Sunday, June 03, 2007

Making Less Than Dear Old Dad Did...

Time to switch gears for a sec.

I came across this CNN story about how guys in their thirties are doing compared to their fathers, and it triggered some hard memories.

American men in their 30s are earning less than their father's generation did, challenging a long-held belief that each generation will be better off than the one that preceded it, according to a new study published Friday...

Relying on Census Bureau figures, the study's authors found that after adjusting for inflation, men in their 30s in 2004 had a median income of about $35,000 per year, for a 12 percent drop compared with $40,000 per year for men in the same age group in 1974.

That stood in stark contrast to men in their 30s in 1994, who earned 5 percent more than their fathers did.

Similarly, American families, which experienced a 32 percent increase in income levels between 1964 and 1994, saw household income growth slow to 9 percent between 1974 and 2004, according to the report.

"There is clearly some story here that [U.S.] productivity gains are not trickling down to the median family," said John Morton, a co-author of the study and the managing director of economic policy initiatives at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

This took me back to the early sixties, when I was in junior high school.

Dad was making about twelve to fourteen grand a year at Disney. When you tacked on the royalties from his Christmas cards, the art shows, the royalties from the little indie films he did, he was up around twenty five to thirty grand per year. Thirty-five grand in a really good year.

This put us in the top quadrant of middle-classdom. Mom was stay-at-home. The family spent a big chunk of each summer at the beach. I'm told by my surviving parent that family income fluctuated wildly year to year, but I never noticed any difference in our living standards from the vantage point of the eighth grade.

Twenty-five to thirty-five thousand a year.

You make that kind of money now, you live in a studio apartment and drive a third-hand car. You clip coupons. Eat in a lot, with an occasional splurge at Burger King or Sizzler.

And if you're going to work in Toonland, expect big years and small years. Expect layoffs. As part of an extended family that's been in the animated sector of show biz for seventy years, I can tell you that it's a cruel business. Just when you think you've got stability and a rising standard of living, it can all get yanked away in the wink of an eye. All it takes is a couple of under-performing movies or a cancelled t.v. series.

The cold reality of the business, coupled with the income study that's just been released, is enough to give anyone pause.


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know if the incomes stated in the article were net or gross.
Despite over two decades of republican dominance over the last thirty years (all of whom preach about lower taxes and smaller government) the government just keeps getting bigger and taxes keep getting higher.
On paper, I do very well in the industry, but when you factor in the awful truth that for every dollar I make I only get to keep sixty cents of it, the reality becomes a lot more grim. It's a constant struggle just to make ends meet.
I'm sure there are a lot of factors that contribute to the wage discrepencies mentioned in the article, but the criminal amount of taxes we pay (particularly in California) certainly don't help matters.

Anonymous said...

Incomes stated in articles like this are almost always gross income; it's impossible to compare net incomes because there are so many factors that play into it: 401k, union dues, varying tax laws from state to state, etc.

Someone with a $35k take-home with no retirement savings in a state like Nevada (no state income tax) will have a much lower gross than someone in California who's saving for retirement. That's why these stories nearly always reference gross income.

Anonymous said...

First off to a previous comment, BOTH political parties have raised taxes and expanded government over the last thirty years, so such is the way of life for us all. If working in the animation industry is "grim" and a "constant struggle", then I suggest you look for other ways to lead a happier and more productive life.

As to the above article in wage comparisons, my curiosity is sparked as they DID NOT seem to qualify why things are as such. Given the diversity of job options and lifestyles these days, it makes sense to me that wages would be lower at certain age milestones. Just speaking from my own experience, the older men in my family were all fairly settled in their careers by their 30s and already were providing for a family, thus making different economic choices than my current crop of male friends in their 30s, most of whom are single and have not yet settled into a career minded job. Now of course, my data set may not fit the norm, as the employment and economic aspects of the entertainment industry are in their own category, hardly compared with that of other standard industries. This leads me to my main comment, what is this post really trying to say? It comes across as another doom and gloom posting about unfair wages. It's rainmaking for storm clouds that don't have to exist.

