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« Timing and the Digging of Pop Culture | Main | Random Web Marketing Poetics »

April 29, 2007

Fact for the Day: Teens and Financial Expectations

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

From news story in the Contra Costa Times:

American teens believe ... that when they get older they will be earning an average annual salary of $145,500. Interestingly, boys expect to earn an average $173,000 a year and girls $114,200 ...

The fact is, only about 14 percent of U.S. households have incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income in the United States is actually $46,326.

Gotta love the big dreams and expectations of the American adolescent ...



posted by Michael at April 29, 2007


That's a very good and incredibly important thing. Humans need to believe in themselves, a similar psychological bias is seen in the studies which show that well over 90% of people believe themselves above average in intelligence. This is a good thing. Without hope we'd all kill ourselves.

Posted by: adrian on April 30, 2007 6:19 AM

Actually, Michael, those "Financial Expectations" are not that outrageous. Assuming that the average teenager surveyed is about 15-16 years old. And that they are thinking 20 years down the road (when each teenager will be about 35-36)...and assuming that these are mostly suburban kids (I don't think too many kids from Camden, NJ get surveyed about such things)...and adjusting for likely inflation, then, yeah, they are not too far off.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on April 30, 2007 9:10 AM

Growing up I was overwhelmed by the thought of how much I would have to earn in order to "make it;" that is to say, achieve upper-middle class respectability. To not make it in the world I was raised in? Death. It was a genuine misery. And I ran away from the whole business. Only reason I insert this personal note is to point out the downside of the omnipresent financial awareness the young carry around inside them.

Posted by: ricpic on April 30, 2007 11:14 AM

We have a measure for how well one has to do financially to be successful. But, there's no measure for how we spend the minutes of our days that tells us whether we are successful or not.

With the decline of the liberal arts ideal, the psyches of young adults seem overwhelmed by materialistic goals.


Posted by: Holzbachian on April 30, 2007 12:05 PM

I agree:

I want $200k, I want to show up at 10. I don't want to be anyone's assistant or, gasp, a secretary. I want an intern or an assistant. I don't want to do any work, I'm more of an "idea person". I want to be a manager by the time I'm 28, because I deserve it and I want to dress any way I want. I'll have my father call you to negotiate the details of this job opportunity, I have an X-Box tourney starting in a few minutes...

Posted by: Matt on April 30, 2007 3:12 PM

Matt, if you only knew how close you are to the actual, real text of the cover letter I recieved in response to the job opening I posted...

Posted by: Tatyana on April 30, 2007 4:54 PM

This isn't a sign of the times, it's a sign of being an American teenager. I had the same expectations in the 80s, adjusted for inflation of course.

Posted by: the patriarch on April 30, 2007 6:21 PM

What the hell kind of rock icon only pulls in $173,000/year? Such pessimism these days...

Posted by: Teenage J. Goard ca. 1992 on April 30, 2007 9:53 PM

Ian's got it right. At 4% annual inflation over the next 20 years the forecast median household is $101.5K. At 5% inflation we get up to $123K. Clearly, even more inflation is the answer!

Then these kids will need wheelbarrows to cart all their money around. (Why does that sound familiar?)

Posted by: Steve on April 30, 2007 11:06 PM

They're right on! When Gentle Ben sends in the moneychoppers to drop greenbacks on us post-housing crash we'll have double digit inflation. 150k will barely pay the bills.

Posted by: $Chopper on May 1, 2007 12:29 AM

Kids... what the hell do they know?

Posted by: shecky on May 1, 2007 2:35 AM

I'm curious if the survey also polled what the teenagers think the average salary is right now. When I was in high school, I really didn't know what was average, what was considered middle-class v. upper-class, or even how much you would need to make to live "comfortably"

Posted by: Lee on May 1, 2007 10:32 AM

Tatyana: "Matt, if you only knew how close you are to the actual, real text of the cover letter I received in response to the job opening I posted..."

You wouldn't listen to the fact that he was a genius? You probably have all that you can use. I bet that candidate has those "steadily depressing, low-down mind messing, working at the car wash blues" now.

Something tells me that this isn't quite a new phenomenon.


On a more serious note, median family income increases rapidly with age. That is, households where the adults are in their fifties have quite a bit more money than households where the adults are in their twenties. Since the median you quote includes both, expecting an upper-middle class income "when they get older", isn't quite as unreasonable as you present it. When you add the previously mentioned inflation, they might even be right.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 1, 2007 11:21 AM

Doug, the guy (btw, how did you guess that was a guy?) said he chose not to have a portfolio (after 4 years of design school!) and he sees his future contribution as more conceptual than "production-oriented".

But, seriously* [I caught your bug]: if you don't have bright hopes for the future when you're 16, what'd happen to you when the wear and tear of the workplace starts to have its toll? If anything, I would think the teenagers' expectations are way too low.

*See Grace Anathomy. Yes, that's how I chose to spend my evenings.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 1, 2007 12:50 PM

$200K is the new $100K.

Posted by: Randall on May 2, 2007 1:03 PM

Everybody who is mentioning inflation is being stupid. These teens are not calculating inflation in their heads. If they were calculating inflation in their heads, they would probably take it back out and tell you the answers in real dollars anyway, because the number with inflation has no meaning.

Posted by: Noumenon on May 7, 2007 9:20 AM

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