Your Wages Have Time-Traveled

Your money might feel like cash out of time these days. For American paychecks, Christopher Reeve is Superman, the Bee-Gees are topping every musical chart, and Ben & Jerry's is just a single ice cream parlor in Vermont. According to new data from the Pew Research Center, our dollars have only just recovered the buying power they had in 1978.

This isn't great news. Even though we're a decade out from the 2008 financial crisis and unemployment presents at hopeful lows, wages are not growing for the vast majority of American workers. Blame inflation, at a certain level: The cost of living, particularly energy costs, keeps rising, despite the government's best efforts. Basically, what you could buy with 1978's average hourly wage of $4.03 will cost you $23.68 today.

Investment-minded types have become much more cautious about the likelihood of another recession, probably in 2020. There are signs the trouble is even more structural. Some analysts believe that the widespread loss of middle-management jobs is impeding growth for workers while keeping executive salaries high.

It's not all bad news, of course. For the top tenth of earners, their wages have grown nearly five times as much as the bottom tenth since 2000. The former earns about $2,112 each week, while the latter tops out around $426. Whether you've got investments or you just want a better-paying job, it's looking more and more like now is the time to get moving on safeguarding your finances. You'll want your funds to travel forward in time with you too.