Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

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WS1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by WS1 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:52 pm

ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:43 pm
WS1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:40 pm
I don’t think median income is helpful as the OP is not competing against the 62 year old couple with a paid off home. OP is competing against other families looking for seats in decent school districts and saving for college at today’s prices.
Middle class only includes dual earner families? News to me, I guess all of those old guys are a part of the grey class.
I didn’t define middle class. I just speculated what the household median income for a mid 30s household might
be. This number is blind towards how many family members work.

Olemiss540
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Olemiss540 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:56 pm

Why not SAVE a bigger downpayment?

A 600k house with a 20% downpayment is EASILY affordable on a $230k gross. EASILY.

A 700k house is EASILY affordable with a $200k downpayment. Start saving and quit spending until you can afford the place you want.
I hold index funds because I do not overestimate my ability to pick stocks OR stock pickers.

sailaway
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by sailaway » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm

Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm
ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:13 pm
OP, if you want some real sticker shock, compare your median house value of $528,300 in Westchester with the median in San Francisco at $1,009,500 and a median household income of $104,552.
If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.

Tdubs
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Tdubs » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:04 pm

Used to ask my students whether their families were poor, middle class, or wealthy. In 15 years, maybe three said poor. One said wealthy. Most were from the Seattle suburbs.

They always looked dumbfounded when I told them what US median household income was, and what put you in the top 5 percent.

Unladen_Swallow
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Unladen_Swallow » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:11 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:18 pm
wife and i live in a very expensive suburb of NYC (Westchester for those familiar). at 33-years old we make "decent" but not excellent salaries (her ~$100K and me ~$115K). all in we're at ~$230K gross.

we're starting a family and starting to look at homes in the area. even in the less prestigious towns, $600K gets you a fixer upper in a decent school district. anything under $500K, forget about it. not even worth it. and the taxes? yikes. 2%-4% of home value seems to be average.

moving is the logical first thought but that is quickly done away with as my wife is a tenured teacher in a good school district and her entire support system is here.

this is as much a vent as a place to discuss. have any other folks made it in a HCOLA on a middle class salary? could use some positive, but realistic insight from you folks. thanks!
I am entirely understanding of people that live in HCOL places due to family and job. I get it. It is often worth it. Because the pay more than makes up for COL. Helps you retire soon, afford more things, have a network to fall back on etc.

Does it make sense in this case though? I merely ask without intending to be snarky at all.

Regarding family- would family provide daycare? Also, if you moved out of NYC to a different city or neighbouring state, visiting family is still possible on a regular basis. No?
Tenured salary - if your wife moves and her salary is cut in half, is that all bad? Your expenses would reduce anyway.

I agree with some others that you could make this all work even in your situation. However, if you feel pinched, this will be the ball and chain for a long time. Retirement, holidays, travel, toys, charity.....everything suffers as you try to make ends meet. Only you can decide.

I understand completely about having a network. I am partial to it as well. Personally, I see the value in it as we get older. When young, networks can be created.
Last edited by Unladen_Swallow on Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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oldfatguy
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by oldfatguy » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:13 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm
Similar to you my wife is a teacher as well and she has a ton of family in the area so moving an hour up the line is not an option for me.
Everybody makes their own priorities, but the idea that someone wouldn't consider moving an hour or two further from family to be in a more affordable area seems a little wacky to me.

Unladen_Swallow
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Unladen_Swallow » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:21 pm

oldfatguy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:13 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm
Similar to you my wife is a teacher as well and she has a ton of family in the area so moving an hour up the line is not an option for me.
Everybody makes their own priorities, but the idea that someone wouldn't consider moving an hour or two further from family to be in a more affordable area seems a little wacky to me.
I moved continents in my early 20s. Even today my family is scattered around the country and the world. As I'm older, I am more attached to my current network, only because I can afford to be. In my youth, my priorities were different. And worth the move.
"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong." - Richard Feynman

CoastalWinds
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by CoastalWinds » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:22 pm

oldfatguy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:13 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm
Similar to you my wife is a teacher as well and she has a ton of family in the area so moving an hour up the line is not an option for me.
Everybody makes their own priorities, but the idea that someone wouldn't consider moving an hour or two further from family to be in a more affordable area seems a little wacky to me.
Sometimes that means moving an hour or two from one’s job, which might not be easily replaced in the new location. Certainly adding 2-4 hours of commute time per day requires careful deliberation of priorities.

