equal pay day

What It’s Like to Make a Million Dollars a Year

Photo: Elke Hesser/Getty Images

What would you do with a pile of money? Spend enough time considering your own paycheck and you might find yourself fantasizing about what you might do and how you might feel if you made a lot more money. On the occasion of Equal Pay Day, we asked three high-earners what it’s like to make $1 million (or more) a year.

The Publicist

Ten years ago, I opened my own PR firm. It was all from scratch. I’m not a trust-funder — that’s laughable. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school or come from a fancy family.

Three years ago, the company grossed a million dollars. Two years ago, I took home a million dollars. I took maybe four seconds to celebrate and appreciate reaching that milestone … and then, I went right back to work.

I think it felt more victorious when my company grossed the million than when I pocketed my own; I’m more invested in the company and my employees than myself. When my company grossed its first million, I walked out of my apartment and was like, “Yes! We did it. Sweet.” I had that same, “Yes! I did it! Sweet” feeling when I bought my house. But those are really the only two times I’ve allowed myself to soak it all in. Both times I was like, “You rule.” And then it’s like, okay, whatever, back to the grind.

The best is when I see my staff develop as grown-up people and really take pride in their work, or say they love their work. That’s way more gratifying than buying a new bag at Barneys — which I do twice a year, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t delight me like you might assume. I still cringe at high prices.

I’m not going to lie: I didn’t start a PR firm to “help people grow” but as it turns out, that’s the most meaningful part to me. One of the staffers who’s worked with me forever is gearing up to buy a house, and I’m beyond happy that it’s because of our work together that she’s gotten to that point financially.

I bought a Porsche when I was doing pretty well — a few years before my first million. And I have my own house now, but the greatest part of spending money is in putting it to charity. I will give to almost anyone who asks. I find wealthy people who don’t give charity to be absolutely disgusting.

I don’t worry about losing the money or ever making less money, because that just won’t happen. Not to sound obnoxious, but I’m a survivor by nature. My grandmother survived the Holocaust. I will always make money. I will go to the end of the earth to make money.

Sometimes I do think about how much media is changing. What will come of PR and magazines? But I know I’ll change with the times.It won’t be an issue; I’m good.

I don’t believe in more money more problems. I have no shame in saying that money rules. Money is freedom; money is happiness. My parents counted their pennies. I watched them, and I always said I would be the person at the hotel who would open the $4 bottle of water without flinching, just because I could. I am that person now.

The Banker

What can I say? It’s great. I take the most amazing trips. I own a penthouse and a place out East. My current girlfriend is hotter and cooler than she needs to be; my last girlfriend was a train-wreck model. I’m a cliché, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My life is not bad, not bad at all …

Do I still have problems? Sure. My mom died of cancer when I was very young. I don’t have a great relationship with my dad, who’s been emotionally dead ever since. I have really bad insomnia from all this stuff from my past. I wouldn’t say I’m the most well-centered person on earth, but at least I’m un-centered with … a lot of money!

What I’m trying to say is, I’m pretty sure I’d have these issues whether rich or poor, so I might as well be financially secure. At least I’m able to afford the best therapist in Manhattan.

I can’t say having money is an issue, or even a consideration, socially or romantically, because everyone I know has money. I’m embarrassed by how that sounds, but it’s honesty. We all grew up in the city, and we all — for the most part — did well. I have one friend who is kind of a bum living in New Jersey, but he’s still a bum who has a small law firm.

One thing I can admit is that there’s a lot of insecurity in my social circle. It’s a little high school. If you’re not invited to this party or that big trip, you might feel hurt. It’s an intense crowd.

I give a lot of money. I buy tables for cancer fundraisers. I bought my housekeeper a computer and hired someone to set it up. In general, I try to be a good guy and give back.

My hours aren’t that bad anymore. I’m in the Hamptons whenever I want. But I paid my dues. I worked nonstop in my 20s. I was a stress case. I was never a drinker or a drugger, but I saw a lot of friends go down that path (and never bounce back from it).

Dating when you’re wealthy is a fucking blast. What can I say? I like to think I have other things going on besides my money. I’m tall. Got a great head of hair. Clearly, I’m a wonderful conversationalist …

The Entrepreneur

I’m a single mom with a successful fashion line. Some years I make about a million, some years a little less … you’d have to ask my financial planner for the exact numbers because I’m not really sure. I feel very strongly that money and power make people greedy and crazy, and I am not exempt. I try to stay grounded but money is a mindfuck — the more you have, the more you spend, the more you crave, the more you need.

It’s nice, sure. My kids have the schools and homes, blah, blah, blah. But it’s never enough. The houses are never big enough. The “help” is never helpful enough. You get in this rut where you’re still tired, stressed, and miserable. Money might be at the root of it all, but maybe not. Maybe everybody hurts and money doesn’t mean shit. That being said, I take my money seriously. I earned it. It’s mine. Don’t fuck with it.

I am privileged and living in a world of privilege, and yes — that makes me feel repulsive at times and extraordinary at times. I used to see Ivanka Trump out socially. And I know the Kushners — they’re not nice people. Ivanka is okay, kinda self-centered but that’s the worst of it. The Kushners are bad seeds. But my point is, you make money and you’re swimming with sharks. Everyone and everything can feel dangerous and wrong and fake. You sleep with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas …

I work all day and all night; my nanny is raising my kids. I don’t date or have sex with anyone — not even myself — and I often feel very, very lonely. You’re not really “allowed” to complain when you have money, so I try not to, but it’s nice to be real for a second.

What It’s Like to Make a Million Dollars a Year