How relatively well off financially were the main Seinfeld characters?

I never got a good feel for this. Was Jerry kind of rich as a successful comedian? Elaine seemed to do OK as a mid-level office worker. George was cheap, but while occasionally struggling, never seemed to be impoverished. Kramer, mysteriously, apparently lived at about a middle class level without any substantive employment.

What’s your take on where they were demographically and/or income-wise?

I think we may have had a thread on this before, but I’m too lazy to look.

I know that Jerry was essentially himself, so he’d be as well off as he actually is. He appeared on the Tonight Show, and got checks from NBC.

Remember that Elaine was pretty high up (CE), I think) while Peterman was gone, so she’s probably doing better than you implied.

Seeing as George had problems getting into exclusive clubs for rich people, I’d say he was the poorest. But he did manage the Yankees, after which he didn’t seem to want for money for a while.

WordOfGod, I believe, says that Kramer had inherited a fairly large amount of money, and lived rather frugally. You saw how much he mooched off of Jerry. And his appartment was, I believe, rent controlled, and, thus, much cheaper than Jerry’s.

I am pretty sure Kramer was a fantasy character, able to have and do whatever it took to make a good story line. He did not exist in the regular universe of physics, finances and toilet paper.

The only check Jerry would have got in-show from NBC would be for the pilot and then in the final episode, so that doesn’t factor into his wealth during most of the show’s run. In the episode “The Money” he appears to be making quite a lot (enough to cause a change in the behaviour of those around him) but certainly nowhere near the amount his real-life self was making.

All four characters seem to get wealthier and better-off as the show goes on. Elaine especially goes from being quite poor in early episodes to being successful at Peterman and having probably the nicest apartment out of the four of them.

There was that one episode where Jerry bought his parents a Cadillac. He showed Elaine one of his paychecks, and she was so impressed she flirted with him through the rest of the show.

^ That was actually the episode I was referring to - “The Cadillac” - except I confused it for “The Money”, which is the episode where Jerry’s parents sell the Cadillac to help Jerry out financially.

Elaine had rich parents. Her father was a famous writer.

George moved in with his parents; never a good sign. I vaguely recall a series of spurious lawsuits that kept Kramer rolling in greenbacks.

The characters changed over the course of the series.

In the beginning Elaine was clearly the poorest of the the three (I don’t count Kramer).

When George is selling real estate and Elaine asks him to find a flat for her, he notes “It’s hard to find something in your price range.” Elaine also has a roommate(s) at first.

This changes as the series goes on. She reads manuscripts at the publishing company. This is about a $35,000 - $50,000 a year job or less, depending on if she does editing or such. These are today’s range so back then it would be less. (From

Elaine’s job must be entry level 'cause she gets George a similar job.

When Elaine gets a job with Mr Pitt she is his personal assistant. This can pay pretty much anything. But it appear Elaine is slightly better off with this job than the last one.

Elaine went to Tufts. as it was her safety school. We assume she graduated though it’s never said.

By the time she takes her job with J Peterman, Elaine’s income is pretty much up there, even before she briefly takes over job as company president.

George is a college graduate and says so. When he is out of work his parents urge him to take a civil service test and George says something along the lines of “Im a college graduate and you want me to be a mailman”? But knowning how George lies…Well we’ll take his word for it.

George is doing OK at real estate though he clearly is near the bottom at his company. When he goes to the Yankees he is the assistant to the traveling secretary.

But during this time he is mostly with Susan so is she paying his bills? Susan makes much more money than George and her family is loaded. Though after her death this seems to surprise George, which I don’t know why it does. He is some sort of executive in his next two jobs. George has established himself as middle class.

Jerry is a working comic, and has much more money than any of his friends. Jerry either has a great deal of money or he doesn’t care about money. Like when Kramer leaves his door unlocked and his stuff gets ripped off. He doesn’t seem that concerned. Or when Jerry destroys the washing machine he is not all that concerned at the amount of money he has to spend to fix it. (Yeah I know he broke it). He spends a huge amount of money on a jacket. All these occur pretty early in the show.

Kramer is a joke character so other than “falling into money” as George puts it or suing people or his coffee table book, we don’t know much about him.

Elaine was initially working as a copy editor at Pendant Publishing. From what I can find online the average salary for a copy editor today is around $50,000, although that wouldn’t go as far in NYC as it would in the rest of the country. In earlier episodes Elaine did have a roommate who she didn’t like much, so she presumably wasn’t making enough to afford the kind of apartment she wanted on her own. It’s anyone’s guess how much she was making when she was working as Mr. Pitt’s assistant, but she definitely seemed to be making good money once she was with J. Peterman. I’m not sure at what point she got her own apartment.

There were a number of hints that Elaine came from a relatively affluent background, although it didn’t seem like she was getting money from her parents as an adult. As **hajario **says her dad was a famous writer, although I’m not sure how much money that would actually involve. Mr. Benes also apparently did not have much contact with his family after he left his wife when Elaine was young. Nevertheless, she went to a private college (Tufts) and Jerry made a crack once about how she’d attended finishing school. This may have just been a joke, but wherever Elaine went to high school it was with candy bar heiress Sue Ellen Mischke.

