Equifax a record of every pay check I’ve had for 10 years

Equifax has all of my salary history.   It’s all in a 20 page packet detailing each paycheck that I’ve received since I was in college.  Yes, this is the same company that got hacked and leaked practically every Social Security Number to hackers; they also have information that I only thought the IRS had.

I got curious what data Equifax keeps and ran across the Work Number.   Employers–including all of my former employers–send Equifax salary history. Equifax takes this data and sells it to other companies who want to verify your income thru a service called the Work Number. You can request your own free report at the Work Number online, thru mail, or via phone. I couldn’t figure out how to use the website–not surprised that their IT infrastructure isn’t super updated.  So I printed the PDF and mailed them a letter. The report arrived a couple weeks later.

What’s in a Work Number Report

The report is broken out into three parts. The first details an overview with an introduction and record of who has requested a report in the last 24 months.  The second part is a record of your income history; mine was especially detailed.  The third is a bunch of stuff on the terms and how to correct the records if they’re wrong.

My data has been provided three times to two companies (Credit Karma and Chase) over the past 2 years.  This is what is looks like:

Work Number Report requestors

It’s not entirely clear to me what employers or creditors can and can’t see if they request the report.  I’ve never logged into the Work Number website to get a pin, but I must have clicked a button or signed off somewhere to give Credit Karma and Chase access to my data. That means whenever you agree to a background check by a potential employer, creditor, or landlord you could be also giving them permission to access your pay records that the Work Number sells.

Every pay check is listed in detail

The next 17 pages were a record of my employment history. It lists a gross and net record of each and every pay stub I have ever received as an adult.  The layout and information that is includes varies a little bit by employer, according to the Work Number each employer owns the data so they decide what they send.  My current employer has a pretty typical layout:

At the top you have employer info, role information, start and end dates.  Next is an annual summary of my income.  Then comes the unexpected part of a listing of every paycheck with the net and gross income. It is 100% accurate.  In fact, I think that these records are far more thorough and complete than anything I personally have been recording for the past 10 years.  When I requested the report, I never expected that this level of detail was being sent to and recorded by 3rd parties.

The report just goes on and on after this. Some of my former employers reported information about insurance, specific with-holdings.  Also, at least one employer only listed out my cumulative annual pay, but that was for an internship.

Be careful what you share

I see a lot of job search advice that says to fudge salary history, so that you can ensure that you get a raise for jumping ship, but keep in mind that this information is available and out there.  If you lie about what your compensation was at a previous employer, you could be found out.  So be careful with what you agree to, because your records are out there for companies who are willing to pay for it.

This report is 100% free, so I would definitely recommend requesting it at least once just to see what is in your file.

Comparison of 2018 Income Taxes by City

It’s tax season! Here is a table comparing some of the largest cities by combined income tax of Federal, Social Security & Medicaid (FICA), state, and local. The table assumes:

  • $100k annual income (mostly so that the percent that goes to taxes is easy to calculate)
  • No dependents
  • No deductions or itemization (401k, SALT)
  • Taxes are annualized.
  • The taxes were copied from Smart Asset’s Paycheck Calculator
  • Cities in the list were picked from the top 35 metro areas.
  • Does not include any other taxes like property tax or sales tax.

The not so surprising result is that New York City has the highest combined income tax coming in at $33.1k (33.1% of income). Not far behind are Portland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia in that order. I am shocked by how high the taxes are in those cities, especially since they don’t have the reputation of New York. At the low-end low tax cities in Texas, Florida, Nevada and Washington all tied for last place, since they do not have incremental state or local income taxes.

Combined Income Taxes by City

Note: If you are on mobile, you can drag the table right or left to see the Federal, State and Local tax amounts.

Tax RankCityTotal Income TaxesFederal Income Tax + FICAState TaxLocal Tax
1New York, NY $33,111 $24,056 $5,594 $3,461
2Portland, OR $32,041 $24,056 $7,985 $-
3Baltimore, MD $31,593 $24,056 $4,503 $3,034
4Philadelphia, PA $31,050 $24,056 $3,070 $3,924
5Los Angeles, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
5Riverside, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
5Sacramento, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
5San Diego, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
5San Francisco, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
5San Jose, CA $30,977 $24,056 $6,921 $-
11Washington, DC $30,805 $24,056 $6,749 $-
12Detroit, MI $30,440 $24,056 $4,080 $2,304
13Minneapolis, MN $30,321 $24,056 $6,265 $-
14Columbus, OH $30,084 $24,056 $3,420 $2,608
15Kansas City, MO $29,893 $24,056 $4,971 $866
15St. Louis, MO $29,893 $24,056 $4,971 $866
16Cincinnati, OH $29,653 $24,056 $3,420 $2,177
17Atlanta, GA $29,566 $24,056 $5,510 $-
18Cleveland, OH $29,463 $24,056 $3,420 $1,987
19Charlotte, NC $29,323 $24,056 $5,267 $-
20Indianapolis, IN $29,075 $24,056 $3,267 $1,752
21Boston, MA $28,830 $24,056 $4,774 $-
22Denver, CO $28,394 $24,056 $4,338 $-
23Pittsburgh, PA $28,126 $24,056 $3,070 $1,000
24Chicago, IL $27,724 $24,056 $3,668 $-
25Phoenix, AZ $26,756 $24,056 $2,700 $-
26Austin, TX $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Dallas, TX $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Houston, TX $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Las Vegas, NV $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Miami, FL $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Orlando, FL $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Tampa, FL $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26San Antonio, TX $24,056 $24,056 $-$-
26Seattle, WA $24,056 $24,056 $-$-

