Your salary may peak sooner than you think if you're a woman in the US

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  • Women's wages tend to peak at age 41, according to PayScale data.
  • Men's wages typically don't stop growing until a decade later.
  • According to PayScale, the median salary for a 41-year-old woman is $53,300; the median salary for a 50-year-old man is $80,300. (PayScale surveyed college-educated full-time workers.)

When we talk about the pay gap, we're typically talking about the difference between the median pay for a man in the US versus the median pay for a woman.

But those statistics obscure another, equally troubling difference: the gender disparity in wage growth. According to data from PayScale, women's wages tend to peak much sooner than men's.

By ages 40 to 41, women's wages start to taper off. Men's wages continue to climb for about another decade. Put another way, if you're a woman in the US, you'll likely earn more at age 41 than you will at any other time in your life.

PayScale surveyed 972,788 full-time US workers with a bachelor's degree (but not an advanced degree) between 2015 and 2018. The median salary for a 41-year-old woman in this group is $53,300; the median salary for a 50-year-old man is $80,300.

Read more: Here are the ages you financially peak at everything throughout life - from salary to net worth

Interestingly, PayScale found that while men start off with higher salaries than women, wages tend to increase faster for women in the early stages of their careers. At age 25, the typical man earns $10,600 more than the typical woman; at age 54, he earns $32,800 more.

Research on the general US population yields similar conclusions. Business Insider's Andy Kiersz and Shayanne Gal reported on US Census Bureau data complied by the Minnesota Population Center, which showed that the median female 18-year-old worker earned about 89% of the median male 18-year-old, while the median 65-year-old female earned about 76% of the median 65-year-old male.

PayScale also compared its 2018 and 2008 data sets and found two key differences. In 2008, men's wages tended to peak significantly earlier, by age 45. And women generally didn't experience faster wage growth early in their careers.

To be sure, some women are at a greater disadvantage than others. As Business Insider's Kiersz, Gal, and Sonam Sheth reported, the gender pay gap tends to be wider in cities, and overall, black and Hispanic women face the largest pay gap compared to white men.

Find out how your salary stacks up on PayScale.

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