How much can you really make as a new catastrophe adjuster?

Many people, if not the vast majority, get into adjusting for the money. In the end, everyone wants to be paid for the job they do, and in this business you can get paid a great deal of money for adjusting, especially catastrophe adjusting. One question that comes up a lot from people looking into becoming an adjuster, is how much money can you really make? So, we decided to try to lay it all out here and use examples from our own work experiences. This is a broad stroke for NEW adjusters. We highly recommend that if you’re new, you start out in an hourly position if possible, and that’s that’s what we’re covering in this post.

Although not all carriers are the same, here are some things to be aware of as a new adjuster, while considering accepting a field deployment.

  • You will typically NOT be paid per diem.
  • You will typically NOT have your lodging covered.
  • You will typically NOT be reimbursed for your mileage.

It sounds like a lot of expenses, but it really isn’t, and the carriers are generally paying you considering these expenses that you will incur. Is there a disadvantage because these are post tax expenses that you probably won’t be able to write off? Yes. Can you still SAVE $100,000 per year as a new adjuster, even with these expenses? Absolutely.

When you start working as an independent adjuster on catastrophe deployments, you’re most likely going to get a text from one of the big firms, to work for one of the bigger carriers. The text messages usually look something like this:

This is (Insert firm name) deployment. We have a rope and harness deployment opportunity for Atlanta, GA starting 9/15 for (insert insurance carrier). Hourly pay, 7×12’s. Respond YES if interested and we will call you with details.

Because you’re hungry to work, you respond yes immediately. If you’re quick, and qualified, the firm will usually follow up with you fairly quickly. When they follow up with you, there are usually going to be some quick questions like:

  • The hourly rate for this deployment is $49 per hour plus overtime, and is 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, does that work for you?
  • Do you have all the equipment necessary to accept steep and tall roofs?
  • Are you able to report to the deployment location by 8/15?

Since you’re a pro and ready to go, you answer yes to all of these questions. The deployment office will usually send you an email with some deployment agreements and what not, and tax forms if yours are not up to date with the firm.

Now, lets get to the money, but first let’s set some parameters.

  • Let’s assume that the firm your deploying for pays once per week.
  • And let’s just say that you have standard withholding from your paycheck, as most new people will deploy as a W2 employee, rather than a 1099 contractor.
  • And let’s say you don’t have dependents. If you do, your take home would only increase.

What we encourage people to do is to go to smartasset.com and calculate your pay using their simple pay calculator. For this example, your gross paycheck every week before taxes would be $5,194. That’s per week. After taxes, your paycheck would come out to $3,348. That comes out to over $13,000 per month, and that, is a pretty good amount for a new person!

But now you’re thinking, if I have to pay for all of my expenses on my own, how am I going to make any money. Well, realize that you’re not going to have time for any leisure expenses, so your costs are going to be:

  • Lodging
  • Food
  • Gas
  • Maybe some small incidentals like more chalk or soap stone, replacing a broken tape measure.

Lodging: There are a lot of options here and a lot of opinions. If you’re going into a major cat like a hurricane, you may not have a lot of choices; seasoned adjusters will tell you that you need a trailer or RV, and that’s true in a lot of cases. OR, you’ll be doing a lot of driving. regardless of the situation, the best thing to do is get a place that’s affordable and has a kitchenette. If you have a company training room available, spending time there and meeting other adjusters is a great way to meet people to share an airbnb with. Our preferred preference; get a car, not a truck, that gets good gas mileage. The money you save on gas, will offset the extra you pay for a room instead of an RV spot or campsite, and when you get claims outside your working area, you won’t cringe about spending the gas.

Food: Don’t waste your money on fast food and gas station shit. Go grocery shopping once a week and do some meal prep at home. We’re huge fans of Aldi if you can find one; high quality products at low prices and reasonable quantities. Protein bars for that quick bite to eat.

Gas: This job requires a lot of driving, and almost everyone can manage with 2 ladders. You DON’T need the big gas guzzling truck. Get an affordable, reliable car and throw a roof rack on it for your ladders. If you do it right, you can still sleep in it in a pinch. Gas is a killer, and with the IRS eliminating write offs left and right, you’re going to want to save here.

Incidentals: Roll with it.

If you’re interested in saving money and focused on earning while on deployment, you can get by on $800 a week in most cases, maybe even less. It really is that easy. So, with your take home at $3,348, after expenses you should be making $2,548 a week. Deduct your at-home expenses, and this is what you can save in this career, per week. We imagine that for most new people, this scenario would allow them to save around $8,000 per month.

Once you’ve learned the job, you can move on to other carriers and firms and work on a fee schedule, making even better money, but this is where you start. Get in the groove before you get greedy!

Once you have a year under your belt, do this:

  • talk to a CPA (don’t ask in an adjuster Facebook group) about how to optimize your earnings with legal tax strategies. You’ll be amazed at some of the savings.
  • Put your money to work! talk to a financial adviser or someone you know that knows how to make money work for you.

Stay safe out there.