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Money Central

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Thread title should be self-explanatory if you've spent even the slightest amount of time on the forums and run across Thread CentralPolitics CentralARE Discussion Central, or even the newest Cartoon Central (h/t to What's Cooking? too, though it lacks consistency with the culture of the forums). At any rate, this is a place to talk money in the profession.

I'm hoping this doesn't become a thread where we all complain about how little we are paid. I won't tell you not to mention it from time to time if necessary, but there are plenty of those threads already. I'm hoping this thread can be inspiring and encouraging for others as they plan their careers.

If you're here looking for information on how much you should be, or what architects in general are making, check these links out:

***

Ok, general information out of the way, really what sparked this was somewhat born out the comment in this thread, Making Enough Money - Did You Do It? - On Your Own? - At a Firm?, that making your first $100k is pretty attainable, it's the next $100-$150k that's really tough. I became curious to know how many of us have made it into the 6 figure salary range. With that in mind, I thought some suggested comments one might post here would be (in no particular order):

  • How and when you made it to your first $100k salary or take-home profit (i.e. where were you at in your career, how long did it take to get there, how did you get there, etc.). Bonus, how and when did you make your next $100k.
  • What you [are] [were] facing in terms of student debt upon graduating, and when [will] [did] you pay it off.
  • What milestones you're looking at for retirement accounts and savings (401k, IRA, etc.), and when you hit them (i.e. $1/4 million, $1/2 million, $1 million, 1x annual salary, 2x annual salary, etc.).

Disclaimer: In creating this thread I do not mean to imply that money or financial security is *the* measure of success in one's career or in the profession as a whole. I think it should play a part of it, but it's just one piece of an overall picture.

 
Jan 19, 21 8:34 pm

To start things off ... I graduated with a M.Arch with a little over $25k in student loans from both grad and undergrad. I was planning on paying them off in early 2020 but decided to wait on that with the loans being put on emergency forbearance due to the COVID pandemic. At 0% interest I wasn't in a rush to pay them off anymore and instead continued making my regular payment toward the principal each month.

Right now, the night before Biden is sworn in, the forbearance period is set to expire at the end of the month. However, Biden's team said they'll extend it, so I'll wait to see when that ends and plan on paying them off before that date. All said and done, it should be less than 10 years to have them paid off.

Looking back now, I'm not sure I would have changed anything like making it a bigger priority to pay them off earlier. Instead of focusing on paying them off sooner, I just focused on putting that money elsewhere. As such, I've been able to put plenty away in retirement and buy and build equity in my home. Both of those have outpaced the amount I've paid in interest over the years. I've also been able to deduct the student loan interest from my taxes most years so it's not as if it has really been a burden on me. If the interest rates were higher, or if I had taken out more loans, I probably would have made it more of a focus. YMMV

Jan 19, 21 11:26 pm  · 
2  · 

Update: Biden extended the federal student loan forbearance until this fall. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/01/20/biden-student-loan-payment-freeze-extension/

1  · 
Rusty!

aww man, I really want this thread to work out really well, but I totally understand why average bloke may not want to say much. Money is such a taboo especially in this profession where output has subjective value and you have no clue the kind of mullah design brings to anything. Even your masters struggle trying to label maker a tag on your forehead. So you mope about it instead. 

I was super open about my salary throughout my career, power to the people and all. More we know, the more empowered we are to demant fair compensation. But then I reached a certain monetary threshold where the most wise thing was to shut up about it. It was no longer relevant as general advice. 

I will say I more than quadrupled my first salaried job from 16 years ago. And it was not a linear progression at all. Sinkholes everywhere! 

For frustrated young pups, I strongly recommend playing around with Archinect salary tool. Lock it down to your age and location, and then look up salary for someone 10-15 years older. Still quite a range, but there is potential there that you can take advantage of.

If you pictured yourself making $250k by age 40, then leave this profession now. If you are frustrated project manager who makes $60k, then yes, you can leverage this to a place that will pay you like they actually appreciate you gasp!

What really sucks about Architecture is time. Day to day your time is spoken for and time just evaporates and years go quickly by. But even most basic bitch project takes years to complete. Unlike the most common career advice for other professionals, we can't just bunny hop from office to office gaining a juicy 20% raise with each hop.

I will always have a massive rage boner for tech bros who make $120k at age 24. But surprise surprise their ceiling is not that much higher than a successful architecture professional. It will just take you decades to get here. 

Jan 19, 21 11:55 pm  · 
3  · 
tduds

"But surprise surprise their ceiling is not that much higher than a successful architecture professional." 

I must be hanging out with the wrong tech bros.

On the upside, I'm trying to lobby them to hire me. Hoping they want a fancy home soon...

1  · 
Rusty!

They do get paid in stock as well! I now make as much as my Google friends but god damn it they have millions in stock. It takes like twelve interviews to even work there. A bunch of other tech bros wasted years on startups that went nowhere. At least Architecture pays you for output and not potential output. Noone is promising you millions for gravel stop design that will disturb the roof specialties industry forever.

1  · 
tduds

I was in the right place at the right time - but in the wrong industry. Spent my college years & mid-20s palling around with a crowd that went on to be some of the bigger winners of the recent tech boom. I don't envy them, though. I couldn't do what they do, and if I was working in their field I'd be wealthy and miserable, rather than upper middle class and happy. Plus, a couple times each year I get to go to one of their weddings or parties and pretend I'm high society.

2  · 
Rusty!

Interestingly enough all the rich nerds I know are stingy as fuck. Yes, they will gladly take a trip to your south pole wedding, but they will not get married themselves because it sounds expensive haha

 · 

Amazon is hiring actual (not just software) architects, no? Anyone know details on their compensation? Not that I really want to design warehouses, but maybe someone out there does.

1  · 
chris-chitect

Hmm, interesting thread. I think part of the taboo of discussing your salary is perpetuated by employers that would like to suppress wages, of course I'm not going to go down that path in my response.

In the spirit of being open I thought I'd describe my path and financial stages. All figures in CDN.

1. I graduated in 2010 with my M.Arch and walked into a terrible job market. Despite this I got a 6 month job with a firm I always dreamt of working for. I was paid $18 and hour which would have been approx. $35k a year (if I last that long) and upon being laid off, my boss told me that I was making good money and most graduates were at $15 an hour.

2. I pretty much didn't work at all in 2011. The job market sucked and I had some family things going on as well.

3. At the start of 2012 I got my first real job. I left architecture due to points 1 and 2 and got a government job as a construction coordinator paying me $51k a year. I thought this was great, I was 27, and within a few months of starting I bought a one bedroom condo for $300k.

4. I survived on the $51k and saw modest increases (CPI and performance typically 5% a year). I took a few vacations, paid my bills and lived just fine. After being turned down for a promotion due to bureaucratic reasons I looked for other work while pulling in $57k. It's probably important to note this had a government pension attached which isn't anything to complain about. 

5. I jumped for a job in another city for $78k (design work for an amusement ride company). The job required extra hours that were frequently paid out as straight time, benefits were paid on top of the salary (previous job had them deducted from the salary) and there was RSP matching. After two 4% raises with the years that passed, my base salary was $84k but my final year was approx $91k or so. I loved the work and I was very content with the salary. On top of this the frequent travel came with per diems, loyalty points with flying and hotels and I lived pretty good.

6. I got laid off when the company started to struggle. I was now back in my condo that I bought in 2012 after renting it out while living out of town, and I returned to my previous job as a construction coordinator, this time with a jump in pay band and was offered $72k to start. It was a nearly $20k cut in pay, but there's still a pension to factor in. Two years later I'm at $78k.

7. What has changed drastically is the value of my condo since purchase. Similar units are easily selling for $520k. I've got $190k or so left on my mortgage and a fair amount of equity. 

What I've been telling myself is that I'm not going to make great money from a job, it's unfortunately going to be assets. Making an extra $10k right now won't make me happier, it's not going to get me out of my one bedroom apartment or drastically change my near future.

Jan 20, 21 2:21 am  · 
4  · 
midlander

asset price inflation is the story of developed country economic development for the past ten years. yay capitalism!

1  · 

Real estate is crazy. We haven't approached it at all with the concept of using it as an investment or a way to make money, but we bought a condo with just about everything we had in savings and could still only make a 5% down payment on it. We sold it 5 years later for $180k more that we purchased it for. We used that profit to buy a house which we sold about 2.5 years later ($130k more than we paid for it) in order to buy the house we live in currently. This one would sell on today's market for over triple what we originally paid for the condo. Makes me wonder what we could have done if we had been using real estate as an investment.

1  · 
midlander

tbh my only career regret is not buying a cheap condo in the mid-priced city i first start working in which i could easily have afforded by the time i was ready to move. i stupidly thought there was no use buying when i was so clearly unsettled in my career.

 · 
midlander

my consolation is that at 37 years old i will likely be young enough to see the end of this unsustainable housing market...

2  · 
midlander

i think the biggest fear of giving very specific salary info is in some ways listing out information that breaks anonymity. so i'm going to omit key details, but the numbers are accurate.


1. grad b.arch in US midwest. scholarship, part time work, graduated with 20k debt which covered living costs and studying abroad. parents paid it off when they sold their home at retirement.


2. 2007 take highest of several offers, 36k, typical benefits. located in large midwest city, plenty money to live and save. got a raise to 38.5k without asking after 6 months. notable mid size local firm.


3. first annual review, asked for 20% raise. got 15% = 44k. started contributing to 401k.


4. a few years are unclear, during 2009-2010 recession salary was cut 10%. by 2011 back to full pay and got a raise. pay at 55k with 5 years exp.


5. 2012 took a new job in a new city at a big international firm. offer was 52k, renegotiated to 60k. good benefits and relocation costs. cheaper cost of living. fun job, very reasonable hours, occasional travel with good reimbursement for nice hotels. got licensed finally.


6. at 7 years work experience connected through a friend to a large commercial developer, got a design management job. bluffed about my salary history, got paid 150k gross after generous bonus. fun job, interesting and well paid. sometimes stressful trying to adapt to a very different role. stayed 2 years then saw hints the market was turning and ought to leave. also married w first child coming, needed an easier job.


7. returned to previous company during a local market slowdown, higher position. 75k salary w 6k bonus. still fun work good team great boss and good benefits. a few years there with gradual increases in pay and position.


8. company bought out, management turnover, good boss leaves. i follow up with a recruiter, move to a competitor AE firm same city, higher position, 30% raise.


9. now 15 years exp about 120k with bonus, good benefits, good job, but less predictable hours than before.


the truth is careers are unplannable and salary progress isn't stable unless you work a public sector job. i made some misjudgments along the way, but have never felt underpaid. indeed i felt overpaid at the developer and it made me feel uncomfortable the whole time, though now looking back from a distance no one there cared and they were satisfied with my work. i probably should have found a different role and stayed there if i was prioritizing income, but i felt dead ended in what i was doing there.


i don't buy that architects are on the whole underpaid. some are, but many others are not. if someone feels underpaid they should try something else and learn to see what value architects provide from a bigger perspective. there are a lot of ways to make money and sitting at your desk pumping out drawings is unlikely to be the quickest path even within the profession.

Jan 20, 21 3:18 am  · 
5  · 
Non Sequitur

I like the idea of this thread but I don't know how much I can add tho.  I can try, but I would like to repeat something I've written here a few times when the subject of compensation comes back: Most architects are doing fine and I find that too much of the noise comes from those with unreasonable expectations of grandeur who, instead of moving on with their lives, rely on empty slogans of "arch should be paid more yaddada doctor, lawyer, ron jeremy fluffer, yada". Jive.  Anyways, digression over.

All figures in Loonies. 

As for me, when I entered the working world mid 2009, I was utterly unaware of any sort of recession or economic problems.  I already had previous office experience tho since I worked part-time in a sole-prac office during my 3rd and 4th year of undergrad (at $10/hr under-table when min-wage retail was less than $7/hr).  I had my sights set on a few medium offices in my home city (loonie capital, for the geographically inclined) and got interviews in my main 4 choices within 2 weeks of graduation.  Sure helps that I had a strong graphic folio + working drawing experience.  Anyways, my main office offered me a job on the spot but at $12/hr.  They said if I wanted more, then I could just work more hours... which while reasonable, I felt was still too low in 2009.  I tried to negotiate and the offer was increased to $15/hr ($32k/year).  I said thanks, but no thanks.  Years later, I would see this architect again at a social event (ie. hockey game corporate box smoozing event) and I could tell he avoided making eye-contact.  He left shortly after another architect started awkwardly making small talk with his daughter. Squirel!