For me, none of my wage increases ever came because I sat around and waited for a union, company, or industry to raise them. They came because I worked hard, asked for what I deserved, and proved my worth. I spent my time honing my skills and providing value to those around me. The power to change my life and work situation always lies with me. Sure there are obstacles and moments of unfairness, but I still have the power to make decisions and improve upon my situation.

Anonymous said...

Well, la-de-dah!
Good for you! Bah to those whiners! ; )

Steve Hulett said...

Income taxes in the early sixties were higher than now. (Remember the "Kennedy tax cuts?" Those went into effect after Kennedy's assassination, as I remember.) California state taxes? Those were lower.

Layout artist Tony Rivera explained to me in the fall of 1960 that H-B was paying him $400 a week to lay out a short a week. And he did.

He told me that animators at H-B were animating a short for $500 per week. And some of the artists with iron constitutions were animating TWO shorts a week, thereby grossing $1,000. Huge money in 1960.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I have a hard time believing that.
If it's true, then I can only imagine that it's because there are MORE taxes now that add it all up.

Anonymous said...

Great picture of the Grand Prix.
In 1971 I bought a brand new pick-up, it's price was 2,800. I used most of my vietnam's tour money as a down payment, which was one year I saved 1,100.
What do these cars cost today 25 to 30 thousand. Today I'm late 50's and I bring home 620 a week.
So I guess for me it's getting a loan.

Scorpiotsm said...

Yup, that's right Steve. There were 3 big tax cuts in the 20th Century.

The first was in the 20's (hence the roaring twenties term)...

The second was in the 60's (Kennedy's dropped the top rates from 90 to 70 percenty).

The third was in the 80's(Reagan's dropped the 70 down to a top braket of 28 percent, I believe).

All three rate drops resulted in large economic booms.

Love your site, btw. I really like your perspective. Have you ever wished you could go back to animating again? Just curious.

Steve Hulett said...

Yeah, I miss not being in story. Miss it a lot.

OTOH, being union business rep has been a steadier gig. And when raising a family, that's been important.

A friend said to me last weekend: "You get three-year contracts in your job." I said, "Yeah. That's the good part. The bad part is I have to do the job."

(Actually, it's always been an interesting way to make a living. But anyone who takes this type of work has to understand that most of it is dealing with problems. And being a spear catcher can get tiresome.)

Anonymous said...

right, because you've done so much to solve problems which is why everyone is so angry.
i know, i know, don't bother going into the same pitch you always do when you get criticized. i know we're all just wrong.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's not taxes or income that worries me. It's the cost of living. Rent, gasoline and my health insurance costs (I'm self-insured) keep going up, and all take their toll.

Someone up above has the right idea, though:

If working in the animation industry is "grim" and a "constant struggle", then I suggest you look for other ways to lead a happier and more productive life.

It's true. I could always move to a cheaper area and get a job in another field, but I'm here because I like the work. So, I'll stick around as long as I can afford it.

Anonymous said...

Figure Out How Much You Should Be Making!

scott said...

Well i don't know about how much I should be making, but i sure love that car.
Steve, as a little bit of recent studio history, do you recall there were a bunch of us who had old cars much like this one for a while in the late 90s. Mine was a 55 Chrysler Windsor, a thing of art, and only cost $4500. i had more fun with that than any car i could have ever bought if i was a millionaire.

Steve Hulett said...

right, because you've done so much to solve problems which is why everyone is so angry.
i know, i know, don't bother going into the same pitch you always do when you get criticized. i know we're all just wrong.

You're not wrong. You've got a legitimate point of view.

So. Tell me what I should be doing that I'm not. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

all many of us want the union to do is be our mouthpiece... even if it's futile, i want steve to take the pressure off of the artists and put it back onto the producers and executives where it belongs.

if he is CONSTANTLY badgering them about these issues and grilling them about their techniques and methods and schedules, i have to think that eventually they would change their tactics just to get him out of their hair.

the studios need to know that the degree of discontent among their artists is a powder keg that is dangerously close to blowing up. and the union should be the ones relaying this message. all day every day if necessary.

we, the lowly artists, are not in the position to raise as big of a stink as he is. it's his job.

Anonymous said...

that you consider yourself the "lowly artists" is very telling... If you believe it, so will everyone else.

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