When we first start our careers, generally while we’re in our thirties, we know to expect not to make too much money. Pay for entry-level positions isn’t exactly known for being stellar, but it’s certainly better than most high school or college jobs worked on the side or in earnest. From a young age, most of us learn the concept of working our way up the food chain, so to speak, so it makes sense that we’d expect our careers to move in the same way:
- Start out at the bottom, where pay isn’t ideal and you’re not the boss of anyone (Age 25-30)
- Get raises and promotions, steadily taking on more responsibility and cementing your way into middle-class status (Age 30-35)
- Get comfortable—gain job security, a solid retirement fund, and a steadily increasing salary (Age 35-45).
- Become a top dog. Make more money than you really need, buy things that you want, and be able to help your kids go to college (Age 45-Retirement).
- Sit back, relax, and soak in the benefits of having worked for most of your life. Travel. Eat out. Sleep all day. Enjoy an income without having to work and the fact that the kids are all grown up and can take care of themselves (Retirement–).
But, truth be told, this isn’t usually how it turns out. According to PayScale.com, women’s pay peaks at age 39 at a median salary of $60,000—and then stays relatively static over time, with raises rarely increasing more than inflation. Meanwhile, men’s pay peaks at about age 48 at a median salary of $95,000. With those rates, women’s median top pay is just 63% of men’s.
So, not only do women end up topping out at far less average income than men, but both genders also experience a stagnation of income well before retirement age. If we’re considering “retirement age” to be 65, when social security kicks in, that means women continue working without significant raises for another 26 years. Men, though their pay tops out far later, still work about 17 years of their careers without seeing much of a change in pay.
Of course, we have to account for the fact that college educated women start having children at an average age of 30, where the major difference in pay growth starts manifesting in earnest. However, even starting wages are incredibly different, with males starting at an annual median pay of $40,800 at age 22—compared to women’s $31,900.
Check out PayScale’s infographic below to see just what the differences are: