I’m a 32-year-old white man living on the West Coast and working as a software engineer for a
(Meta, Amazon, Apple,
, Alphabet) company. I’ve been in my role for five years, and I made just under $183,000 in base pay and stock last year.
Both my parents were software engineers, and as a child, I went to a private school in New York City. I grew up in a family that had money, and I’ve always known a lot about finances. I graduated from college without any debt, which a lot of people can’t say.
I know I’m incredibly lucky and privileged. Still, given my field, when I apply for a job, I’m probably not going to settle for less than $220,000 a year, which is closer to what I believe other people in my position are making.
Here’s my salary journey over four jobs.
Editor’s note: Insider has verified the source’s pay and identity with documents for their current or most recent job.
IT security consultant, $74,000
When I graduated college, where I studied computer science, the only job offer I could get was for an information-security consulting job.
I didn’t bother negotiating with that first job because it was the one job offer I had and they let me pick where I wanted to work. I chose Boston.
But for me, $74,000 wasn’t what I had in mind, which is why after a year and a half, I made the move to my next job.
Workflow programmer, $89,000
I reached out to a recruiter, and she helped me negotiate a job in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working as a programmer for a workflow-technology company. I got a salary of $89,000, which was about what I wanted.
My dad said this and I think it’s really true: If you’re changing jobs, and you don’t have a reason to change jobs, you want to get a bit of a raise because you never know if your boss is going to be worse than your current one, and that’s a risk.
The company ended up outsourcing my team, and that is where my distaste for recruiters started because I think everyone kind of knew that this was going to happen, that the company wasn’t going to keep anybody. But they roped me in anyway.
In hindsight, the job ended up being a terrible idea, but it got me my next job.
Android engineer, $115,000 and $35,000 in stock
Luckily, I had multiple job offers for the first time. I got a job offer from a restaurant-tech company in Boston for $112,000 a year and one for an online-shopping app in the Bay Area.
At the time, my girlfriend was in the Army and she was stationed in California, so I wanted to make the move. I got $115,000 a year and $35,000 worth of stock, which was useless because the company wasn’t publicly traded.
I didn’t feel the need to negotiate my salary at the time, but I developed a three-number system for considering offers.
The first number is the lowest number, which is how much money you need to live on. If I really want this job, here’s how much money I could live on if I had to sacrifice the finer things in my life. I never tell anyone that number.
The second number is what I would accept to leave my current job. This number is determined by how comfortable I am in my job — how much I do or don’t want to be in my job.
And the third number is kind of the magical number of what would I need to swallow my pride and work for a place I really didn’t want to work but they really wanted to hire me.
One thing is, some companies, especially tech companies, will offer you stock. It’s a way for them to keep their wages down, but I can’t rely on that because if my dog gets sick tomorrow, I can’t sell my stock in a company that’s not publicly traded to pay for her hospital bill.
Software engineer, $146,000 and $37,000 in stock
I sort of got called out of the blue by a recruiter from a FAANG company. After I interviewed and they offered me the job, I came up with all of my numbers and gave the salary number I wanted to the company. They did a little better than what I asked for.
In my first year, the base salary was $120,000, and I was given 70 shares at the fair market value, a $20,000 signing bonus, and a $10,000 relocation stipend.
And last year, my fourth year with the company, I made almost $183,000. The base salary was $146,000, and I got an additional 13 shares. I make enough money now that I give money to charity.
It’s weird to be where I am right now because I know that I am incredibly privileged to be where I am. Still, I know if I worked at a different FAANG company, I’d be making $60,000 or $70,000 more a year.
It feels very disingenuous to complain about a salary as high as mine, but I also think the way that a company demonstrates that they value you is how much they pay you.
I am very comfortable, but the weirdest thing about being at this income level, honestly, is not only what you can buy but also what you can’t buy. I want to buy a two-bedroom apartment. To do that where I live, I would need a lot of money just sitting around, more money than I have. And this is one of the things pushing me to get a new job.
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