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Can A Family Of Four Survive On A Middle Class Income In America Today?

When I was growing up, $50,000 sounded like a gigantic mountain of money to me.  And it was actually a very significant amount of money in those days.  But in 2010 it just does not go that far.  Today, the median household income in the United States for a year is approximately $50,000.  About half of all American households make more than that, and about half of all American households make less than that.  So if your family brings in $50,000 this year that would put you about right in the middle.  So can a family of four survive on $50,000 in America today?  The answer might surprise you.  Twenty years ago a middle class American family of four would have been doing quite well on $50,000 per year.  But things have changed.

You see, despite government efforts to manipulate the official inflation numbers, the price of everything just keeps going up.  The price of food slowly but surely keeps moving up each year.  The price of gas is far higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago.  Taxes just keep going up.  Utility bills just keep going up.  Each year middle class American families have found themselves increasingly squeezed as their expenses have risen much more rapidly than their incomes.  

So just how far will $50,000 go for a middle class American family of four today?  Well, $50,000 breaks down to about $4,000 a month.  So how far will $4,000 a month stretch for a family of four in today’s economy?….

First of all, the family of four needs some place to live.  Even though house prices have come down a bit recently, they are still quite expensive compared to a decade ago.  Let’s assume that our family of four has found a great deal and is only spending $1000 a month on rent or on a mortgage payment.  In many of the larger U.S. cities this is a completely unrealistic number, but let’s go with it for now.

Next, our family of four has to pay for power and water for their home.  This amount can vary dramatically depending on the climate, but let’s assume that the average utility bill is somewhere around $300 a month.

Our family is also going to need phone and Internet service.  Cell phone bills for a family of four can balloon to ridiculous proportions, but let’s assume that our family of four is extremely budget conscious and has found a package where they can get basic phone service, Internet and cable for $100 a month.  Most middle class American families spend far more than that.

Both parents are also going to need cars to get to work.  Let’s assume that both cars were purchased used, so the car payments will only total about $400 a month.  If the vehicles were purchased new this number could potentially be much higher.

If our family has two cars that means that they will also be paying for automobile insurance.  Let’s assume that they both have exemplary driving records and so they are only spending about $100 a month on car insurance.

Our hypothetical family of four is also going to need health insurance.  In the past, families could choose to go without health insurance (at least for a while), but now thanks to Barack Obama all American families will essentially be forced to purchase health insurance.  Health insurance premiums are absolutely skyrocketing, but let’s assume that our family has somehow been able to find an amazing deal where they only pay $500 a month for health insurance.

Our hypothetical family is also going to have to eat.  Let’s assume that our family clips coupons and cuts corners any way that it can and only spends about $50 for each member of the family on food and toiletries each week.  That works out to a total of $800 a month for the entire family.

Lastly, the parents are also going to need to buy gas to get to and from work each week.  Let’s assume that they don’t live too far from work and only need to fill up both cars about once per week.  That would give them a gasoline bill of about $50 a week or $200 a month.  Of course if either of them lived a good distance from work or if a lot of extra driving was required for other reasons this expense could be far, far higher.

So far our family has spent $3400 out of a total of $4000 for the month.  Not bad, eh?

Wrong.

We haven’t taken federal, state and local taxes out of the paycheck yet.  Depending on where our family lives, this will be at least $1000 a month. 

So now we are $400 in the hole.

But to this point we have assumed that our family does not have any credit card debt or student loan debt at all.  If they do, those payments will have to be made as well.

In addition, the budget above includes no money for clothing, no money for dining out, no money for additional entertainment, no money for medications, no money for pets, no money for hobbies, no money for life insurance, no money for vacations, no money for car repairs and maintenance, no money for child care, no money for birthday or holiday gifts and no money for retirement.

On top of all that, if our family of four has a catastrophic health expense that their health insurance won’t pay for (and health insurance companies try to weasel out of as many claims as they can), then our family of four is not just broke – they are totally bankrupt.

Are you starting to get the picture?

It is getting really, really hard out there for middle class American families these days.

And unfortunately, many American families now have at least one parent that is not working.  In some areas of the nation it just seems like there are virtually no jobs available.  For example, at 14.3%, the state of Nevada now has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.  Michigan (which had been number one) is not very far behind.

But even those Americans who are able to find work are finding themselves increasingly squeezed.  For many Americans, a new job means much lower pay.  Millions of highly educated people who once worked in professional positions now find themselves working in retail positions or in the food service industry.  Many are hoping that the economy will “turn around” soon and that they will be able to go back to higher paying jobs, but the truth is that the U.S. economy is simply not producing enough good jobs for everyone any longer.

So where did all the good jobs go?  Well, millions of them have been shipped off to China, India and dozens of other nations around the globe.  Today the United States spends approximately $3.90 on Chinese goods for every $1 that China spends on goods from the United States.  A Chinese factory worker makes about a tenth of what an American factory worker makes.  And China continues to keep their currency artificially low so that jobs will continue to flow into China and so that we will continue to run a massive trade imbalance with them.

In a previous article, “Winners And Losers“, I went into much greater detail about how globalism is destroying middle class jobs.  We are rapidly moving toward an America where there will be a small group of “haves” and a very large group of “have nots”. 

The middle class in America is going to continue to shrink and shrink and shrink in the years ahead.  Not only are both parents going to have to work to pay the bills, but both parents in many families will be forced to take two or three jobs each just to make it each month. 

So what do you think?  Do you think that a family of four can make it on a middle class income in America today?  Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts….

  • Andrew

    Yes, they can.
    My family of four has been surviving on ONE income of $45,000 (or less) for more than 10 years, and in the (overall) most expensive state in the union, New York. It can be done.

    First, lose the new cars, you don’t need them. Second, the food bills are too high, cut there. Cut the cable/dish and the internet. These are only the first places to cut.

    I’ve experienced two pay cuts totally 15% in the last 15 months, so, things are tight. If I have to I start cutting, or, get a second job (which I do have, now).

    It can be done. You have to live judiciously.

  • maryanne macfarland

    It’s becoming impossible to have and raise children at all on average incomes.

  • mbabsit

    Heck no! Prices are going higher, higher, and ever higher. Added to that is all the “fees” charged by cities and counties to cover all the promises they made to their unionized personnel, unions which demand more and more money for less and less work. Starting January 1, 2011, taxes will go up even higher as the Obama administration has to pay more kickbacks to its union cronies.

  • http://ceeuropeaninfo.blogspot.com/ Tony W

    The cost of living is the main reason I can’t consider moving back to the U.S. I work in the ‘media’, and a ‘good’ job would pay maybe 50k, and, as your calculations show, that just doesn’t go very far. No wonder so many Americans are so stressed, focusing on paying the bills. I’m among the pessimists who believes things will get gradually worse with anger levers rising, making for a potentially explosive environment.

  • http://www.LasVegasRealEstateHome.com Las Vegas Real Estate Agent

    It’s getting easier in Las Vegas with our cheap real estate… if the family of four did not get stuck in an artificially inflated home to begin with. (And still has a job with our 14%+ “official” unemployment numbers.)

    Unfortunately though… many people are stuck in artificially inflated homes/mortgages and don’t even realize how much they spend every month. I supply work sheets to my short sellers requesting home owners to list all of the expenses you mention above… it generally comes up in the red for the month.

    It’s a shocker when you write down every single penny spent for a month straight… Learned that lesson in 2006. A true eye-opener and a clear signal it was time to make changes…

  • Mitch

    Our family makes almost exactly 50k for this year. We don’t take home 4k, actually take home is about 2.8k per month. We both have student loan debt that knocks off another 500$ a month (back in the 90’s college education still looked like a good idea).

    We have two old cars–paid for, but of course it costs money to keep them running safely. We bought a house a few years ago for 100k–15yr mortgage, and have around 1k monthly payment when you include property taxes and the like. Gasoline prices and food prices have hit fairly hard in the past few years–and even with summer gardens and the like we can’t keep our food bill as low as we could years ago.

    We have no credit card debt–as we worked extra part-time jobs for years to pay off our credit card debt and save up cash for cars and down-payment on our ‘nothing-special’ 100k house.

    We feel like the working poor and have for this entire decade, we eat out once a month (that being a take out pizza/or chinese) and never go to movies anymore–but rather play board games as a family or other things that don’t cost money. We have no cable and no fancy cell-phones. It seems to us that we were taken for a ride, working for the last 15 years–to be doing only slightly better than many welfare people. We are a family of three and I cannot begin to imagine having another child due to economics–baby daycare is crazy expensive.

    Our taxes went up again this year due to State/County financial problems…these financial shortfalls have no end in sight–and we at least still have jobs, although I’m no struggling with chronic underemployment–working multiple part time jobs is what many of my family members are doing–but they don’t have healthcare bene’s and aren’t quite poor enough for any of the ‘poor’ people bene’s. Bah!

