Is $38,000 a Good Salary for a Single Person?

Is $38,000 a Good Salary for a Single Person? - Image of 100 dollar bills

Is a salary of $38,000 good for a single person? The answer to this seemingly simple question is complicated because it depends on many factors. These factors include: where you live, what’s your lifestyle, how much debt you have, your line of work, your level of education and experience, and what goals you have.

For example, where you live will significantly affect your cost of living, so your dollar might not go as far in a higher-cost-of-living area than a lower-cost-of-living area.

In this article, we will take a look at whether a salary of $38,000 is good for a single person and which factors play into this.

How a Salary of $38,000 Compares to Other Individuals In The United States

According to data from the US Census Bureau for 2022, the median income for Nonfamily households in the United States was approximately $45,440 – which means that half of all individuals earned more than this amount, and half earned less.

Chart showing the median income for nonfamily households in 2022

So, if you have a salary of $38,000, you have a salary that is in the lower 50 percent of all earners in the United States.

With a salary of under $50,000, you are doing ok and near the middle of average earners in the United States.

Let’s look at some other factors to help you answer the question if a salary of $38,000 is good.

Determining if a Salary of $38,000 is Good Relative to Where You Live

Where you live will greatly affect how much money you make. For example, in higher-cost-of-living areas, such as California and New York, wages are typically higher. In lower-cost-of-living areas, such as Mississippi and Oklahoma, wages are typically lower.

According to FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), here is the data for the Annual Per Capita Personal Income by State for 2022. We have summarized this data below.

District of Columbia96,728
New Hampshire74,663
New Jersey78,700
New Mexico51,500
New York78,089
North Carolina57,416
North Dakota66,184
Rhode Island65,377
South Carolina53,320
South Dakota65,806
West Virginia49,169

So at a salary of $38,000, you are making less than any state’s Per Capita Personal Income.

Something else to consider is whether you live in a city or rural area. Again, in cities, typically you can make more for your work.

Therefore, it’s essential to look at where you live and see how you compare to other earners in your area.

Is $38,000 a Good Salary for My Age?

First, let’s take a look at some data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on income and age. We have created the following table based on data from 2022 to find the approximate median earnings for full-time workers by age.

AgeAnnual Income
  16 to 19 years$31,486
  20 to 24 years$36,790
  25 to 34 years$51,610
  35 to 44 years$61,568
  45 to 54 years$62,101
  55 to 64 years$60,021
  65 years and over$53,664

So if you compare your salary and age to this chart, at $38,000 you are doing better than the median salary for your age group if you are 24 or younger, and worse if you are older than 24 years old.

But remember, whether a $38,000 salary is considered good for your age also depends on various factors, including your location, field of work, level of experience, and personal financial goals. Age alone is not the sole determinant of what constitutes a good salary.

In some regions with a lower cost of living, a $38,000 salary can provide a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to save for the future, making it a good income for your age. However, in high-cost-of-living areas, this salary might require careful budgeting to maintain the same standard of living.

Ultimately, it’s important to focus on your own financial objectives and how your salary aligns with them. Assess your expenses, savings goals, and lifestyle choices to determine whether your salary enables you to meet your needs and work towards your financial aspirations, regardless of your age.

Is a Salary of $38,000 Good for Your Level of Education and Experience?

Another question you can ask yourself is if your salary is good for the level of education and experience you have in your field.

For example, if you just started working and only have limited education, then you most likely will not be getting paid as much as others who have been in the field for a long time.

At the same time, if you have been working in the same job or area for many years, then your level of experience should show in your salary.

Once again we looked into 2022 data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on weekly income based on education. We put together another table showing the annual median income earned by education level.

  Education LevelAnnual Income
  Less than a high school diploma$35,438
  High school graduates, no college$44,278
  Some college or associate degree$50,375
  Bachelor’s degree and higher$80,275

So at a salary of $38,000, you are doing better than the median for people without a high school diploma, but worse than any other education level.

Something else to consider is which field you work in. For example, typically, jobs in medicine, technology, finance, or law will pay more than jobs in the service industry or other industries.

For example, if you are making more than $50,000 and are working in a service industry, then you are probably doing quite well relative to others in your industry.

Likewise, if you are working in a higher-paid industry, there may be more room to grow in your job.

