Is $35,000 A Year Enough To Survive?

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Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much an annual salary of $35,000 is on a per-hour basis?

You can make money from a standard job, contract work, or part-time work, it doesn’t matter. What exactly is your hourly wage, and is it worth it? Let’s find out.

$35,000 a year is how much an hour?

$35,000 per year may seem like quite a bit of money, but when broken down into an hourly wage, the figure is closer to $16.00-$17.00 per hour. Let’s see how we get there, and what that exact figure is.

We’ll start off by calculating the number of hours you work in a typical year.

Working 40 hours a week for $35,000

If you take a job for a standard 40-hour work per week for 52 weeks annually, you get:

  • 40 hours x 52 weeks = 2,080 working hours per year

We then take the salary of $35,000 and divide it by the number of working hours:

  • $35,000 per year / 2,080 hours = $16.83 per hour

If you work as a freelancer, side hustler, or contractor, you may not be working 40 hours per week. Depending on your job and availability, you may be working way more or way less than that.

Related: To learn more about how many hours you’re actually working in a given year, read this.

Working 80 hours a week for $35,000

Let’s just say you’re working twice a full-time job, just for kicks. That would be 80 hours a week. It sounds ridiculous, but it isn’t exactly unheard of. If you’re working as a physician in training or as an intern in investment banking, this very well may describe your life situation.

  • 80 hours x 52 weeks = 4,160 working hours per year
  • $35,000 / 4,160 hours = $8.41 per hour

And that makes sense. You’re working twice the number of hours for the same salary, so on a per-hour basis, you’re making half the amount per hour.

On the other side of the spectrum, working fewer hours but still earning $35,000 per year results in a much better wage. Let’s say you’re working 20 hours a week as a part-time employee and still able to rake in $35,000 per year. How much is that per hour? Well, we know we can take a shortcut by multiplying $16.83 times 2. But let’s play this out the long way:

  • 20 hours x 52 weeks = 1,040 working hours per year
  • $35,000 / 1,040 hours = $33.65 per hour

How much is $35,000 per paycheck?

Now that we’ve covered hourly wage estimations, let’s look at what an individual with an annual wage of $35,000 can expect to see on each paycheck.

When calculating how much $35,000 a year is in a paycheck, you have to specify how often it is that you get paid. Do you get paid semimonthly, biweekly, or weekly?

Semimonthly Paycheck

With a semimonthly paycheck, you get paid 24 times a year.

$35,000 / 24 paychecks = $1,458.33 per paycheck

Biweekly Paycheck

Biweekly paychecks get sent out 26 times a year, two times more than in a semimonthly arrangement.

$35,000 / 26 paychecks = $1,346.15 per paycheck

Weekly Paycheck

Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you’d get paid 52 paychecks in this scenario.

$35,000 / 52 paychecks = $673.08 per paycheck

Keep in mind that these are all pre-tax numbers. Everyone who works for a living will realize that this does not take into account considerations such as the following:

  • Income tax expense
  • FICA (Social Security and Medicare) exemptions
  • Pre-tax deductions for retirement accounts, savings plans, reliant care provident fund, and whatever else
  • Health-care premiums

$35,000 is how much per month?

If you earn your salary in monthly installments rather than weekly or biweekly, the checks are a lot heftier. Without taking into consideration the effect of taxes and deductions:

  • $35,000 / 12 months = $2,916.67 per month

However, this is a very rare way to get paid in the US. The more common way to get paid is on a biweekly basis, which comes out to 26 paychecks a year. Divide that by 2 and you’ve got 13, which is close enough to the actual number of months in a year. So we’ll calculate what two paychecks are worth and equate that to how much a $35,000 salary earns you in a month:

  • $35,000 / 13 = $2,692.31 per two paychecks (approximately a month’s worth)

That’s a difference of a little more than $200 between the two ways of calculating it.

How much is $35,000 per year after taxes?

Don’t ever forget that Uncle Sam is always searching for a way to take a cut of your income. You’ll have to pay that money, whether it’s throughout the year or come April.

Tax payments are a complex subject, and it’s challenging to provide specific numbers without getting into details of your own specific situation. However, it is possible to break down a general example that can help act as a starting point.

Let’s keep things simple. We’ll take a look at taxes in my favorite state: California. Your mileage may vary.

Assuming a pretty straightforward tax situation for a non-married person and taking the standard deduction, the breakdown would look similar to the following:

  • $35,000 annual pre-tax earnings
  • -$2,515 in federal taxes
  • -$5,355 in FICA taxes
  • -$698 in state taxes
  • -$390 in state insurance taxes
  • $26,042 take-home pay after taxes

How much is $35,000 per paycheck after taxes?

Again, we’ll be specifying your frequency of pay, because the take-home pay does differ among each:

Semimonthly Paycheck

Remember, in this one, you get paid 24 times a year.

$29,110 / 24 paychecks = $1,212.92 per paycheck

Biweekly Paycheck

In this one, you get paid 26 times a year.

$29,110 / 26 paychecks = $1,119.62 per paycheck

Weekly Paycheck

And in this scenario, you get paid 52 times a year.

$29,110 / 52 paychecks = $559.81 per paycheck

Further breakdown of taxes on $35,000

If you earn $35,000 per year and live in California, your breakdown of taxes for the year could look similar to the following:

Gross Salary  $35,000  
Federal Income Tax  – $2,515  
State Income Tax  – $698
Social Security  – $4,340
Medicare  – $1,015
SDI (State Disability Insurance)  – $390  
FLI (Family Leave Insurance)  – $0  
Total taxes– $8,958
Net pay  $26,042  

Which states don’t have state income taxes?