Updates for 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances Data

The triennial updates have begun! Today the Federal Reserve released the latest results from their 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.  This survey contains detailed information on the financial status of American households on things such as retirement, net worth, income and debt. All percentile calculators (Net Worth and Income) using Survey of Consumer Finances data from the US Federal Reserve have been updated today.

Inflation Adjusted Highlights 2013 – 2016

To read the entire summary, here’s a link to the 44 page report published by the Fed on the survey changes for 2013 vs 2016. Most of the numbers are adjusted for inflation. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/scf17.pdf

  • Median Household Income is now $52.7k up from $48.1k (up 9.5%)
  • Median Household Net worth is now $97.3k up from $83.7k (up 16.2%)

Additional News Articles

Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data says  – The newest survey has reported show double digit percentage gains in net worth and income for certain minority groups and less educated households. The nominal gains are relatively low.
The top 1% of Americans now control 38% of the wealth

Calculating my Savings Rate with the Swan FIRE Prowess

I recently came across a new metric, the Green Swan’s FIRE Prowess Score, to measure my progress in achieving financial independence / early retirement. It’s an interesting twist on a savings rate calculation. Like many savings rate metrics, it is tied to your gross income (pre-tax), but the amount that you save is your change in net worth.

The Formula

It is calculated as:

Annual Change in Net Worth ($)
Annual Gross Income ($)

The thing I like about this formula is that is builds in a measure that combines your gross income with your net worth growth.  The ratio takes into account growth in equities and retirement. For more specifics on the basic thoughts read TGS’s article about it.

Comparison of Savings Rates

To show the difference between this metric and a regular savings rate, I’ve created a  couple rough scenarios and tables using a theoretical person who has these stats:

  • Savings rate of 10%, 20%, 30%, or 40% every year for up to 40 years of working
  • Annual equity growth on savings of 7%
  • Annual income growth rate of 2.5%

I really like to benchmark how I’m doing versus a goal, which is why I made this. The assumptions are pretty crude, but I think for a general goal this is good.

Swan FIRE Score by Savings Rate

Swan FIRE Score by Savings Rate and years of working.

As you can see in the graph over time, the person’s Swan score continues to scale even though their savings rate is steady.  I think it really demonstrates compounding growth and the importance of earlier savings versus later savings. Here’s a link to the spreadsheet I used so that you can play around with some of the assumptions Swan FIRE Score by Savings Rate.

My Score vs the Standard Savings Rates

I’ve been working 6 years after college so far, and my usual results vary between 0.41 and has grown to 0.71 for my project year ending score. My lifetime rate has been 0.54. I’m using some data pieced together from the Social Security Administration on how much I earned each year, and then my net worth readings are from end of year. According to TGS, my score is good and will bring me on the track to FIRE eventually. I’ve decided that my target comparison rate is with the 40% savings rate scenario.

My Swan score vs the theoretical goals.

As you can see in the graph, my performance has been at or above that rate for the past 7 years. Full disclosure, my actual savings rate varies between 40% to 50%, but I like to sand bag my goals. In addition, the last 6 years looks great partially because of the booming stock market. But let’s say this was 2008, the metric would be depressingly negative. I think overall this is a good metric, because it definitely gives some standards to reach for. I’ll probably keep a log updated every now and then with this score.

Read Related Posts

A few other bloggers are also running related posts on topic, so we all got together to post at the same time. This way you can get a diverse perspective on it.

