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Average Salary = Barely Getting By?


A whopping two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to the results of the American Payroll Association (APA) 2006 "Getting Paid in America" online salary survey. While the survey probably has a biased sample – who completes a survey by a national association of check processors? – it appears that, for most, their average salary is barely meeting their needs.

On top of the paycheck to paycheck salary statistics, an astounding 81% percent polled in the APA salary survey say that their yearly raises do not cover the increased cost of living. Ouch: inflation is at a historical low. How ugly is this going to get if inflation continues to increase?

Sounds like people cannot afford to be underpaid, and everyone should see if they are, by using the PayScale salary survey.

TV vs. Real Life Average Salary

In addition to the paycheck to paycheck news, the APA salary survey also offers some interesting contrasts between salaries.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

For instance, TV producer Dick Wolfe makes approximately $200 million a year from his Law and Order television show and its many spinoffs, while a rookie police officer risking life and limb for the NYPD badge starts out at the average salary of $25,000. At PayScale, we get $45,000 for a rookie cop in New York City for base salary, but you get the idea. TV producer Dick Wolfe got a lot of ideas by traveling around with real cops. You would think he would cut them a share 🙂

In another example of TV eclipsing real life, television star and jurist Judge Judy reportedly pocketed $25 million in 2005, while Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor clocked in at $200,000. Perhaps that’s why she stepped down? She is no spring chicken; Justice O’Connor may be thinking she needs a higher paying job for a few years, so she can afford to retire.

Paycheck to Paycheck, Presidential Style

George W. Bush did edge out actor Will Ferrell, when the comedian was imitating the real life President Bush on Saturday Night Live. Ferrell’s paycheck was $350,000 a year, while salary for President Bush was (and still is) $400,000. Of course, actor Will Ferrell is earning much more now in the movies than he ever did on TV, while George W. is stuck at the same pay level. There is no really good upward career path from President while still in office 🙂

While the salary for President Bush remained stagnate, he was able to earn another $340,000/year from dividends and interest. However, he will probably get a higher paying job when he leaves office, earning multiple millions a year as a public speaker in a little over two years. 🙂

Of course, nearly all of us would be happen to earn even Judge O’Connor’s “paultry” $200,000. If you are curious what job could get you there, do a little research with PayScale’s salary calculator “What If” feature.


Dr. Al Lee

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