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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?


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....

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  • Charan Kumar

    i thimk it may become some what difficult but as my suggestion is adjustment makes man 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


  • 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


  • damaris34

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

  • 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.

  • Patricio Toaquiza

    ensure advance en ecuador contactos o alogo ayudenme?

  • josbonneau


  • 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.



  • 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


  • 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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