Salary Unreality

Last time I was a “company man” was 13 years ago while working for Jellyvision. At that job my salary was eventually adjusted to match industry averages. And until January of this year I worked on my own company. At times this was doing contract work and at others doing my own projects. Working on your own almost certainly means that your salary both fluctuates and is considerably under market rates. But one has an advantage of managing the salary such that, in my case, I could create a 6 or more month safety buffer. At the end of 2013 I decided I was tired of the all the management, hassles, lack of stability, and not having retirement funds in favor of getting a job with Wideload/Disney.

Now to the present.. I was given a lay-off notice from Disney only a few months into the job. Which means I’m now looking for a job. And as part of that I’ve been doing research as to the current salary landscape in the Chicago area. I’ve been programming long enough, 20 years professionally and 10 before that, to not really be in the usual job titles. If I had to pick a job title at this point for myself it would be “Veteran Programmer”. Instead I looked at the salaries for “Senior Programmer” and “Programmer” (and the alternate “Software Engineer”). What I found was rather depressing.

Since 2001 base salaries have, on average, gone up 10%. Which might sound OK.. Except that’s 0.8% per year, a paltry amount. I know, it’s still something. But if you also add that the inflation rate between 2001 and 2014 is 32% it means that we’ve taken a pay cut of about 20% in the last 13 years! Makes you wonder how people are expected to be optimistic about their future and the future of their children.

How do I tell my daughter in 20 years when she enters the workforce that she is likely to be earning less than her parents?

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