  • http://moneyedpoliticians.net Jack E Lohman

    >> “A Chinese factory worker makes about a tenth of what an American factory worker makes.”

    Yes, and with NAFTA and CAFTA the CEO can manufacture off-shore, pay a bribe to the politicians that made it all happen, and pocket the rest. Taking home his $100 million pay package while the little guy and his family starves.

    Angry? Yes, and I’m a Republican. But our congress is selling out constituents from both political parties.

    Nothing is going to change until we get the bribes out of the political system, and only public funding of campaigns will accomplish that.

    If politicians are going to be beholden to their funders, those funders should be the taxpayers. And at $5 per taxpayer per year it would be a bargain. Even at 100 times that. We MUST lobby our senators and representative to co-sponsor the bill at:
    http://fairelectionsnow.org/about-bill

    Jack Lohman
    http://moneyedpoliticians.net/2010/08/30/please-excuse-my-outrage/

  • Anna

    Twenty-five years ago, we didn’t have cell phones and cable bills. That eats up an easy $100-$200 per month. We didn’t eat out as often as families do now. If Dad took us out twice a month, that was a SPLURGE! We never paid for drinking water other then the bill that came from the water company since tap water was fine. We didn’t have designer anything. Nor did we replace our cars every three years. We drove them until the doors fell off. But the biggest difference was the use of credit cards. If our parents couldn’t pay cash for something, they didn’t get it. They saved for it and never went into debt. The only debt they had was the house, which was $16K total built in 1967 and 2K sq. ft. and still in better shape then some of the newer ones being put up today. (Chinese drywall)

    Ask a family what is tearing their credit apart and they will say one of three things.

    1) credit card bills
    2) house mortgage
    3) new car in the driveway

    Some of our problems are not knowing the difference between a “want” and a “need”. If you have any doubt, call Grandma, and she will set you straight.

    • Momma Jo

      Wow! You are correct. My husband and I are in our late twenties and credit card seriously seems to be the death of us. But we both agreed that every penny we get from our tax money will go to it. We are going to pay this off once and for all : )

  • dave4change

    I personally think this one is a bit off i think this site has a lot of good info on it but this is very deceptive times are bad not doubt and they are going to get worse thats for sure the fact is if you budget your self you can live on a lot less as i do and many others i don’t even see half that come through my door and i have a family of four i generally don’t fret to much about things but i think this way off the mark i agree that 50.000 isn’t what it used to be but lets be real hear many americans like i could only wish for that much and i can still afford what i need i think if you can’t live on that much you truly need to look at what your spending it on any way juust didn’t care for this but good work as i do like most of the rest on this site

  • Matt

    This is the argument I give my deflation-believing friend when debunking deflation. The widely spread (by the corrupt Cabal) deflation theory is only meant to distract our attention from the huge hidden inflation they are advancing. This story is proof positive of inflation. I’m a family of 4 and I have felt that over the last 5 or 6 years I get squeezed more every year, that my quality of life has gone down little-by-little every year. I thank God that I have a decent job that it so far looks like is relatively secure (knock on wood). My advice to you all: accumulate a little silver every paycheck or every month for it is still cheap compared to what it is going to be in 10 years.

  • Mimi

    It is impossible for a family of four to live on that money, all thanks to the FED and our worthless government.
    We chose not to have kids just because of this issue, unless after finishing school we can get better paying jobs. It is so maddening to have to make that kind of choice, I truly hope more people wake up before we’re left with nothing.

  • MrPotato

    As always it’s still a human right for americans that no matter the economy they MUST have a car (or 2 cars in this case), bicycling/carpooling/walking/takingthebus is out of the question they must at all cost continue being pigs against the environments

    • bears

      I know this was written a while ago… But before you judge I’d like to say my family of four relies on 1 car, which is for long trips, or my weekly trip to the grocery store. My husband also rides his bike to work. We’re still struggling to make it though, especially now that my husbands student loan payments have started. I stay home with our 3 year old and go to school online. While at home during the day (living in FL) we keep the AC off. We do have cell phones and internet, but that’s for work and school. Yes we’re “surviving”, but we’re far from thriving, and our yearly income is 60K a year. We cut coupons, we rarely eat out… When we do it’s pizza. I purchase clothes from thrift shops if I can’t find hand me downs from someone else. All of our furniture is hand me downs or craigslist finds. So please do not judge so quickly.

  • TnAndy

    Without a doubt, real wages have NOT kept up with prices in the last 20-30 years. Sharp people figure out a way around that, and the rest moan about it.

    If two people together are making only 50k, they need to re-evaluate what’s going on…maybe they would be better off if one of them stayed home, tax wise, spending wise ( extra car, fuel, clothing, etc ) and ran a business out of the house or simply did enough domestic work ( like WHO cooks anymore ? )…raise a garden….that kinda thing… to more than make up for what they used to earn at an outside job. Maybe one of them needs to find a better skill. Maybe some more education would pay off ( but evaluate carefully the cost/benefit ratio)

    Cable TV, cell phones so the kids can send 1000 text messages a day, and internet are NOT requirements for life…believe it or not.
    Not saying they aren’t nice….but take that same money, throw it on on the mortgage and get out from under the bankster’s thumb, and see how much MORE disposable income you have when you aren’t an interest slave any more.

    We haven’t had a house mortgage since 1982. How ? Self built our first house ( and no, I was not a trained carpenter or anything else….I learned by DOING ), sold it, used the profit to build our current house mortgage free. You can sock away some serious coin over 30 years when you live mortgage free.

    We’re a couple that married WAY too young ( 19 and 17 ), had no education past HS ( Now have a masters, she has a doctorate…none of it with loans ), no inheritance factor, didn’t win the lottery, and now we are one of those “millionaires next door”….and she is driving a 98 Accord, I drive an older pickup truck, not a Rolls…turns out a million bucks ain’t what it once was either……ahahahaaaaa

    So, guess what people…..life is what you make out of it. You can sit around waiting for a ship to come in that probably docked somewhere else, OR you can go get your own slice of the pie. I’m damn tired of hearing folks cry the blues when a lot of it they brought on themselves.

  • el Bob

    Can a family of four live on $50k annually? Yes. In fact, a family of four can live quite well on much, much less than that. We live on a bit more than half that amount and don’t take any public assistance. We own our house outright as well as the cars and everything else. Most of the things in this article were over stated or presented as needs rather than wants. Phone service? Get a cell plan or land line for $50-70/mo. Cable TV? a complete waste of money. Internet service? very optional. Car payments are stupid. Save your money and pay cash so you EARN interest between cars and don’t PAY interest to the bank. The grocery bill could be cut in half and still eat wholesome foods. There are many other ways of living without debt and on much less than $50k. It doesn’t mean you live a life of bare minimalism and self denial. It does mean that you need to think about what you can afford and what value you will getting in return before you take on more monthly payments and debt.

    What we are seeing now is the result of people overreaching financially. Buying a house that is too big and/or too expensive. Accumulating debt in student loans. Buying cars with a loan (worse financial investment ever) every 4-5 years. Putting everything on the credit card and making payments instead of actually paying. What do all of these things have in common? Immediate gratification. People want what they want right now and aren’t willing to wait and work towards anything. Then they complain when they’re strapped by all their bills.

    I realized that this probably comes across as being unsympathetic. I agree that for those who have gotten themselves into this type of situation it can be very difficult to change course. If you’ve lost your job and are living on unemployment or low paying labor it is next to impossible to gain any ground at all. Those situations, unfortunately, require painful change.

  • French Alex

    Hi everybody,
    I’m french and I read this blog to know what is going to happen for us (in europe).
    In France, whith the same $50,000, you are in the good middle class and your life is nice for many reasons :
    – you don’t have to pay for expensive school because the public school has good level and is much cheaper
    – you don’t have to pay for expensive insurance because you pay tax for public one (good quality and it finally cost less in France than in USA)
    And it is the same thing for a lot of things (energy, roads, etc…) because in your country, everything is in the hands of shareholders and without any real control : and the only thing they want is your money, even if you don’t have any.
    I wrote this post because in France and in Europe in general, the public service is in danger and every year, the european people see the life cost increase just because our governements just want to do like yours and I really don’t want to (our entire economy in the shareholder’s hands).
    So, that’s it, I just hope that it’s gonna be OK for all of you but I think that we have to change the economic’s laws…

  • April B.

    It’s absolutely possible. We raise our 7 children on almost exactly that. Take away taxes and we have $3400 a month. We don’t have cell phones for personal use (my husband has a business line). We don’t make a car payment, except $200 to our own savings account designated “car”. We buy all of our vehicles with cash for less than $5000. The mortgage on our home is $900. I don’t work, so that saves a lot. We don’t buy processed foods and spend probably $300 to $400 total for food and supplies. It’s not hard and it’s not tedious. We have a great time as a family, vacationing inexpensively. We still eat out, though we use coupons and look for “Kids eat free” places. All of our kids play soccer and participate in activities like children’s theater. We do budget, but we even make a point of tithing 10% off the top and still have enough. Maybe that’s why :-). Living on $50,000 is not only do-able, but it’s easy if you change your priorities and your lifestyle. You’d be amazed how much happier you are.

