it may not be enough for a family to live comfortably in most parts of the US.

•   Rising inflation has made it more challenging to live on a $40,000 salary, but it still exceeds the poverty threshold for families.

•   Compared to the median household income in the US, a $40,000 salary falls short, but it can contribute to the median household income when combined with a second income.

•   A $40,000 salary translates to a monthly income of $3,333.33, a biweekly paycheck of $1,538.46, and a weekly income of $769.23.

•   Living on a $40,000 budget requires careful expense tracking, budgeting, debt management, and saving strategies. Location plays a significant role in how far the salary can stretch.

How Does a $40,000 Salary Compare to the American Median Income?

Here’s a look at how earning a $40,000 annual income compares to that of your fellow Americans.

•   According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2020 (when data was gathered) just surpassed $67,500.

•   More recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that the median weekly income of a full-time worker (salary or hourly) was $1,037, or nearly $54,000 a year.

While a $40,000 salary falls short of recent BLS definitions of the median personal income, it could successfully contribute to the Census Bureau’s picture of the median household income, when combined with a second income from a domestic partner.

Could this salary be considered good? Consider the following:

•   As an individual, you may find that $40,000 is a good entry-level salary.

•   Couples living the DINK lifestyle (which stands for dual income, no kids) and who each make $40,000 would be well above the median household income. Plus, they would have the additional costs of raising children as part of their budget.

$40,000 Salary Breakdown

It can be helpful to know what a $40,000 salary translates to as a monthly budget, weekly paycheck, or even hourly rate. This may help you compare career options and budget wisely, not to mention answer that question, “Is $40K a good salary?”

Here’s how it breaks down:

•   Monthly income: $3,333.33

•   Biweekly paycheck: $1,538.46

•   Weekly income: $769.23

•   Daily income: $153.85*

•   Hourly income: $19.23**

*Based on 260 working days a year
**Based on 2,080 working hours a year

And remember: That’s before taxes. If you are single and make $40,000 a year, your federal tax bracket is at 12%, but you may also owe state, city, and even school district taxes as well. It’s important to keep that in mind as you plan and assess how to pay bills and save with this salary.

Recommended: What to Do When You Get a Pay Raise: 12 Tips

Can You Live Individually on a $40,000 Income?

It is possible to live individually on a $40,000 income. In fact, you may be able to afford the average monthly expenses for a single person and work on your saving and investing goals.

Your location will have the largest impact on how far your dollars will stretch. Areas with a lower cost of living will likely be easier to afford for an individual on a $40,000 income.

As an individual, you can help your salary go further by looking for ways to save money, like:

•   Having a roommate or renting out a room in your house if you own one

•   Cooking at home instead of eating out

•   Buying a used car or, depending on where you live, relying on public transportation

•   Finding a higher-yield savings account, ideally over 1.00% APY

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Best Places to Live on a $40,000 Salary

If you can afford moving expenses and aren’t tied to a specific location for work, you can make your dollars go further more easily in certain locations in the United States. These are places with a lower cost of living. Here are the five cheapest cities to live in the U.S. this year, according to U.S. News:

•   Hickory, North Carolina

•   Green Bay, Wisconsin

•   Huntsville, Alabama

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

•   Fort Wayne, Indiana

However, there’s more to moving than just the expenses and the job. Before packing up a rental truck, consider whether you are comfortable leaving behind friends, family, and familiar places.

Recommended: Financial Moves to Make During a Job Transition

Worst Places to Live on a $40,000 Salary

A $40,000 salary might not go far enough in a city with a high cost of living. U.S. News research indicates these are the most expensive cities to live in:

•   Los Angeles, California

•   Miami, Florida

•   San Diego, California

•   Salinas, California

•   Santa Barbara, California

And if you were expecting to see New York City on this list, don’t worry: It’s not far behind, at number nine.

Tips for Living on a $40,000 Budget

So how can you (and possibly your family) live on a $40,000 budget? It’s important to cut costs, look for deals, pay down your debt, and build up savings for an emergency.

