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Hello there, esteemed elders. I won't stay long, and I'll be polite—I just had a question. You see, I grew up in the '90s, but I've read a lot of books from earlier generations, and one thing they mention a lot is that you're rich if you "make six figures," that is to say, you have a yearly salary in dollars that is six digits long. I understand that inflation has been pretty high since then, but I was still shocked to discover that my father currently makes six figures, since he constantly struggles to make ends meet and probably will never have enough money to retire. I wanted to ask, when did the shift occur, and was it gradual or sudden?
Well, when I was fresh out of college, minimum wage was $2.90. The growth was generally gradual, with some biggish jumps.
But you have to keep in mind that a six-figure income means making over $100,000 a year — that's still quite good, considering only about 15% of households hit that mark. I live fairly comfortably on about a quarter of that.
edited 21st Mar '11 8:14:58 AM by Madrugada
My first job was detasseling seed corn and I made $1.15 an hour. Then I worked at a grocery for $1.70 an hour. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. Cigarettes were 50 cents a pack.
Sometimes I like to punch stuff into The Inflation Calculator just for amusement.
Also, what Madrugada said. Most people don't make anywhere near six figures; it's quite possible to make it on far less.
I recall my father being upset when cigarettes jumped to 35 cents a pack from 25. That was sometime in the early or mid 60's. I was upset when gas first broke a dollar a gallon; that was in the late 70's.
My first job was at a diner; minimum wage at the time was 1.60 an hour, but I was a tipped employee — I was paid about 35 cents an hour, plus my tips. Average meal cost was between a dollar and a half and three dollars, average tip was 15 to 25 cents. I averaged around 5 dollars for a three-hour after-school shift; around 15 dollars on Saturday for 8 hours.
I remember when a pack of chewing gum was 10p. Any candy that has remained the same price since I was a child has become smaller in size over time too, to account for inflation.
I grew up in the 90s too. The thing I've noticed is a lot of it depends on where you live. Like someone who makes 50,000 dollars in one area could be making 100,000 in another for the same exact job. Sounds good doesn't it? On the surface yes. The problem is the guy or gal making 100,000 dollars a year probably has to pay more for stuff than the one making 50,000.
Yes. I have a six-figure income. But I live in Los Angeles and that income is currently supporting three adults (and semi a fourth). So I don't feel well off in the slightest — though things could be so, so much worse.
Phone calls were a quarter, stamps were also a quarter.
I recall gas still being less than a dollar, and that was mini-serve. Cheap cans of soda could be had for a quarter, regular ones for fifty cents. Candy bars all cost fifty cents.
School hot lunches were eighty cents (full price - the poor kids paid far less) and breakfast cost twenty-five cents.
Penny candies that didn't suck - run to the store with a few empty soda cans and you'd have a stash of sweets.
I recall ramen nboodles costing only ten cents a pack, SPAM for a dollar a can.
I can't equal the massive changes of blackcat or Maddie, but when I was a kid...
Mall rides were a quarter when I was a kid, and are at least a dollar now. Plus they're a lot rarer.
I remember gas being under a dollar, and being able to buy a pack of gum for a quarter as a kid.
^^I'd almost forgotten about them. Can't remember the last time I saw one.
A bus ride in my area was a dollar when I was a kid, now it's $2.25. Still cheaper than gas I suppose.
A comic book was 10 cents. Gas was around 28 cents a gallon. A bottle of Coke was 10 cents, 5 if you had an empty. Coke had real sugar in it too, dang it. A hamburger was around 25 cents. For a dollar you could spend Saturday at the movies, eat and drink your fill, and have some left over.
What I remember best is that, when you bought something, you felt like you were dealing with human beings. You didn't worry about getting short-changed or stiffed, and if you were, you went back to the shop and they made it right. The American Dream was alive and well.
When I was a teenager seeing a first run movie in a big theater was like $5.50 for a night show and $3.50 for a matinée, but at the local flea pit it was $2.50 all day. I remember going to the mall with $10, seeing The Abyss and still having change to buy some candy and play a few arcade games in the lobby. A couple weeks back I spent $17.50 for 1 ticket to an IMAX plus another $3.75 for a thing of Twizzlers.
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