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Average Salary: $40,880

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,707,000

It's tough to establish a credible salary profile for day care operators. First, let's assume you operate your own day care center, which means you join the ranks of self-employed business owners. Unless you've got several years of operations data under your belt, estimating an annual salary for a self-employed business owner is like herding cats: You're pursuing an elusive goal with a low degree of success.

Let's also note that day care operators are often statistically lumped in with preschool and childcare center directors. Many of these administrators work for other businesses and agencies. For example, directors may work in preschool, pre-kindergarten, and group home settings. You might even find a few in your local school system. Most of the directors work a full-time schedule, with some working 40+ hours per week.

Okay, we know taking care of the kiddies requires long work hours. Now let's get to the bottom line: How much do they make? Think $40k-$45k. Which means half of them raked in more; the other half scrimped to live on less. Some earn less than $25k—quite a difference from the median wage.

Directors who work for school systems or other agencies may fall under that organization's compensation and benefits structure. On the other hand, as a self-employed day care operator, you must pay your own taxes, health and/or disability insurance. You are also responsible for implementing your own savings and investment programs (assuming, of course, your business has extra income to squirrel away). A small business-focused CPA can steer you in the right direction...instead of over a financial cliff.