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As the economy tumbles and the threat of a recession looms, at some point in the near future you may find yourself looking for a way to make a bunch of money. And yes what I’m about to suggest will involve wearing a suit and putting in long hours at the office. But in this case, the suit is a swimsuit and the office is a gorgeous sandy beach in California.

A recent report from watchdog group OpenTheBooks shows that lifeguards in Los Angeles, are making an absolute fortune. Way more than you’d assume.

Would you believe me if I told you that some of the highest paid lifeguards in Los Angeles earned more than $500,000 over the course of 2021?

The report names one specific lifeguard as the highest-paid swimsuit-wearer of them all. This particular lifeguard earned $510,283 hanging out at the beach in 2021.

Gabe LHeureux/ Getty Images

How exactly does one make $510,000 as a lifeguard? Nearly half of that figure came from overtime pay.

Here’s a full breakdown of his pay:

  • $150,054 in base salary
  • $246,060 in overtime
  • $85,508 in benefits
  • $28,661 in “perks”

Here are some other interesting stats from the report:

  • 98 LA lifeguards earned more than $200,000 in 2021
  • 37 earned $50,000 – $247,000 in overtime pay
  • Only two of the top 20 earners were women.

(Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)

And in case you were thinking of the job of a lifeguard is just something you do for a few years in your 20s, it can actually be a career that leads to surprisingly great retirement benefits. In Los Angeles, after 30 years on the job a lifeguard can retire and earn 79% of their pay for the rest of their life. If they had been earning $200,000, they would earn $158,000 per year for the rest of their life. Perhaps while they relax at their former beach!

The Open the Books report seems to have been published under the assumption that lifeguards are overpaid, but as a statement from the City of Los Angeles points out, they do important work, particularly in 2021:

“The Los Angeles County Fire Department had approximately 166 full-time Ocean Lifeguards and 600 seasonal recurrent Ocean Lifeguards. All our lifeguards, including those in leadership positions, have taken on an enormous responsibility. They are responsible for protecting 72 miles of coastline, 10,526 square miles of open ocean waters, Catalina Island, and 1,686 square miles of Los Angeles County inland waterways.

“In that same year, we had over 50 million beachgoers and our lifeguards executed over 9,286 ocean rescues and responded to over 13,303 medical calls. During large scale brush fires, our lifeguards take on additional responsibilities to work on specialized incident management teams to support firefighters all over the state – as they did in 2021 when wildfires burned an estimated 2,568,948 acres here in California. Additionally, our lifeguards were a critical part of the COVID-19 response efforts. The Lifeguard Division provided personnel, logistics, and incident management qualifications to support COVID-19 Testing and COVID-19 vaccinations all over the County of Los Angeles.”

So if you’re looking to get a salary increase and a pair of red trunks, don’t expect to just be hanging out at the beach all day on the job!



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