  • http://the-wardhouse.blogspot.com Annette

    I am a single parent with two teen daughters. We are scratching by on my income of $28k. No cell phones, no cable/satellite tv. We still have the internet. Costs are cut by hanging clothes up outside (reduce electricity), a large garden and a few laying hens. Squeaking by is the name of the game. School loans are on deferment atm and medical bills are not getting paid.

  • Morpheus

    Matt,

    Actually what we have here is asset deflation and price inflation. Therefore, homes and equity for instance is going down or flat and energy and food for example are going up. Of course, food and energy isn’t counted in the official inflation number which is part of the problem with that metric. Well that, and it is inherently flawed in general.

  • El Pollo de Oro

    In the future, most American families of four will be lucky to make a total of 20K, let alone 50K.

    Gerald Celente likes to describe The Banana Republic of America (the BRA) as the world’s first UN-developing country–in other words, a country that wasn’t part of the Third World but is now joining the Third World. I’m in total agreement. But the question is: how badly is the BRA going to UN-develop? My guess is that the BRA is going the way of Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Colombia and Jamaica–in other words, poor Third World countries that have at least some infrastructure. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that the BRA is going the way of Haiti or countries in Sub-Saharan Africa–that is, countries that have terrible infrastructure and suffer from widespread hunger and low life expectancy.

    Except for the filthy-rich minority, Brazil and Colombia are poor countries–Haiti, however, is really, really REALLY poor. Haiti is much worse off than their neighbor, the Dominican Banana Republic. And I wonder: am I being overly optimistic when I say that the BRA is the next Brazil or the next Mexico rather than the next Haiti or the next Ethiopia? Time will tell. But even in a best-case scenario, there are terrible times ahead for most people in The Banana Republic of America.

  • Scott M.

    What I mean to say, in contrast to your article, taxes don’t keep going up and gasoline costs have been kept low.

    Taxes were lowered under Bush and Obama, which is part of our problem. The total amount of taxes we pay as a percentage of GDP is about 10% lower than Europes which explains in part the wealth gap.

    Also the cost of gasoline, adjusted for inflation, costs close to what it did 20 yrs. ago.

  • http://www.lisazahnwrites.wordpress.com Lisa Z

    Your numbers are almost exactly our life! We live in small city Minnesota, and were successfully living on one income of (now) about 50k per year. We are okay with living simply, purchased a home 6 years ago and used car below our income guidelines, and we make purchases very frugally. Our mortgage and escrow are about 1k/month. Groceries, etc. for our family of 2 adults, a DS13 and DD11, are $400-500/month because that’s all we’ve got (very difficult to do esp. as the kids get older, but we manage by cooking nearly all from scratch, gardening, freezing and canning, etc.)

    The biggest problem is our health insurance has risen exponentially to where it’s keeping us from doing anything but getting by. It’s now $600/month to cover our family of four with a small deductible plan. My husband is a teacher so that’s a group plan. This can’t go on. Saving up for the deductible is nearly impossible.

    Taxes and mandatory pension plan mean net income is only $2800/month. We can’t contribute much to the economy, that’s for sure. We have taken extra jobs–a first for me, a second for hubby–just to pay for choir for DD, horseback riding therapy for our autistic DS, small vacations to visit grandma/grandpa, etc. Those things absolutely can’t come out of our main income. Everything is a struggle these days. We’re still well fed. We’re still covered by a decent roof, and we’re dressed (in 2ndhand clothes mostly). But we’re treading water upstream and it’s more and more difficult every day, with pay freezes in the school district that won’t end anytime soon.

    I’m becoming a bitter woman each month as I try to make those dollars stretch to pay the bills. It didn’t have to be this way for America’s middle class.

  • http://www.lisazahnwrites.wordpress.com Lisa Z

    I don’t think the problem is so much based on the amount of income, it’s the decreasing power of that income. We based our budget and major purchases (home, automobile) on an income that was really supposed to go up a little each year, not (effectively) down. Now we’re stuck in a house that costs too much, even though it’s a relatively modest amount. We’re stuck with two kids to insure and feed because we had them when times were better. (I don’t really mean we’d give them up even if we could.) We drive one car. Our cell phones (3) cost us not much more per month than what having a land line and 1 cell phone for emergencies cost us. We have internet but no cable b/c we need internet for work and school but we don’t need tv. etc.etc.etc.

    We used to live on 20k/year. When we did our home and auto and everything was based on that income. It was tough but we made it. We could live on less, but it means selling the house and the reliable (one) vehicle that we have. And is that even possible in this economy? It stinks.

  • NOCASHFORME

    I agree with what some people are saying here that $50K is enough for a family of four as long as you can totally minimize the expenses by changing your lifestyle and keeping yourselves healthy. The question is for how much longer? Pray and pray hard.

  • James

    @Mimi
    September 2nd, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Dear Mimi,

    Do NOT decide to go childless because you think that you cannot afford a family. That will be a HUGE life mistake. And as far as I am concerned, do not even postpone having them. You will find a way to pay for it.

    These 36-40-ish new moms can really be kind of nuts. All manic and stressed out. I have seen this. It is unfair to the kids and you will have WAY less energy to deal with the little ones.

    You sound young. But I can tell you this: You have NO IDEA how you will feel when you are 40 with no children. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    Word to the wise: Don’t do it!
    .
    .
    .

    • Momma Jo

      James,
      I absolutely agree with you. We were teen parents but we are still together and living with a little over 50K. Having children was the best gift ever for the both of us. We have two and I am glad I didn’t wait b/c now they are the joy of our lives and are old enough so I am continuing college to become a Nurse. You think you can’t afford kids but somehow you just do it. You don’t even THINK about it. YOU JUST DO IT. Just like buying food. You gotta make sure you eat right?

  • Agoraphobic Plumber

    Those of you who are claiming $50K isn’t enough…have you ever been to a garage sale to buy clothes and household items? It’s dirt cheap. I picked up a leather jacket nearly brand new for $5. You can get canning supplies and equipment the same way for nearly nothing. Grow a really nice (huge if you have the room) garden for nearly nothing if you compost and use heritage seeds. Save a ton by buying in bulk. Cook most things from scratch.

    NEVER buy a new car, and always pay cash. Drive a junker if need be…I do. I live in outstate MN and $1000/month will buy you an UNBELIEVABLE home. You can get by on half that for a 3BR, 2BA home, possibly with acreage if you can get a deal.

    There are people here who have built ponds and stocked them with fish, keep bees, have small orchards and can the product, heat their houses mostly with wood they cut themselves and so on.

    It’s a lifestyle choice. I used to have money trouble when I made $80,000+ as a software engineer in Minneapolis. Now, guarantee me $25,000/yr and I’ll make it just fine. I wouldn’t even really need to scrimp until it got down to $15,000 or so, which reflects about a full-time job on minimum wage. I don’t go to the state fair or the Renaissance Festival and blow hundreds of dollars anymore, I don’t drive a really nice car, we don’t waste money on lawn services and paying someone to change our oil or do a brake job, and we’ve had to learn how to do a lot of things ourselves, but it’s been hugely worth it. I actually have time to spend with my baby daughter.

    And I predict that many, many more people will be taking this route in the coming years. They’ll have to, if they want to live well.

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      Sincerely,

      James Krotov

  • sth_txs

    After taxes (federal and SS), pension contribution and paying for health insurance, the realistic take home on $50k is around $2800 to $3k per month.

    Okay, if you are single; not okay if you are family of 4 unless house is paid off and maybe you drive a used car. Taxes on a home, home and car insurance easily consume $4k of take home depending upon location and vehicles owned. Don’t forget those home repairs, clothes for kids, groceries.

    Even one made $70k, that would still not be a lot of money after everything is taken out (plus you move up to another tax bracket).

    I’ll never understand how keeping everyone poorer makes us richer.

  • Harry

    Problem is, because of the malignant growth and access of easy credit, Americans as a herd, became accustomed to living a lifestyle they did not earn or deserve. What percent of Americans are struggling to pay a mortgage that they should have never gotten in to? No one making $50K a year should be buying a home that cost more than a $125K. How many people eat out 3,4,5 times a week and put it on the plastic? Bought clothes, cars, big screen TVs, electro communication and texting trinkets all on credit? They didn’t earn any of that nor did they need it or deserve it. America has taken a 40 year trip through an unearned/undeserved delusional sphere. We did not work our way to here, we borrowed our way here and now we have beamed ourselves into thinking we cannot make it on $50K a year. Americans actually think we deserve all these things that we get on credit. We don’t. We have become lazy, self deluded, fat and needy/greedy. We have outsourced all of our productive capacity to other countries in exchange for access to more credit to buy more unneeded Chinese plastic junk. You want to know why you can’t make it on $50K? Look in the mirror!