BarbBrooklyn
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:24 pm

sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm
ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:13 pm
OP, if you want some real sticker shock, compare your median house value of $528,300 in Westchester with the median in San Francisco at $1,009,500 and a median household income of $104,552.
If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Just for starts, Elmsford, NY 10523. Gave me a good start!
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

Starfish
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Starfish » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:25 pm

batpot wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:27 pm
How much of a "fixer upper" are you talking? It's within your budget.
Also, have you looked at costs of day care?

And I hate to break it to you, but $230k is far from middle class.
Median household income in the US is around $60k.
230k is exactly middle class.

Middle class "is the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business workers and their families".
60k is working class. If you are not rich - rich means you don't have to work and at the same time can afford luxuries - and you are not poor then you are middle class.

And why would one a apply a nationwide statistic to a specific place? Is just as relevant as taking the median income of the entire world.
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:49 pm
A $600k home bought at 20% down with mortgage rate of 3.5% and property tax of 2% will cost you $3k per month all-in.

That’s $36k per year.

You’re telling us you can’t afford that on $230k annual income?
Middle class or not, this is a very legitimate question. Even double that seem doable.
Daycare will make things more complicated.
Last edited by Starfish on Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Arlington2019
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Arlington2019 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:38 pm

I note the OP's comments as to household income and housing costs are remarkably similar to the Seattle-Eastside area. Lots and lots of dual-income couples at that level (or even higher if both of them are code monkeys at Microsoft/Google/Amazon) and yet are struggling to afford a house, pay for daycare and put something aside for tomorrow.

student
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by student » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:38 pm

OP said they are starting a family. If I assume that they will have 2 kids, then they are not too far above middle class. According to https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2 ... dle-class/ in the NY-Newark-Jersey City metro, the dividing point between middle class and upper class is just above $190k.

BV3273
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BV3273 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:56 pm

CoastalWinds wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:22 pm
oldfatguy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:13 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm
Similar to you my wife is a teacher as well and she has a ton of family in the area so moving an hour up the line is not an option for me.
Everybody makes their own priorities, but the idea that someone wouldn't consider moving an hour or two further from family to be in a more affordable area seems a little wacky to me.
Sometimes that means moving an hour or two from one’s job, which might not be easily replaced in the new location. Certainly adding 2-4 hours of commute time per day requires careful deliberation of priorities.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. An hour or 2 each way would be totally unfeasible for me, but what do I know? I guess I’m just wacky.

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geerhardusvos
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by geerhardusvos » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:06 pm

You make plenty of money, you just need to live below your means. You can afford to buy a house if you want to, but renting could be a more economical option and give you access to the neighborhoods you want. You should be able to live on 80 K or less. We live in a higher cost of living area than you and our family income is 180 K and we save half our income. You can do this. You can get wealthy in 20 years no problem. You need to totally ratchet down your lifestyle
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1130Super
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by 1130Super » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:09 pm

willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:23 pm
1130Super wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:11 pm
batpot wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:27 pm
How much of a "fixer upper" are you talking? It's within your budget.
Also, have you looked at costs of day care?

And I hate to break it to you, but $230k is far from middle class.
Median household income in the US is around $60k.
Yes but in NYC 230k is middle class.
According to the Census Bureau, that's almost triple the median household income for Manhattan. That doesn't sound like middle class to me.

Well what does the 75th percentile stop at?

Sam1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:13 pm

sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm
ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:13 pm
OP, if you want some real sticker shock, compare your median house value of $528,300 in Westchester with the median in San Francisco at $1,009,500 and a median household income of $104,552.
If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Are you including condos? I only searched for HOUSES.

Sam1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:15 pm

BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:24 pm
sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm
ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:13 pm
OP, if you want some real sticker shock, compare your median house value of $528,300 in Westchester with the median in San Francisco at $1,009,500 and a median household income of $104,552.
If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Just for starts, Elmsford, NY 10523. Gave me a good start!
That’s not technically Westchester which is why Redfin doesn’t pick it up for me.

BV3273
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BV3273 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:16 pm

Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:13 pm
sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm
ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:13 pm
OP, if you want some real sticker shock, compare your median house value of $528,300 in Westchester with the median in San Francisco at $1,009,500 and a median household income of $104,552.
If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Are you including condos? I only searched for HOUSES.
There are no houses in the price range in any area of Westchester that are habitable besides a co-op.

