How Much Have You Earned Over the Years? The Answer May Surprise You

Between housing, student loan payments, groceries and other expenses, you may sometimes wonder where all your money is going.

Between housing, student loan payments, groceries and other expenses, you may sometimes wonder where all your money is going.

Household debt can also be a drag on your income. With an average of $6,662 in credit card debt per U.S. household, you could be paying hundreds per month in debt payments. At the end of the month, it may feel like you didn’t earn anything at all.

But a tool from the Social Security Administration (SSA) shows you how much money you’ve really made over your lifetime. You may be shocked by how much income you’ve earned, especially if you don’t know where it all went.

How to Check Your Earnings Record

The SSA keeps track of your income and taxes paid for Social Social Security and Medicare using your tax returns. It uses this information to calculate your Social Security and Medicare benefits.

You can view your estimated benefits, along with your earnings record, through your designated my Social Security account. If you don’t already have an account, you can create one through the SSA website.

As you walk through the steps to create an account, you’ll need to provide the following:

● Full name, as shown on your Social Security card
● Social Security number
● Date of birth
● Home address
● Primary phone number

The SSA will then ask some multiple-choice questions to verify your identity. For example, you may be asked where you have lived in the past and to share information about your financial accounts.

Once you pass the verification test, you’ll create a username and password. The SSA will then ask for your email address to send you various communications about your account.

After you’ve created your online account, you can log into the site and see your estimated benefits at full retirement age (if you qualify), as well as your last reported earnings. There’s also a link to view your earnings record. Your earnings record includes a comprehensive list of your taxed Social Security and Medicare earnings for every year that you’ve worked.

You can then add up your yearly earnings to see how much you’ve earned since you joined the workforce. The tool is also helpful for seeing how your income has increased over time.

How to Keep More of Your Income

Now that you know how much you’ve made over the years, you may be wondering what happened to it all. Here are a few tips on how to keep better track of your money and hold onto more of it in the process.

1. Create a Budget

If you don’t already have one, then creating a budget is the first step to increasing your net cash flow, or the difference between your income and expenses. Keeping track of your transactions gives you a good idea of where you can cut back.

To set up your budget, start with your take-home pay (not gross income from your SSA earnings record). Then take a look at your expenses for the last month and categorize them. For example, you can create categories such as rent or mortgage payment, groceries, household items, entertainment, etc.

Next, determine areas where you can cut back and set a budget for each category for the following month. During that time, keep track of each transaction to make sure you stay within your spending limit for each category.

This process may be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier over time as you get used to your new habit. You can also compare and use budgeting apps to help make the process easier.

2. Tackle Your Debt

For some people, monthly debt payments make up a large portion of their expenses. Between credit cards, an auto loan and a mortgage, you may be paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month toward your household debt.

If you have student debt, for example, consider refinancing your student loans to lower your payment, interest rate or both. Also consider other strategies to pay off debt, such as the debt-snowball or avalanche methods. These approaches help you target one debt at a time, rolling your payments into other debts as you pay each one off. (You can keep tabs on how your debt is affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

3. Use Bonuses & Tax Refunds Wisely

Once you get into the swing of budgeting, it can be easy to manage your monthly paychecks.

But getting a small windfall in the form of a bonus or tax refund can make it easy to rationalize spending money on things you don’t need. Instead of wasting that money, use it to pay off debt. You can also save it for a rainy day or a future goal.

4. Consider Moving

If you live in a state with income tax, you may be missing out on extra cash every year. There are nine states with no income tax on wages and earnings you could consider moving to — if that’s a feasible strategy for you:

● Alaska
● Florida
● Nevada
● New Hampshire
● South Dakota
● Tennessee
● Texas
● Washington
● Wyoming

Of course, where you live isn’t just a matter of how much you pay in taxes, as your family, friends and job won’t likely come with you. What’s more, some states may make up for having no individual income tax by taxing more heavily in other areas. Make sure you do your research before considering a big move.

Treat Your Money Like You’ve Earned It

You work hard for your money, and it can be devastating to look back at how much you’ve earned over the years and wonder what happened to it all. The better you manage your money, the more of it you’ll keep.

As you budget, pay down debt and learn other money-management techniques, you’ll be able to look back again a few years from now with confidence that you’re on the track toward financial independence.

Image: StockLib

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The Best & Worst Cities for Women’s Wage Equality

Here's where to live if you want equal pay for equal work.

Women continue to earn less than men across the board in the United States. In fact, except for women working in a few specific fields within specific communities, women still earn less than 80 cents for every dollar men make (and the wage gap only widens as women age). At the rate we’re going, women aren’t expected to achieve wage equality with men in this country until 2152 — another 135 years.

But some women’s earnings in some roles are equal or even surpassing those of their male coworkers (more on that in a minute), according to a recent analysis of U.S. Census data by Abodo, an apartment-locator website. Unfortunately, that’s not the case across the board. How much a woman makes compared to men doing the same job depends a lot on where she lives.

