Many, if not most people are curious about incomes. We wonder what our friends earn each year. We wonder what our co-workers take home. We wonder and we want to compare. Do we make more than so-and-so? Are we earning less than most people in our college class? Our modern digital age is helpful, here, because you can find a lot of this information online.

For example, you can look up typical earnings for various occupations at The median income for a recovery-room registered nurse, for example, was recently $78,698, with a range usually between $70,545 and $88,458. At, you can look up reviews on gobs of companies and get salaries reported by users of the site familiar with each company. For instance, according to five reports, senior graphic designers at Hasbro earn a typical base salary of $56,783. 

How your income compares with others your age

If you're wondering how you're faring compared with others your age, the U.S. Census has the answers. The table below offers median incomes for five different age ranges: 

Age Range

Median Income, Men

Median Income, Women
















Source: U.S. Census, 2014 data.

Several things jump out from the table:

  • Women, as we've long heard, still make a lot less than men do, overall. For those aged between 25 and 34, men earn a whopping 37% more. For those aged 35 to 44, it's fully 50%, and for ages 45 through 54, it's 64%. It drops a bit to 61% for those aged 55 to 64, but it approaches 80% for those 65 or older.

  • Incomes for men peak between the ages of 45 and 54, while women peak earlier, between 35 and 44. Incomes drop for both genders in later years, possibly due to age discrimination, to some extent. If so, then that discrimination seems to be starting earlier for women -- as it does in Hollywood, for example, when women are deemed too old for certain roles. (Maggie Gyllenhaal, for example, has said that at 37 she was deemed too old to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man.)

Why your income matters

It's obvious that the more income, the better, in general. More specifically, the more you earn, the more you can sock away for your retirement. That's kind of critical, as few people have pensions these days, and Social Security income doesn't make for a super-comfy retirement on its own. (The average benefit is about $16,000 per year.)

Speaking of Social Security, more income helps there, too. You might think those who earn the least in life will receive the most help from Social Security, but more benefits actually go to those who earned more. The formula is based on your earnings in the 35 years in which you earned the most. Thus, getting paid more while you're in the workforce will help you in retirement.

The more you earn, the more you can save for retirement.

What can you do about it?

Whether your income level is above or below the median for your age group, and especially if you're a woman, there's a good chance you'd like to be earning even more. Fortunately, there are ways each of us can aim for greater income. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Ask for a raise. Many people just never ask. It's good to be prepared when you do. Try to find out how much others in your job are earning, or how much similar colleagues are making. You might lay out a case noting how much value you bring to the company in revenue or savings dollars. Be positive and tactful, and if the answer is no, ask what you need to do in order to get a yes.

  • Look for a better-paying job. You might prefer to work your way up at your current company, but people often advance faster by moving from company to company.

  • Develop yourself professionally. Make yourself more valuable by taking courses that will help you in your career or perhaps by earning a new degree. A new professional certification can help, too, and so can learning a new language. Even just reading more broadly in your professional field can make you better informed and therefore more impressive and valuable. These things can help you be paid more at your current job -- or land a better-paying one.

  • Save and invest more. If you build up a strong portfolio of good stocks, they will grow in value over time, and dividend-paying ones will generate income for you. You can spend those dividend dollars, but it's even more effective to reinvest them.

  • You might, at least temporarily, get a second job on the side. Bumping your earnings up for just a few years can help you sock away more for retirement and can increase your future Social Security benefits. Consider freelancing, consulting, or even tutoring kids or delivering newspapers.

There are plenty of other ways to earn more money, such as renting out some space in your house on occasion, perhaps via Airbnb. Think about which strategies will work for you, and you can boost your income way above the average for your age group.