Sam1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:18 pm

ThatGuy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:43 pm
WS1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:40 pm
I don’t think median income is helpful as the OP is not competing against the 62 year old couple with a paid off home. OP is competing against other families looking for seats in decent school districts and saving for college at today’s prices.
Middle class only includes dual earner families? News to me, I guess all of those old guys are a part of the grey class.
Those old guys weren’t paying monthly childcare payments that were the same or more than their mortgage.

Sam1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:20 pm

Tdubs wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:04 pm
Used to ask my students whether their families were poor, middle class, or wealthy. In 15 years, maybe three said poor. One said wealthy. Most were from the Seattle suburbs.

They always looked dumbfounded when I told them what US median household income was, and what put you in the top 5 percent.
Sure but it’s kind of misleading when you start taking into account the cost of living. Someone in the top 50% in Birmingham is probably living a similar lifestyle as someone in the top 5 % in Seattle.

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geerhardusvos
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by geerhardusvos » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:27 pm

surfstar wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:37 pm
Not everyone needs to own a home, by the way.
:sharebeer :sharebeer
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BarbBrooklyn
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:29 pm

Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:15 pm
BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:24 pm
sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:34 pm


If the median is $528k, then that almost certainly means that there will be some nice homes still available for $300k-$350k. The OP could save a big chunk of household income, maybe as much as 50%, and still easily afford a home in that range.

We've bought three homes, and we never spent more than just over double our household income on any of them, which was the standard for 'easily affordable' put forward by Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Mind. It worked out very well for us, and we should be mortgage-free in about two months and putting 50% of our gross household income into tax-advantaged accounts of various kinds.
I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Just for starts, Elmsford, NY 10523. Gave me a good start!
That’s not technically Westchester which is why Redfin doesn’t pick it up for me.
Where, pray tell, is Elmsford, if not in Westchester County?

My parents bought there in 1956 because it was already integrated. Taught me a lot about life and real estate.
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."

visualguy
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by visualguy » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:30 pm

Starfish wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:25 pm
And why would one a apply a nationwide statistic to a specific place? Is just as relevant as taking the median income of the entire world.
Correct - national statistics don't shed much light on people's situation at a particular location. Also, "income" is only part of the picture. Assets are actually more important. For example, half the people on my street are retired, and their income isn't all that impressive, but they have substantial assets. Some of them are "richer" than I am even though their income is lower. I work, and they don't, so I have a higher income, but they have more assets. It doesn't make sense to use income as the primary metric.

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geerhardusvos
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by geerhardusvos » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:32 pm

willthrill81 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:49 pm
rich126 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:39 pm
Personally I think housing in most of the country is horribly overpriced.
While I very much agree with you that most people spend too much on housing in the U.S., the issue is actually not usually due to housing being overpriced. Rather, the problem is that people are buying houses that are too large. The median number of square feet of living space in new single-family homes per the median U.S. household size in terms of number of people has doubled over the last ~50 years. Housing costs per square foot have basically just kept pace with inflation over that period, but the fact that home sizes relative to the number of people occupying them have increased dramatically means that the amount spent on housing has increased dramatically as well.

Image
I definitely agree people are buying too much house, but in some of the Good school district neighborhoods, only large houses are available, that’s why in many high cost of living areas such as this it can be very beneficial to rent in those neighborhoods (which is way cheaper than buying in these areas) for 5 to 10 years or whatever to allow your children to get through core learning years in the good schools. That’s the approach many have to take in the area I live in
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randomguy
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by randomguy » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:53 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm


I’m 34 next month and I live in southern Westchester. My combined income is similar to yours with two kids. I feel your pain lol.

I find most of the posts quite comical to be honest. On paper it may seem like we make a lot of money, but the reality is that our area is extremely costly to live in.

Real estate is completely overpriced and basically unattainable. I purchased my house in 2012 and have watched the housing market rise out of control. Dumpster fires are going for 600k+ and if your not paying sticker price don’t even waste your time putting in a bid. Taxes are going up, up, and away for areas with good schools you’re looking at 15k+ per year on the low side.

