Your peak earning years may be just around the corner.
According to compensation research firm PayScale, pay growth for college-educated men essentially stops at age 49. For college-educated women, it's decidedly younger: at age 40.
Male college graduates earn more from the get-go. They bring home a median salary of $50,200 at age 22, while their female counterparts earn $39,800 per year, a difference of $10,400.
From ages 22 to 32, female pay actually grows slightly faster than male pay. However, a shift occurs at age 33, when women's earnings growth starts to slow and men's remains steady. By age 40, women see their salaries peak at about $67,000.
Meanwhile, men continue seeing pay growth up until age 49, at which point they're earning a median of $102,000.
Take a look at PayScale's chart, which maps out the percent growth in pay by gender from age 22 to 67. Blue represents pay growth for men and orange represents pay growth for women.
The numbers, which PayScale provided exclusively to CNBC Make It, have increased slightly since 2012, when the site initially analyzed exactly when pay starts to level out and found that men's salaries peak at age 48 and women's at 39.
"Whenever you're talking about the differences in earnings between men and women, it often ties back to the jobs that they're actually holding," PayScale's vice president of data analytics Katie Bardaro tells CNBC Make It. "For women, the jobs that tend to be more common — whether it be nurses, teachers, social workers or administrative assistants — tend to be jobs that see a fair amount of pay growth in the early part of their career, but then it just levels off."
Men, on the other hand, are more concentrated in high-paying jobs that also feature higher earnings over time, like software developer and engineering positions, say Bardaro.
"If you did look at a woman and a man who were doing the same job — if you had a female software developer and a male software developer who had the same characteristics, working for the same type of organization — you don't see this pattern," she notes. "You will see them follow the same general growth trend."
However, the American Association of University Women has come to other conclusions: "Women typically earn about 90 percent of what men are paid until they hit 35. After that, median earnings for women are typically 74–82 percent of what men are paid."
"At every level of academic achievement, women's median earnings are less than men's median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education," the AAUW points out.
It's also important to note that "even though men's pay grows longer than women's, their pay still levels off 10 to 20 years before retirement," says Bardaro. "The pay growth leveling off there really just shows that you hit a certain ceiling in your career that is very hard to overcome."
With earnings peaking before age 50 for all employees, it's even more important to start building your nest egg early on.
For inspiration, check out:
- How to save for retirement without going broke
- New study says save at least 11% of your income for retirement—here are 5 ways to do that
- 8 things to give up to retire by 40, from real people who have done it
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