Farm Press Blog

West coast lifeguard – not a bad gig, and free sunglasses too


In Newport Beach, Calif., lifeguards make as much as $200,000 a year in total compensation including benefits. And they get free sunglasses and sun block too.

One lifeguard retired at 51 making $108,000 a year. He'll make over 3 million in retirement if he lives to age 80.

To be fair, all is not all fun and games for Newport Beach lifeguards. During 2010, the total number of rescues by Newport Beach lifeguards was 2,190.

Here’s another strange and compelling item from the vault of the absurd, a story of a city’s mixed up priorities regarding salaries for those in public service.

According to an article in the Orange County Register, there are lifeguards in Newport Beach, Calif., (who would have guessed?) who are making over $200,000 a year in total compensation including benefits.

The article noted that according to a city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the city’s 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation. One lifeguard collected $98,160. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation. Excluding benefits like heath care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for sunglasses.

The president of the Lifeguard Management Association defended the lifeguard pay in Newport Beach. “We have negotiated very fair and very reasonable salaries in conjunction with comparable positions for other cities up and down the coast. Lifeguard salaries here are well within the norm of other city employees.”

Hmm. No wonder we never heard Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson asking for a raise. It does beg an extremely important question for the Delta Farm Press reader though – should I trade my life in a tractor cab for an ivory tower by the beach?

You’d have one heck of a lifeline if you did.

Newport Beach lifeguards retire at 90 percent of their salary, after only 30 years of work as early as the age of 50. A recently retired lifeguard, age 51, is receiving a government retirement of over $108,000 per year for the rest of his life. He will make well over $3 million in retirement if he lives to age 80.

Paying for this will be the citizens of Orange County, who are treading water (in California terms of course) to the tune of an average household income of $71,735 annually.

Of course, all is not all fun and games for Newport Beach lifeguards. The newspaper reported that during 2010, the total number of rescues by Newport Beach lifeguards was 2,190. Commendable, but I’m still not sure that the salary is commensurate with effort.

Most of the time, the job is probably pretty routine. Put on a swim suit, climb a ladder to the lifeguard tower, oil up with Coppertone, put on a pair of Maui Jim High Tide sunglasses and a fishing hat and enjoy the beachscape. On payday, push your wheelbarrow full of cash back to your condo.

Not a bad gig. Soak the city while you soak up sun. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Chris Ellen Montgomery (not verified)
on Aug 30, 2011

I find the tone of your article condescending, and without justification. At the drop of a hat, the throw themselves into the surf to rescue a 'swimmer'... A person who has parents, siblings and possibly a partner & children gets a second chance at life. Their loved ones do not have to grieve a tragic accident... Any hard work should be recognized...

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