  • El Pollo de Oro

    French Alex: Bon jour. I have a business contact in Paris who has had quite a few operations (matter of fact, I was with him the day he was discharged from the hospital near Norte Dam Cathedral). He once lived and worked in The Banana Republic of America (BRA), and he said he is so glad he moved back to France before he got sick because in the BRA, he would have long since gone broke. Having lived in both France and the BRA, he can state with certainty that the French pay a lot less for health care but get much better results than we get in this wretched Third World hellhole that used to be the United States of America.

    The health care system in the BRA is truly an abomination. Premiums keep going through the roof, but when you get sick, the bastards will do anything they can to get out of paying claims–consequently, numerous American families go broke even with health insurance. And the corporatist bastards who have turned the former USA into a Third World banana republic would LOVE to do the same thing to Western Europe. If Europeans are smart, they will realize that the BRA’s corporatist, crush-the-middle-class way of life is something to avoid like the plague–not emulate.

  • Maria

    I know a lot of people who would love to have $50k a year to provide for their families. Many families make it on half that amount. Money goes further if you don’t live in the city…as long as you are reasonable about the “necessities” and grow some of your own food. The definition of necessity is going to change for many of us over the next few years…drastically. It will not include iphones, gym and spa memberships, custom wheels, designer clothing, lattes, or any other fads. It will sound something more like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs

  • Bob Bois

    It’s not so much that you can’t make it on 50K on a monthly basis. That can be done with a little foresight and frugality. But forget about putting anything away for retirement at that rate. In fact, the middle class should just forget about retirement completely. As a concept, retirement is a relatively new development affecting a tiny percentage of the global population. Let’s face it: the days of working your butt off so you can over-consume the earth’s resources and then retire to roam the interstates in a gas-guzzling Class A RV are over. Probably a good thing…

  • sonnyboy

    In the northeast, if a family of 4 wants to live normally, then 100k per year is needed and that’s even cutting it close. Wages relative to the actual cost of everything have been dropping for the most part since the mid 1970’s. Here’s an example. As a college kid working a summer job in a factory in the early 1970’s I made $5 an hour. Try putting that into an inflation calculator that represents REAL inflation over the last almost 40 years. My guesstimate is that it would be worth at least $35 an hour in today’s economy. Today the person doing that job is probably getting about $12 an hour. Quite a drop in real terms.

  • AJ

    If two people working full-time are only earning $50,000 a year, they are earning about $12 an hour. This is not a middle-class or median wage. Per the U.S. Census: The median earnings for a full-time year-round worker (not household, single worker) in the U.S. was $54,700. The median earnings for all over-16 year old people with earnings was $29,500. So earnings of $25,000 a year are considerably below median.

    A household with $50,000 in income most likely has only one full-time worker, most likely with substantial subsidy for a family health insurance plan, most likely with some retirement plan. Such a family would not need two cars, two full tanks of gas per week, and $860 a month for food and sundries.

    If it takes two workers to earn $50,000 a year, let’s not call them middle class. They aren’t.

    Inflation-adjusted, $50,000 today was $27,800 20 years ago and $8,200 40 years ago. That wasn’t middle class then, either.

  • Lisa

    @Mimi –

    I have to agree with James. Don’t decide not to have a child (if you really want one, that is) just because of money. As my grandmother used to say, “babies come at all prices.”

    I have two children and so I know firsthand how challenging it is to make ends meet… especially since my husband lost his job eight months ago. But you know what? We’re making it. No, we don’t drive new cars (our “newest” car is 12 years old and has 153,000 miles on it), we rarely eat out, we have not had cable in years, and I am the family hair stylist (these are just a few of our habits). It’s ok, though. Sure it’s very stressful at times to try to raise children in this country, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of having my children for anything… certainly not for financial security (if there is such a thing anymore.)

    If there is one thing about this recession/depression that makes me really sad, it’s when I hear that people are deciding not to have a child. Children are truly a blessing for those who want them. They make us better, stronger and more resourceful people. They humble us and help us order our priorities. They remind us that we do have a future and something to look forward to.

    • Momma Jo

      Lisa,
      Well said. I wake up, continue school and work part time everyday because of my two kids, (8 & 5 yrs). I’m do the things I do and I try as hard as I do all because of them.

  • Duglas A. Torrez

    You people are nuts. First off, If you plan to stay in the nation formerly known as the United….by force…States of America. DO NOT have kids. There is no future for them and never will be.
    Second. Do what your ancestors ALL did.
    Get out.
    Teaching English in South America or cooking American food in Asia will be far more enjoyable than what is coming your way up there.
    This isn’t recession or depression. It’s the collapse of all collapses.
    CONnedsumers.

  • DM

    Regarding real wages keeping up with prices, TnAndy wrote: “Sharp people figure out a way around that, and the rest moan about it.”

    Not necessarily. A person can be sharp about one’s spending (I live comfortably on 60% of my net income), and still moan about how we are getting our asses royally screwed on a daily basis by a loosely-knit cabal of financial elites who long ago declared Sherman-style total war against the other 99% of us.

    When it comes to health care, we Americans have it especially bad. Despite the fact that I’m able to save several hundred dollars each month, all of that would be gone in a heartbeat, were I to suffer a setback in my health. The same is true for nearly all the other people on this comment thread who are patting themselves on the back for their thriftiness. Obama’s contributions to our health care woes will only make our plight that much direr.

    West Europeans have had the right idea the last couple of generations, eschewing grandiose military spending in favor of spending on education and health care. Granted, if they hadn’t enjoyed the security umbrella provided by the US, their spending priorities would have been significantly different, but at least their actions have shown the rest of us that it is not only right to put the welfare of a nation’s citizens and its other residents above the desires of a greedy few, it is also possible to do so.

    We can brag all we want about how clever we are with the money we have, but what happens when, with prices continuing to rise by leaps and bounds, today’s $50,000 becomes next year’s $25,000, or $10,000 a decade from now? Most of our actions are just reactions, defensive responses to an enemy that grows ever more offensive, and who knows that they can get away with damn near everything at this point, because they have all the serious firepower at their fingertips. Expatriation is a possibility, but even under the best of circumstances, one is, for the most part, trading “worse” for “better”, and not actually exchanging “bad” for “good”.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical for my own good, or perhaps I’m just much more of a realist than the average American. Personally, I’ll opt for the latter. Regardless, we have entered a Long Night in the annals of human history. It is a period in which there will not soon be a Dawn, but rather one in which we will have to be content to search for Light wherever we can find it.

  • Jackson

    “Andrew
    September 2nd, 2010 at 4:19 am
    Yes, they can.
    My family of four has been surviving on ONE income of $45,000 (or less) for more than 10 years, and in the (overall) most expensive state in the union, New York. It can be done.

    First, lose the new cars, you don’t need them. Second, the food bills are too high, cut there. Cut the cable/dish and the internet. These are only the first places to cut.

    I’ve experienced two pay cuts totally 15% in the last 15 months, so, things are tight. If I have to I start cutting, or, get a second job (which I do have, now).

    It can be done. You have to live judiciously.”

    BRAVO Andrew, you can make it! But…have you been happy in your life working to death (2 jobs to make ends meet) and your children and spouse happy to be deprived from basic things…this is how a Third World country lives but THIS IS AMERICA! Wake up! Is this the kind of life you think it’s supposed to be lived, America or not America? Be honest to yourself, are you really happy and satisfied living a life like this to death? How is your love life, is your spouse happy to not to see you around as you are too busy out there working to make the ends meet? And how about your children, don’t they miss that masculine powerful presence around the house and in their daily lives as they grow and the world out there is too “cold” and deceiving? Are they getting the education and support they need, if you are never there for them because “you have to work” (2 jobs or extra X extra hours) just to be able to put food on the table? Are you sure this is the kind of life people should be living, regardless of where, America or not? Why forming a family anyway? Please be rational. My two cents only…

  • libertarian jerry

    By the time it is all added up,the average American works 8 out of 12 months of the year to pay all of their taxes,either directly or in-directly, to a corrupt,bloated,run-amok government establishment on several levels. How can the average person support the average family when two thirds of what they produce is re-distributed to parasites?

  • terrymac

    Do not misunderstand me, inflation is very real and very much a problem. That said, I know that my daughter, her husband, and five children have not only been living on less than $50,000 per year for a long while, they have been accumulating savings during that period. They had no health insurance, and paid cash for medical services.

