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Ongoing debate: Can you struggle on six figures?

It all depends on where you live.

By Karen Datko Oct 18, 2009 8:01PM

Can a family with an income of $100,000 or more really have a hard time getting ahead? FreeMoneyFinance's recent post on that question has prompted quite a discussion among commenters at his site. FMF launched the debate by remarking on a family mentioned in one of a package of MSN Money stories about the "squeeze on the middle class."


The couple make six figures, but are unable to save. "We struggle to stay afloat with the rising costs of car insurance, gas, utilities, food and other necessities," one of the family members said. FMF's assessment: "They're simply spending too much. They have no control on expenses." He also guesses that they live in an expensive area, noting that "$100,000 per year is a lot, but it's more in Omaha than it is in Los Angeles."

  • Bing: Compare the cost of living

Many commenters agreed with that last point. "In much of the NY Metro area you can make six figures and just barely be getting by," "pauld" said. Reader Erin told FMF, "Don't be so quick to judge if you don't live in an expensive area such as Boston, DC, New York, or California."


"So what? Get over it or move," reader Toby said in response to that argument. "If you are making six figures and can't make it, then you've let your 'American Dream' definition get bloated."


Many other readers argued that people need to learn to live within their means. Commenter "escapee" said she earns $100,000 while her husband stays at home with their child. They live comfortably in an expensive area, she said, and here's how they do it: They have a 1,400-square-foot house, drive old cars and buy secondhand clothes. "We don't have a lot of stuff," she wrote. "What I am saying here is that if you are content with living with less, it's possible to live very well on this salary."


Published Feb. 15, 2008

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