This is an excerpt from “Tips to Improve Your Finances” in the September/October 2017 issue of Massage & Bodywork magazine, sent to ABMP members as a benefit of membership. Read the full issue online at www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com.
LES SWEENEY, ABMP PRESIDENT: Since I have been with ABMP, we have occasionally run practice and income surveys of our membership, dating back to the late 1990s. Being a numbers guy, I find this information fascinating and useful to get a sense of how our members are faring in their chosen profession. I also like to compare results from survey to survey to get a sense of how the overall income profile of massage therapists has changed over the years. An important caveat to this data is that we always have to recognize a propensity toward “sample bias.” What does that mean? Sample bias is where the data collected in a survey under- or overrepresents a certain audience segment. Historically for us, our survey data skews older and more established, which isn’t hard to understand—people more “into” their profession are more likely to participate. This is not terrible; economists typically want to understand what the profession looks like from “mature” practitioners, rather than folks just starting out. Those can be captured separately, or segmented.
As evidenced in these first few data points, the majority of survey respondents (and the profession, in general) are independent practitioners; in spite of the mushrooming of employment opportunities in massage in the past five years, most people still practice independently, or do so in conjunction with practicing at a “job.”
And these therapists practice, on average, nearly 15 hours per week, with a median of 13. That number is slightly higher than in past surveys—we’ve been in the 12–14-hour range historically. That equates (according to the follow-up question) to an average income of approximately $23,600, with a median income of around $20,000. These are also slightly up over historical totals, but are close enough to not indicate a spike of any sort.
Nearly 8 in 10 therapists indicate that their massage earnings are critical to their livelihood—either as the sole source of their income (30 percent), or an important part of their household income (48 percent).
We also asked about members’ attitudes toward money. A common refrain we hear over the years is that therapists have a hard time with money. Nearly one-third of therapists described their feelings as “anxious” about money, while just slightly less felt either “excited” or “indifferent.” So, therapists are probably not that different in their feelings about money than the rest of the population.
HOW MUCH DID YOU EARN IN GROSS INCOME IN YOUR MASSAGE OR BODYWORK PRACTICE IN 2016?
8% $0 or loss
22% $1 to $9,999
12% $10,000 to $14,999
8% $15,000 to $19,999
11% $20,000 to $24,999
9% $25,000 to $29,999
7% $30,000 to $34,999
6% $35,000 to $39,999
7% $40,000 to $49,999
7% $50,000 to $75,000
3% $75,000 or more
Earnings vs Cost of education
I think stating the numbers haven’t changed that much from the 90s is not looking at the whole picture. The cost of education, licensing, continuing education has skyrocketed. I would ask how many of the therapists still have educational debt. 60% of the responses are under the national poverty level for a family of 3. I think that is a better measure of massage as a viable profession.