    This involved many conscious choices toward frugality. There is no cable or landline in their home; they find an internet connection and a cell phone plan to be quite adequate. They do not use credit cards at all. They have one van, which was obtained used as a one-for-one swap for their previous van. They seldom eat out.

    Too many Americans seem to believe that a median income is somehow an automatic entitlement to live as if they earn twice as much. This puts them on a credit treadmill, always borrowing for the next new must-have thing.

  • GoneWithTheWind

    The biggest drain on my income was taxes. I made about $75k gross and my taxes were about $18k a year. I actually lived on about $12k a year (two adults, two teens). I decided to retire early and let someone else pay all those taxes. I still pay them but the amount has been cut dramatically. Every tax payer should understand that the reason they are struggling is because of higher taxes, simple as that.

  • SusanM.

    Yes most certainly a family of four can live off of $50,000 a year and actually live quite well! First of all, get rid of the cable service (nothing but trash anyway) have only the basic of cell phones, prepare meals as home, live in a smaller, more modest home–do all the repairs and decorating yourself and that house will become a HOME! Prepare meals from scratch-it costs less, but also is HEALTHIER for you–we are not FAT like most Americans! We have health insurance, had nice cars, and even take a vacation or two a year. My husband and two children live a very “rich” and fulfilling life by practicing what I call volunteer simplicity! Most Americans want too much and live too extravagantly!

  • sonnyboy

    To Harry. Good Point! The massive issuance of credit cards to the average person which began back in the 70’s and 80’s allowed people to live well above their means. Prior to that the massive amount of money spent on welfare and the Vietnam War in the 60’s was the modern day foundation for the public debt bubble. From there the debt bubble expanded to the current mess. This era is now beginning to come to an end. The only true healthy economy is one in which both the public and private sector operate on a dollar earned dollar spent basis. Prior to that happening the debt bubble has to deflate. This process will be lengthy and difficult.

  • BobB

    50K a year. Enough or not enough, depends on where you live. So, for all the comments above, right or wrong is relative!

  • Bill

    Yes. My family and I have been living this way for 25 years. No debt except the lousy taxes we have to pay. It’s never been an issue for us. We live without all the BS that most people feel is a necessity. No cable, no flat screen tv, no boat, none of this junk. Just like SusanM above. We’re happy too. Life without the pressures of debt is the greatest gift I’ve ever given my family

  • http://paturnerart.com pamela

    it’s a nightmare out there isn’t it?
    my husband and I get by on his one income. We manage by growing much of our own food and i can and dehydrate as well. we keep our util. bill quite low by being diligent and turning things off all the time.
    it can be done, but who wants to spend their lives scraping and scratching just to get by to continue living like that day after day.
    there just has to be more to life than figuring out which mega rich corporation we are going to send money to this week.

  • http://deVidal.BlogSpot.com/ Chris de Vidal

    The article didn’t figure tax credits for kids which can really go a long way. Unfortunately, that’s up in the air come January 1st… but for now, we were making it pretty well on $50k with 3 kids. We’re even more budget conscious than the fictional family in this article, and had some extra to set aside, even tithing at 10% gross.

    Since the recession began I’ve been compiling a list of techniques to get all bills down to zero. I wrote “27 Ways to Feed Your Fam in Hard Times.” Hope it gives you hope!

  • Amber

    Of course it’s possible. $1k a month for mortgage is great. $300 a month for electric is way too high. start replacing light bulbs with CFL’s and TEACH YOUR KIDS to shut things off! $50 per week per person for food can easily be cut in HALF. Start making your own bread if you have to and have mashed potatoes at every meal. 4 cell phones = 1 per person. Only 1 or 2 people at most NEED a cell phone. Land line can go. Internet – somewhat necessary to stay in touch with the world. Cable – luxury-get rid of it and rent movies and shows from the library. 2 cars, either use public transportation or get rid of 1 car and share it between the two adults. $100/month for car insurance is too high. Liability car insurance is available for $30-$40/month per vehicle. If you only have one car – That’s $40. Of course it’s possible, just have to rethink your priorities.

  • Angie

    It is absolutely possible to live on $50,000 a year for a family of four!! We are a family of 4 living on about HALF that amount! I stay home with the kids too! We bought a reasonably priced home, have 2 decent vehicles with no payments, no credit card debt, no student loans, no cable tv (who has time for that with kids to care for?.) We grow alot of food in our garden and can/freeze it to help cut grocery costs. I breastfeed and use cloth diapers. I buy 95% of the kids clothing second-hand (good stuff too!)We even have to pay for our own health insurance that goes up every year. I do everything I possibly can to make things myself from scratch. It takes alot of work, but we are doing it and we don’t feel like we are living without. We are even able to save money and pay cash for large items (furniture, appliances, vehicles, etc.) We ARE lucky to not live in the city and have the extra expenses they have. Although city folks can do alot of the things we do!

    • Avatar

      Good for you, determination and organization. Your husband might be proud of you.

  • Me

    I just found your blog, I have to read through it, but relevant to the subject discussed I have some comments:

    What is really ‘the economy’, and why a deficit is irrelevant to the classification of a strong economy? case in point, decades of accumulating deficit in the US still keep it as a strong economy. How come?

    It would be helpful to compare the components of the economy over time, and relative to population number, because it would yield what works better for a given condition. But facts, as close to real numbers as possible.

    I say this because the problem we face now is more of everything, including people, yet things are getting worst. And if the economy system has to be changed we might as well have that at hand. A sound base of facts for needed changes.
    It is also a way to plan better for population increase, without the threat of depopulation as a way to adjust to an economy that is optimal for a given number.

    Do I get an answer?

  • David Giacalone

    Depends where you live. In rural / small town America, yes you can live on $50K. If in even a mid-sized city, then no way. The proposed budget is too low on mortgage & doesn’t include many other non-discretionary expenses. If your home is paid for, that’s great – not a realistic option for most. Also, all the ‘make your own bread’ type comments only work if 1 person does not work.

    • bears

      I stay home, I have attempted making my own bread (even bought a brand new bread machine for 5 bucks at a garage sale), no one will eat my bread… My husband once teased saying “it’s an interesting color for brick” lol. No matter the recipe machine or oven… My bread is not edible! Lol

  • http://www.AlternativeFinancialNow.com Susan

    For a family of four to live on 50K depends on several factors and is not a cookie-cutter proposition as evidenced by readers above. Those with inflated mortgages, who continue to use credit and have not curbed their retail-consumption habit and who make maintaining their image a higher priority on their image than living within their means will have problems living on that amount. To live successfully live within one’s means on that amount in today’s economy means first and foremost, changing one’s mindset about money and wealth. Once accomplished, practical action-steps become obvious and less painful to accomplish.

  • Stas

    While it is certainly possible to live below the $50k line, listen to the descriptions of life: hens, ponds, gardens for everything, wood heating, no phones, no internet, no cable, one old car and so on and so on.

    Congratulations America, you are where my country: Russia, was in the 1990s during the economic collapse…get real worried when you see grandmothers selling petro out of soda bottles. You call them garage sales, we called them markets, where the poor brought out all their spareable things to sell to the slightly better off poor.

    You’re in for about 10-30 years of hell.

    By the way, with low taxes, pro-business gov support and strong defensible tariffs, as well as responsible spending and cutting (still going on) of government (President Medvedev just announced that all agency must cut their bugdets by another 20%), oRusisa is booming.

  • dianne

    stas, any ideas for us to prevent, or prepare for this nightmare we are headed into. we respect your insight, as you have seen this first hand.

  • Stas

    Since you can not reverse de-industrialization and massive debt and dollar printing, nothing you can do, well lets see:

    The most obvious, if you do not want yourself to suffer or your children, from the long economic decline at best or at worst, civil war(s) and break ups, is to immigrate out. Being American, your best locations, if you have skills that are needed, are: Germany, France, Italy, Russia, India (but that’s probably a stretch). Japan will not take you and Australia has a very very tight quota on Americans, or so I was told by a woman I knew, who tried.

    Other than that, buckle down. Forget gold, in my opinion, as the US confiscated gold before, in 1933, they will just do it again and force you to use ever more worthless paper. On the good side, your debts will erode ever faster away as does the value of everything. However, replacements on anything will get ever more scarce and expensive. Salaries never keep up with inflation and the further down you are on the ladder, the slower they adjust….prices bounce up constantly.

    Having weapons to protect you is nice, but you need close family and contacts all around you. People to watch your backs.

    Really, outside of the possibility of civil war(s) or riots, where all bets are off, there is little you can do: it’s simply suffering through a long, could be life long, period where you have lowered or absolutely no expectations and are scratching to get by.

    The gardens, chickens and such definitly help. Many Russians have homes in the village (a dacha can be anything from a 1 room shack to a mansion) where you can go on the weekends and tend your field, so you have potatoes to eat for the winter…..well that’s how things used to be, Russia is booming again. Construction and investment is back up, at least for now, and there is a lot of manufacturing going on, which is your key to having anything of value. Pray to God, every day, it stays and lasts and grows.