Anyways, I ended up with a few more interviews shortly after I turned down that one and took a role in a lesser known corporate office of 12ish people.  That was at $40k/year with all time over 35hr paid out.  This worked out to about an extra 10-20% per year.  I was licensed a little over 3 years later and carried a base salary of $56k/year by 2012 but taking home 65-70 with OT added.  

Since then, got married, bought house, had a son, etc... life stuff.  That office doubled in size and my responsibilities boomed... but I had reached the ceiling the office offers to it's reg staff.  I felt that it was time to put some pressure and I made my intentions known, in late 2018, that I wanted in on the management side of things and things were set in motion a few months later.  Promotion to associate followed later in 2019 and along with that came bonus, % profit shares and a number of jealous coworkers.  Also worth noting that this was all before my 36th birthday.  If all goes reasonable well in 2021, I should crawl just over $100k when all is considered, but at least now I'm at the bottom tier of a new ladder instead of bumping my head on a ceiling.

I have many tech bros and gov workers inside my circle of friends.  I also have lawyers, surgeons, pharmacists, military etc... most of which bring home more $ than I do, and with the exception of the gov jobs, they rightly should.  My wife on the other hand is in the education field and has jumped from school to school over the last 12 years and has seen no increase in salary.  She makes less today than I did in my first year as a fresh M.arch grad.  

The current economic events have allowed me to do a bunch of adult things.  Equity in our home (one story 60's brick detached inside urban boundary) went is more than $200k from what we paid 5 years ago so I moved whatever student/adult debt we had (can't remember what was mine or my wife's since I absorbed all her student monies as personal loans years ago) into a low mortgage and created tons of cash flow.  Also set up a small retirement fund for the wife.  I have my own small retirement investments too, but nothing to brag about.  Our 4 year old has a solid education fund.

I don't drive a new, or even a nice, car.  I do not care to travel south for a week in the sun or a cruise every year like most of my non-arch friends, but all things considered, I'm doing fine and things are looking good from here.  The grass is always greener and all that jive.  I don't have the time to worry about what others have/do.  


Jan 20, 21 7:41 am  · 
6  · 

Should have kept your mouth shut, I thought you'd already made that first $100k. Hoping this is your year. 

How are you saving for the 4 year old's education? US has some options for education saving with some incentives, tax savings, etc. and that's probably one of the next things on my list to get sorted out for my soon-to-be 4 year old. Curious if Canada has anything like that, and/or if you're just putting something away each month into a savings account or something.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

EA, $100k/yr is well above the average here. $55k/yr is the 2020 average for my province and canada-wide, the average in the professional sector is just north of $75k (oddly-enough, IT is $71k/yr as per last data) Low 60s is the average for my city (Ottawa) since a significant % of the working pop is either IT or federal employee (i'd estimate more than 50% in some gov sector). It makes for expensive housing (even in the 'burbs) but it also makes for a very stable local economy.

As for the education account, we have something called a Registered Education Saving Plan (RESP) where the federal gov adds funds to.  Max individual contributions are capped at $50k per child with an additional maximum gov contribution of $7k.  Interest over the 15ish years is a bonus, obviously.  Covid caused our RESP to dip some 20% but it made it back over a few months and we're now back to +25%.  Hope that helps.

 · 
Non Sequitur

Worth noting again, all figures in my comments above are in loonies.

 · 
apscoradiales

...with the shitty exchange rate. But hey, we have Universal Health Care!!!

Which sucks!

 · 

Thanks. I like the govt contribution aspect of it. I wish we could better incentivize and fund education here. We have 529 plans available here, which have some similarities it seems. https://www.investopedia.com/a...

 · 
apscoradiales

You don't travel? Not even been to gay paree? Damn!

 · 
Non Sequitur

Aps, I've never really cared about USD comparison. I still don't really understand why it's such a big issue. Maybe I'm missing something. 

EA, those do appear similar. I'll have to read more into it. We started ours when he turned 2 and even the banker was impressed... said he still had to set one up himself.

 · 
apscoradiales

You should care about the exchange rate even if you don't travel. Everything made or grown outside of Canada has to be paid in US dollars, even Mexican grown tomatoes. Guess who gets dinged every time Canadian dollars drops?

 · 

Good on you. I've been putting it off for too long already it seems. One of my co-workers mentioned it to me when she was first born, but I didn't feel like we had enough to really contribute. At the time we were looking to sell the condo and buy a house and needed the money for a down payment. Then we used any extra from the condo to do upgrades on the new house. We should have just made a small contribution each month regardless.

We've got some money from selling our last home that we need to do something with. Getting a education fund going is at the top of that list, it's just a matter of how much we put toward that vs. how much we put back into our house and how much we try to put into other investments we can access better than a retirement account.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

Aps, if I was in the tomatoes retail business, I guess I would care... but since I only buy a small quantity of them, I guess I don't notice the price jump. I get that it affects everything that's imported but since I don't stretch my budget to it's limit, dips in the loonie is negligible. I'm ready to be wrong on this tho.

EA, start one now.  figure out how much you want to put away per month as of yesterday, then multiply that amount X all previous months.  That's a good way to set up the initial amount.  At least that's how I did it.


1  · 
tduds

Good case above for buying local. As for tomatoes, I grow my own. The ones at the store taste like trash.

 · 
archanonymous

I'm 10 years out of school and still don't make 100k, but most days wake up feeling like the richest mf'r in the world - I work on great (canonical, recognized, groundbreaking) projects, have an amazing personal life, my health, and plenty of money. 

Graduated with over 100k in student loans and all but $20k paid off. 

Starting to hit some serious milestones with home equity and retirement savings now too, and am nearly at the point where I have substantial "FU Money" - like enough to quit my job anytime I want and feel secure not getting another for 6 months - 2 years. 


I'll leave you with a quote from my uncle-in-law. "If you live within your means, you'll always be rich."

Jan 20, 21 9:57 am  · 
7  · 
bowling_ball

Good for you! But to be very clear, having enough cash to not have to work for 6 months to 2 years isn't "fuck you money", it's actually just being responsible. "Fuck you money" is being able to live a good life from the interest alone.

3  · 
archanonymous

I think that would be retirement, no?

 · 
bowling_ball

I was just trying to establish a bare minimum. It should actually be measured in generational wealth.

2  · 
shellarchitect

Congrats!

 · 
RJ87

The "position of fuck you" speech was probably the only good thing that came out of Wahlberg's "The Gambler" movie. I think about that speech all the time. But yeah, it involves owning a home & car free and clear while having enough returns from investments to pay off your taxes / basic living expenses.

 · 
Wood Guy

I graduated in 1996 with a BS in engineering and about $25K in debt, which I paid off over the following ten years. 

The most money I've made was as a carpenter in the northeast US, $120K net, in my early 30s, before I switched careers to design. 

As a residential design employee the most I made was about $80K, plus a few perks. The most I've made with my own design business is about $60K but most years I have not worked full time (or more accurately, I have had two businesses and one did not pay well or at all.) Projections for this year show that I should clear at least $100K. 

I don't have a clear path to retirement at the moment. I have a 401K from my old job that is doing well for now, no consumer debt other than a house that's about 1/3 paid for, and at some point I'll inherit a couple of rental properties and other real estate. I'd like to get to $5K/month in passive income to feel financially secure. I've thought about buying rental properties but for now I'm focusing on my practice, and thinking of ways to turn it into more of a business.  

I'm curious about your What's Cooking comment. What about it does not fit the forum culture? I've been here a few years and thought it was appropriate, but maybe I'm missing something--wouldn't be the first time. 

Jan 20, 21 10:51 am  · 
3  · 
midlander

what is the business that doesn't pay well, if you don't mind sharing?

 · 
Wood Guy

I started a construction business with my brother but it wasn't well planned so I worked my ass off for six months for zero income. (He made out better, but not great.) We closed that business and a few months later I started my own construction business, got some good-sized jobs but could not find a foreman or lead carpenter so I was running two jobs both 45 minutes from home during the day, and designing at night. Made less than my novice carpenters. I also made a half-hearted run at being a part-time farmer, growing pigs, garlic and eggs, and helping my wife a bit with her herbal products business, never meant to be profitable but it ate up plenty of time. After my $80K employee gig and before hanging my shingle I took an almost 50% pay cut to help a friend start a construction-related business, but that lasted just over a year. I'm probably one of few people who could manage to not make money running a construction business.

 · 

Sorry if I worried you about the What's Cooking? comment. I meant it as it doesn't fit the precedent of using "central" in a thread like that. "Culture" was probably the wrong word. I think it definitely fits archinect's culture. 

Your thread is fine, my choice of words could have been better.

3  · 
Wood Guy

Thanks for clarifying. You're right that the title doesn't follow the forum pattern.

1  · 
tduds

Alright here's my contribution...

I finished undergrad in 2008, which everyone agrees was a terrible idea. Managed to get a full-time job with a tiny residential firm in DC making $40k. That dried up less than a year later and - to make the long story short - I spent a chunk of years bartending, going door to door as a census worker, freelance drafting, working construction, and roadtripping / living out of my car for a spell. Moved west and got my MArch (+ about $50k in loan debt), by then the economy had mostly recovered and in 2014 I got an offer at a startup design-build in for... $40k again. Back to start, I guess.

The most money I made between '08 & '15 was when I was census-taking by day & bartending by night. I could clear $1300-1500 in a week. I put a lot into savings, but because I was 24, I decided to blow all that savings on the aforementioned nomadic time. I don't regret it.

In 2016 the startup collapsed and I was able to land at a much more established firm, where I still am (So far the longest I've ever worked anywhere in my life). Went from 48k (salary) to 56k (plus overtime), which felt nice. Finally got licensed in 2018 and was promoted to Associate in 2019, which made me a shareholder. Between my base income, bonus, and dividends, I got close to 80k last year. Of course, the double-edged sword of employee ownership means when the company doesn't profit, I don't benefit. So 2020 was tough, in that regard.

Unrelated to my career, my personal life has put me in a stable financial situation. In short I married up. My wife's significantly better finances, plus a family tragedy that resulted in a big inheritance, meant we were able to pay off all of our non-mortgage debt & invest a little into her building her own real estate / remodeling business. We've got a nice safety net that's made the past year much easier to weather.

Looking to bounce back in 2021 and try to pivot to more of a Project Architect / team leader role (I spent 2020 running a small project solo as kind of a pilot. It's almost finished construction and everybody seems happy). The firm (& the industry overall) isn't in a great place for me to be asking for big promotions or raises, but I'm trying to position myself so that when things pick up I'll be recognized as overdue for that bump.

I think if I were to apply for a job right now, I'd ask for 70-75k. If you're reading this and your place in the industry sounds similar, you should consider asking for that.

Jan 20, 21 12:39 pm  · 
5  · 
SneakyPete

I have to imagine the 70-75k number is heavily weighted to the market, because that's low in my opinion. Especially since you make more (sometimes) now.

2  · 
tduds

Just to clarify I'd ask for that as a base salary, expecting performance and/or profit bonuses (and of course the usual benefits). If those things aren't on the table, I'd ask for more up front.

 My base right now is around 60k, which I consider low, but the profit-share is intended to (and usually does) make up the difference. When we do well, we all do well, which keeps this little socialist content.

1  · 
thisisnotmyname

Where I am in the deep south, $75k is not considered low and very few non-principals make $100k.

1  · 
tduds

Definitely varies based on cost of living. Cost of living in Oregon is rising, so I'm expecting my pay to keep up.

 · 
SneakyPete

Took me 12 years and a coastal swap to break 6 figures. While the local economy means that as a percentage of income I net less than I might had I moved somewhere less expensive, I live within my means and have been saving more than I would have been able to had I moved somewhere cheaper. 

I have been consistently employed in architecture for the entire tenure since I started, have been fortunate there. I think it's due to my frankness and willingness to do the shit work while putting specific guard rails in place that I won't cross (overtime only when the project needs it for a brief time, a great outcome, or my own fuck ups) as well as doing my best to dot the i's and cross the t's so the next person won't struggle when I'm done with my part.

Still have debt from school, but that should be gone within a few years once I start paying on it again. I have been taking advantage of the current situation to put that budgeted money into the house / kid fund instead, since it's already fit into the budget and paying it off early won't benefit me as much as the lump sum will.

