Are we financially better off today than we were 30 years ago? That’s a question posed to more than 100 people in the cover story — “What People Earn Then & Now” — of today’s popular Parade magazine supplement.

For the most part, people are earning significantly more than they did 30 years ago, 20 years ago and, in some cases, better than they did five years ago. That might seem surprising in today’s unstable financial environment, in which many people have gone without pay increases for multiple years.

While there are a few folks with setbacks financially, many of those people said they are happier working fewer hours or days plus they enjoy being their own boss. Such career fields as architects, restaurant workers and retailers took a bigger hit than others financially, but others just kept climbing the financial ladder to bigger earnings. Actors/entertainers, entrepreneurs and authors fared especially well in the salary review. Many others, such as social workers, water specialist and hair stylists, held their ground and stayed virtually the same.

Perhaps the tales of woe have been exaggerated. This annual review of salaries is one reason readers continue to demand publication of local public employees compensation too. People like to know where their tax dollars go and how those investments are paying off for them.

Some people rate their worth by how much they are paid, but some of the sentiments shared by respondents showed that money wasn’t the only thing that mattered to them. One graphic artist who switched careers to become a fine artist said he is living his dream of getting to paint in his pajamas while living in the mountains. A media consultant left her career to stay at home with her kids and write a blog for no pay at all. No wonder they are so happy.

Clearly, living your dream — whatever it might be — ranks highest of all for many people regardless of the amount of money the position pays.

 — Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher