'Rich' and struggling: Meet the Joneses

A hypothetical family of four making $250,000 a year has trouble making ends meet -- just about anywhere. See how their finances stack up in these 8 cities.
By The Fiscal Times

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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

104Comments
Mar 18, 2011 2:43PM
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Please give me $250,000.00 a year and let me try to make ends meet!!!!   I would have so much money I wouldn't know what to do with it all.  OK, yes I would, but I wouldn't have one bit of trouble making it last from pay check to paycheck.  Try supporting a family of 4 on $50.000.00 a year or less.  Now you have some real life issues!
Mar 25, 2011 3:09PM
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To me this article is a joke,  I live in PLANO Texas.  The Median Home price in Plano is approximately $230,000 (Very Nice Neighborhood).  I live in a median priced home for the area (I pay approximately $5,000 in Property taxes per year on this home).  I earn $85,000 per year (I have a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science).  I have a 14 year old daughter that lives with me.  I still manage to take vacations (Went to Sweden over the summer), also New York for a Wedding, and Rhode Island for a Wedding.  I manage to save approximately 10% of my Gross income for Retirement.  I know people who live in Plano that earn $250,000+ per year and are barely getting by.  Their 7 series BMW payment for Husband, 3 Series Lexus for the wife, $750,000 Home, Private School for kids.  Ski Vacation to a high dollar Aspen Resort every Winter, 2 weeks in South of France during the summer.  I get tired of hearing how people that earn $250,000 per year are having trouble making it.  It is a matter of priorities, stay at a lesser resort, get a 5 series BMW, purchase a less expensive home.
Mar 25, 2011 2:48PM
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My wife and I make just at $120,000 per year.  We save $1,000 each every month into our retirement.  We try to save another $10,000 each year for the future.  We take between 4 and 6 weeks of vacation each year. We donate to our church and other charities.  We own (paying a mortgage) a home and two cars.  Our children are now grown and married, but we occasionally help them with a few dollars.  In our day,(making much less than  now) we provided for their education.  We do this by living within our means and fostering expectations that are within Christian boundaries.  We live carefully and have no debt.  We only incur debt for our home and our cars, anything else is paid for by cash.  In the last two years we remodeled our kitchen and installed high impact storm windows on the house, all paid for with cash.  We maintain between 10 and 20 thousand dollars in liquid savings, everything else goes to long term investment and is not touched.  Our home is adequate for a family of 4, about 1800 square feet in a nice family neighborhood.  Our cars are a 2000 and a 2006, neither cost more than $22.000.  They are both well built and cost little to maintain.  It is possible, I would say easy, to live and prosper on much less than $250,000.  I do not begrudge people who have risen to that level, obviously they have worked hard to get there and deserve adequate compensation.  I do resent it when they live so far beyond their means and then complain that it is not enough.  It is more than enough for anyone's needs.  Wants are a whole different discussion.
Mar 18, 2011 3:09PM
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I'm glad (almost) everyone sees that this article is a big load of crap!  "I can't survive on $250k per year"  - boo hoo!  Learn to prioritize. 

This article reminds me of a story 20/20 did a couple of years ago about a family of 4 that was struggling to make it on their $250k+ income.  The recommendation of the financial advisor was for the family to sell their 2nd home and stop taking ski junkets to Aspen every year.  Come on! Can't you find someone in the real world to write about/profile?

Mar 25, 2011 1:49PM
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So dumb.  Do they think people who don't make $250,000 a year don't have student loans, childcare, housing, utility, and other bills?  Costs are lower in lower cost of living areas, but incomes are also substantially lower.  It's all relatively proportional.  Sounds like someone is trying to justify not living within their means.  My household makes $60k a year and we are on track with retirement savings, have a 1-year emergency fund, a paid off house and no debt.  2 kids.  How?  Because we save and plan ahead.  Terrible article.

Mar 15, 2011 3:56PM
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This is the biggest bunch of crap I've eveer heard. Maybe if they lived in a $150K home instead of a $800K home, things might be a bit better. I understand that most people that make that kind of money live in high cost areas, but it is ridiculous to say they barely make ends meet. When they max out their 401k ($36k approximately) and can put $8k away for their kids education, that in itself is more than many 2 earner homes bring in in a year! I don't want to hear it. When this fictitious couple makes about 5 times the average middle class wage and has two children. How about those families that are making $50K, combined that have 2 kids? And don't tell me this couple isn't driving a "luxury" car. Just having a car is a luxury to many people!!! I would bet neither of the adults is driving a 12 thousand dollar car. How about telling us what the couple does drive. I would bet they are driving $30 - $50K cars. Then the jerk that wrote this tries telling us about all the taxes they pay. I guess us minions and slaves don't pay tax on gas, alcohol, real estate, etc, etc! I probably pay more gas tax than they do. I have to live 60 miles from work so I can afford a place to live. Please, don't go feeling sorry for this "family". The writer is probably trying to justify to us that because he makes over $250K that he is not rich!!!!! BTW, if the family has one child in school and and infant, that would tell me this is a relatively young couple, maybe inn their late 20's or early 30's. How many people of that age do you know that pulls in $250K!?!?
Mar 25, 2011 1:31PM
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Wait a minute.... $5,000 a year on house cleaning (that's $417 a month), $4,000 on child "activities", maxing out TWO retirement plans, saving for college.....How would someone making 1/6th of the $250K (the US average) be able to do this?  Adding in sales tax, property tax, (but not Payroll taxes - 7.65% for a couple making $100K, 3.89% for the $250K couple)???  Try telling us how a $50K (each) couple would fair under the same rules.

 

The article is sooo slanted it's laughable.  A $750,000 home is frugal?  No wonder they don't have any money left....an "average" person wouldn't be able to do 1/6th of this.

 

Give me a freggin break.

 

As for the "redistribution", that's a load of Republican right-wing BS.  Republicans just want to "redistribute" it to different folks.  Working hard is a fine trait but it doesn't mean someone making $50K doesn't work just as hard.

Mar 15, 2011 9:57AM
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Goes to show you - just because you have dollars, doesn't mean you have sense.  For fun, I took the Florida folks and can save their financial (and possibly family) lives within 10 minutes.  I was able to hack out $75k a year & eventually $90k.  Dave Ramsey, move over! ;)  My #'s are rough, but here goes:  They are paying $3,900 a month in prop taxes & mortgage, etc.  Instead of a mcmansion, grab a respectable $150k house.  WHAMMO - $1300 a month instead.  Cars - $628/mo payments + $250/mo insurance?  Nope - if you have time to complain about struggling, you have time to drop those like they're hot, grab a few nice $6k cars, pay em off and pay $0 in payments & $150/mo in insurance.  $2,300/mo in food, eating out, entertainment & clothing?  PLEASE!  Easily done on $800/mo.  Easy stuff, right?  This is where it gets cool:  Use that $ to pay off student loans, then the house in a few years, then mom can quit and childcare of $1250 a month can go away.   Congratulations, not stressing out trying to look rich anymore.  You now truly are :) 
Mar 15, 2011 11:09AM
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Wow...I wonder how I am making it with a family of four....I max out our retirement and we still have a house and make 175000 less than them.   This is a screwed up article.  I am thankful for what I make.  Seriously who write this this and what magical kingdom do they live in?!
Mar 25, 2011 3:23PM
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It all comes down to choices. If a family of four with a household income of $250k makes similar decisions as a family of four with a household income of $100k, the $250k family will come out ahead, easily. Unfortunately, as income rises, some of these people believe they must live to their means or beyond and it results in problems. A family of 4 can easily live in a 2k sq.ft. house rather than a 5k or 6k sq.ft. house. A Honda is going to get you around just as well as a BMW. Cooking is actually better and healthier than eating out constantly. If you struggle to make ends meet at $250k, then you need to reassess your financial situation and make changes so that you are living within your means. Other families have to do it on less income and only slightly less income tax rates and property taxes suited to their properties.
Mar 25, 2011 2:05PM
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I'm really trying to feel sorry for the "poor" upper classers who can't pay enough into their retirement while paying for their kids' college and driving expensive cars and living in mansions.  The tears just won't come.  If I had $250K a year but the complimentary $30K property taxes, I'd still have $130K more than I have now.  Boo freakin hoo, I can't go to Jamacia this week, or Hawaii next week.  I'm too poor.  My kid will have to go to a state college.  >sob< They have to play games on a 52 inch plasma instead of a 152 inch 3D HD TV. >sniffle< I'll just go cry myself to sleep in my winter home in Aspen.  How out of touch are the people that write articles like this?  I pay less than $5000 a year into retirement because my kids need to eat.  Am I now supposed to feel that these people need tax breaks more than the rest of us? 
Mar 25, 2011 2:47PM
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So this article is supposed to show me how hard people with a $250,000+ income have it?  I feel zero sympathy.  Learn to budget, buy a less expensive house, buy less expensive cars, dial down the toys, dial down the tuition for your kids, and learn to save and invest.  These are things that should be common sense to someone in a position making that kind of coin.
Mar 25, 2011 2:21PM
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Yes everything is relative.  Yes, it depends where you live cost of living may or maybe higher in your chosen place to live.  That being said.  If you make $250,000.00 a year that means you make $20,833.33 a month!  That's $20,833.33 a month, yes, before taxes.  That means in 2 months you make more than most people make in a full year.  That's $41,000.00 + in just 2 months.  That usually takes some (if not most) people make in one full year. 

 

I don't begrudge anyone making a lot of money.  If you dedicated yourself, worked hard, and received the necessary education to get you in the position to make $250K a year you should be applauded, but don't insult my sense of integrity and say your not well to do.  Just my humble opinion.

