Surprise! You'll probably become a top earner

Mitch Strohm

We all have a solid shot at joining the top-earning American households sometime during our careers.

Surprised?

I was.

But a new report from National Public Radio shows that 61 out of every 100 U.S. households will break into the top 20% of incomes (roughly $111,000 a year) for at least two consecutive years.

Something like 39 out of every 100 households even reach the top 10% (around $153,000 in annual income) for at least a couple of years.

How can so many of us become top earners at some point in our lives?

It's largely due to swings in household income generated by windfalls like raises, promotions and new careers. Spouses entering the workforce can also have a large impact.

The more critical question is what we choose to do with all of that money during our peak earning years.

I'm not being overly dramatic when I say that much of our financial fate hinges on the answer.

If we use that money to buy more stuff — a bigger house, fancier car, European vacations and a home theater — then we've probably blown it.

If we maintain a more modest standard of living and invest the difference, it's an opportunity to build real wealth and a secure financial future.

It's as simple as that. And it's one of the most important decisions any of us will ever make.

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