Investing gives me the hives, so I let my partner do that. The return on traditional vehicles like CDs and Savings Accounts (which were valid IN MY LIFETIME) should be a crime. The reliance on wall street and the foisting of the 401k on us all is unethical and is fueling the inevitable collapse of the "not wealthy ENOUGH" crowd.

Enough bitching, I guess.

Jan 20, 21 1:00 pm  · 
4  · 

My wife and I used some CDs to grow some money in savings a little bit back in '07 and '08. They were usually short term CDs that would mature right before tuition was due for the next semester. We did it as a way to get a little bit more than the typical savings account interest rate, but also wanted to make sure it was safe and we wouldn't lose it if the stock market crashed. We were able to get 3.10% and 4.15% from our bank back then for 6-month and 3-month CDs respectively. I just looked up rates with our bank and if we tried to do the same today we'd be getting around 0.3% interest, and I'm not even sure they offer anything less than 12 months.

3  · 
SneakyPete

Sounds about right. We tell people to be smart, then only reward risk in the way we structure our industry. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

1  · 
tduds

Ah the pre-crash days. I remember my boring old savings account earning 4.5%. No more.

1  · 

The whole concept that you can't get a safe place to put your money that outpaces inflation anymore is really annoying to me. There is zero incentive to simply save money anymore as a normal person. Instead you have to risk it all in investments in order to have it do anything other than lose value over time. I'd rather not have my kid's college savings in stocks and mutual funds, but it's about the only thing available if you want to outpace inflation. And that doesn't even address the point made in the chart below...

 ·  1
SneakyPete

makes me want to puke

2  · 
tduds

So what you're saying is I should start a college.

7  · 
randomised

.

6  · 
titslip's comment has been hidden
titslip

While this is slightly off topic, I'd like to add that Bitcoin is continuing to emerge as a rewarding and safe hedge against inflation thay will reward your savings.

 · 
flatroof

Since I don't have any future rental properties or a wealthy spouse(s), I should begin planning my exit from the profession if I do not want to not work as a PA at 80. Or drop dead like the guy who worked across from me did at 64.

Jan 20, 21 2:16 pm  · 
1  · 
apscoradiales

Funny, or not, you mention that.

One guy I worked with died in the washroom sitting on the toilet seat, the other at his desk. Neither's death was announced to all the employees, only selected few were told. Evidence that most companies don't really give a shiet about people who work for them. So, why bust your gut or die for someone who doesn't care?

 · 
tduds

Wow that's callous. Perhaps my luck so far or simple privilege but I'd go one step beyond "not busting my gut" and quit any office with that sort of shitty culture.

1  · 
sameolddoctor

Yeah - had an ex boss die at 55 of lung cancer - guy never smoked a cigarette all his life, was super fit, did yoga everyday, but was obviously overworked.

Another boss died around 60 in a hotel in a crap part of the world. He was also overworked.

Theres no point killing oneself like that...


1  · 

I started a job a while back and sat next to a guy I was meant to replace as he was retiring in the next year or so. He'd worked his whole life and deserved it. He'd saved up quite a bit and was eagerly waiting for the day he could travel the world and spend it (he checked his 401k balance pretty much daily, and one of the last things I helped him do was set up a spreadsheet where he could budget his money to his various trips he wanted to take). 

He retired and went on his first trip. Came home and was diagnosed with cancer and only lived another year, maybe less. He had no family so he gave all his savings to a cause he believed in with his will. 

On the one hand, I'm glad he was at least able to enjoy the one trip and give his savings to something he wanted to. On the other hand, he worked his whole life to enjoy retirement and never really got the chance to do that. Really started to make me question the idea of being so frugal right now, rather than having some fun while I can enjoy it.

2  · 
SneakyPete

I'm looking forward to spending my money on my family as we grow and experience the world together. No job is more important than that.

4  · 
apscoradiales

"...ex boss die at 55 of lung cancer..."

Second hand smoke is just as deadly. Everybody smoked when I started working.

Jan 20, 21 5:09 pm  · 
 · 
gibbost

I went to undergrad in the late 90's at a decent school in the midwest. You were still allowed to smoke in several of the buildings on campus--including arch hall. Studio was nothing but coffee and cigarettes--the professors being the worst offenders.

 · 
sameolddoctor

Yes indeed, and the person in question used to travel to China every month, where everyone still smokes in conference rooms etc all the time. But my point was that my boss took his health super seriously but the job still killed him for working super hard and traveilng

 · 
apscoradiales

"...tduds

"...Perhaps my luck so far or simple privilege but I'd go one step beyond "not busting my gut" and quit any office with that sort of shitty culture..."

The trouble is that many offices are just as bad...you find that out after 4-5 years working there. Of course, you move, only to find out it's the same ole shiet, just a different day. Pretty soon, you get tired of it, and you pack it in. I'll never leave "architecture", but I'm very happy I left the bs behind me.

Jan 20, 21 5:46 pm  · 
 · 
tduds

Many, but not all. Obviously my day isn't all sunshine and rainbows. I've got plenty to rant about but overall the positives have outweighed the negatives in every job I've held. I'm hopeful that trend will continue

2  · 

I know I've shared general information elsewhere and maybe someone who really wanted to could figure out some basic numbers, but I'll share some solid numbers while still trying to maintain anonymity. 

First job in 2012 was for a small firm doing TIs in strip malls for $13/hr. I left as soon as I could find another job and ended up finding another job with better projects, a better culture, better commute, and better pay ($14/hr). It also paid time and a half for overtime so I worked as much as I could and made out pretty well even though it was fairly unsustainable.

First salaried job was for $47k which felt like a big jump, but wasn't all that much more if you had figured in the overtime from the last job. But it was straight salary and I only had to work 40 hrs/week rather than bank all that overtime. 

Ended up getting a couple of significant raises over the years as I worked my up in responsibility and knowledge and leveraged it for better jobs and pay. Mostly they were based on getting licensed, and leadership/titled promotions within the firm that I was able to use to my advantage in negotiations. I never really felt like I was making what I really should have been making as I was always needing to beg for more and the firm would sort of reluctantly agree and pay me, but not quite what I was asking for. To their credit they were always willing to negotiate with me, which was more than some of my coworkers who'd ask for more and just be turned down outright. 

It got to the point were I was looking for a little more responsibility and the opportunity presented itself, but not really on the terms that I'd want with that firm. So I ended up looking elsewhere and found a firm that was willing to give me everything I wanted. After I turned in my notice I was able to confirm that while I wasn't quite maxed out after my last raise ($75k), I shouldn't expect much more anytime soon even though I was moving into more of a firmwide leadership/authority position. I actually tried to negotiate prior to letting anyone know I was looking elsewhere and was told to wait until later in the year for annual salary reviews as it was the only time they could negotiate that type of thing (bureaucracy runs that firm).  I probably could have negotiated a counteroffer after I gave them my notice and we would have settled around something like $80-85k (they seemed willing for it then, but I stopped them from embarrassing themselves). That would have been it for a while, and nowhere close to what I accepted at the other firm. This confirmation come as I was asked to sit in on an interview for a potential replacement for me. In the interview the candidate (who easily had 20 years experience over mine and was actually well qualified for what they needed, though wouldn't have been a good fit for the firm) said he'd need at least $90k. Afterward, the interview committee noted that salary was probably too much for the position.

Anyway, I hit and surpassed my first $100k in 2019 with the new position. With a signing bonus it came out to $110k, plus an additional year-end bonus. Covid postponed any planned annual raises so I'm still at that level, but I wouldn't have expected anything more than maybe a couple of percentage points for cost of living increases. I finally feel like I'm getting paid what I deserve for the value I bring to the firm and our projects. Everything I've heard from the firm leadership would confirm that as well. So all in, roughly 7 years after my first job as an intern architect, and just shy of 2 years after getting my license I broke into the $100k club. Honestly, I don't think I'm all that exceptional either. Don't get me wrong, I'm an intelligent, hard worker, and willing to stretch myself, but ultimately I think my getting to this place was because of being happy with specializing in technical content that most architects my age won't touch because they want to draw pretty pictures. Well that, and finding a firm that values that expertise.

Jan 20, 21 9:08 pm  · 
5  · 
midlander

this is a good example of the fact that some firms simply have no use for excellent staff in certain positions and pay accordingly. nothing you do can change that, so anyone in that position should move without regrets. good for you for figuring this out. my observation is that most people hit this second understanding of their career somewhere around 5-7 years experience and are very lucky if they find themselves in an office that can accommodate their growth when the time comes.

2  · 
bowling_ball

I graduated in 2011, right into the recession. Had a job lined up 5 minutes after my thesis presentation. Made $19/hr (CDN) in a mid sized city. Was there for a year and a half before getting fired for some bullshit (a story for another day).


Took my next job across the country for about $45k/yr. Let go shortly after due to the firm losing a big job (one of those firms that does $2000/sf homes). 


Took my next job (early 2013) back in my original mid sized city. Back to $19/hr ($37k/yr), then a bump to $45k in about six months. Steady annual raises for a couple years until my two managers left, and I was promoted to project manager. Bump to $55k in 2015. Aggressive raises for the next two years as I became licenced and basically threatened to leave if my pay wasn't bumped up significantly, as I was now in a PM role on projects as large as $50M+. I realized at that point (2017/18) that I had some leverage and was soon earning $90k, plus good health benefits, small bonus, and the Canadian equivalent of 401k matching to a certain small percent. 


As of late 2020 I'm a full partner with an ownership stake. Not really sure what I'll make in dividends yet (we have projections but nothing's ever for sure) but my salary is just under $100k and that okay for the next 6 months, but then I'm giving myself a raise. I feel my compensation is fair to good for what I do, and the impression I get from the peers I graduated with, is that I'm making more than 98% of them. 


Not that it matters all that much, because I've got a huge loan to pay now (for ownership stake) and all dividends will be going to that. My lifestyle won't change for another 5 years or so. The trade off is job security - or rather, I have more of a say in my own career now. The risks have gone up significantly, of course.


To step back, I graduated in 2011 with $50k in school debt, which I paid off in the last year or so. We owe about 2/3 of our mortgage yet. But my wife and I live a very inexpensive lifestyle for the most part - we share one 5 year old car, have no kids, and no credit card balance. By not going out to bars over the last year, we've saved some cash that I know we'll use to go on a much needed vacation once it's safe (I haven't been out of my country for five years now). 


I am not a great designer. I don't care about magazine covers. I'm the furthest thing from a salesman.  I'm kind of lazy in that I'm always looking for an easier way to do things. But I'm a damn good manager and whatever gets put in front of me, I'll get it done better than most. I've recognized my abilities as a "fixer" for a while and leveraged that into my current position and finally hitting that $100k threshold.



Jan 20, 21 9:56 pm  · 
7  · 
tduds

That last paragraph is, I think, what a lot of 20-somethings ought to take to heart. There's a whole side of architecture beyond the flashy renderings and biennale scene, and imo a ton of pride (and success) to be had in delivering quality to a demanding client. I still love to sink my teeth into some heady design philosophy when I can get it, but it's just as important to find satisfaction (and creativity!) in the straightforward execution of the job.

5  · 

The last paragraph gives me the 'George does opposite' vibe ...

... especially when nearly every 20-something I've met who is interested in architecture wants to have their name on the door and be the next big starchitect. 

 · 
randomised

Thanks to working from home the “office” now has my name on the door!

3  · 
nastronaut

as a 20-something, the last paragraph was very grounding!

 · 
Quentin

Graduated w/BS in 09 ($67k in loans, now paid off), recession LOL, so worked at book store (RIP Borders) for $8/hr. Then some how through a connect became a business analyst in DC for $50k. Stayed there 3 years (still couldn't find an arch job, smh) came out mid 50s (had opportunities to grow in that field but no thanks). Said screw it and moved to another state and started from scratch.

Finally got first architecture job at like $33k. Also went back to grad school. Graduated with no loans. $47k at new job. Got licensed moved to $60k. Changed jobs $65k. Still at said firm, now at $78k. Covid cuts, $72k. Had it not been for covid would have hit $80k last year. On trigger now if I want to ride out these paycuts that they don't know how long will last OR jump ship and hit mid-high $80s. Have 7 years experience now. 

All in all, shrug. I like being an architect but pay is lame. I have friends w/only a high school degree clearing $100k. Most my friends are def around 100k if not more, most with only a bachelors. All in all, I'm pretty finically stable. Very hefty savings, stocks, etc. Only debt is mortgage. Condo may be about 20k underwater, but we'll see. 

Jan 21, 21 10:04 am  · 
 · 
apscoradiales

"$67k in loans",

Jesus Christ!

