receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure
BDC Hamburger Icon


BDC Logo
Search Icon
Updated Jan 03, 2024

Lifetime Earnings Calculator

The average American earns more than $1 million in their lifetime. Use our calculator to find out what your likely lifetime earnings will be and how to protect them.

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Verified CheckEditor Verified
Verified Check
Editor Verified
A editor verified this analysis to ensure it meets our standards for accuracy, expertise and integrity.

Table of Contents

Open row

How much will your life’s work actually be worth? Use the calculator below to find out just how much money you’re likely to make from now until you retire.

Key terms when using the lifetime earnings calculator

This calculator predicts your likely total earning capacity in today’s dollars from now until the end of your career. You can also enter your partner’s gross annual income separately to determine their lifetime earnings.

Current age

The calculator uses your current age as the starting point for working out how much you’ll earn between now and retirement.

Retirement age

This is the age at which you plan to stop working. The calculator uses this and your current age to determine the length of your working life and your likely future earnings.

Current annual income

This is your present gross annual income, which the calculator uses as a baseline to predict future earnings for each year it’s forecasting.

Annual salary increases

This is an estimate of how much you believe your salary will increase annually. The calculator compounds this amount over time. The higher the increase, the more pronounced the effect will be on your own earning capacity over your working career.

How can I maximize my lifetime earnings?

The best way to improve your financial situation now and in the future is to invest in your education and improve your skill set. Prepare yourself to undertake continuous learning and be ready to react to and exploit relevant market trends and new technologies to position yourself for career advancement and higher earnings.

For employees, the more indispensable you can make yourself to your employer, the more likely they are to recognize your value and reward you appropriately. 

If you have the confidence, job skills and entrepreneurial flair, you could probably make a lot more money by selling the skills you’ve acquired in your career as a business owner. However, there is risk involved, so be sure you weigh the pros and cons before going in this direction. 

You could take a gradual step toward self-employment instead. Many Americans now have a side hustle – a part-time job or gig work that they do in addition to their main job – to supplement their current earnings. If you have sector expertise in an industry that is suffering from a labor shortage, your knowledge may be particularly valuable and sellable to clients. 

Over time, as you build up clients and contacts, you could transition into becoming a full-time self-employed consultant. The pay is often much higher than it is for salaried staff performing the same role. However, as with a business owner, you have to be confident in marketing your services and selling them to clients.

Another option to earn more money is to pivot into something different. Over the last 50 years, there has been an explosion in the use of information technology. Many traditional companies want to leverage tech and data to become more efficient and profitable. If you are proficient in one of these areas, your experience and insights, backed up with additional training, could be essential in helping companies come up with IT-based solutions for specific industries. This type of work can be particularly lucrative.

Whatever approach you take, create a career roadmap for yourself. Set goals for what you want to be doing and how much you want to be earning, and use this as a guide to find the opportunities and training you need to achieve those goals.

What are the best ways to save for retirement?

Be careful with your money throughout your career. Few Americans are aware of how much they actually earn over their working lifetime. Many earn a small fortune but aren’t as prudent as they could be with their earnings. To enjoy a stress-free and relaxing retirement, you need to successfully manage your finances between now and when you stop working.

One way to protect against cost-of-living increases, which erode the value of your total income over time, is by investing in top employee retirement plans like 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). 

Contributions to traditional retirement accounts like these are tax-deductible, meaning that you will not pay tax on your contributions when you make them. It’s essential, however, to plan for the fact that the income you withdraw from your retirement savings after retirement will be taxed.

Withdrawals from certain retirement accounts, like Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, are tax-free if they are taken after a certain age. Even though these accounts are funded with after-tax dollars during your career, they can be a better choice for you if tax rates go up or you expect to be in a higher tax bracket when you retire.

If your company matches your retirement savings contributions up to a certain amount, that’s great for accumulating wealth as you approach retirement. These employer matches are essentially free money.

Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, investment returns on retirement plans have historically been more than high enough to protect the value of your contributions against even a higher inflation rate.

>>Learn More: Investment Calculator

Diversify any other investments you make to spread risk. Stocks, bonds and real estate have their ups and downs, but historically, they outperform other investments and counter the effects of inflation. Review your portfolio regularly to adjust for any changes in your planned retirement age and your appetite for risk.

If you’re serious about maximizing your wealth during retirement, consider speaking with a financial advisor. They’ll be able to give you tailored tax advice now to ensure you have enough money to live well on when you stop working.

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Mark Fairlie brings decades of expertise in telecommunications and telemarketing to the forefront as the former business owner of a direct marketing company. Also well-versed in a variety of other B2B topics, such as taxation, investments and cybersecurity, he now advises fellow entrepreneurs on the best business practices. With a background in advertising and sales, Fairlie made his mark as the former co-owner of Meridian Delta, which saw a successful transition of ownership in 2015. Through this journey, Fairlie gained invaluable hands-on experience in everything from founding a business to expanding and selling it. Since then, Fairlie has embarked on new ventures, launching a second marketing company and establishing a thriving sole proprietorship.
BDC Logo

Get Weekly 5-Minute Business Advice

B. newsletter is your digest of bite-sized news, thought & brand leadership, and entertainment. All in one email.

Back to top