    If you are a farmer, Russia is working to repopulate Siberia (it is far from all frozen land, very far) and there is a lot of good farm land. Especially if you have Russian roots, you can get assistance to move back and get set up on farm land.

  • Mick

    Its interesting and probably of no use to mention that $50,000 puts a family into the category of the top 1% richest people in the world. Its hard to believe when there seem to be so many who are richer than us. The median salary is only $850 PER YEAR! http://globalrichlist.com/index.php
    How have we lost touch with reality by so much? In the west we think we struggle and actually by world standards we live like kings, and it actually costs less in the US to live than in most of Europe.
    It hit home hard after having moved to Eastern Europe and trying to live on an average salary of $8,000 per year, 500 per month after taxes. (Yes I’m still in the top 15% richest people) everything here is imported, after the IMF and the EU killed off food production and local Industry so we pay German prices plus for our food and commodities.
    Families share houses, houses are turned into apartments, and kids live upstairs from their parents. Its impossible to have a mortgage on this kind salary, people self build and it takes a long while to complete a house.
    This is why I believe that immigrants in places like the US tend to do better than people who are born there, they have a greater sense of reality and are so used to scraping by on almost nothing. The key is to be happier with less and to stop looking at what others have, cut your coat according to your own cloth.

    • Thomas Clarkson

      Amen! American’s today are even BETTER off than the monarchs of Europe when the country was founded. These first-world “problems” are an insult to humanity.

      One can only imagine where the other 1st world countries would be if the massive military expenditures of the United States didn’t save their a22 repeatedly for the last two generations. I would love it if Obama would respond to Russia’s recent military experiment with a shrug an aloof comment, “Good luck. Let’s see if the spirit of Neville Chamberlain will protect you this time.”

      And how ’bout that African continent where America’s military has no presence? How’s that working out for your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free? The spoiled modern American is getting exactly what they deserve: less and less.

  • Stas

    —Its interesting and probably of no use to mention that $50,000 puts a family into the category of the top 1% richest people in the world. Its hard to believe when there seem to be so many who are richer than us. The median salary is only $850 PER YEAR!—

    Mick,

    Actual amount matters little, what matters is Purchasing Power Parity, or in otherwords, what your money buys.

    As an example: who is richer, the man in the little village in Ohio or the man in New York City, if both make $50k? Of course the village man pays penies for his food and electricity compared to the over priced and over taxed goods in NYC. It’s not the quantity of the cash (Zimbabwens make hundreds of billions, so what?) but the power of that cash.

  • Stas

    –It hit home hard after having moved to Eastern Europe and trying to live on an average salary of $8,000 per year, 500 per month after taxes. (Yes I’m still in the top 15% richest people) everything here is imported, after the IMF and the EU killed off food production and local Industry so we pay German prices plus for our food and commodities—

    That’s the EU. In Russia, on a salary of $4k per month, after your 13% flat taxes, you pay (outside of Moscow) for a 5 room apartment for $1,600 (that covers all your utilities). Food for a family of 4 will run you about $300 to $500 and that’s good food, much healthier than the US diet. Most areas you can get by without a car, but if you buy a brand new one, it will run you about $600-$1,000 per month, credit is not cheap. Still, our of $4k – $520 in taxes, $3,480, minus food, utilities and rent, you still have $1,480.

    Insurance, if offered, is usually 100% covered by the employer. If you do not have insurance and go to the doctor, a full medical exam will run you about $30-$45. If you are still to poor for that, there’s the free clinics.

    Cable, the fastest available will run you $33, slowest $15. Cable (tsifravoi) television basic package is $10 and highest is $40 (all the movie channels). Cellphones are pay as you go, not cheap, but you control how much you spend and there are 5 major companies to choose from.

    Restaurants tend towards expensive, US/EU prices, but no one says you need to eat out often.

    The actual average salary here is around $12,000 per year, and growing at about 10% per year. Again, average, but on average, most people own their own apartment, sold to them for pennies by the gov back in 1991. So if you do not have to make payments on it, it’s much cheaper. Utilities average about $60-100 per month total, on a small apartment.

  • Diane

    The answer I feel is no, because my family is a family of 5 and we bring home 50,000$ per year net pay and we cant seem to make it out here. This article sounds like our situation plus one extra person. We had to recently let one of our vehicles go and we are faced with letting our house go to move into an apartment just to make ends meet. My husband and I both work. His job cut some hours and I have not had a cost.of living raise in 4 years. Now we are faced with medical bills that insurance wont cover and a child who will enter college next fall. Its tough and we owe everybody. We make too much money for assistance and we owe taxes to IRS because we make too much! What do you do? We have cut cut cut cut cut…until there is nothing left to cut. We live very meager lives…no frills no vacations…..just stay.. cations!! Amazing how 10 years ago, my husband was.the only one working and there were 5 of us and we had.two cars and a new house and we were ok…and we went to Disney World that year! Now look at us, both of us work and we are losing everything an can hardly make it….going to good will for cloths, no vacations, losing our house….bills everywhere…owing everybody… Amazing flip of events!

  • Lisa

    I totally agree with you, Diane. We are a family of 5 with both my husband and I working. Ten years ago we felt like we were doing fine financially. We had a great house with a housepayment a little above average, had two nice cars and took trips to Disney every year. We then refinanced, and refinanced again, and are now almost upside down in our house. Our cars are now old and we cannot afford life. Soooo sad. My oldest daughter is in college and we can barely keep her there. We have another daughter who will be ready for college in a year and a half. How will that happen? Need to sell our house and rent something totally cheap, but probably won’t be able to sell. I feel so trapped and we are supposed to be the ones (working everyday, college educated) that should be living the American dream. What has happened to this country? We do not live a high class life at all.

  • Console

    Food, clothes, and entertainment are way cheaper than anything our parents or grandparents had to deal with. So in that sense, I don’t get the griping about increasing prices. There are expensive options available… but beans and rice and chicken thighs are still pretty damn cheap. Nobody is forcing you to buy organic milk from the high end grocery store. No one is forcing you to shop for clothes at the mall. No one is forcing you to buy cable. And this is me conceding that people “have to have” all these things that they never even grew up with, like cell phones and the internet at home.

    In some places, we are definitely facing things that are unique to this new age. And that’s healthcare and tuition inflation (and eventually the price of energy). Those are big deals and need to be dealt with, but I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of our problems come from our consumerist culture rather then actual structural problems with the economy.

    • J

      Even if you lived super, I mean super frugally, you would still be in trouble with 50,000 per year because you are not netting 4000 per month to start with. You are probably netting around 3000 per month. 3000 has to pay for the mortgage/rent, the car insurance, the electric bills, any other loans you may have, food for a family which can be pretty expensive whether you buy any organic or you don’t, hygeine expenses(its about 20-30 a box for diapers, and just basic household items are going through the roof, phone bill, GAS which is climbing, etc. You either barely get by where you are maybe down to a 100 per month after everything is said and done (and like one person said that is not including unseen expenses like car bills which can be 700 to a 1000 a pop), or you are in the red. It depends what the needs of the family are. Some mothers want to stay home with their children, and they are being forced to have to go to work outside the home. So, they have to give up their little babies to childcare workers who may be nice people, but its still not the same. People want to be home esp. when their kids are 5 and under. Its important for the children, and this USA is making almost impossible to make that happen for the average family unless family member subsidize them while they are not working!! Crazy! We are against the traditional family in this country! We are against hard working stay at home mothers! We are against working mothers! We are against people who try to do the best they can by their families! We love dishonest, greedy, in your face liars who don’t care about other people!

      • campesina

        Did you “read” about “cloth diapers”? or have you even seen any in your life? those are the ones you wash every time the baby wares them, once. Not the ones you pay an arm and a leg for and put them in the trash once they’re worn. and cooking meals at home? Sure if one wants to be live like a millionaire $50,000 will NEVER, be enough. there’s living, and there’s living.

        • Dina

          I would use cloth diapers if I could afford a place with a washer and dryer lol :) laundry matts don’t like them :)

  • pat

    No, after tax income is not sufficient to survive on, and places most middle class families into poverty level income which are not factored into health care costs, or inflationary prices for food, transportation, or supplies.

    America has little choice but to reduce health insurance costs to catastrophic care rates only to keep health care insurance available even to employees. Outsourcing has greatly impacted the numbers of persons over which health care costs can be spread, resulting in higher costs for all to support the expanding network of health care bureacracy.

    • RubyMontana

      Geez!
      Define “survive”, LOL!

  • JoeM

    Life isn’t just about survival. It is also about the quality of your life. When you have two parents both working full time jobs, the upbringing of the children suffers. They get tossed into institutions which ultimately cost more than they are worth. Kids of course end up ill more often.