1  ·  1
SneakyPete

Aps, your age is showing again. It's not unusual to have over 100k in debt these days as you search for your first job.

4  · 
x-jla

I had 110k and my wife had about 140k

 · 
tduds

Not unusual but should be unacceptable.

The only reason my debt was as *low* as it was is because I received a grant that covered 50% of my M Arch tuition. I worked part time for living expenses, rented the shittiest room in a run down house, cooked subsistence meals from the discount Asian grocery, & I still exited with about $53k to pay back. Like I said above, the only reason it's paid off now is because of a tragic death last year. 

It's fucking criminal.

6  · 
Non Sequitur

That’s 110k usd?

 · 

For aps ... emphasis mine

"Last year [2012], the American Institute of Architecture Students reported that the average undergraduate architecture student leaves college with $40,000 in loan debt—to say nothing of the debt they may have accrued in graduate school or pursuing licensure. A new survey conducted this summer [2013] by AIA Government and Community Relations paints a broader picture. When you include M.Arch. recipients in the mix, 61 percent of all graduates vault past the $40k mark. Compare that with $26,600 average loan debt of nonarchitecture college graduates, according to the nonprofit Project on Student Debt, and it’s clear that the architecture profession has a major problem on its hands." Loan Me A Dime (x 250,000) 

Also, https://archinect.com/features/article/112509888/the-state-of-debt-and-the-price-of-architecture

1  · 
x-jla

Non, yes. It’s nuts.

1  · 
Quentin

Yea I should of stayed in state for college but there was only one (of the 3 in the state, and another one was private) college I wanted to go to and they wanted me to do an extra year just to get in to the arch program, no thanks.

 · 
apscoradiales

Christ guys!

Tell your kids if they want to get an education to move either to Europe or Canada! It's a helluva lot cheaper, and based on the current American political scene (hehe) just as good if not better than in USA.

I had no loans to pay when I graduated back in the mid-seventies. University fees were something like $3,500 per semester (and that the time when the Canadian dollar was on par with US buck). Helped that I worked at Chrysler assembling cars during Summer months. Paid for my education on my own without any problems.

Or tell your kids to become carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers or electricians instead. Construction industry needs them more than architects, and they would make a tonne more money than pushing a stupid mouse.

Jan 21, 21 1:06 pm  · 
 ·  1
tduds

Hopefully by the time my kids are college age, all my political yelling and donating and voting and marching will have paid off and they won't have to enter a hellscape of debt just to get a damn education in this country. 

If not, yeah maybe we'll move. I like Scotland.

2  · 
apscoradiales

Only move to Scotland if they leave UK and rejoin EU. Otherwise, it'll end up worse than staying in US. You sure you don't have any ancestors from the "Continent"? If you do, run, and get their passport.

 · 
tduds

Personally, I'd rather work harder to make my current home better than work slightly to abandon it for greener pastures. I could write volumes on why, but I'll save that for the Politics thread.

 · 
flatroof

Canada knows our college costs and charges American students similar rates as private schools in the US. Same in the UK. Mainland Europe is the best option so tell those HS students to learn their German/French/Dutch.

1  · 
apscoradiales

Foreign tuition fees suck, no doubt.

 · 
apscoradiales

"...SneakyPete

Aps, your age is showing again. It's not unusual to have over 100k in debt these days as you search for your first job...."

Pete, it's not my age, it's your country! It's fucked-up.

Jan 21, 21 1:08 pm  · 
3  · 
SneakyPete

why not both?

1  · 

I was hoping this wouldn't need to be said, but people gonna people I guess, so I'll try to nip this one in the bud before it get's out of hand.

Don't debt shame anyone

I don't care if you worked and saved every extra penny from the time you had your first paper route to pay for your PhD out of your own pocket with no loans, no scholarships, and no grants ... don't shame other people. 

The more I think about educational debt the more I think about it like cancer. Some people make good choices and they never have to deal with it. Some people are just plain lucky enough to go their entire lives and never have to deal with it regardless of their choices. Some people are unlucky and get to deal with it regardless of any choices they've made along the way. Some people make terrible choices in their lives, practically begging for it, and get to deal with it. You don't shame the cancer patient who was a chain-smoking idiot. You empathize with them and support them while they beat it because is the human/humane thing to do ... just as you should with the person who made all the 'good' decisions and still gets to deal with it.

Jan 21, 21 1:19 pm  · 
5  · 
Non Sequitur

You totally should shame the chain smoker. Their condition is a direct result of their free choice. They made a stupid choice. Ditto when someone spends 100k on school especially when other options are available. 50k/yr debt at Harvard is not an investment no matter how you look at it. /end yelling at clouds.

1  ·  1
tduds

Hate the game, not the player.

4  · 

Non, you can shame the smoker for smoking, but you shouldn't shame them for having cancer. 

Shaming the kid who thought 50k/yr at Harvard was a good investment still isn't the same as the smoker. The warning on the pack of cigarettes is pretty apparent. When all colleges and universities print a similar "Secretary of Education Warning" on their applications, then maybe you can shame the kid for not knowing better. 

Even then it does nothing to change the past. Focus on helping them beat the debt/cancer first by being supportive.

4  · 
molten

I grew up upper middle class, with parents who were deeply in debt from previous job losses, a failed business, etc. so college help was not in the cards for me and my 3 siblings. I guess I was lucky (don't know if that's the right word) enough to see my 2 older siblings go to private colleges and graduate with 100k in student loan debt. They encouraged me to avoid this, so I went to the least expensive (decent) school I applied to. I still graduated with 30k in student loans. Fortunately, they're paid off now. Most 18 year olds aren't financially literate, and they often have parents who aren't either. Someone that young just doesn't have the ability to understand the consequences of loans and debt and how it affects their future. I'm not saying there is no room for personal responsibility, but there isn't exactly much from lenders, ie the gov't, to educate borrowers of what they're getting into. You should not be able to take out 100k in student loans for a degree which will land you a job with a 40k starting salary. 

4  · 
apscoradiales

I don't think anybody is shaming anybody when it comes to tuition loans. You just have to find a better way to not pay so much for an education.

1  ·  1
Non Sequitur

Should we pressure governments to add warning labels on university application forms similar to cigarette packs?

3  · 
Wood Guy

There can be other reasons for taking out school loans. My parents were great but not sophisticated, basically no help when choosing a college or career. I had the option of a free ride at the state university, or paying for part of a fancy liberal arts school--not Ivy League but the next tier down. I had no concept of the scale of the loans I was taking out or how that would feel to pay back. I assumed I'd have a fun, high-paying job after college and that paying back loans wouldn't be a burden. Fortunately my loans weren't huge, but if I knew then what I know now, I probably would have gone for the free in-state education.

 · 
Non Sequitur

I like the idea of consumer warnings on big ticket items like that. Put them on 8year car leases too.

3  · 

aps, "You just have to find a better way to not pay so much for an education," is completely beside the point when they've already taken the loans out and are already burdened with the debt. If this was in a discussion about saving or planning for our kid's education, or even advising young students just getting started with college, I'd have no problem with your statement. I actually agree with it. But in the context of being shocked at the amount of someone else's debt and then saying, "you just have to find a better way to not pay so much for an education," is saying they need to build a time machine. 

Just stop.

3  · 

Non, it would be a start, no? Personally I think there would be a better way to educate people, but I also think that's treating a symptom rather than the underlying disease. Better to change the system so taking on debt for a college education isn't necessary for the vast majority, and then have the counseling and education in place to help those who do need to so they can be equipped to plan for their future and figure out if it is worth it.

 · 
Non Sequitur

EA, good points, but then someone will charge $10k per term at Harvard but only if you took the $50k pre-req money management course. Hold my beer, going to start a side gig offering debt risk assessment to first-year students.

 · 

Not for nothing, the CFPB does have educational tools primed and ready to teach kids about all sorts of financial literacy topics. Here's one on figuring out how much student debt you can afford

My wife taught a class for a couple of years that incorporated some of this stuff into the curriculum. Nobody took the class seriously though ... starting with the school administration. It was only an elective, and really only pushed on failing students who needed something to fill in their schedule that would be an "easy class" so as not to tank their GPAs. It wasn't what my wife went to school for and didn't have any special knowledge or understanding of the material, so being told to teach it felt like a demotion of sorts. She did her best, but she can't teach kids that don't want to learn, and it's really hard to motivate yourself to teach kids that don't want to learn. 

Overall, we can do better than this though.

 · 

Quick comparison as it seems appropriate and shows how the housing collapse has changed things compared to doing things pretty much the same for education. 

 · 
betonbrut

I'll play... all figures are in USD and I am based on the west coast

Graduated with a 5 year professional degree in 2004 (graduated without any debt) and immediately started working at a larger firm for something like 40K a year. It was hourly with overtime at 1.5X, so my paycheck fluctuated month to month.

Worked for 3 firms over the course of about 10 years and maxed out at 55K, but was able to weather the recession without being laid off, but did take some reduction in pay in 2010 or 2011. 

2014 I changed gears and went to work for a general contractor and was hired on at 75K. Finally earned my license in 2017 and switched GC firms. I left the first GC making 95K and was hired at 110K. 

As of 2020, I am making 150K. I figure if I stay on this current path, I should be at 200K within the next 5 years and then hold steady... and hope the construction market doesn't completely fall apart as I can't afford to go back to traditional architecture firms!

Jan 21, 21 1:37 pm  · 
4  · 
tduds

I have an acquaintance who moved over to BIM management at a large GC and, I gotta say, the numbers are tempting.

 · 
betonbrut

I am not in the BIM department, but more of a generalist in the preconstruction department. What I do day to day changes, but I manage estimates, construction schedules, and have input on design/constructability.
I add the most value when we have design-build projects and I end up managing the design phase and the initial sub-contractor buy-out and then turn the project over to the Operations team to build. I still participate in weekly meetings to stay engaged and ensure the knowledge gained in design isn't lost during construction.

1  · 
randomised

sounds very tempting...

 · 
betonbrut

It has been great for me aside from the monetary compensation. Some GC's think preconstruction managers are just estimators, but I contend having someone on the GC side that is looking at a project from more than an estimating perspective is incredibly valuable. I have had encountered some GCs that don't understand this.

 · 
athensarch

Would you be willing to talk about how you successfully pivoted to a precon manager role? What type of role were you originally hired for at the first GC? I've seen architect > PM (most common) or architect > BIM/VDC Manager (uncommon).

 · 
apscoradiales

"...tduds

Personally, I'd rather work harder to make my current home better than work slightly to abandon it for greener pastures. I could write volumes on why, but I'll save that for the Politics thread..."

Very gallant, as you walk to the bankruptcy court...

Jan 21, 21 1:56 pm  · 
 ·  1
tduds

I've described my situation above. I'm in no risk of financial ruin. If anything, I feel that my privileged status in life obligates me to work harder to make this whole shitshow a little kinder to the people who didn't luck into the advantages I did. Moving across the world - something which my wife & I can easily afford to do, but which most of our neighbors could not - is an abdication, the way I see it.

Not saying I'm better than anyone or that everyone who can do this should, just explaining why I choose to act the way I do.

1  · 

Discharging student debt in bankruptcy is possible for some borrowers (not all or even a majority I think), but only a small fraction even attempt it because we've made the process so onerous. So thanks for trying to be even more of a boomer aps, but best to just play somewhere else for now.

3  · 
mightyaa

Money gets weird and abstract as a firm owner. Understand my salary was just a bi-monthly check. So for most of 2000-2010 I used $52k base salary.  At year end, the corporate accounts were emptied to avoid corp taxes and absorb in personal taxes. So, the W-2 looks staggering; $200-$500k. But that isn’t the story. On Jan 1, you give the firm a personal loan so there’s money in the account. What you keep for yourself has more to do with your upcoming firm expenses for the next three months; that leaves a reserve you then look at and decide how much to distribute, pocket or whatever. That number varies; normally I kept myself around $120k total compensation annually. Sidenote; that was about what I paid a couple long term PM’s as well, it’s just they had a base salary closer to $95k and get fat bonus’s. 

