While there is more to life than money, in an ideal world we’d all be doing a job we love and being compensated handsomely for it. Of course, when you’re young, you start at the bottom of the career ladder, and have to take the salary that goes with it. But, given the chance to dream big, what is the highest salary you could hope to earn in your lifetime?
It’s a question that online course platform Teachable sought to find the answer to. They questioned 3,300 18-24 year olds to find out what they expect will be the highest salary they will earn in their lifetimes. In light of the record levels of debt, high inflation, and the trend of tech giants shedding tens of thousands of jobs, it would not be surprising if young people in America today have a somewhat pessimistic view of their financial futures. However, despite the bleak financial climate, young people’s long-term optimism has not been blunted.
The survey results reveal that young people today in America expect that, on average, they will earn a maximum income of $65,206 per year in their lifetime. Bearing in mind that the average salary in the US is $42,589, that’s a sizable 53% more than the average (or $22,617).
Perhaps it’s the sunny climate, but young Hawaii residents seem to be the most optimistic about potential earnings; 18-24 year olds there expect to earn a whopping $84,441 – that’s a very aspirational 77% ($36,741.89) more than the state average. The least ambitious about making the big bucks are Oklahomans, who only expect to reach the not-so-dizzy heights of $45,486 which is 21% – or 7,986.11—more than the state average. A full breakdown of how each state responded is available here.
Money, and how to get more of it, is clearly a concern for youth today; over half (52%) said they have a side hustle to help boost earnings outside of their current employment. This is in line with other reports of a rise in young people taking on side gigs, particularly since the start of the pandemic. And the potential for extra earnings are ample—from driving for a rideshare company, delivering groceries, dog walking, or even turning your knowledge and skills into an online course on a platform like Teachable.
And it appears that many young people feel they will not be able to fulfill their potential in small towns—in fact, according to Teachable‘s survey, 48% of them think they would need to move to a large city to earn the highest salary possible. Yet, not all ventures require a move. Last year, Teachable saw a roughly 15% increase in course creators earning more than $70,000 annually—surpassing the highest salary imagined by the young people surveyed. Flexible in more ways than one, online courses can be run from just about anywhere.
Despite their optimism about higher salaries, it appears inflation (and its eroding effects on purchasing power) is a significant factor when young people consider their financial futures—just over 1 in 3 (38%) of those surveyed feel they would be able to achieve the same levels of financial security as their parents did in their lifetimes.
The survey also found that the average young person believes they will achieve their peak salary at 30 years old. Finally, two-thirds of 18-24 year olds say they would settle for a job that wasn’t a preferred career path just for a higher salary.
“Young people are, no doubt, navigating challenging economic conditions right now. But the survey’s overall finding of long-term optimism among 18-24 year olds rings true to other trends we’ve witnessed in the last few months, particularly a continued rise in the number of new U.S. business applications” says Vera Hanson at Teachable.
“Whether testing the waters with a side gig or diving headfirst into full-time entrepreneurship, launching an online course can be one of the best ways to build an enduring business online today. We believe that’s because the pursuit of knowledge—of all kinds—is not going anywhere. And the demand for more affordable and engaging ways to access that knowledge is only going to skyrocket.”