    We are a little below middle class and are always in the hole. Yet, we have never owned a new vehicle and the kids do without things they want. We don’t smoke or have any costly habits. Doing without is what has helped us survive at all. Our dignity continues to suffer because of asking for family support, even though they don’t offer anything.

    So the bottom line is this. America loves to keep families divided and feeling broken. Mix that in with feeling poor and you end up feeling like you’re living in a broken country. We truly are. Others will argue it isn’t true. Thats because their income doesnt suffer. But not everyone can have a good income in America. For every few people that do well, hundreds do poorly. The motto in America is “every man for himself”. In other countries it is “All for one and one for all”.

    This country has been a shithole since the beginning. The Land of the Free has been a slogan. A mere lie. Yes. We are free to beg, steal, or borrow. But we never truly feel like we’re cared for.

    • FleaBit4391

      Middle Class & Below children seem to have a lot more going for them then most “rich” kids. My kids came from a family of “Middle” or maybe below, yet as a family and doing things together was more meaningful then being in the “have everything I need class”. They had manners, ate home cooked meals, participated in city freebees, and enjoyed beach time. They grew up great (no alcoholics, no drugs, and they don’t smoke anything.
      I grew up the same…..doing things w/ family was a great time & will never forget the family togetherness. No nanny ever graced our door step. When anything was going on at school….my mom made my attire, and I thought I looked great. Live life w/ fun & love, forget what the society of “I am better than you” are people. Family is #1

      • secularist

        Your story impressed me a lot.

    • Obilio222

      I don’t know if you will ever see this, but I feel for you brother. So many like us, just regular people trying for quality lives. Thankfully, I was able to raise my kids. It was important to us both, for the reasons you gave, and because my youngest has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. I home-schooled him, because the public schools would have ruined him. He graduated in the top 2% of the nation. His transcript counted toward help for college, because all kids have to take it, public school kids included, he has worked since he was 14 for this too. I have two herniated disks and nerve damage, because the first one was misdiagnosed and went untreated for 7 years. When my husband got into a car accident, the Post Office he worked for for 27 yrs. told him if he didn’t take a medical retirement, they would fire him, they knew they’d lose the case, because they were in the wrong legally, but we would be without health insurance until they sorted it out. He was in a wheel chair with pins in his leg when they said this. We tried to get help through the VA, the local guy made us feel like beggars for asking. The depression is so intense, it’s hard to imagine until you feel it for yourself. I say all this so you know I really mean it and know how you feel. We are not the broken ones. I hope you will take it the right way when I offer a prayer for you and yours, I’m NOT a right wing nut. I don’t hate anyone. The day I do, the world wins.

    • Nick Woodley

      You can rant against your government all you like, and I’ll agree.

      Speak against your own country….pack your bags.

  • Alan Wisdom

    You should use the figure $74,970 for the hypothetical family of four. This is the median family income for a family of four. Your article will be more accurate on a national basis level. Take out for taxes (federal, state and local) and the other items a family must have as you listed. Still not a pretty picture.

    The numbers on a state by state basis can be found at

    http://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/20100315/bci_data/median_income_table.htm

    Good article.

  • Mia

    I’m in Canada. Sadly, I’ve always thought the States was a country where you’d have to be afraid to get old, or sick. In Canada, we take care of each other; that’s how you have a strong country. Your Capitalists have really got you people by the balls; you need to start expecting more from your country; more equality.

    • Leah Smith

      Mia. Socialism doesn’t work. It is not our capitilistic ideals that have us in trouble, in fact the concept is amazing. The problem lies exactly in what you claim to be our solution making it “fair” for everyone. It should be equal and fair? That concept is dragging down our economy. We have more individuals on food assistance, housing vouchers, and free medical than any other country…and we just keep handing out. Then , to make it “equal” they raise the taxes and the inflation of everything around us to equal out. Yes. You have free healthcare but studies show that your Dr’s are less educated and the waiting times are unfair. As a society, we are hurting but it is because we are trending towards socialism and away from Capitalism. BTW. We have guns

      • Common Sense

        Mia, stay in Canada!!! We have always been a capitalistic nation and that is what made us so great. Socialism does not work. Mia, why do people with serious medical conditions come to the U.S. for treatment?! Think about that. BTW I live my freedom and the fact that we can have guns too!

        • stevenr

          US healthcare is very broken indeed. They may come to the US for treatment because no one else will take their money for treatments that either aren’t proven or aren’t worth it. If I get sick, I’m straight back to Europe! The number one cause of bankruptcy in the US is healthcare bills.

    • stevenr

      Somewhere between the two, there is a happy medium. If you’re born with a health problem or genetic disease then it’s just the way it is. Some insurance companies will stop paying or refuse cover. That’s disgusting. If Americans believe that having insurance companies as a third party between themselves and the healthcare provider reduces costs, they are deluded. The US spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world and the results are not borne out. The life expectancy of an American is less than that of a Cuban. When it comes to healthcare, Americans are not getting a good deal.

      Welfare should be about helping when you’re temporarily unable to help yourself. It shouldn’t be a way of life and countries with a generous welfare state are coming to realise this.

  • Mia

    Just to add to the above: Yes I do pay higher taxes ( I have a good job, and a comfortable income). But I love that we take care of each other in Canada: I’m proud to be part of that. Do you know that the States is the only country in the Western world that doesn’t have universal healthcare? Do you know that people have significantly shorter average life expectancy in the States than in countries with universal health care? Who is it that benefits from your system? Not your average American ( and there’s way more of the average Joe than there are the rich). There’s not much you get for all the taxes you pay: the least you should have is universal healthcare. Don’t listen to the lies of the capitalists who just want to manipulate you( they don’t want to give up the massive profits they get from health care as big business ). A healthy nation is a strong nation! Spend less on war and more on things that will benefit your people.

    • Patti

      I’m from Canada, Before Ted Kennedy died I was working with a Doctor and providing Ted with healthcare information. The US pays more per capita on healthcare than Canada and only a very small portion of their citizens receive free healthcare. So in essence their lack of universal healthcare costs the American Tax payer more for healthcare in their taxes plus the cost of HMO for them and their family.

    • RubyMontana

      Mia, you know a LOT about Canada. You should. You live there!
      Let me tell you a little about America. We are fat. We eat poorly. We don’t move. We have illegal immigrants. Millions of them. We have unwed mothers, crack babies, and gangs. We have many roads, that span this entire country, well traveled, and that need repair. We have an Army. A BIG army. A Navy, Marines and an Air Force, all of whom are often the FIRST to respond.

      ALL THAT uses tax dollars. Universal healthcare works well in a smaller country, or a BIG one, like Canada. Where you have similar climates, broad stretches of no population and are remote enough not to have the influx of others who feed off the system.
      You cannot compare Canada with America. And you cannot compare our healthcare delivery systems.

  • Moo717

    Ha! I love the hypothetical family of four income set at $50,000. Try $45,000! That’s actually considered a decent income where we live and our basic monthly expenses are higher that tge hypothetical ones in this post. Honestly, we are beginning to think we are going to have to shut off utilities and grow our own food. We are becoming a sad sad nation.

  • Tom

    $50,000/year? $74,970/year? $45,000/year? I don’t know how any of those would be nearly enough, I really feel for you! My wife and I both work full-time jobs and bring home $180,000/year, our house is paid for and I have a company car and her car is 12 years old with over 200K miles and it seems we still don’t have much after the bills and taxes are paid. I have one full-time college student at an in-state school ($2500/month) and another two years away. So, to answer the question in the title of the article, I don’t know how it even comes close. I think it’s impossible.

    • Misty Selby

      I agree, my husband and I make around $100,000 combined and we struggle and live paycheck to paycheck! We have 4 children and a grandchild. I do not know how we are supposed to make it when the price of everything is goind up and our income is not!!

  • Laura

    I agree with you Tom! If your kids are going to college, you take a yearly family vaction, eat decent nourishing food, drive reliable cars, and the rest, you need at least 150k to survive! How sad. I have no idea how others do it on 50k…NO IDEA!

  • Stacie

    With the economy being the way it is, I must say our family of four household suffered dramatically when my husbands income and job went to India in 2008. He stays home with our two children now, since I cannot afford to pay daycare and we are living off of $15,000.00 a year. I am the only one working. Before my husband’s unfortunate lay off, we were making $36,000.00 a year. Talk about some hardship, tightening of the belt and a severe reality check. On top of that we do not have any health insurance. I would like to see ALL of America get back on it’s prosperous feet again, but until then, the struggle continues. I wish everyone best of luck in our upcoming years ahead.