Some states don’t tax earned income. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire (doesn’t tax wages, but does tax investment earnings)
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Is $35,000 a good salary?

The results may vary depending on where you live, but $35,000 per year will generally place you in the working middle class.

If you are self-sufficient and live alone, $35,000 per year can be a good living wage. You might want to save for retirement and amass some wealth, but it’ll take a lot of work on your part. It’s much more doable on a $50,000 or $60,000 salary, for obvious reasons.

That isn’t to say you can’t do it. But it’s near impossible to do so in New York, while it’s very much possible to do so in Ohio. Location, location, location.

How is $35,000 compared to the national average?

In 2021, the average household income in the United States was $96,955.04. However, it isn’t a great measure due to the immensely skewed wealth distribution at the top. A better indicator is the median income, which is $67,463 per household.

If you’re part of a household with two working individuals, this places you slightly above median assuming you’re both making $35,000. Your total household income would be considered $70,000. That’s pretty good.

Unfortunately, if you’re single, you’ll fall much below the median, but that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison since the median household income takes into account a good number of dual-income households.

How should I budget a $35,000 salary?

Budgets come in several different forms. Don’t be disheartened if your finances aren’t perfect at first. You’ll want to try different methods to see what works for you. However, a budget we’re fond of is the 70/20/10 method, as it’s quite versatile and doesn’t cause as much stress as say, a 50/30/20 allocation.

If you’d like to learn more about the 70/20/10 method, read about it here.

What U.S. states should I live in with a $35,000 salary?

Some of the better states to live in on a $35,000 salary include the following:

  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • New Mexico
  • Tennessee
  • Indiana

These are states that made the list of most affordable places to live in the US. However, keep in mind that even within affordable states, there are certain cities with a much higher cost of living than the rest of the state. Be sure to do your research before settling on a place.

What U.S. states would a $35,000 salary not be enough?

Here are some of the most expensive states to live in according to this list:

  • Hawaii
  • New York
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Massachusetts
  • Alaska
  • Maryland
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey

Generally, you’ll want to avoid these states if you are supporting a family of four on $35,000, but if you’re supporting yourself only, it may be possible to make it work in certain states with a bit of research, discipline, and frugality.

How can I make more than $35,000 a year without a degree?

In today’s employment market, it often seems that obtaining a four-year bachelor’s degree is the only path to a prosperous future. However, there are plenty of solid opportunities available that allow you to earn more than $35,000 without a degree, whether at starting pay or working your way up eventually. Here are a few examples:

  • Property Manager
  • Fitness Manager
  • Hotel Manager
  • Food Service Manager
  • Pipe Welder
  • Electrician
  • Train Conductor

Know the Opportunity Cost of Your Time

It’s critical to understand your hourly wage because it allows you to determine the cost of your time and your potential opportunity cost.

If you earn $35,000 per year and perform 2,080 hours of work for it, your opportunity cost is the 2,080 hours of work you’re doing for your employer every year. Now, if you’ve got other higher-paying opportunities, you can easily calculate your specific opportunity cost.

Getting a higher paying job

For example, if you could get a $45,000 salary in another job, that’s a $10,000 per year opportunity cost if you decide to stay with your $35,000 job. And it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it for you or not. For some people, it may not, and it could be due to numerous factors, such as the commute time, the amount of work and responsibility, or simply the level of job security it offers.

However, if you’re young and able-bodied, you may be more inclined to consider it. You’ve got decades left where compounding could work in your favor. The additional opportunity cost of not getting that extra $10,000 per year would be the fact that you’re not putting that $10,000 into a retirement or brokerage account.

That could be $10,000 compounded with an average of 7% return per year every year. Plus, not to mention, the ability to keep putting another $10,000 into your investments every year to reap that potential 7% return year over year.

Getting a job with similar annual pay on fewer hours

Another factor to take into consideration when calculating the opportunity cost of your time is the time Job A takes away from your day versus Job B, assuming similar pay.

If Job A is a 7 hour per day job with a 1 hour faster commute time due to location, that’s two hours saved each day compared to Job B which may be a full 8 hour day. This does not even take into account the physical and mental energy you’ll be expending.

Those extra two hours a day along with extra energy could be funneled into a side gig or business that could one day reap tremendous benefit.

Other ways in which you could optimize your time and energy with your current job situation is by:

  • Achieving on-the-job expertise
  • Attending school to obtain a specialized education that will allow you to work more quickly and efficiently in your job
  • Automating routine, time-consuming activities
  • Offshoring work where viable

Coincidentally, optimizing most of the above points can more often than not lead to recognition of work well done and possible promotion within the company.

How should I invest on a $35,000 salary?

If you’re making smart choices about where to live, and budgeting well for yourself, it’s possible to have residual income left over from your $35,000 salary. A popular way to invest is to partake in your company’s 401k with matching if they offer one. If they don’t, you could always create a Roth IRA account for yourself and contribute to it.

However, you’ll want to make sure you have an emergency fund if possible. Having six months of living expenses covered should do the trick according to many financial experts. Once you’ve obtained that, you can then start looking into additional investments.

Once you’ve maxed out your 401k with matching or your Roth IRA for the year, and you still have money left over, there are other options for investing. Ideally, in the off-chance that your six months of emergency funds get used up, you’d want your investments to be somewhat liquid. That way, you can withdraw whatever you need at any time if need be.

One way to do this would be to buy index fund ETFs in a commission-free trading platform such as Robinhood or Webull. These ETFs don’t have a required minimum to start investing in other than the stock price, unlike many mutual funds. Furthermore, certain apps will allow you to buy fractional shares, so there truly is no minimum.