by Steve Laube
I made $1.80 an hour stuffing envelopes for my first job with a paycheck. I thought I was rich. For a teenager in those days I was because in today’s money I would have been making nearly $10 per hour!
When writing a novel or referring to days gone by it is helpful to put things in perspective by doing a little research. First find out what that item cost in that year. I did a quick search for “gas prices in 1962” and found the answer in seconds. Then go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website for a special calculator. Here is the address: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl. This site calculates the average Consumer Price Index for a given calendar year using the rate of inflation and other economic factors and enables you to compare wages, prices, and other various things. This index value has been calculated every year since 1913.
A couple examples:
The “dime novel” of 1915 would cost $2.26 today. (Has the 99¢ ebook become today’s “dime novel?”)
In 1962 the average home cost $15,000 – in today’s money – $114,937.
In 1962 the average salary was $6,000 – in today’s money – $46,000.
In 1962 the price of gas was 31¢ per gallon – in today’s money – $2.38.
Of course not everything increased. My first computer cost $3,000 in 1992 ($4,948 in today’s money). Today you can buy a nice one for under a thousand dollars.
Have fun playing with the numbers!
What was your hourly wage for your first job with a paycheck? (dare to tell us when?)