When I got out of the Navy in 1990, the Navy gave me a helpful set of guidelines to help match my final Navy salary (senior lieutenant O3, living in RI, home of record IL) against what civilian jobs paid. I figured that $45K was the equivalent, and I was living pretty well so that would be the number I’d shoot for.
Then I moved to CA to be with my wife just before I got out. And essentially was stranded in the Bay Area when we got divorced shortly thereafter. And there was this recession thing going on that nobody had told me about beforehand…
Anyway, after nine months of living in my ex’s spare bedroom, I found a nice job in Palo Alto that paid a bit over $45K! How cool was that!
Oh, and IL doesn’t make service members pay income tax. CA, OTOH, makes everybody pay, and I was everybody. And did you know that cost of living in Silicon Valley is more than RI? (Even back then.) Suddenly “living pretty well” turned into a month-to-month struggle and a drastic cutback in standard of living.
I guess my point is, it’s hard to pick a particular “good salary” number without taking location into account.