A view from the top of the income ladder

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The Census Bureau recently released a report breaking down the different income levels of the major U.S. cities, showing what you have to make to be in the top 50 percent, 40 percent, 20 percent, etc.. Naturally, like most of you reading this article, I wanted to see where I stacked up.

I have a different perspective than most. I’m a mortgage banker. While most of you have to guess if your neighbor can actually afford the Tesla he’s driving, I’m the jerk at the party who actually asks.

If you have not done this, then you might be surprised to find out how high up the ladder you really are (they define the data-sets as “income ladders”).

Just to get things started, I’ll throw this out there: If your total household income is greater than $62,613, then you are in the top 50% of income-earners here in the Atlanta Metro area.

I live in Roswell. It’s easy here to get sucked into a bubble where you forget how good you have it. I coach my son’s 3rd grade tackle football team. We are in a very competitive travel league which has a video service that films every game.

And if your team pays $300, you have access to all of the games so you can study film of your next opponent. I know what most of you are thinking, and I would agree with you that this might sound ridiculous. But do you know what I do on most Sundays? I break down 3rd grade, tackle-football game-film. If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. Sorry.

Earlier in the season we played what I thought was a very well-coached football team. I sought out the head coach after the game and we talked for a while. I was amazed to find out his team had not signed up for the film service. I did the math.

“That’s less than $20 a player?” I said to him. “You would love it!”

He raised an eyebrow and pointed over to a couple of his players who were running around on one of our practice fields.

“Most of my boys showed up to the first practice in sneakers,” he said. “How do you think we got cleats on their feet?”

Leaning against his car, he looked around at our facilities at Roswell Area Park – some of the best in the country really. Then he nodded and said, “nice.” They are probably the best-coached team in our league. And probably the worst-funded.

Anyway, I’m not trying to rain on the parade up the income ladder here. But I hear folks complain and get angry about things even here in Roswell – which is pretty silly.

Moving on. If your household earns more than $77,233, then you have made it into the top 40 percent of income earners in the Metro Atlanta area. I would bet more than 90 percent of you reading this article fall into that category.

But hold on, the numbers jump quickly as we climb to the top. To get into the top 20 percent, your household needs to earn more than $122,065.

And finally, to get into the top 5 percent of all income-earners in the Metro Atlanta area, your household needs to bring in more than $234,699.

The census numbers I saw didn’t break it down further than that. But if you are still wondering, a CNN chart predicts that you have to earn more than $440,000 to be in the top 1 percent of all U.S. income earners.

If you are sour because you did not make it in the top 5 percent, here is something to boost your spirits. All of you are probably in the top 1 percent of income earners in the world.

To do that, according to Investopedia, your household needs to earn more than $32,400 a year.

Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.


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