Have you ever felt guilty for doing the work you do? Not guilty because what you are doing is illegal, but guilty because you have it easier than others. At the risk of bragging I have. The 2012 American Community Survey estimates the median earnings for male full-time, year-round workers in Massachusetts to be $60,414. I make a non trivial amount more than that, and that is my starting salary.

Why does that make me guilty? Because there are people who work far harder who make far less. Lets look quickly at a couple examples:

  1. Construction worker: $34,490.
  2. Landscaper: $25,870.
  3. Teacher:$40,462.
  4. Police Officer:$52,810.
  5. Firefighter:$42,878.

My job is not 1/10th as hard as these jobs. No way am I cut out to get up early and go build houses or plant trees. I sweat walking up stairs, I would die trying to make it through a day. How could I even begin to start teaching kids, I can barely stand kids. Police officer, lets not joke now I can barely sound commanding to people I know let alone strangers. And firefighter, look at that job name they FIGHT FIRE. I cried the last time I burnt my hand making toast.

Now this is admittedly a small sample set. You can see I excluded people who work hard and make a lot of money like Doctors. The point is there are people who work hard who do not get rewarded. Meanwhile they are people like me who sit in a cool climate controlled environment, work at a leisurely pace, and get rewarded disproportionately. I do not mean to imply that money is the perfect metric by which to judge the relative worth of a job, but I will say that money is social power. The power to choose where you live, how much you work, the quality of food you eat, etc. There is a tipping point for sure, where each extra dollar delivers less social power than before, but I am not sure the average salaries of my examples have passed that. MIT's living wage calculator estimates for one adult the cost of living to be $26,316 if you live in Boston, MA. Granted the cost of living will be higher in a big city, but it is a decent reference point. So for everyone except a landscaper you would be good to go. What about having a family? If you are married and have two kids MIT estimates $43,683 per year. Doable with one parent not working in some cases based on my example salaries. Probably pretty comfortable if both are working. So these are livable salaries, but are they fair for the work?

That is what makes me feel guilty.