  1. Anchor: The Green Swan – The Swan’s FIRE Prowess Gauge 2016: the one who started it all. 132% Lifetime: 93%
  2. the Retirement Manifesto – Is Your Wealth Building On Track?. A big thanks to Retirement Manifesto for setting this up! 2016: 57% Lifetime: 44%
  3. OthalaFehu – My Swan FIRE Prowess Numbers Othalafehu has 10 years of personal data including the recession. 2016: 72% Lifetime: 61%
  4. Budget On A Stick – My FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 52% Lifetime: 55%

  5. DadsDollarsDebts: DDD’s FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 26% Lifetime 32%
  6. Debts To Riches – My FIRE Prowess Report Card 2016: 29% Lifetime 43%
  7. Adventure Rich – The Adventure Rich FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 45% Lifetime 47%
  8. Freedom Is Groovy – The Groovies FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 163% Lifetime 90%
  9. Working Optional – Calculate Your Progress To Financial Freedom 2016: 97% Lifetime 75%
  10. Life Zemplified – FIRE Prowess Score for Life Zemplified 2016: 78% Lifetime 76%
  11. Physician’s Wealth Services – Physician Wealth’s FIRE Prowess 2016: 43% Lifetime 46%
  12. Married And Harried – Married And Harried FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 32% Lifetime 14%
  13. Ms. Liz Money Matters – Introducing the FIRE Prowess Score 2016 279% Lifetime 72%
  14. Actuary On Fire: The Swan’s FIRE Prowess Gauge – My Results 2016 61% Lifetime 59%
  15. Budgets Are Sexy – My Total Lifetime Wealth Ratio: 2016: 135% Lifetime 60%
  16. Trail to FI: FIRE Prowess Score, Trail to FI Edition 2016: 34% Lifetime: 53%
  17. Maximum Cents: Maximum Cents’ FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 94% Lifetime: 70%
  18. Retiring On My Terms: ROMT’s FIRE Prowess 2016: 119% Lifetime: 57%
  19. Minafi: The Minafi FIRE Prowess Score 2016: 74% Lifetime: 94%
  20. Military Dollar: FIRE Prowess Scores & How to Correct for Military Paychecks 2016 81% Lifetime 83%
  21. Finance Yo Self: FIRE Prowess Score for Finance Yo Self 2016: 44% Lifetime: 44%
  22. The 7 Circles: FIRE Prowess Gauge 2016: 246% Lifetime: 219%
  23. Money Metagame: The Good, Bad & Ugly of the FIRE Prowess Gauge 2016: 108% Lifetime 68%

Tracking Summer Cooling Costs

My energy usage has sky rocketed 95% percent year over year this summer.

The big change this summer has been that I finally live in a place with central air conditioning. It’s like living in the future. I’ve lived in places without central air conditioning–or dishwashers– for the past few years to cut costs. The weather around Chicago isn’t too bad, so I’ve been making do with a bunch of fans and a small window unit air conditioner.  I guess my cheapskate system of cooling down only a single room should be more efficient; I just never thought it would be twice as energy efficient.

For the past 3 months, I’m roughly tracking at 760 kWh this year versus 388 kWh last year.  The weather here in Illinois didn’t start to ramp up until June, which is when the air conditioner started to kick on constantly.  Seeing the June electricity bill kicked some sense into me. I wasn’t tracking usage to closely until I saw the cost and the numbers.  I was afraid that July would be even worse, so I started to dig into the data to see what I could do.

Energy Usage Data

For reference, I live in a 2 bedroom condo surrounded by other condos.  The building is brick and at least a hundred years old but with newer window, so it’s not terribly insulated. I generally keep the thermostat set to 75 degrees with schedules around times when people will be home or not.

My energy provider has a really detailed chart of energy usage by day or hour and with overlays for the temperature. As you can see from the graphs, my baseline energy usage is about $0.30 / day or roughly 3-4 kWh per day. On the days that the AC is running more, my costs/usage multiply 5x per day.

Here’s a day where I was working from home and waited to turn on the AC until the thermostat hit 78 degrees.   Lights, applicants, computers, and what not were all on the at 1pm.  All of these things barely used any energy compared to 2pm when I switched on the cooling system.

Now that I knew that the air handler and air conditioner were giant energy hogs, I started to watch the thermostat like a hawk. Previously, I was a little lazy about turning it on and off or managing the schedule. I didn’t realize that a couple hours of AC could use as much energy as the rest of my condo for the day.  I also dragged my array of fans out of storage.

Future Energy Management Steps

So I feel a lot better now that July’s pretty much over and I was able to bring the energy usage down to a more reasonable level.  I’ve thought about getting a Nest, because the scheduling system on my thermostat is kind of clunky.

I used to think a lot about getting energy efficient lights and unplugging appliances when I leave.  But all those things are small potatoes compared to my cooling system.  At this point, I’m thinking about looking into getting our system checked out. It’s about 10-11 years old, so it’s starting to approach the end of it’s life.