Six digit ‘real money taken’ hit as stock transfer started (about 4 years in at the firm). For me, that was around 1995. In ’06 I crossed the $200k mark.  Basically finally collected a $300k outstanding invoice I’d long since absorbed. I kept a third for ‘blood money’. Rough year; employee revolt.  Learned as a firm owner I can’t be ‘friends’ with employees or that close. Puts thoughts in their head like partnership, you should just give stock to them, and you wouldn’t fire a friend right?  As well as veiled threats that you’ll suffer if you don’t meet their demands… I ended up giving them a box to pack their shit when they couldn’t understand stock isn’t free. Other employees got skiddish, either finding new employment or demanding the new vacated PM roles they weren’t ready for playing the same “we’re friends right?”… life lessons, new scars.  So the extra cash… was not feeling generous at all.

Shit fell apart and my world burned starting in 2008; mostly it was personal life, but as a leader of a firm who can’t focus on the company, it burned down as well given the economy crash going along with this. Crappy long arse story I’ll spare you kiddos from... Deep scars, less gleam in my eye when it comes to others or trust.

By 2012-2014 I sat in an empty office alone with shit clients and shit projects to barely break even and still not get paid; and that was preferable to going home which was even more dismal. Core clients bellied up in the recession, network was gutted. So I didn’t make anything and wallowed in pain a couple years having a one man pity party and living in my head.

2015 I threw away my old life which turned to shit; I started over as an employee for another firm. Started at $90k and in two years was up to $115k doing QAQC and CA for a high design firm by the time I left.

2017 I was let go; the work shifted to needing production. After failing to find a ‘real architecture’ position, I went back into forensic and expert testimony. $117.5 k before bonus’s. I show up, work, get paid, go home; a simple life.

Retirement: It’s down to $500k. A couple million in loans to the company wiped (my pension). The 401k gutted twice by the economy and having to liquidate chunks just to have a house foreclosed on anyway.  I figure in the next 12 years I’ve got a tough road ahead. 

Jan 21, 21 2:17 pm  · 
12  · 
Rusty!

OK fine, you win. Thread's over y'all.

3  · 

Thanks for sharing. Hoping you can manage the road ahead.

 · 
x-jla

Well, you seem like a guy with a ton of experience and knowledge, so if you can’t manage the road ahead, we are all fucked.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

I enjoyed this and feel like I've learned something. Cheers and thanks for sharing.

 · 
apscoradiales

Not all that unusual. Minimise expenses. Move to where it's cheaper to live.

 · 
thisisnotmyname

This tracks very closely to where I'm at: the need for operating cash limits the money I can ever cleanly pocket from the business. And my base salary is scarily close to that of several employees who are always wanting more.

 · 
archanonymous

How do you make $500k in architecture? Spend $3mil or so.

1  · 
joseffischer

Please don't take this as criticism or judgement, so maybe I should pose it as a question instead, Do you ever wonder what if you had switched models back in '06 and been more of a "share the load" Esop model... maybe leaned on your newly minted "partners/friends" when your personal life was needing more time in '08?

1  · 
mightyaa

@joseffischer; I was open to partners and saw benefit in it. One of them I’d already been grooming. But, I had 40% shares from my sister on the table, I was not going to sell my 60%, I was not going give it away, nor were they going maintain their salary and would have to also drop to the $50k mark like me and hope the firm made money to take home money… at a minimum they have to put skin in the game and take on risk. They weren’t willing, which pretty much told me they had a lot to learn to run a business. We are talking at that point we’re a 15 year old established architecture firm, an office building, company cars, furnishings, software, tech: Assets alone are not valueless. So the idea that you are so awesome that I would gift what I built from nothing with my Dad is insane. I hate to think of what they would have done with ‘dead weight’ like I was… btw; The foundation we were built on was a hostile take-over by my Dad’s new partners in his old firm. Hence the unshakable lesson of ‘do not ever give up majority stock’. His old partner of 30 years, my godfather, turned on him. And my Dad started over at the age of 50..

4  · 
joseffischer

Thanks for the reply, very enlightening.

 · 
joseffischer

test

Jan 21, 21 4:31 pm  · 
 · 
x-jla

I’m amazed that I can actually make a comfortably livable income while doing something I love.  I grew up in a place/culture where everyone did jobs they hated, then drank and bitched themselves to sleep and did it again and again until they died.  I feel very fortunate.  I started out on my own about 10 years ago.  It was a slow and rough climb.  I probably started out making under 30k for the first 1-3 years.  Then maybe just broke 40k by year 5.  By year 8 I broke 60k, and I’m now finally breaking 100k.  If I was still making 30k I’d still keep doing this, because when I drink myself to sleep at night I never ever bitch.

Jan 21, 21 9:17 pm  · 
4  · 

Saving for retirement has always been a bit of a guessing game for me. I think it makes sense, because in order to figure out a lot of it, you have to make assumptions about lots of things: inflation, lifestyle and what it will cost during retirement, health and how long you'll live, rate of growth of savings, age of retirement, etc. Any determinations based on those types of assumptions will always be a little squishy. I am someone that likes solid, concrete answers and I had to come to terms with being ok with the squishiness, and just understand that as I get closer to retirement, more of the assumptions will be solidified, and I can always adjust as I go.

That said, I've been told/advised that saving early is the way to build up retirement savings so I've always contributed to a 401k as soon as I had a job that offered the opportunity. I don't recall exactly what I was contributing then, but I think it was around 5% of my income to start off. I then bumped that up to 10%, then 15% and now I'm a little more than that and getting closer to the maximum contribution the IRS allows ($19.5k for 2021).

I know the amount I have saved is better than the average, and I should be able to maintain that, but I don't really know what being well prepared for retirement looks like in actual dollars (see all the assumptions in my first paragraph). So I did a little more digging and found some general benchmarks that range in a multiple of your salary based on your age. This is one that I thought captured the gamut and also showed it pretty well without needing to get into the details as much (though you can if you want to).

By this chart, I'm doing well. I currently have just over 1.25x my salary in retirement accounts and am 36. That wasn't the case last March/April with the pandemic crash, but it looks like I've bounced back to where I would have been without it. I've got plenty of time before retirement, so I'm basically just along for the ride at this point.

Jan 22, 21 3:30 pm  · 
1  · 
Bench

​EA - Thanks for this! Very helpful as a general benchmark. I’m 30, and it looks like I am probably generally in the correct benchmark as well, although bizarrely I have small pension contribution accounts in three separate countries at this point due to working internationally, which as far as I know none of them can be touched until I’m 65.

 · 
archanonymous

I'm skeptical of that chart. Common wisdom is that you need 25x your yearly expenses to retire.

1  · 

I hadn't heard that, so I looked it up. Seems like it might still apply here as there is correlation between the assumption in the chart of withdrawing 4% at retirement and that equaling 25x the anticipated yearly expenses during retirement (4% pays for a year's expenses at retirement ... 25 x 4% = 100%). 

I'm not sure exactly what the chart assumes for retirement expenses other than what the fine print says, but without getting too into the weeds it seems like both the 25x anticipated expenses and the values in the chart as a multiplier of current income apply. 

The chart above is helpful for me as I can refer to it every 5 years or so and see how I'm doing based on my current earnings. Ultimately, the 25x yearly expenses might be what I look at as I'm getting closer to retirement age to gauge if I need to adjust my expectations of my lifestyle up or down to be around the 25x benchmark based on what I've saved, or if I need to work longer to let the savings grow to reach 25x what I want my annual expenses to be.

 · 
midlander

i like that chart. it's really easy to make it work by taking jobs that pay progressively less as you get older...

2  · 

Pretty sure you're joking midlander, but if not ... check the "key assumptions" again.

1  · 
midlander

more seriously, there isn't any conflict between targeting 11x salary in savings vs 25x expenses. Those ratios match up if you were spending less than 44% of your gross income when you start retirement. This is reasonable assuming a big part of your gross income is already going to savings (and taxes...) as you reach the end of your working time. And it's possibly easier to adjust living expenses downward at retirement when you can move to a smaller house in a lower cost area.

1  · 
mightyaa

arch.. that's if you don't downsize. So, I have a huge house; raised 3 kids in it. I'll be empty nest within 5 years. There is no reason, at 57 when that happens, to hold onto it and continue those massive mortgage payments. Additionally, I've got 5 classic cars and I doubt the townhome I have in mind will have the garage space; so those will be sold as well. Theoretically, I'll gain half a million AND cut expenses as I head in the last stretch to retirement. My parents were different; they had their house paid off by the 80s; so their expenses aren't bad.

 · 

Another reason I like the chart vs the 25x figure is that the chart gives me intermediate goals to hit and I can understand it at a glance with only simple calculations based on numbers I can see in front of me (salary, multiplier, amount in 401k account). It gives me some confidence now that I'll be ok in 30 years. 

If I am thinking in terms of 25x I have to figure out a lot of the assumptions to even know whether or not what I have saved now will get me there. Of course, show me a chart that lays out a path with intermediate goals every five years to get to 25x at age 65, and I'd refer to that one too.

 · 
archanonymous

mightyaa - totally agree, I was just stating what I've seen as "common wisdom". That said, the 25x works well for me as I live a very simple life and will continue to even after I retire. I should be something like 40-45 years old when I hit that.

1  · 
shellarchitect

I think I’ve posted most of this before, but here it goes again... dates and salaries are pretty rough at first...


2006: Bs in arch, had a pretty good job and really needed a break.  Just about the only one in my class working at the time as Michigan was in a one state recession.  45k


2009/10: went back for my masters, got laid off, got married, and got my wife pregnant, lots of big stuff, not much income for awhile either


2012: read the hidden job market and had 4 or 5 offers within a month.  Finished the March somewhere in here too, 80k of debt plus 20k for my wife, 55k income


2014: pissed over a vacation snafu, basically I was given an out of date employee manual and was not happy when I found out that I was out of pto in April.  Was prob going to leave anyway as I would never finish IDP at this firm.  Bought a new house here, valued at 215k, prob 350ish today with appreciation and a newly finished basement.


2015: big E little A firm, hated it and left after 8 months, got licensed shortly before leaving. 60k


2016: decent firm, lots of Dunkin’ Donuts, strip malls, the like. Liked the people, the work was ok.  I did a lot of site plan approval stuff.  eventually figured out that no one in the firm was making much.  Paid off the the bulk of my student loans around here, remaining balance is at 2% and about $100 a month. 65k


2017- present:  started at 70k up to 85k now.  No raise last year, which I would normally have left out at least made a stink over, but I was doing the CKLD program at the time, followed by covid.  Don’t really want to prove myself at a new firm when we can’t depend on the schools to stay open for more than a couple weeks at a time. I feel like I’m coasting now, and will leave when the right opportunity comes by.  A couple moonlighting gigs at 2k each help too.


Wife recently went back to work full time after the hospital eliminated her part time job in the spring. family income has gone from 120 to 180k.  


Not sure what we are going to do with all the extra money, playing with a new house or building new. Most likely will save up to buy a vacation home when the economy eventually crashes.  

Jan 23, 21 8:23 am  · 
5  · 

Not sure if it's the 'deep state' tracking my search history, or just a coincidence ... but after posting about retirement savings and doing a little searching on the 4% rule yesterday, this popped up in my news feed this morning: 

The Originator of ‘the 4% Rule’ Thinks It’s Off the Mark. He Says It Now Could Be Up to 4.5%. Barron's

Jan 23, 21 6:48 pm  · 
 · 
Non Sequitur

Don’t forget to look in your closet and under the bed tonight.

 · 

Oh, it's probably just the microphones and cameras in my computers, tablets, phones, doorbell, and/or smart home hubs. No need to hide anything in the closet or under the bed.

 · 
quasi-arch

Long time lurker here, finally made an account. I've enjoyed reading the various advice on this forum.

Anyways, to contribute, I graduated in 2012 (Barch) and my first job was in an east coast city for 34k. I worked there for about 4 years and with steady raises each year (which seemed generous at the time) I think I was up to around 54k before I jumped to a much larger firm. There I was making around 60k but ended up not seeing a long-term future with that firm, so moved again to my current firm. Now making 70k, probably would be a bit more if not for the impacts of the pandemic.

I've been saving in the various company 401k's since the start, but I'll just say that it has only been the last 1-2 years where I've finally felt like I'm making a decent living where I can meaningfully contribute to savings and retirement etc. I was fortunate to graduate with no student debt, yet investing in a house would still feel pretty daunting if not for some inheritances from passing family members (nothing life-changing, but enough to go a ways towards a down payment). I could certainly live more frugally but wouldn't say I'm being rash & irresponsible by any means!

I feel a bit like I'm nearing the ceiling for any lateral moves, and can probably just expect cost-of-living raises from here out. (To clarify, I'm satisfied at my current firm, but I'm not the most social person and don't see myself rising to a 'principal' level for lack of "people skills"). So, probably a ways to go for 100k for me. It occurred to me reading this topic that I'm almost 10 years into this, and am still not sure if this is even the field I want to stay in--but that's a discussion for another time! 