George went through a lot of ups and downs. He had a series of jobs (that he inevitable bungled) and long periods of unemployment both before and after his long-term job with the Yankees. He was presumably making a lot of money with the Yankees, but before that had been forced to move in with his parents. George’s fiancee Susan had more money than he did, so during the time they were living together he was likely benefiting from that.

Even the other characters on the show weren’t sure how Kramer managed to support himself, as he never had any steady source of income. He had apparently inherited money at some point before the show started, but since he does odd (very odd) jobs at times and is always looking for get-rich-quick schemes then his inheritance probably wasn’t enough to let him do whatever he liked. Kramer does sporadically obtain large sums of money in various ways, such as by working as a Calvin Klein model, selling the movie rights to his coffee table book, and selling stories to Mr. Peterman to use in his own memoir.

ETA: Kind of a simulpost with Markxxx, but I’m leaving it up. :slight_smile:

Kramer had to have money from somewhere, because he did a fantasy baseball camp with Mickey Mantle. Those didn’t come cheap…

I think Susan’s wealth was a complete surprise to George after she died. In one episode he proposed that she sign a pre-nup and she laughed at the idea that he was asking her to do so.

As for Kramer, according to the New York Times, the real Kramer invented electronic disco jewelry, which earned him enough that he didn’t appear to need money for a while. (That may be the origin of the “fall ass-backwards into money” statement.)

Kramer can’t have been all that wealthy, if he was willing to team up with Newman to collect bottles and take them to Michigan for the refund money.

But, as everyone has said, trying to understand his situation is a sure route to madness.

That statement was one of several on the series that implied even the other members of the group were sometimes at a loss to understand his means of income. Other ass-backwards money earners for him were being an underwear model, an advance for a coffee table book on coffee tables, and various one-shot schemes.

I remember he was on her foundation, but did George himself get any money from Susan’s estate?

I don’t think he would have, since they were never actually married.

Kramer also won that longshot bet at the track, for something like $20,000.

Jerry was himself, but I believe he was supposed to be himself pre-Seinfeld – that is, a moderately successful, and well known standup comic with regular appearances on national television, but not yet with the stratospheric success his real self had after Seinfeld became a monster hit.

Elaine, I think, was the only one who ever really had anything resembling genuine career skills, with a good education, who was acknowledged by all the others as the brightest of the group and who manged to work her way up the ladder in the publishing world to where she should have been making six figures or at least close to it.

George scraped by at the bottom of the white collar world until he hit the jackpot with the Yankees job. It was never specified what his salary (or really his duties) were. He had his own office, but didn’t seem to do much. It was generally implied that Steinbrenner just kept him around because he liked him, but I think it’s probably safe to assume he was getting a decent salary working in the front office of the NY Yankees.

Kramer’s sources of income were kept, at least partially, mysterious. There were implicationss of inheritance, but, as has been mentioned, also occasional big scores with stuff like the coffee table book and the CK gig. It was also revealed in one episode that his actual profession, such as it was, was as a bakery worker who had been on strike for like ten years.

In that episode Susan came right out and said that she had a lot more money than George, although it may be the case that he didn’t really know how MUCH more.

To speculate a little further about Kramer, maybe his inheritance was a trust fund or otherwise invested in a way that ensured him a modest annual income. He could scrape by on that alone, especially since he largely fed himself out of Jerry’s fridge, but he sporadically needed other sources of money to cover things like his fine cigar habit and his frequent apartment remodeling projects.

Well does anyone know what a “traveling secretary” in a major ball club like the New York Yankees makes? Then we can estimate what George gets as, not an assistant traveling secretary, but rather an assistant TO the travelings secretary. Which is a lower position.

I ask 'cause I don’t know what state the Yankees were in during the series. But I do know that I worked at a hotel in downtown Chicago and almost all the ballteams stayed there. It was the Westin. The NY Yankees were one of the few that didn’t stay with us. They stayed at the Ritz Carlton. So obviously the Yankees have a lot more money to throw around.

Is there ever a time where Jerry seems to be hurting for money at all? He never seems cash strapped. As I said, lots of times Jerry spends big, but does this mean he has enough money to cover it or he doesn’t care.

The only time I can think of when Jerry is concerned at all about money is the “even Steven” episode. Jerry always comes out even, so to test this Elaine asks Jerry for a twenty dollar bill and throws it out the window. Jerry is like you couldn’t have done that with a five (or whatever). And of course Geroge knocks on his door a minute later saying “Looking I found twenty bucks” Thus proving what Jerry thows away comes back.

Kramer is a joke character that couldn’t exist in real life. Newman was a mailman. What does a mail carrier in NYC make?

They won the World Series once during the show’s run, in '96, and then went on to win it three times in a row after it ended. And plus during the Steinbrenner era they always seemed to have a lot of money to throw around.
Anyway as far as what a traveling secretary does, and this is just a WAG, I imagine they probably book hotels, process expense reports and keep tabs on the team’s private jet.

Admittedly eulogies aren’t the greatest source of objective information, but if all of the people being interviewed on TV since his death are telling the truth then Steinbrenner, while very demanding and quick to fire if he didn’t think somebody was doing their job, was also very generous with salaries and benefits because he wanted only the best and the brightest working for him both on the field and off.