Income Percentile by Age: How Do You Compare?

Many Americans find themselves wondering how they compare to their peers in terms of income. Earning “average” or above average is great, and falling below average can be worrisome. While there are numerous factors that affect overall financial stability and job/life satisfaction, everyone wants to be on track for a healthy retirement. Below, we have more information about average earnings per age group for men and women, ways to calculate your earnings, and tips for setting financial goals.

Income Percentile by Age

When it comes to understanding your general financial status and setting realistic goals, it helps to have a baseline of comparison. Below, we’ve listed the median income for age groups for men and women, taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. When considering your income, be sure to include all income sources — not just your salary. Such ancillary income could include side hustles, bonuses, or passive income-like dividends.

The table below details the median income in five-year increments for both men and women:

Age Group Women's Median Income Men's Median Income
16 to 20 $18,000 $21,000
21 to 25 $26,400 $29,400
26 to 30 $37,800 $41,600
31 to 35 $43,600 $50,600
36 to 40 $46,800 $56,800
41 to 45 $47,800 $60,000
46 to 50 $48,800 $63,800
51 to 55 $48,200 $64,800
56 to 60 $47,600 $63,800
61 to 65 $49,200 $64,600
66 to 70 $56,000 $77,600
70 and up $55,400 $81,000

The statistics above clarify that there are some prime earning years for both women and men. Women tend to earn the most during the years of 36 to 55 (with some high-earning years during retirement), and men tend to have their highest earning years during their fifties (again, with some high-income years during retirement). You may earn less in your early years because you’re busy with school, starting a family, building a life, etc.

While there can be fluctuations with shifting jobs, layoffs, health issues, taking time off to raise children, etc., income tends to increase with age. The only years that tend to see a decline in income — for both women and men — are the years just before retirement. Then, in retirement, average income actually tends to increase again.

Income Percentile Calculator

One way to help put things in perspective and understand your financial standing within your age group is to use PersonalFinanceData.com’s income percentile calculator. This tool can also help you plan and set realistic goals for your financial future and/or evaluate your career path at your current job. However, keep in mind that this tool does not take gender into consideration when calculating your income percentile.

An important thing to remember when setting income goals is to not be deceived by appearances. It is very difficult to estimate someone’s wealth based on what they own, and everyone has different spending, saving, and investing priorities.

Plus, there are several factors other than base income that contribute to overall wealth. Generational wealth (accrued by a person’s parents, grandparents, and so on) is perhaps the most significant of these factors. Things like education, medical history, and geographic location also play a role in how much a person earns and is able to save. Focusing on doing your best at your age is a powerful way to think. While comparing yourself to others isn’t often a productive mindset, it can be helpful to know if your income is generally below average, average, or above average. This allows you to know if you may need to reevaluate your career plans, and you can set goals for future earning and saving.

If you’d like to get a head start earning as much as possible, you may also be interested in our article listing the highest paying jobs for 18-year-olds.

7 comments

    • Kathleen Wilson says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Moses! Thanks for catching that — looks like the link had expired. We’ve gone in and updated the article with a newer version of the link that you can now use. Hope this helps!

  • I know this guy that makes by my estimates around $75,000 a year which is really good, and even by what this post says is above average even for a high earner. The reason I know he makes this much money is because he likes to talk about how much money he has and how much he spends on things. “Do you like these shoes? I spent $700 on them”, “See my car I got it for $55,000” the funny thing about this to me is that he says this to some guys that own there own business and are making half a million a year, but you would never know that they make that much money. They live in modest homes, same cars they have had for years, and never talk about how much they spend on things except to tell you the great deal they got on them.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      You should give that clown a copy of The Millionaire Next Door. It’s awesome he’s making a good income but it sounds like he’s being a bit nouveau riche.

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore says:

    Great article Will! I will check out the calculator for me info, but my earnings are looking good so far. 🙂

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Motivating, am I right? Talking about money is cliche but we have this great data that lets us compare our incomes anyway! Hehehe.