Your peak earning years may be closer than you think. According to compensation research firm PayScale, full-time workers with Bachelor's degrees tend to make the most money in their 40s and 50s.
PayScale also found that when you earn the most during your career depends on your gender: Pay growth for college-educated women essentially stops around age 40. For college-educated men, wages continue to grow for another decade and peak in their early 50s.
Male college graduates earn more from the get-go: They bring home a median salary of $50,700 at age 22, while their female counterparts earn $39,500 per year, for a difference of $11,200.
From ages 22 to 33, women's pay actually grows slightly faster than men's. However, a shift occurs at age 34, when women's earning growth starts to slow and men's remains steady.
By age 41, college-educated women see their salaries peak at about $61,000. Meanwhile, men continue seeing increases up until age 53, at which point they're earning about $95,000.
"The smallest gap in raw wages occurs at age 25 (with the typical working man earning $10,600 than the typical working woman), and is largest at age 54 (when the typical man earns $32,800 more than the typical woman)," Payscale reports.
PayScale's chart 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 data "only represents wages for those who remain in the workforce," PayScale notes. "The fall in wages for both genders over the age of 60 is likely due to people dropping out of the workforce due to retirement."
Here's the full break down of the median pay by age and gender for full-time workers with a Bachelor's degree. PayScale surveyed 972,788 U.S. workers between July 2015 and July 2018:
The main reason men continue to see pay growth significantly later in their careers than women "is job choice," PayScale's chief economist Katie Bardaro tells CNBC Make It. "Jobs that are more common for men tend to have longer real wage growth," like software developer and engineering positions, she says. "Whereas jobs that are more common for women — teachers, health care workers, social workers, admin workers, etc. — tend to have shorter real wage growth."
Bardaro notes that men's incomes also stall about 10 to 20 years before retirement: "The pay growth leveling off there really just shows that you hit a certain ceiling in your career that is very hard to overcome."
That makes 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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