How to Budget a $38,000 Salary

Budgeting is an important financial planning tool that helps you manage your income and expenses effectively. Here’s a sample budget for a $38,000 annual salary. Remember that individual financial situations vary, so you may need to adjust this budget to suit your specific needs and goals.

Monthly After-Tax Income:

  • Salary after Taxes: Approximately xxxxxAfterTaxSalaryxxxxx (This is a rough estimate after assuming a xxxxxTaxRatexxxxx% tax rate)

Monthly Expenses:

  1. Housing:
    • Rent/Mortgage: xxxxxRentxxxxx
    • Utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet, etc.): xxxxxUtilitiesxxxxx
  2. Transportation:
    • Car Payment: xxxxxCarxxxxx
    • Gas: xxxxxGasxxxxx
    • Maintenance and Repairs: xxxxxMaintenancexxxxx
    • Car Insurance: xxxxxInsurancexxxxx
  3. Groceries and Dining:
    • Groceries: xxxxxGroceriesxxxxx
    • Dining out (restaurants, takeout, etc.): xxxxxDiningxxxxx
  4. Healthcare:
    • Health Insurance Premiums: xxxxxHealthxxxxx
    • Medical Expenses (co-pays, prescriptions, etc.): xxxxxMedicalxxxxx
  5. Savings and Investments:
    • Retirement Savings (e.g., 401(k) or IRA): xxxxxRetirementxxxxx
    • Emergency Fund: xxxxxEmergencyxxxxx
    • Other Investments or Savings Goals: xxxxxInvestmentsxxxxx
  6. Entertainment and Recreation:
    • Cable/Streaming Services: $100
    • Hobbies and Entertainment: xxxxxHobbiesxxxxx

Total Monthly Expenses: xxxxxMonthlyExpensesxxxxx

Remaining Income after Expenses: xxxxxDiscretionaryxxxxx

With this budget, you have approximately xxxxxDiscretionaryxxxxx per month for discretionary income, saving for future goals, or additional investments. Be sure to keep track of your actual expenses and adjust your budget as necessary to ensure you’re on track to meet your financial objectives and maintain a healthy financial situation.

Remember, this budget is a general guideline, and your actual expenses may differ based on your unique circumstances and priorities. Always strive to save and invest for your future while enjoying your current lifestyle responsibly.

Will a Salary of $38,000 Help Me Become Rich?

A salary of $38,000 can certainly help you build wealth and achieve financial success, but whether it will make you “rich” depends on various factors, including your financial goals, lifestyle choices, expenses, and savings/investment strategies. Here are some considerations:

  1. Financial Goals: The definition of “rich” varies from person to person. For some, it means achieving financial security and having enough to comfortably cover living expenses and retirement. For others, it means accumulating significant wealth. Your specific financial goals will determine what “rich” means to you.
  2. Lifestyle Choices: Your spending habits and lifestyle choices play a significant role in your ability to accumulate wealth. Even with a high salary, if you spend excessively or accumulate debt, it can hinder your path to becoming rich. Budgeting, practicing mindful spending, and living below your means are essential.
  3. Savings and Investments: Building wealth often involves saving a significant portion of your income and making smart investments. A high salary provides the opportunity to save and invest more, which can accelerate your wealth-building journey. Consider contributing to retirement accounts, investing in stocks or real estate, and diversifying your investments.
  4. Debt Management: Reducing and managing debt, such as student loans, credit card debt, and mortgages, is crucial for building wealth. High-interest debt can erode your financial progress, so it’s important to prioritize paying it off.
  5. Cost of Living: The cost of living in your area can significantly impact your ability to save and invest. In high-cost-of-living areas, it may be more challenging to build wealth, even with a high salary.
  6. Investment Strategy: Your investment strategy, including asset allocation, risk tolerance, and long-term planning, can greatly influence your wealth accumulation. Consulting with a financial advisor can help you make informed investment decisions.
  7. Time Horizon: Building substantial wealth often takes time and consistent effort. The longer your time horizon, the more potential you have to accumulate wealth through the power of compounding returns.

In summary, a $38,000 salary provides a foundation for building wealth, but it’s not the salary alone that determines your financial success. Becoming “rich” is a subjective goal, so it’s essential to define what it means for you and create a financial plan to pursue it.

Hopefully this article has been useful for you to answer the question: Is $38,000 a Good Salary for a Single Person?