What Was Your Salary Worth 50 Years Ago?

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salaryThe past can teach us many things. We can see how unjust our society was to some people before major Supreme Court cases were decided. We can imagine how simple some aspects of life were before cell phones tethered us to work.

It's also fun to look back and see just how much further a dollar seemed to go back then. Undoubtedly you've heard some relative reminiscing about the days when a nickel would buy you four movie tickets and you'd still have some change left.

For fun, we thought we'd see what some of today's salaries would translate to in 1958 dollars. We're not saying you would've made that exact amount 50 years ago, because many professions were quite different then and not all salaries increased at the same rate. Also, salary surveys weren't conducted as extensively as they are now, so you can't find some financial data from more than a few decades ago. And keep in mind that many of today's jobs didn't exist 50 years ago. Social media consultants and IT administrators weren't job titles anyone had.

Measuring Worth is a Web site that compiles historical salary data from various sources and allows users to calculate different monetary figures such as inflation or purchasing power for specified periods of time. We found today's average salaries and then used Measuring Worth to calculate the monetary equivalent in 1958 based on Consumer Price Index data, which include figures from 1774 to 2008.

Here are 25 contemporary jobs and their current salaries* compared with their monetary equivalent 50 years ago**:


Accountants

2008: $54,440

1958: $7,313


Administrative assistants

2008: $44,471

1958: $5,973


Automotive mechanics

2008: $34,565

1958: $4,643


Chefs

2008: $54,143

1958: $7,273


Construction workers

2008: $36,214

1958: $4,864


Dry cleaners

2008: $22,429

1958: $3,013


Elementary school teachers

2008: $53,020

1958: $7,122


Emergencymedical technicians

2008: $35,609

1958: $4,783


Fast food workers

2008: $19,833

1958: $2,664


Firefighters

2008: $52,293

1958: $7,024


Flight attendants

2008: $63,913

1958: $8,585


Grocery store managers

2008: $55,629

1958: $7,472


Commercial painters

2008: $41,120

1958: $5,523


Hospice workers

2008: $46,191

1958: $6,204


Janitors

2008: $25,725

1958: $3,455


Newspaper journalists

2008: $21,963

1958: $2,950


Personal trainers

2008: $46,049

1958: $6,185


Pianists

2008: $64,348

1958: $8,643


Plumbers

2008: $48,591

1958: $6,527


Police officers

2008: $52,801

1958: $7,092


Public relations representative

2008: $72,575

1958: $9,748


Registered nurses

2008: $66,427

1958: $8,923


Sales clerks

2008: $26,844

1958: $3,606


Surgeons

2008: $322,281

1958: $43,289


Veterinarians

2008: $93,685

1958: $12,584


*Salary figures based on data from CBsalary.com, powered by SalaryExpert.com
**Past salary figures based on data from Marketing Worth's calculator for relative value of the U.S. dollar.


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