  • jen

    I live in England & I recently visited the US, I did not see the American Dream you are just the same as us but without the national health service. My family who live there have to work long hours to pay the medical bills, I loved the weather but I would be worried sick about getting ill if I lived there. I thought the food was expensive in the supermarkets & eating out, the only cheap thing was the soft drinks. We cannot expect to have money to spend when all the goods we are buying have been made in China we are letting other countries control us by not supporting our own manufacturers to create jobs. If you took everything made in China out of the shops there would not be much left to buy. Until we make what we buy again there is no hope for us, we just have to wait till the living standards & wages are so much higher in China that they start buying from us. What comes around goes around!

    • Avatar

      How much does it cost a nice house in England? Here you can buy one for $350k and less in a nice neighborhood with a nice backyard and in some areas even with a nice pool (not in Manhattan of course). Do you have in England all the things you see in the stores in the States? Dining out in Europe less than in USA? No way.

      • stevenr

        it depends where you are. You’d struggle to find a studio apartment in New York for $350k. Same in London but in North England you could easily buy a sizeable home for $350k.

        The products in US stores are pretty much the same in UK stores. There’s probably less of reliance on pre-packaged items in the UK (who on earth buys pre-made pancake batter or those pre-beaten egg things?).

        Dining out is pretty similar. Tax is already added into the price and service is 10% in the UK. And the quality of the food in the US can be questionable. I don’t eat out at chain restaurants in the UK or the US so can’t compare those but most food in the US is not so cheap.

  • D

    try under $30k with a family of 4, it’s ridiculous!!!

  • Some Guy

    All you really need on there is electricity, food, the car, internet and rent. All else is unnecessary.

  • Husam

    Oh yea?

    Say that to 5 person family, 2 parents, 2 teenagers and a 10 year old living on approx 30k a year.

    We are still living good, but sometimes we have to rely on credit to pay bills and pay back when my dad has overtime. We still live ok because don’t spend that much on cars as my dad is a non-working mechanic(works in a factory) or other fancy stuff.

    We don’t watch TV anyway so we don’t have cable, and internet is about $50 a month.

    We all have cellphones on StraightTalk and and a free VOIP home phone. We have 3 cars, which were bought at about $500 each, fixed for $500 because again, my dad is a mechanic. We also get some money in from selling cars every now and then. Again most of the time we have money to buy most stuff we want, such as laptops, cellphones, etc. Don’t spend on stuff you wont use alot, just think of that.

  • Madeline

    Unless if you want to live in Canada and have a family– It takes only 9 months to get a GYN. Hmmm… perhaps it’s cheaper to just have the baby at home anyway!

    • KENNETH LANE

      LIAR or simply a stooge for the Rightwing–does not matter.

  • Suzie

    Yes! My family of 4 lives on $2,000 per month. We have a very nice place to live (we worked hard to pay off our mortgage) and only spend $300 on groceries PER MONTH! We can even order out from time-to-time (check out Little Caesars)! We don’t have cable and we don’t spend a lot on vacations, etc. But our family is priceless. Some of the best things in life are free. Oh, and by the way, we pay our tithes to our Church EVERY MONTH, EVERY PENNY. We don’t spend foolishly. It can be done if you really want to do what you love to do. We love our work and our jobs. We don’t get paid much but we are happy.

    • stevenr

      I would cut out the money to the church and spend it on some vacation. Churches are rich enough.

      • RubyMontana

        It’s a choice. We all make them.

        • stevenr

          yes but some choices are worse than others

          • mtavarez

            That money they give to the church is used to help people in need. People should try to help others not just themselves. Our nation would be a better place if more people thought that way.

  • stevenr

    It really depends where you live. In New York or San Francisco, the rent for a 1 bed apartment will exceed $2000 per month.

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  • Tomsom Ben

    hi all

  • anonymous

    duh

  • mark

    No actually I want to sit on a bus next to someone with untreated TB. That’s America-we don’t see how helping other benefits us. A greedy nation is not a strong nation.

  • Stephen Ormsby-Rhea

    The middle class is bound to a state of mediocrity due to their lack of work-ethic. We should look to the 1% for tips and guidance as we try to better ourselves. Why punish the rich for being successful?

  • Charan Kumar

    i thimk it may become some what difficult but as my suggestion is adjustment makes man comfortable.you mentioned they are middle class then they also aim for small needs they can afford but not aiming to the sky

  • bigd4112002

    hell na are you stupid

  • edwin carita

    ssss

  • bluecodes

    It depends on where you live. Clearly in larger cities it is becoming more expensive. However in smaller cities it is usually ok.

  • masterchief

    holaaaaa

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    hola estoy interesaada en vender mi virginidad chica de 17 años cuerpo lindo etc cuando me agregues te enseño una foto damarislatina21@hotmai.com

  • Larry Cates

    What is the 2nd Teaching of Christianity? I will give you an obvious Hint!
    Read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution. What many forget to remember is that our principle reason for having Government is share the wealth of Our Communities. “Love one and another as I Love You! When you pay heed to the Wealthy and their propaganda you make the choice to disavow this great universal truth. Find enlightenment and return to the basic truths set forth in all of the World’s religions and in the words that govern what was once a Great and Generous nation, Our Country. Politics of Divisiveness is leading Our Country down a perilous path and away from fundamental truths.
    We all are accountable and responsible for the choices we make. I have always accepted this “Truth”. When will Working Class Americans who have accepted the propaganda of the Greedy Elite come to understand that they have error in their judgment and begin to once again accept that we all are “Our Brother’s Keeper”.
    Until that day comes, I am thankful for the American Trade Unionist Movement that holds these “Wolves” at bay. God Bless You members of America’s Trade Unions.

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    test

  • RubyMontana

    A family of four is a choice. If you can’t afford it, don’t have it. If you can do something about that, do.
    There is no arbitrary number that can decide for all us, what a “family” can live on.

    • JMason

      Yes there is, but every family is different. It depends on many factors that vary depending on where you live. Yes children are a choice, however there are many factors that cause loss in wadges that are not choices and can happen to anyone. For example an illness. So should we not “choose” to have a family because of what “could” happen? No, I do not think so.

      • RubyMontana

        We should choose to save early and often. We don’t. From SmartPhones to proms to weddings to babies, we want what we want and we want it now.
        That just makes for a poor lifestyle.

        • JMason

          Yeah smart phones, proms, weddings and babies create such a poor lifestyle. If only I had not gone to my prom I may not have been laid off from my $60,000 a year job. Thank goodness I haven’t had wedding and a baby, but I bet my smart phone equally contributed to my “poor life style” as well.

          • RubyMontana

            Small choices, like pennies, add up. The rich know that. The successful know that. Choices. We all make them.

  • Papi Chulo

    Its not impossible

  • Victor Martillo

    It’s possible if the govt stopped running a deficit, stop taxing everything and let the economy improve.

  • http://www.mareeg.com/ Mareeg.com

    good

  • Guest

    a few years ago, people were coming up to me saying i looked like their friend or i’ve been on t.v. ….’you look so familiar’, they’d say. creepy D8

  • JMason

    A family of 4 can “survive” off an income of $50,000 a year, however I they better hope nothing happens like an illness, or losing a job. I think it is difficult to live off $35,000 as a single person unless you have managed to do everything right financially from the start.

    • RubyMontana

      If you have done everything, financially right, from the start, you will make much more than $35, 000.00

      • JMason

        I don’t think being smart with your finances from the start has anything to do with how much you will make. Let me guess, your the 1% right?

        • RubyMontana

          Well, let’s think about that. With that attitude you will never know, LOL! Let me guess, you’re on Public Assistance …..
          Hint: Smart finances make for good investments. Good investments make you money. Each year. Sort of like an income!

  • Al

    It never ceases to amaze me. the topic to start with is simple. Anyone can survive on any income. What condition you survive in is the question. In this country so many qualifications are based on income. That is the wrong question. Your outgo for the necessities of life is what determines what standard of living you have, How many of you have received a inheritance or had parents to give you a start? How many were able to get a good education and a good paying job simply because you knew someone? Now. When you get older as I am. What will you do when you see your children lose their jobs and homes? Will you help get your grand children through school? Will you help them or just so oh well you’re on your own? What if you’re the only one with the ability to help them. What will you do? What you can do all depends on the ability to manage what you have to work with. If you have nothing to start with you will always be struggling if you have a family just to provide the necessaries.

  • Kennywrightphotography

    You can…….but it is very difficult!!

  • lllo

    Hi

  • lllo

    Oh yeah sure its still enough for month but after year no more becaus its changes so fast … but its minimum not including that you have kids and thay need weekend piknick or something like that . Need education . Activity . Etc. Its extra bucks my frands and its not cheap!!!

  • Britt Lucero

    I live in a town where our ave income and cost of living represents the Nat. ave. I live off $4000 a month with my husband, nine year old, and three pets. This comes from two 41 hr/wk jobs. We do fine.

    A family of four making $50000/yr gross would not pay what you claim in taxes. They’d be near tax free.

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