Mar 25, 2011 1:21PM
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 This is such a bogus article. Why do they keep trying to run this same piece. To convince us how poorly the rich really are ?  I have the same phone bill, school bill health cost, property taxes as they do and I make a fraction of 250K, I am not whining either.
Mar 15, 2011 10:29AM
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The writer of this piece needs to get real.  I live on 1/10 of 250K . My 3 kids went to college too.  True I can not afford Health insurance. I also do not know anyone making that kind of money.  If you are making 250K a year and struggling financially you are a greedy, shallow, jerk. 
Mar 25, 2011 1:48PM
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So . . . the not-really-rich are trying to get sympathy from the other 90% of us who are making do with 1/6 of what they are making?  I'm sorry--does someone have a bad case of Marie Antoinette syndrome?

 

Most of the "being in the red" that this family would experience comes from trying to keep up with the individuals in the next class up--that is, this "poverty" is self-imposed.  In this case, it really wouldn't matter how much a person was making--one can never keep up with the next class up.  I am sure that someone who is one slot below Bill Gates feels as if s/he is not-really-rich.

 

Try comparing these individuals to one class below--pick a smaller home that will cost less to have a maid to clean.  Get a slightly less nice car.  Go out to slightly less pleasant restaurants.  One will have money to spare.

 

I would accept that this family is not "rich"--but $250K is not the threshold for "rich"--it is the threshold for "affluent."  That is, people who have enough money to cover their expenses and still live a very comfortable life--though they do still have to work and cannot spend money as if it grows on trees.

 

If people who make 6 times the average income cannot cover their expenses--that is, if each of them, individually, can't live on what a whole household usually lives on with two more incomes to spare--exactly how are the rest of us supposed to be able to survive?

 

It amuses me that people claim that the "poor" are "poor" because they "spend"--but when we look at these individuals, you try to justify several extremely ridiculous expenses (the children's "activities" are taking up more money than many people make in terms of take-home income).  Yes, if these people are "not rich"--it is because they are spending their money rather than budgeting well.  The criticism of the "poor" works in this case--so, yes.  This is self-imposed poverty.

 

This is not the same thing as "not being rich."  They are still affluent and can afford the extra tiny bit of taxation.  Seriously--get a life.  More importantly--get a real life.

Mar 15, 2011 6:31AM
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One of the most ridiculous articles I have ever read.  To make assumptions like these are nonsense!  If the "Jones'" make 6 times the National average for wages and are "struggling", they are the perfect examples of educated fools.  So, you mean to tell me the family that makes $249,000.00 deserves a tax break, but the one that makes $251,000.00 should not?  In the upside down world painted by the author, both should get the earned income credit!  The left should stop all the class warfare, and if there are tax cuts they should be for all Americans - regardless of income.  Do you notice that most politicians make less than $250,000.00?   Coincidence?  I think not.  It is just the fat cat politicians trying to pull the wool over our eyes.  The basic fact is that Government spends more than it makes, and articles like this just try to justify that type of spending mentality.  Pathetic...
Mar 25, 2011 4:03PM
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My heart just bleeds for those who cannot make it on $250,000 a year. Try raising a family on $30,000 a year and without help. It can be done. I did and managed to put a little back for retirement (very little).

What aggravates most people is those who make $250,000 or more a year and still can't make it and complain about taxes. It is just simply mismanagement of the resources and money they have. It is no wonder this country is in trouble financially.

Mar 15, 2011 12:23PM
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This is absurd - with that much income, they should have been able to put money down on a car, and not have $633/mo payments. The article assumes they're BOTH eating out for lunch every single day! They also apparently have a cleaning service for $417/mo, and spend $224/mo on entertainment. The article assumes they're maxing out their out-of-pocket medical expenses EVERY YEAR and spending $340/mo on DENTAL costs. Their heating/electric bill is $440/mo, which seems really high for places like FL, TX, CA, even VA - ?! 

Anyone who is smart enough to get a job paying that much money should be smart enough to figure out that if you're in the red, you cut out the luxury expenses like a cleaning service, take your lunch to work more often, sell your car & get something even slightly less luxury (even a new Ford vs. a new Lexus!) and try just a little harder to cut your energy bills.  The author should also know it's obvious most people aren't spending that much on medical & dental expenses - "average" does not mean "median" because a few high-expense anomalous households with cancer skew the average severely to the high end.  Even more obvious: if you make $250k, you're probably towards the end of your career, at your highest earning power, probably in your 50s. So you probably don't have a toddler running around the house needing daycare.

And WHY does the wife only have an undergraduate degree if her husband has a master's? I thought this was supposed to be the "ideal," "average" family? Doesn't the author know that women now earn 60% of all master's degrees and 50.4% of doctoral degrees? This would push the wife's income higher, but may also push the student loan debt higher - however the increased income probably would offset this in most cases.

Mar 25, 2011 12:55PM
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It is so simple that I am amazed that folks can't survive on $250,000 per year.   It is obvious if you spend more than you earn you will not make it.

So what is one to do?  Be realistic and spend less than $250,000 after taxes.  Live in a less mortgaged home etc.  Don't buy the Mercedes, buy a Buick.  I get it and hope others will too.

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