Original question from Quora:

Is everyone on Quora incredibly wealthy? Can they relate to the average person’s life/economic situation at all?

I’ve read many Quora answers that refer to 80-90k in the US as a ‘low salary’. This is completely insane to me. Do they live in a bubble with only bankers, executives and software engineers? Can they really relate to the average American’s struggle?

My Answer:

I don’t live in Silicon Valley and I can totally relate to the average American’s struggle. My first job out of college I worked 50-60 hours a week and earned $25,000 a year.

Basically, my boss paid everyone a few hundred dollars a year more than the state mandated minimum salary. That way he didn’t have to pay overtime. It was a real unpleasant work experience.

Fast forward a decade and I’ve worked hard and am earning something closer to Silicon Valley dollars, so I can relate to the concept of a ‘low salary’ being $80-90k. It’s not because people in SV are greedy or spoiled, it’s because they have a different perspective.

Here is what I mean…

I have a son who is 5 years old. He’s at the wonderful age where he can count and is wanting to know how much things cost.

Here is something interesting I noticed. When he does well on his schoolwork and finishes a chapter, he gets like a quarter or something. He’s saved up money in his piggy bank and managed to have like $8.50 in there.

He of course wants to buy toys and things that a 5 year old would want. He loves legos, but to him a $80 X-Wing lego kit is a lot of money. Seems like a sort of impossible amount of money.

As his father, my perspective is different. I make thousands of dollars a month, so I could afford to go out and spend $80 on an X-Wing lego kit any day of the week without thinking too hard. That’s cheap compared to a car payment, mortgage, etc.

To him, hundreds or thousands of dollars is like millions or billions of dollars to me. He can’t fathom that kind of money because we don’t have it and sort of fundamentally don’t understand it.

When everyone you know is making $120,000, an $80,000 salary seems really low. When everyone you know is making $40,000, an $80,000 salary seems really high.

What’s amazing is it has nothing to do with the people involved. It’s all about what everyone is used to and expects.

Also, making six figures in San Francisco is totally different than making six figures in Lincoln, Nebraska. The money goes a lot further in the midwest.

So, in many ways, people in Silicon Valley can earn giant sums of money, but if their living expenses are way higher, they don’t get to keep much of it. In many cases, it’s not so different at all.

-Brian

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