Jan 24, 21 4:21 pm  · 
5  · 
bowling_ball

Being social is not the only criterion for rising to Principal, trust me. What's going to hold you back might be your education (4 year or 5 year? Accredited? Etc) and ability to register as an architect. It sounds like you've made some smart moves and it's time to start making some longer term goals to get you where you want to go.

1  · 

Thanks for posting. What type of work are you primarily doing now; project management, production drawing/modeling, design, etc.?

1  · 
quasi-arch

BB: I got my license fairly quickly out of school, in 2015. Since then, not really sure where to go in terms of long term goals to be honest. I've gained a lot of experiences and by all accounts am pretty good at what I do, but it just hasn't been translating into real enjoyment for me.

EA: I'm still doing a good bit of production work but am definitely taking on the PM role for some projects. It's not easy and I have a good bit to learn on managing lower staff/delegation, but we'll see how it goes. I am more technical-minded in terms of any 'expertise.'

 · 
OneLostArchitect

You sound a lot like me, you just graduated two
same salary and social issues... and same outlook on the profession as well. I want out,

1  · 
archi_dude

Onelost, how old are you?

 · 
OneLostArchitect

Around mid thirties...

 · 
square.

i don't see anything wrong with "settling" with where you are- you sound pretty content and reluctant to take on any more "significant" responsibility, which is fine. maybe eventually you'll feel a stronger desire to move "up," or maybe not.

i put these words in quotes because in architecture, there is a lot of pressure to "move up" quickly to management roles, and the results of that are often people in these positions who shouldn't be. unfortunately, (smaller) firms are often desperate for people in these roles and pressure staff into them. the work you are doing is very important within the process, and having the awareness and humility to know that it is good enough for now is something i wish we saw more of, instead of the relentless grind "upwards."

2  · 
archi_dude

Onelost, apply to a project engineer role with an established GC. You'll knock it out of the park. It's what I did in my mid-30's. Starting wage at most GC's for recent grads sounds to be the 10 year salary mark for most people on this thread. The people are way better, the expectations much more humane, (what I mean is think about Nons posts where he says how little he works but demeans and belittles his junior staff, that doesnt happen) the work is extremely dynamic and interesting and you end up with something physical. If you've done CA GC's would fight over you. I suck and am average but apparently my resume with "licensed architect" got a CEO at a major GC involved in my interview last week where usually it's just PMs. You can escape if you want.

4  · 
Non Sequitur

Um, where did I say this Archi?

 · 
shellarchitect

OneLost, I thought you just started a new job?

 · 
quasi-arch

Not to highjack the thread, but Onelost, I know how you feel. I have one or two things I’ve thought about moving to, one involves starting my own business (semi-tangential to architecture) and the other completely retraining to start in another field. Both have pros and cons and I guess I suffer some anxiety or “analysis paralysis” to get up the gumption to do it. I had started on the second option prior to Covid but the need for in person training put that on hold. Moving to the contracting side of things has occurred to me for sure, but I’m just weary of it being more of the same, just from “the other side.”

1  · 
OneLostArchitect

SHELL, no I did have one lined up and COVID derailed it.

 · 
archi_dude

One lost and quasi. I can tell you while the contractor side has it's own issues. I vomit slightly in my mouth if I think of heading back to the architecture side. Quasi go for it. The worst that happens is that within 6 months you realize it was a mistake, you sweep that position under the rug and head back to arch with a better and more grateful attitude towards your chosen career.

2  · 
Wood Guy

Non, I have heard similar as archidude from you over the years, spread over various posts. But I think you're probably good to work under. Demanding, but good. Just an educated guess. And for those of us who consistently work over 50 hours/week, anything close to 40 seems light. Not that it should.

 · 
  • How and when you made it to your first $100k salary or take-home profit (i.e. where were you at in your career, how long did it take to get there, how did you get there, etc.). Bonus, how and when did you make your next $100k.

I do not make $100K (USD).  I’m ¾ of the way there though.

  • What you [are] [were] facing in terms of student debt upon graduating, and when [will] [did] you pay it off.

 When I graduated in 2002 I had $25K in student loan debt.  I paid it off in eight years.

  • What milestones you're looking at for retirement accounts and savings (401k, IRA, etc.), and when you hit them (i.e. $1/4 million, $1/2 million, $1 million, 1x annual salary, 2x annual salary, etc.).

 Personal Savings: 6 months of take-home pay, this took me four years to obtain

Retirement: 401K  $250K 2010, $500K, 2015, $1million - 2021

Jan 26, 21 11:46 am  · 
3  · 
shellarchitect

401k is very impressive, how did you get to 250k only 8 years after grad?

1  · 
quasi-arch

Wow, I’m amazed at your retirement savings Chad. I need to get a move on!

 · 
square.

you have a 1mil retirement account already?! that's insane.

1  · 

My wife and I do. She is a saver and with stock options in her company we've been able to invest heavily in a diversified retirement plan. Keep in mind that I'm a type 1 diabetic so we're saving and investing extra due to the expected future costs for my medical treatments.

I was fortunate that before getting married I worked at a firm with a 100% match for my first 5% contribution to my 401K.  I contributed 8% of my paycheck to retirement right away and made sure to adjust the amount with each raise. 

4  · 
square.

ok, split between two people sounds much more reasonable.. regardless very impressive. always nice to hear (rare) financial success stories.

1  · 

Oh gowd - if it was just me that would be insane!

 · 
SneakyPete

You were smart. I had a large % match for my first job and I waited YEARS to start saving. I wish I could go back and slap my own face. I now have only about 100k in my 401ks. :(

2  · 
Bench

100% match for 5% contribution is a massive amount, isn't it? From memory I don't think that's a very common rate, unless I'm mistaken ... ?

 · 
shellarchitect

pretty good matching for sure. Best I've seen is University of Michigan matches 300% up to 8% MIL retired from there last year. Free healthcare in retirement too. DTE ends up at the same salary percentage but gets there via a pretty convoluted calculation.

 · 
SneakyPete

I had 50% for the first 6% at my first job. *sob*

 · 

That's a pretty great employer contribution amount, I'm jealous. All mine have been around 3% employer contribution just in different forms (100% match up to 3%, or 50% match up to 6%).

 · 
Non Sequitur

Nice Chad. I have nothing of the sorts but my wife had a position (private education) in a badly run company that matched 3%. I was surprised to see how quickly it grew but then the company folded in a glorious dumpster fire and she was forced out 18 months later.

 · 

I need to figure out what my wife's retirement savings is at. She's a public employee on the state's pension plan, but I forget the details. I think it's something like a partial pension with individual contribution to a 401k component or something like it to fill out the rest. I don't recall being that impressed by it. I might not have fully understood it at the time though ... hoping for a nice surprise.

 · 
shellarchitect

could be a nice surprise!  My firm does a match “at their discretion” which fills me with confidence.  the past couple years have had safe harbor contributions instead of matching.  I’m told that is because a large percent of the firms total 401k value is owned by firm principals.  Not sure I really understand tho 

Jan 26, 21 5:01 pm  · 
 · 
whistler

Here's the arc of my career and income in Canada .... Graduated 1986 with professional degree - Landscape Arch.  Graduated 1989 with masters in Arch.  worked many summers in offices and developed decent drawing and colouring skills so finding work was never and issue and having two professional degrees always made me more employable than my classmates. Had about $24 k in student debt that I paid off in about 4 years with help from my Grandma.

First jobs were more contract work @ $14-15 / hr. moved to a big time architect and only made about $1200 / month. Left that after three months and moved to a small firm making about $2500 / month and stayed there for a doubt 5 years and left making about $ 4,000/ month. Moved out of town to a public sector job in the planning department making about $4500/month.  Stayed for about 1.5 years before leaving and working for myself.

Left the job figuring I could make the same or more....First year ( 1994 ) probably made $60,000 - 70,000 / yr.  and following 5 years made low $100,000 / yr. while doing my own design work and picked up some contract work to balance off the highs and lows of the economy while I continued to get a more steady flow of projects. Also started going after larger work , writing proposals for smaller scale public projects and renovations. ( mostly unsuccessful ) 

Continued the work on growing the office and hired my first staffer in early 2000 and started to learn how beneficial it was to have others make money for you, times we good, upped the work load and pay moved up to, incorporated the company instead of being a sole proprietor, bought better computers / plotters etc. and invested money back into the company.

20 years later I pay myself a salary  $ 200,000 + / yr. and put money away ( $1.2 million+ in the corporate account ) or invest back in the company.  Landing work regularly ( commercial / residential / civic / planning ) and turning away projects of less interest or value. The effort has been worthwhile, aside from Grandma helping to pay off my student loans there has been no help from family or relatives. Bought and sold a few homes along the way and built a few too. Managed to finance the kids university educations and bought and few german automobiles along the way for my wife. I helped the kids buy their first cars and bought multiple bikes / skis etc for them too. Holidays with friends and neighbours fairly regularly and can keep up with "the jones" most of whom are retired and doing fun stuff everyday. 

Still like coming to work everyday... but I don't think of it as work.


Jan 26, 21 6:25 pm  · 
10  · 
midlander

good story glad to see this. are you located in a major city / suburban area?

 · 
Bench

can I ask if your name is any indication of your region? (that's always how i've read it ...)

 · 
square.

hired my first staffer in early 2000 and started to learn how beneficial it was to have others make money for you

this made me applaud, laugh, and groan at the same time.

 · 
whistler

Midlander... Outside a major Canadian city in the pacific northwest.

 · 
whistler

Bench... see above

1  · 
whistler

Square... staff make the office money but in turn have a great life/ work balance ( 4 day work week ) better than average pay yearly bonus ( typically 5 figures ) ... I would imagine they could do better in a booming metropolitan city but the overall package isn't bad and it suits those who don't want or can afford to live in a city.

1  · 
tintt

$13/hr to start as an intern in a civil engineering/general contracting firm.

$13/hr in architect's office after graduation. Raises of $3k a year every year.

3.5 years later moved up to $45k salaried. 

Raises every year till I was up to $56k with about 6 years of experience, still salaried. Firm closed, I left the profession.

Started a business with my husband, charged $60 an hour but we had overhead. Had employees too. Made anywhere from a lot to not much at all. Had no competition and raised prices often to get to $80/hour. Price increases were eaten up by exploding rent prices (quadrupled). We now have competition but no longer have a place and all the overhead. 

Had kids, was stay at home mom for 2-3 years.

Got back into architecture as a freelance drafter. $40/hr. That was 2015.

Got licensed. Raised prices for new clients to $50/hr.

Got another freelancing gig from a firm for $60/hr. Work for them as needed and amounts to about 2-3 months a year.

Raised prices to $80-100/hr for other clients.

Kept raising prices with every project. I like to do flat fees and not keep track of time. Sometimes I make $40 an hour, sometimes $600. 

Current hourly rate is $150-175/hour. 


Jan 27, 21 8:52 am  · 
4  · 
midlander

what kind of work (project types and role) are you doing freelance? is it all through referrals or do you have some way of marketing your service?

 · 
tintt

I have freelanced for a few firms over the years. My most recent and enduring freelancing gig is working for a firm that does a lot of higher education projects and projects for the state like accessibility upgrades, master plans, public buildings mostly renovations. I don't really market too much but do offer my services to other architects that I meet or that I already know, former employers. I got the above gig through a college classmate who is their PM and doesn't have time to design and draft and their drafter was unskilled and careless (and no longer with them.) I got a residential addition job and realized I knew next to nothing about residential and I found an architect to help me with it. That was a year and a half ago and I have basically partnered with him he supports and mentors me on my projects and I do production work and 3-D work on his. We are of two different demographics so we actually do good as we appeal widely to various clients. He does mostly residential so I'm learning that stuff. I did almost all commercial until recently so when he gets a commercial job I help with code plans and permitting. My first freelance job was for an archinector actually. So was my second.

1  · 
tintt

I also work for a friend of a friend who is a house flipper. And I do design-build drawing sets for a contractor.

1  · 
molten

I'm curious - would you have left the profession had that firm not closed, or was it the kick you needed to go out on your own? Would you ever go back to a firm setting?

 · 
tintt

I probably would not have left the profession. I had just started testing and got my LEED credential. I wasn't happy but I wasn't planning on starting a new career until it landed in my lap and was basically forced on me. At that time I thought I was 100% done with architecture, never to return. But I got that freelance gig and completely changed my mind, decided architecture wasn't so bad afterall. I had always planned to go out on my own but not like that.

