I’m a Retired Baby Boomer: Here’s How Much I Made in My First Job — and What I Make Now

Tom Merton / Getty Images

Tom Merton / Getty Images

According to a recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, most baby boomers found good jobs by their mid-20s, while millennials often had to wait until their early 30s to secure quality employment. That’s why it’s always interesting to take deep dives into the finances of boomers — they can provide illuminating looks at paths that could’ve been if younger generations had inherited a more robust economy.

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GOBankingRates spoke to  Jon C., a retired resident of Kansas City, Missouri, who shared with us the ups and downs of his career — from its inception as a busboy in 1968 to his retirement as a high-level sales manager.

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Humble Beginnings

Jon’s money journey began in 1968 when he took his first job at 16 years old.

“Minimum wage was peanuts in those days… I think it was about $1.60 an hour,” he shared. “I was a busboy at a restaurant down the street so I could walk to work. Still, seeing that first paycheck gave me such a sense of pride and accomplishment. I was hooked.”

The Determination To Grow

While those early earnings weren’t exactly lucrative — although $1.60 in 1968 is equivalent to $14.71 today, which is double the federal minimum wage — Jon credits that first job with instilling the value of determination.

“Even scraping together just a few dollars felt like such a major achievement at that age,” he said. “It really lit a fire under me to work hard. Maybe boomers invented hustle culture after all!”

That drive continued into Jon’s college years at the University of Missouri. To help pay his way, he took on the role of valet while pursuing his business degree.

“Making just $2.50 an hour before tips, it was tough balancing those late-night work hours with all my studying,” he shared. “But I knew the sacrifices would be worth it to set myself up for future success. Plus, anything seems doable when you’re young!”

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The First ‘Real’ Paycheck

Jon graduated in 1976 and quickly landed an entry-level sales position at a local retailer. His starting salary was $18,000 a year, which is actually equivalent to $101,508 in today’s money — a pretty nice starting salary.

“Getting my first salaried position felt big at the time!” he said. “Earning a real paycheck, man. I felt like such an adult.”

The Big Bucks Years

Fortunately for Jon, his career would continue ascending over the following decades.

“By the mid-’90s, I was bringing in over $120,000 annually as a regional sales manager,” he said. “After years of thinking like a broke college kid, suddenly having a six-figure income was just mindblowing.”

It was also during this period when Jon got ultra-serious about saving and investing for retirement on the horizon. Maximizing contributions to his employer 401(k) and IRA accounts, his growing nest egg was bolstered by the historic bull market of the ’90s.

A Comfortable Retirement Awaits

Thanks to decades of disciplined saving and investing, Jon was able to retire comfortably at age 62 with a decent annual income stream.

“Between my Social Security benefits, former company pension, and withdrawals from my retirement accounts, I’m bringing in around $75,000 per year these days,” he shared. “While not nearly as much as I was making at my peak, it’s plenty enough to sustain the modest lifestyle I want in retirement.”

For Jon and many fellow baby boomers, retiring with complete financial freedom wasn’t necessarily a smooth or straightforward path. But the path felt possible in a way that feels increasingly more difficult these days.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: I’m a Retired Baby Boomer: Here’s How Much I Made in My First Job — and What I Make Now

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