“For young millennials looking to launch their careers, or even for college students still planning their next move, being aware of the different factors influencing your future earnings is key, because even small discrepancies can have a huge impact on lifetime earnings,” said Sam Radbil, senior communications manager for Abodo. “For a woman pursuing a career in computers and math, for example, and assuming stable earnings, choosing to live in Milwaukee can mean earning $176,000 less than your male counterparts, while choosing Phoenix would mean $560,040 less over a 40-year career.”

Let’s start out looking at Abodo’s findings on the overall wage gap and the cities where it’s best and worst across industries. (You can check out the full report here.)

Nationally, the median income for women is $39,315, which is 78.9% of the national median income of $49,828 for men. Abodo looked at the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey five-year estimates for the median salaries of male and female full-time, year-round workers who were at least 16 years old and had earnings to find the greatest departure from that median. Abodo identified the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest and smallest wage gaps, as well as the five occupations with the largest and smallest wage gaps nationally.

First, the Cities With the Least Wage Disparity

1. Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Topping the chart for women wage earners across all occupational categories was Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where women earn an average of 92.6% of what their male counterparts do. It’s the only metro area where women’s overall median salaries across industries exceed 90% of men’s salaries, the study found.

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
Women earn 89.5% what men earn.

3. Fresno, California
Women earn 88.8% of what men earn.

4. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Osmond Beach, Florida
Women earn 87.1% of what men earn.

5. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Nevada
Women earn 86.9% of what men earn.

6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach
Women earn 86.7% of what men earn.

7. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nevada
Women earn 86.0% of what men earn.

8. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
Women earn 86.0% of what men earn.

9. New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
Women earn 85.5% of what men earn.

10. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California
Women earn 85.3% of what men earn.

On the flip side, the cities where women earn the smallest percentage median wage compared to men are led by Utah, where three of the top 10 cities are located. In fact, only one city located outside of Utah has a median wage for women that is less than 70% of what men earn.

The Cities With the Greatest Wage Disparity

1. Provo, Utah
Women earn 63.1% of what men earn.

2. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Women earn 68.1% of what men earn.

3. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
Women earn 68.9% of what men earn.

4. Wichita, Kansas
Women earn 72.1% of what men earn.

5. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania
Women earn 73.1% of what men earn.

6. Salt Lake City
Women earn 73.4% of what men earn.

7. Augusta-Richmond County, Georgia
Women earn 73.4% of what men earn.

8. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Women earn 73.6% of what men earn.

9. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
Women earn 73.6% of what men earn.

10. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut
Women earn 74.4% of what men earn.

Wage Disparity by Field

Abodo found only two major fields where women earned more — community and social services (see the green chart below), and construction and extraction jobs (see the blue chart below. Even then, women earned more only in certain cities.

wage disparity

Click image to view larger.

As Radbil explains: “Construction and extraction is one of the rare fields in our study in which women occasionally out-earned their male counterparts — at least in a specific set of cities and positions,” Radbil said. “As laborers, managers and first-line supervisors, women’s wages still lag. But in certain roles, such as helpers for construction and extraction, or service unit operators, women are seemingly leaps and bounds ahead. However, this field has the lowest percentage of female workers — just 2.4%. With numbers so low, it’s much easier for a few high-earning outliers to bolster the numbers when it comes down to specific jobs and cities.

wage disparity

Click image to view larger.

“And the reverse is also true: Construction and extraction jobs have a wide spectrum for earnings, and also contains some of the lowest lows for female workers. For example, the city with the best construction earnings ratio is Memphis, Tennessee, with $1.21 on a man’s dollar, while the worst is Milwaukee, with just 63 cents, which is the second-lowest earning ratio for any occupation our study found. All in all, however, female construction and extraction workers still earn 88 cents to a man’s dollar, for the third-highest earning ratio.”

The Largest Wage Gap Goes To…

One employment category was found to have an especially large wage gap: the legal field, where women make only 51.8% as much as men. Part of the discrepancy stems from the widely variable salaries in the legal field. Judges earn much more than paralegals, for example. But it doesn’t explain why more men work in the higher earning jobs. It also can’t explain why female lawyers earn just 78.2% on the dollar.

If you aren’t being paid the same as your peers, regardless of their gender, or just aren’t being paid what you’re worth, you might want to consider asking for a raise. It can be tough, but these tips on how to ask for a raise can make it easier.

If that’s not an option for you but you need to find some way to improve your financial circumstances — whether it’s to qualify for a mortgage, get a better rate on your credit card or just make saving for the future easier — here are 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start.

Keep in mind, one of the most prudent financial moves you can make is to keep your credit in good standing. If you don’t know where your credit stands, or if you know you could improve your credit scores, checking your credit regularly is a good idea. You can get your two absolutely free credit scores right here on Credit.com.

Image: skynesher

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