1  · 

Anyone become a millionaire yesterday buying stock in Game Stop?


Anyone feel like they can explain what happened to me like I’m a third-grader?

Jan 27, 21 11:03 am  · 
 · 
archanonymous

A huge hedge fund bet that GameStop's stock would crash (selling short). Instead, retail investors (read: dudes on the internet trading on Robinhood) have sent it skyrocketing. Now the giant hedge fund has to buy a bunch of the stock to cover their short. This is sending the price of the stock even higher - supply and demand.

The people "betting against" the stock still would have had to buy a bunch of the stock in normal times, because that's how options work - you gotta settle up eventually. But the bet was that the price would have declined, and thus it would have been a profitable trade. 

 · 
square.

edit: ^ beat me to it and did a better job.

 · 
midlander

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/opinion/articles/2021-01-25/the-game-never-stops not short or third grade level but a great read. matt levine is the world's leading comic genius of financial reporting.

 · 

I'll read the article, maybe it explains it, but what's stopping the hedge fund from just waiting? It seems like everyone knows this is just a bubble because of the retail investors and the price will come crashing down eventually. Why not just wait it out? As soon as a few of the retail investors start cashing out, the price will start to dip back down, and all the others will freak out trying to cash out when it is at it's peak ... thus driving the price into the ground, no?

This is basically the extent of my knowledge of the stock market ... about that of a third-grader.

 · 
archanonymous

Options trading works on a timeframe - you have to define what the price of the stock will be, and when. This vs just buying the actual stock itself (rather than options to buy stock at a future date) in which case if you had just bought stock you can hold on to it. But there's no way to hold actual stock and make money from the price of the stock declining. That's just losing money.

 · 

So, the hedge fund made an agreement to sell shares of GameStop to (??) on future date (X) for price (Y). The bet they made is that they could buy those shares for (less than Y) before the due date (X) because the stock would go down and therefore make a profit selling shares for (Y) on the due date. But now that shares are (more than Y ... a lot more than Y), they *have* to buy the shares anyway in order to fulfill their agreement to sell the shares to (??) on (X) date for the agreed upon price (Y).

Is that essentially the gist of the short sell or do I have it wrong?

 · 
Bench

EA - definitely watch The Big Short if you haven't yet, it does a great job speaking this wall street stuff to regular schmucks like us.

2  · 

Ok, I actually read the article and it explained the shorting better. I think I get that, now I need a third-grader explanation of *call options* because that was new to me, and the article (I think) assumes a basic understanding of that, because this paragraph is in a different language to me, but seems important to understanding everything: 

"Second, a lot of people (on Reddit) who like GameStop don’t buy stock; they buy call options. If you are a retail trader looking to gamble on a stock, you can buy call options to get leveraged exposure to the stock. For instance, last Tuesday (Jan. 19), you could have bought a $50-strike call option on 100 shares of GameStop stock expiring this coming Friday (Jan. 29). Bloomberg tells me this option would have cost you about $3.35 per share, or about $335 for a 100-share option contract; the stock closed that day at $39.36. If you sold the options on Friday (Jan. 22), when the stock closed at $65.01, they were worth $18.16 per share. 4 You put in $335 and got back $1,816; you made a 442% return in four days. If you had just bought 100 shares of stock instead, you would have had to put in $3,936 to get back $6,501, a 65% return. Of course if the stock had stayed flat instead of going up to $65.01, you’d have lost 0% by buying shares and 100% by buying the options. So options are great if you have a relatively small amount of money and want to take a lot of risk with it. If, for instance, you are a retail trader on WallStreetBets."

 · 
Bench

At some point does this not all become made-up ...sounds like conjuring money out of the air...


3  · 

It's all voodoo. Burn the warlock!

2  · 

The article midlander linked to above does touch on the topic of creating value from nothing ... well almost nothing. Here's the quote about bitcoin:

"It is an amazing collective accomplishment to create a new thing, from scratch, that is valuable just because we collectively agree that it’s valuable. It is amazing to find a way to create that collective agreement from nowhere. Once you have it, you can actually do useful things with Bitcoin—as a store of value, a currency, whatever—that you couldn’t do before. Bitcoin created real financial value out of, essentially, the human imagination."

"That’s cool but it’s also a terrifying proof of concept."

1  · 
SneakyPete

This is why the stock market is fucking dumb in a nutshell.

3  · 

Also worth pointing to a podcast from NPR's Planet Money team about modern monetary theory. https://www.npr.org/2021/01/20/958854717/modern-monetary-theory-classic

 · 
whistler

Cancel culture at work through social media....striking back at what they perceive as bully tactics by a hedge fund. So to explain to a third grader..... the nerdy guy with glasses got picked on by the school yard bully who in turn pissed off a bunch of jocks and nerds who all dog piled on the bully. Revenge of the Nerds 2.0!

 · 
archanonymous

NGL thats a little bit how I felt trying to type out my initial explanation.

3  · 
midlander

Whistler, you're not the only commentator with that view. What's interesting is calling the collective effort of a bunch of online stocktip posters "cancelling" - a term usually used derisively against liberal social culture. whereas the gamestop pushers are associated with elon musk, reddit, and the vaguely right wing techno-anarcho-libertarian crowd. i agree with your observation though...

 · 

I watched The Big Short again last night. Well worth watching again if you haven't seen it lately. Actually connected some of the dots for me on the call option thing too.

 · 
whistler

That's the example I used to explain the situation to my family this morning. I have two kids in business school so I wanted to make sure they knew what was going on..... good real time learning.

 · 

The bully called the nerds' mothers who made the nerds go to bed without supper because it was written into the terms of service agreement.

1  · 
newguy

I'll go:

-B.Arch in 2008 with $5k student loan debt at a local state school.  Recession, couldn't find work, worked survival jobs and then went to grad school.  This year probably shaped my worldview more than any schooling ever did, to be honest.

-M.Arch in 2012 at a well known school (not ivy, still private):  $40k in student loans vs leaving the profession altogether.  Took the loan

- Cost of loans ballooned to about $65k upon graduating (mix of gradplus loans and non subsidized loans accruing interest from day 1 of disbursement).

-First job in a major US City:  Starting salary 50k, but already 70k in the hole with loans and car payments.

-Set up an aggressive payback plan, figured I'd be better off paying it all quickly rather than seeking a 20 year forgiveness plan.  Made it a point to spend my first check of the month toward rent and live off the rest, and the second of the month went to student loans (i.e, I paid more in loans than rent for about 7 years in one of the most expensive cities in the country).  I got it down to a science, and realized I could live in a high cost of living city for around $700 a month (after paying rent/loans).  Signed up for Mint and PersonalCapital, as well as downloading google spreadsheets with amortized payment calculator so that I could plug-in payments and get an accurate "debt free" calendar date.  At some point when my credit was no longer dog-shit, I was able to refinance my loans and reduced the interest rate to like 4.5% (previously a mix of 6.5%-8% grad plus loans).

- At about the 5 year mark, my networth finally climbed up to $0 at the age of like 32, and my salary (same city) was around 85k.  Probably had about 5k in the bank for an emergency, thankfully never needed it.

- 7 year mark, salary climbed to 94k (in an extremely high cost of living city, mind you).  Found the best way to increase salary was to find a new job every 3 years, so I jumped around without regret.  Finally began seeing my networth jump up to double digits, built up an emergency fund

- Paid off my last student loan in summer of 2019.  This was like getting a 12k raise without doing anything.  It was a relief, but not nearly as "exciting" as I had hoped.  Just a burden off my back, really. Increased my 401k contributions from the minimum to get the company match to basically 12k a year plus ~3k match.  Instead of maxing, I then use the rest of the money and invest in Vanguard index funds (totalmarket and totalbond) and now all of my "student loan" payments that I no longer owe go directly to that account, and it's building up nicely and is catching up to my 401k.  It's after tax, but whatever, I can access those whenever I want to without penalty so I'm fine missing out on the tax savings.  A part of my portfolio strategy is to have assets I can liquidate prior to 65.

- 8 Year mark I got rona'd.  Let go from a mix of not being at the job long enough and the project I was on inconveniently being submitted right as lockdowns were beginning and other projects drying up.  Horrible timing.  Ended up taking a lateral job that will eventually require me to relocate (or at least that's what I told 'em), and took a cost of living adjustment decrease (back down to like 90k), but still a lateral move and I wasn't unemployed that long, and thankfully didn't have to pull from my emergency account.  Still haven't broken 100k in salary.  However, my emergency fund can float me for 6 months+, and that peace of mind seriously helped me not feel miserable during my search (plenty of park/beach days in between applications).  It also helps me not feel too much job stress because I can just walk away and dick around for a while if I get too burdened with corporate expectations (which is all I really want) and I've kept on good terms with all past employment.  My net worth broke 100k for the first time this past year, so at least I'm on decent track (which feels like a miracle considering I was 70k in the hole to begin this journey).

- Goals:  Financial security/independence.  Absolutely zero ambition in trying to climb the ladder or make partner or whatever.  Absolutely despise the politics of office work and a small part of me dies inside whenever I see a grown-ass man or woman completely submit to the whims of a superior just because they had a thought in the shower that morning and want to re-work weeks of effort without extending the schedule.  Hate that with a passion.  In a perfect world, I would be Bartleby the scrivener.  Or I would just "walk the earth" like Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction.  I get way more satisfaction working on small personal projects or teaming up with friends for design work than I do for my actual paycheck.  Just want to get my bag and nope out as soon as I can so that I can put my talents to projects I actually care about.  That's it.

Anyway, long story short, college education should absolutely be free.  I pulled out of it, but it added a good 8 years to my working career in the process, which, when you think about it, is exactly what student debt is designed to do.  I would much rather have spent that money on booze.


Jan 27, 21 11:47 pm  · 
4  · 
square.

it's as if the system is designed to trap people in unwanted employment situations..

3  · 
athensarch
  • When I first made $100k: 8-10yrs after M.Arch. I live in a VHCOL city so it’s not that impressive. For perspective, it’s equivalent to $68k in Charlotte, or $84k in Chicago. A 1000sf single family here averages north of $600k within an hour commute of the city.
  • Graduated with $85-90k debt and a starting salary of $40k. Small increases until I switched to construction. Paid it off in 5yrs. The year I switched to construction I had ~35k left. No family help. The first few years were really rough. 
  • Would rather not comment on retirement savings. It’s rapidly growing now but me and my partners families are poor and will rely on us for $$ even more in future.
Jan 28, 21 1:04 pm  · 
3  · 
Thayer-D

The only advice I have is get really good at what the market wants and you'll get better paid.  Right now, schools don't prepare students with the design skills that many home owners and builders need, so figure out the terrain yourself and learn those skills on your own.  Most important is to check your ego and listen to the customer, whoever that might be.

Btw, my first job in architecture ('92) was for 17k a year.

Jan 28, 21 2:21 pm  · 
2  · 
tduds

About $31k in todays dollars. (I think it'd be interesting to translate all of this into 2020 money)

1  · 
SneakyPete

My first job in 2002 was 23k. My boss was my dad.

1  · 
thisisnotmyname

I have totally been converting numbers from some of the above posts to 2021 numbers using an online inflation calculator.

2  · 
Say No to Student Loans

Defund Academia

Jan 30, 21 9:55 am  · 
 ·  2
newguy

Decommodify Academia

1  · 
Non Sequitur

I think academia should get even more funding. How about you subsidize post secondary in all institutions so that tuition costs like $2k per term regardless of the school’s pedigree. Then acceptance is solely based on academic merit instead of either the family fortune or the willingness of the applicant to chain themselves to ridiculous debt. Take required money out of your military budget. Just a day or 2 should be enough.

5  · 
shellarchitect

Sounds great and all, but what if we suddenly need to fight two major wars at the same time? We need to have a giant standing army just in case

1  · 
Non Sequitur

Will you need to Shell? By that point, you'll have a much more education population who likely will have voted for less war-happy politicians.

1  · 
square.

agreed with ns- this is such a dumb take, but not a surprising one. if anything public institutions need much more funding, like the civilized countries in europe. instead, in regressive, ruggedly individualistic, anti-intellectual america, we opt for saddling people, who choose to further themselves with education, with crushing debt. sounds like a great strategy for national advancement.