But living on a small salary doesn’t mean you have to completely give up entertainment. Remember that it’s OK to treat yourself to the nice things in life from time to time, as long as they are within reason. Everyone needs some fun in their life.

Here are some important tips for living on a $40,000 budget:

Carefully Tracking Your Expenses

First things first, get an understanding of your current spending habits. Your bank may offer tools that make this easy to analyze or you can download apps or check websites that make this easier.

Consider what bills you have every month, whether they are on auto pay, and, if so, when do they process? (This will help you schedule your bills and avoid getting hit with late fees.) Make a list of all your recurring expenses (mortgage or rent, student loans, car payment, phone, insurance, and utilities), and then analyze how much on average you’re spending on more variable expenses like groceries, gas, clothing, and entertainment.

What can you cut? What bills can you negotiate down? Where can you reallocate money toward savings?

Recommended: 20 Commonly Forgotten Monthly Expenses

Getting on a Budget

Now that you have an idea of what you’re currently spending, it’s time to design a budget around what you should be spending.

Start by plugging in necessary monthly expenses; these are things you must pay for each month, like your home, insurance, and food. Only once you can see that these basic needs are met should you begin to budget for things like dining out or new clothes, also known as wants vs. needs.

Not sure where to start? Do some online research on how to make a budget. There are different techniques including a line item budget and the 50/30/20 budget rule.

Use the 50/30/20 budget calculator below to get an idea of how your budget could be broken down.


Getting Out of Debt

As you consider how to manage daily life on a $40,000 salary, it’s wise to pay attention to the role that debt plays in your personal finances. Mortgage and student loan debt are structured to be paid off over decades, and can be considered by some to be good debt, as the interest rates are often relatively low and timely payments build your credit history. The rates on credit card debt, however, can be high (currently over 20% on new offers and 16% on existing accounts) and therefore more detrimental to your finances (and mental health). If you have serious credit card debt, it is wise to cut back expenses as much as you can so you can focus on paying off your debt.

You can tackle your debt using the snowball method or the avalanche method. You may also consider a balance-transfer credit card or a debt consolidation program, depending on your situation. A debt counselor who works for a nonprofit, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC ), can be helpful as well.

Saving Your Money

If you are debt-free (house, car, and student loan payments aside) and still have wiggle room in your budget after accounting for necessary expenses and a little bit of fun money, you can allocate some of your $40,000 salary toward your saving goals. These might include vacations, a house down payment, renovations, or a wedding. An emergency savings fund is often a good place to start.

Recommended: Don’t know how much to save for unexpected expenses? Try our intuitive emergency fund calculator.

Investing Your Money

After you have gotten a handle on your expenses, designed a budget, and opened a savings account, you might consider if there is enough leftover from your $40,000 salary for investing. This may not be possible if you live in a city or state with a high cost of living.

How can you start investing? If your employer offers a 401(k) match, consider taking advantage of that. It’s basically free money, so contribute enough to snag it.

You can also look for automated investing opportunities so you don’t have to worry about building a portfolio from scratch.

Managing Finances With SoFi

If your $40,000 salary is paid via direct deposit, think about opening a high interest online savings account. With direct deposit, you can get an array of perks from our SoFi Checking and Savings account. You’ll spend and save in one convenient place, plus you’ll earn a competitive APY and pay no fees, which can help your money grow faster. What’s more, qualifying accounts can get paycheck access up to two days early.

Make the most of your money with SoFi.

FAQ

Can you live comfortably on $40,000 a year?

Individuals can often live comfortably on $40,000 a year. Families, however, may struggle with this salary, especially in areas with a higher cost of living.

What can I afford making $40K a year?

If you are an individual living on $40,000 a year in an area with a low to moderate cost of living, you can afford typical monthly expenses like food, housing, and utilities and still have enough for some fun expenditures, like entertainment. If you are frugal and build a budget, you may also be able to pay down debt, build your savings, and even invest a little.

Is $40,000 a year considered middle class?

According to Pew Research, a middle-class family of three makes between $56,000 and $156,000. Families of that size who bring in $40,000 a year would not be considered middle class. However, an individual making $40,000 a year would likely qualify as middle class.


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