The Glitzy Lives of TV and Movie Characters. Could They Afford It?

Flying cars. Talking dogs. Dogs talking in flying cars. There’s nothing like good, old-fashioned Hollywood magic to thwart our conceptions of reality, and no element deludes us more than the portrayal of upper-crust lifestyles lived by ostensibly middle-class characters.

In TV and movie land, writers wear $1,500 high heels and CIA agents drive $100,000 cars through the streets of Milan, but what kind of cash do these sorts of professionals pull down in the real world? Choosing a career path is serious business, especially for those of us thinking ahead toward retirement. Let’s examine how our favorite TV and film characters’ paychecks really read, entertainment value aside.

Don Draper, “Mad Men” 

No one is smoother than Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s brooding creative director. Always impeccably dressed and known to enjoy all the finest elements of 1960s life, from cars to clothes to abodes (whether in Westchester or Manhattan), it seems like Don Draper’s making the big bucks. But how would his modern-day, off-screen counterparts fair? According to, not too shabbily. The site estimates New York-area creative directors make an average of $80,000-$250,000 per year. Assuming someone of Draper’s caliber is at the upper end of that spectrum, members of this field would be well-heeled, if not entirely carefree.

James Bond, 007 franchise

With another 007 installment just around the corner, we can’t help but wonder: Do all intelligent agents and spies live a life that’s so…Bond-like? Well, we’re not sure about the Agency’s budget for cool gadgets, cars and impeccably tailored tuxedos, but we do know the site reports experienced agents’ salaries as being in the less-than-glamorous $78,000 range. So, a real-life agent probably wouldn’t cruise the streets in an Aston Martin – but as for being pursued by gorgeous women, friend and foe, who knows?

Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City”

What freelance columnist makes enough to live in a beautiful Manhattan brownstone, eat dinner out whenever and wherever she wants and buy bank account-shriveling couture on a whim? Carrie Bradshaw of “Sex and the City,” that’s who. While her character lured many an aspiring writer toward a keyboard, Carrie’s imitators probably didn’t encounter the level of success she “achieved.” reports the average writer’s salary is $59,000. PayingNew York City rent, that’s not even enough to order Chinese food more than one night a week, let alone live like a socialite.

Jerry Seinfeld, “Seinfeld”

In real life, comedian Jerry Seinfeld is as rich as they come, but how about on TV? Seinfeld’s old sitcom character’s presumed earnings were probably true to form for a successful New Yorkcomic. With frequent “Tonight Show” appearances and consistent gigs as a featured touring act (such performances can garner up to $1,000 or more per appearance), Seinfeld certainly made enough to maintain a rented Upper West Side one-bedroom and drive a Saab. That said, most other pro comics don’t do nearly as well: reports an average salary of just $30,000. In other words, your everyday funnyman probably isn’t quite as unflappably jovial as Jerry was.

Rachel Green, “Friends”

Lessee of one of the most notoriously gorgeous TV apartments of all time, chances are “Friends” sweetheart Rachel Green wouldn’t have made enough in three months to cover one month’s rent – especially after cutting up her credit cards. Over the course of the series, Green worked her way up from a waitress at the Central Perk coffee shop to a buyer for Ralph Lauren. Unfortunately, her upward climb still didn’t yield massive financial security —  estimates a Ralph Lauren assistant buyer’s yearly salary to be between $48k-$60k.

So, if you’re a real-life Carrie Bradshaw, don’t feel bad about living without the Christian Louboutins. Sometimes our favorite TV and movie characters are a little overpaid.

Whether you’re Don Draper living the high life or Rachel Green living without Daddy’s credit cards, you could always use a helping hand managing your finances.

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