 · 
shellarchitect

Guess my sarcasm was a little too subtle... I agree that forcing the young into crushing debt is terrible and the military budget is insane. I can't find it now but I recall reading that our military is sized to fight 2 major wars at once (similar to WW2).   

This is a little old now, but still interesting and relevant: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/22/us/is-americas-military-big-enough.html#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20has%20higher%20military%20spending%20than,upholding%20international%20order%20and%20promoting%20American%20interests%20abroad.

 · 
square.

i edited my thumbs down.

1  · 
shellarchitect

I finished reading the “millionaire mind” last night.


Turns out rich people get that way by living within their means and having high incomes!  
People with high incomes can have low net worth and people with low income can have high net worth.  Saved everyone a lot of time!


Only interesting chapter to me was about building s home, author thinks it’sa terrible idea unless you have a lawyer and accountant to help.  No mention of architects

Feb 1, 21 12:20 pm  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

I know it sounds simplistic but the precursor, Millionaire Next Door, helped me in the late 90s when I was trying to learn some financial literacy. If you don't grow up around wealthy people you don't learn what it takes to get there, just what society tells you is important. Rich Dad Poor Dad was another good one--super basic, yet important in its own way.

1  · 
SneakyPete

"rich people get that way by living within their means and having high incomes"

And then pass that on to their spawn with no thought to the common good, since they earned it. Then the kid gets to go around telling everyone how hard they worked for the inheritance they were given. Some even run for president!

Feb 1, 21 1:16 pm  · 
 · 

One of my favorite things is to read the articles about people who paid down their massive student loans in practically no time at all, and find the key thing that made it possible that basically no one else would be able to do without some luck or family wealth. I think I've only come across a very small percentage where there wasn't some hidden gem in the reporting about how they inherited some money, won the lottery, or were able to live rent free in their family's vacation home while paying down the debt (or similar).

This isn't to say they didn't put in any work or make otherwise hard and appropriate choices, and aren't deserving of some kudos ... but the pernicious implication those articles give is that anyone can do it and all it takes is some frugality and budgeting, and therefore anyone not able to do it is somehow not adulting properly.

3  · 
square.

totally.. i could have chosen to live at my parents house for a year or so and pay down a massive amount of debt, but the cost, particularly mental and social, of living like that instead of where i do now was not worth it for me.

1  · 
RJ87

Inheritance is a tough issue. On one hand it sometimes leads to incompetence & lack of motivation. On the other hand it bothers me that the government would get a single cent of money I leave to my kids one day. If I want to give money to a cause it will be outlined in my will or I'll have done it before I died.

 · 
SneakyPete

Inheritance is a tough issue for people who think money they earn should only benefit them. The rest of the human species understands that money is an abstraction representing a spectrum of value that people bring into the world, and that the attempt to commoditize that value so they can control it for themselves and their progeny is selfishness that is incredibly damaging to us all.

 · 
tduds

Inheritance taxes should be very high, but with a high threshold. Folks inheriting a couple hundred thousand from their grandparents are used as scapegoats in the argument against taxation, while billions quietly pass from generation to generation among the wealthiest. The solution is to give the first group a break, and tighten the screws on the rich.

3  · 
Wood Guy

Tduds, I think you've hit on a big problem in our society--people think those who make $100K or $200K a year are rich. They aren't; they're just upper middle class. Barely even upper at this point. I might have mentioned before that I did a bunch of carpentry for a billionaire, I believe in the top 20 on the Forbes list at the time. I calculated based on modest returns that they were likely making over $1,000 per minute from their investments. People like that can stand to share some of what they've hoarded.

2  · 
RJ87

I agree on higher rates for a very high threshold. The reality is as it stands now a married couple can pass down 23.4 million without having to worry about paying a cent. That doesn't affect but a handful of people anyways.

1  · 
archanonymous

WG, your method of stating that was funny to me so I checked and I make 5... nearly 5.5 cents per minute from my investments. Is this how you get rich?

1  · 
archanonymous

.... but at the same time, aren't I? My measly investment income would place me at a very high percentile of wealth in global terms.

1  · 
Wood Guy

We're all among the luckiest humans to have ever existed. Think of all the luxuries we enjoy and take for granted. Also among the wealthiest, globally and historically. But that doesn't mean that those with obscene amounts of wealth can't share more of it. Your investments make you a few cents per minute more than mine do, but either way we aren't going to transcend to wealth with just one account making those returns.

3  · 
SneakyPete

The perfect should not be used to wage war on the good. I believe that's what WG is suggesting.

 · 
archanonymous

SP - totally agree. And agree with WG for that matter. Was not really making a point, just an observation. We all live in a manner that would make French Royalty or Russian Czars blush.

1  · 
shellarchitect

the millionaire mind does mention that the number of people who inherit significant wealth is very small

Feb 1, 21 3:55 pm  · 
 · 
thisisnotmyname

I'm thinking a lot these days about how what city you work in affects an architect's ability to build wealth.   If you practice in a place with a poor economy were the building activity is either very limited in quantity or so low-cost that the design fees are tiny, that location is going to limit what you could potentially earn.

Feb 1, 21 4:20 pm  · 
2  · 
archanonymous

Also interesting how different it is for people outside of North America. Pay is much lower in relation to living cost, but there's more social services, healthcare, and retirement.

 · 
shellarchitect

One thing that doesn't get talked about much is how much better it is financially to be either married or at least share housing with someone.

We paid off 80k in about 4 years, never could have done with without 2 incomes.

Feb 2, 21 12:03 pm  · 
5  · 
RJ87

Dual income with no kids is a great way to save. Our salaries were roughly the same, so we decided to live off of one salary while saving almost entirely the other. We were just coming out of college, so we didn't mind keeping some of the college lifestyle rolling to save money.

4  · 

Kids are expensive

1  · 
shellarchitect

They sure are! No day care next year! Then we will finally be “rich”

1  · 
thatsthat

My parents have been bugging my partner and I to get married for the last couple of years, claiming we'd benefit tax-wise. We looked into and that is not actually the case for us. We already share expenses so all we'd gain is legal rights to each other's stuff, and none of it is that nice anyway. :) 

 · 

Curious to know how many here do their own taxes (and how you go about it), or if you hire an accountant or similar to do them for you. I'm more curious about personal taxes rather than business taxes, but you can answer for both. 

Personally, I do my own taxes using TurboTax. I started when I was young doing it this way because that's what my parents did and they purchased the software each year (before it was online) so it was simple enough while I was still living at home. When I was in college a TA told me about the free online version (if you qualify) and I took advantage of that as long as I qualified for it. Now I just pay to use the online version. I'm to the point now that I know what to expect and I can usually take care of it all in an evening once I gather/wait for all the paperwork from various institutions, etc.

Feb 2, 21 2:32 pm  · 
4  · 
Non Sequitur

I file my own and my wifes. Takes about 2hrs all in using the software (studiotax... I think it's only canadian). Used to be free, but now they charge $15 to use it. meh... not a big deal. What I like about this one is you load up your previous year's tax file and it updates a bunch of stuff as well as keep track of $ paid and owned. I keep a specific folder for each tax year organized so there is less of a scramble to get everything. 

My wife used to bring hers to one of those mall kiosks. I did that with her once like 10 years ago. They would charge $100+ to enter the numbers in their software.

 · 
square.

turbo tax all the way. i keep thinking, for some reason, that we should use an accountant, but judging on the combination of my student loan debt and general stagnation of this economic system we find ourselves in, i seriously doubt we'll have the sorts of life bonuses that neccessiate such extravagances

1  · 
Wood Guy

I did my own for a long time but for the last 10-12 I have used an accountant. Mine aren't terribly complicated but not the easiest, and I like that they are specialists and can help make judgement calls. Kind of like hiring an architect to design a house--rarely necessary, but you get a better product if you do.

3  · 

WG, I have considered that, but can't imagine they'd find anything in my simple returns that the software isn't prompting me for. I could be wrong though. I imagine the owning your own business plays a part in the complexity though. 

Also, quite a statement of comparison coming from the non-architect who is designing houses ;-)

1  · 
Wood Guy

EA, yeah when my wife and I were both employees it was pretty simple. Now she has a W2 job and her own sole proprietorship, working from home; in most recent years I have had two businesses, subcontractors and work from home as well. So there are a lot of judgement calls to make.

Ha, yeah I could have used a different analogy ;-) I am careful to never represent myself as an architect, but when it comes to designing houses I'm pretty equivalent. Though for my best current project, a high performance new home on the Maine coast, I brought in a licensed architect friend/mentor of mine because they create houses that are unique works of art. 

 · 
thisisnotmyname

I did my firms taxes for several years with a high-spec version of Turbo Tax. This year, I got involved with some business advisors who told me I was basically an idiot for doing my taxes myself. I am now using a CPA and they have been very effective in navigating recent COVID relief legislation that allows carrybacks of losses in 2019 and 2020.

1  · 
bowling_ball

We pay an accountant friend to do our taxes (mine personal, hers personal and business). It's worth every penny. My in-laws used to do their own (retired, so pretty simple) but we convinced them to see an accountant and within 15 minutes she found over $3k in unused credits related to healthcare expenses. Like I said, worth it.

1  · 
proto

we used to do it via turbotax, but we have been using a pro tax person who is doing the taxes but also advising on financial decision options during the year

 · 
thisisnotmyname

For us, the money coming back in refunds and lower payments more than covers the cost of the CPA to do our taxes.

 · 

We use turbo tax with itemized deductions.

 · 
curtkram

I've been using freetaxusa.com. the irs has a list of websites that will file your fed return for free

 · 
curtkram

https://apps.irs.gov/app/freeFile/browse-all-offers I hit enter too soon. anyway, they file my fed tax for free and i have to pay for them to file my state tax (i have to file in two states too, because i don't live in the state i work)

1  · 
rcz1001

Thanks for the info. I have to file this year otherwise, I'm screwing myself out of some tax refund money and all. What a wonderful tax year for a year I personally would like to forget ever existed. Wish everyone best!

 · 

rcz - you have to file every year, don't you?

 · 

Don't have to pay income taxes if you have no income ... amirite

1  · 
shellarchitect

Tons of sites that will file online for free if your income is below X, a bunch more let you do federal for free and charge for state. I've been using EZtaxreturn.com for about 5 years with no complaints, around $35 total.

 · 
rcz1001

Chad, most years, yeah. There are times when filing isn't required. A year of a global pandemic might have been one of those years.

 · 
code

yes the tech programmers make more, so do football players. they also have  career life spans far shorter than architecture, they become obsolete or get injured and it's game over.

Feb 24, 21 7:12 pm  · 
 · 
rcz1001

code, tech programming is more or less a job not necessarily a career. Usually, people will move on to being directors, managers, etc. of project teams after some experience. In such industry, the goal isn't to be pigeonhole in a position where you do programming all the time. You move on to other roles like directing a project team, etc. In video game industry, you might be heading towards creative lead roles like the game designer or game mechanics and lead there.... then on to basically a project management role overseeing projects. Then you may move on to the business side of things like the organizational planning, goal-setting, financial management, etc. Even then, you can PM well past your 20s-30s and into your 50s and 60s. 

By then, you should know project process even if you are not as familiar with the newest flavor of programming languages being used. The idea that it is necessarily game over is something that is not entirely true. It might be true that in some companies, if you don't progress or for whatever reason, you get axed from the company but it is not the end of the world in the profession. Being a game designer/developer (like Software Designer/Developer) can be a longer career than you might have just as a programmer. Career lifespan is different than the lifespan you may have in a particular job function/role. 

Yet, there's nothing that stops someone from continuing to do computer programming their entire life even if computer programming isn't THE role of the position but an aspect of delivering. It is like being a draftsman might be a short career life but yet you may still be doing drafting throughout the career of being an architect but an architect isn't merely some person who does drafting but it maybe a skill you need to do to deliver on what your client or employer needs. 

Some people do give up in their careers short because they have no imagination about their career or how to pivot in their career to adapt. They may see themselves and their career as defined by their position/role with an employer and is stagnant and eventually they are given the "lay off notice". In the IT field, that happens more frequently. Computer programming skillsets is kind of like a fad with some companies. It's not just that but things like what game engine to use. The high competitive, face pace nature can be that way. The leading game engine today maybe yesterday's news in near future with the newest fad. 

If you want longevity in that field, you need to define yourself in a manner that isn't too tied to a particular fad but to that of a designer/developer that can produce creative ideas of entertaining value. When you are stale.... you're out like stale chips.


 · 

You’re both kinda missing the point of this thread.

4  · 

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