Lifetime Earnings: How much will you make?

tool time

You know you want to say it: Tool time!

In my senior yearbook someone wrote that they remember me from when we were little always saying “Hi-de-ho neighbor!” The 90’s were the best.

Anyways, it really is tool time today.


In this post about how to use the BLS and O*Net websites to research career paths, I showed how to look up their salary information. Pay is vital as you plan your career, but it also brings up other questions. Is this salary going to be enough to allow me to pay back my student loans? The salary sounds good now, but is it going to be enough ten years down the road as my life situation changes? For those switching careers, do I have enough time to work to pay it back and save for retirement? It’s only a five thousand dollar a year difference between these two career options, is that much of a difference in the long run?

There are ways to figure these things out and it’s kind of fun too!

You could do the math yourself if you like, but I’m not going to explain that. I’m a little too verbose to explain calculations very well. So I’m just going to direct you to a calculator that does that part for you and you can do the fun part of inputting the data.There are a lot of different calculators online and they are basically all the same thing with different backgrounds. We’ll be using the Lifetime Earnings calculator from

This is fun to goof around with and see how much money you’re on track to make over your lifetime right now, but it’s extremely helpful when considering if you should change careers. Let’s use me as an example for one way to utilize this tool. As I look at my potential earnings I want to keep a couple of my goals in mind.

  1. Be able to work part-time, but still make a good living. I want to be able to spend a lot of time with my family and other pursuits–work is not my life.
  2. Childcare costs are ridiculous, so if I’m going to be away from my home then I want to make sure that I’m not just working to pay for childcare.

For the first calculation, let’s look at what I could earn based on my life right now and if I’m able to work part-time. I got the annual income based on a 20 hour work week at $15/hour. Based on jobs I’ve seen and my personal work history, it may be a stretch still to get that much pay working part-time. Yikes.

part time 15

Now let’s do it again, but use the information based on if I switch careers to Speech-Language Pathology. I had to change the current age because by the time I finish the prerequisites and then do the Master’s degree, I would likely be about 33. I did the annual income based on 20 hours a week at $30/hour (a little less than the median pay listed on the BLS website). For both calculations, I did not do a pay increase percentage because I’m not using current actual figures.

part time 30

The pay difference is $388,800, even when taking the shorter time frame into account. Pretty nice for part-time work!

A couple other things to keep in mind as you play with this:

  1. Are you going to stay at the same company or position? How will your salary change?
  2. Do you plan on increasing your hours after a certain time? For example, I would like to work at around 20 hours when I still have kids at home, but once my kids are in school I’d like to move that up to 30 hours a week.

As you anticipate changes in your salary and work hours, you will need to adjust these calculators. If I plan on working 20 hours until I’m 38 and then 30 hours until 65, I would do two separate calculations and then add them together. Doing them separately shows me that I would end up making over $400,000 more than if I work 20 hours/week that whole time. Pretty cool to get a better idea of your future.

So, why do all of this? Going back to the questions at the beginning, this can help you:

  1. Decide if a potential career path is financially worth the investment.
  2. Compare multiple options to see what will benefit you the most.
  3. Decide if going back to school is worth the time and cost to switch careers.
  4. Help you plan for your retirement as you see how much you’ll actually be able to save and invest.
  5. For those of us who aren’t as number-inclined, it’s kind of fun to find a way to geek out with this.

Take some time as you research to look at your potential earnings. I never thought money was evil or anything like you sometimes hear, but I didn’t put much thought into it when I was in college. I’m not super into material stuff and I figured things would work out. My life is great, but as I sit on my couch next to my new little baby, I wish I had realized that things working out is much different from planning and preparing for the lifestyle you want. I’m in a decent position with my education and current work, but I would love to be in a position to work part-time for high pay right now instead of having to make new plans to have that happen in the next five years.

It’s perfectly fine to want to be wealthy, but you really do need to plan for it!


You know Scrooge McDuck planned!


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