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By Alicia Adamczyk
April 12, 2016
Thomas Vogel—Getty Images/iStockphoto

You’ve come a long way, baby. But you’re still making half a million dollars less than a man for the same work.

That’s according to a new report released by Rep Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), which finds the oft-cited 21-cent pay gap between men and women adds up to $10,800 per year, or close to $500,000 over the course of a woman’s career, based on the median annual earnings for full-time workers. As noted earlier this year when a report from the National Women’s Law Center found a similar discrepancy, the average female will have to work 11 years longer than a man to make the same amount of money over a lifetime.

But it’s not just the $500,000 in salary that women are missing out on. Your salary determines things like your Social Security benefit (which is calculated based on your 35 highest-earning years), how much you can sock away in retirement accounts (and pensions, if your company still offers one), and how much you put into other investments.

All that adds up to a lot more than $500,000 in lost salary.

One example: Assuming a 5% real return on $10,800 additional dollars per year, that’s over $1.8 million missing from your bank account (thank you compound interest!). Just imagine what you could do with all that extra money.

Another example: Let’s go back in time to one year ago. Suppose you used the $10,800 to buy 166 shares of Netflix stock (April 10, 2015’s adjusted close for Netflix was 64.94). With an adjusted close of 102.68 on April 11, you’d have $17,044.88 today.

Other things you could do with $10,800: Save for your (future) child’s astronomical college tuition; pay down your own student debt (which means paying less interest in the future and therefore even more money in your pocket); treat yourself in any number of ways; save for a new home; travel; invest in your friend’s start-up; donate to a cause that’s important to you; contribute more to your 401(k); build up your f*** off fund. The list goes on and on.

The half-a-million-in-lost-wages statistic is certainly depressing enough, but it doesn’t tell the full story.

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Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

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Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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