Area sounds pretty cheap if you can get a house for 600k:) These discussions pop up all the time when upper middle class people (call it the 200-500k club) talk about how hard it is to make ends meet. Whenever they publish their budgets they have tons of absurd items in them. See the blog post of the SF guy who thinks you need 300k to live a middle class life but who also thinks spending 20k/year on food for a family of 3 is middle class. The issue is that in HCOL, you tend to have a lot of options and exposure to this type of lifestyle. If your friends are eating at the 100/head place you might decide that is reasonable and normal. It isn't. Same thing with taking tons of international vacations, spending zillion of dollars on various kids activities, and so on.

If you look at a normal middle class lifestyle (i.e. what someone making 70k/year in a LCOL area) and you move that lifestyle to your more expensive area, you will find it doable on 230k. But you might be surprise on how little that money is. 8k on health insurance out of 70k is a much bigger chunk that out of 230k. Same thing with the basics of cars, car insurance, phone bills, clothes, and so on. In general the only really huge savings are in houses and taxes (i.e. but even their payroll taxes can really even things out).

People tend not to have much sympathy for the upper middle class people (i.e. if I made so much, all my financial problems would go away) but the upper middle class and lower end of the rich share a lot of issues with middle and lower classes. You need to go pretty far up (i.e. well into the 1%) to really get to the point where people don't have money worries about daily living expenses. The scale is just a bit different.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by sailaway » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:59 pm

Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:15 pm
BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:24 pm
sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm


I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Just for starts, Elmsford, NY 10523. Gave me a good start!
That’s not technically Westchester which is why Redfin doesn’t pick it up for me.
That's not what the geographers say.

You have a very specific idea of what you want that is eliminating hundreds of options. That is on you, not your salary.

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Nate79
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Nate79 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:02 pm

geerhardusvos wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:27 pm
surfstar wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:37 pm
Not everyone needs to own a home, by the way.
:sharebeer :sharebeer
+1
Not being able to afford to purchase a home is not even close to "struggling."

musicmom
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by musicmom » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:09 pm

Northern NJ is lovely, not cheap, but not outrageously expensive.

We never made more than $120K yearly.
We sold a family home approx 2000 sq feet on the NJ Transit direct line to NYC last year for $420K.
Walkable diverse small city, great schools, shopping, restaurants, taxes 10K.

Many in our neighborhood walked to the Midtown Direct train to the city.

Just a thought.

Ron Ronnerson
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Ron Ronnerson » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:10 pm

Like your wife, I’m a tenured teacher in a good school with a support system nearby. Job stability, a decent income (along with a good pension), connection to family and friends, and happiness should not be discounted, in my opinion. Personally, I value them highly.

We live in a VHCOL area (Bay Area) on my teacher’s income and save a decent percentage. My wife is a stay-at-home parent and we have a child in elementary school. For us, the approach has been to spend money carefully and only where we find a lot of value. By keeping expenses under control, things have worked out pretty well.

Before starting a family and buying a house, there should be a plan for the big expense categories like health care, child care, transportation, food, vacations, and taxes (in addition, of course, to house costs). Develop a budget and a plan. It can totally be done but you have to be willing to make trade-offs.

manatee2005
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by manatee2005 » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:20 pm

What are your car payments?

dash1s
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by dash1s » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:20 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm
Bob Sacamano wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:18 pm
wife and i live in a very expensive suburb of NYC (Westchester for those familiar). at 33-years old we make "decent" but not excellent salaries (her ~$100K and me ~$115K). all in we're at ~$230K gross.

we're starting a family and starting to look at homes in the area. even in the less prestigious towns, $600K gets you a fixer upper in a decent school district. anything under $500K, forget about it. not even worth it. and the taxes? yikes. 2%-4% of home value seems to be average.

moving is the logical first thought but that is quickly done away with as my wife is a tenured teacher in a good school district and her entire support system is here.

this is as much a vent as a place to discuss. have any other folks made it in a HCOLA on a middle class salary? could use some positive, but realistic insight from you folks. thanks!

I’m 34 next month and I live in southern Westchester. My combined income is similar to yours with two kids. I feel your pain lol.

I find most of the posts quite comical to be honest. On paper it may seem like we make a lot of money, but the reality is that our area is extremely costly to live in.
I am Yonkers and same age. The Westchester pain is real lol. Same reality / reaction as yours and I chuckled at this thread too.
Last edited by dash1s on Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ImmigrantSaver
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by ImmigrantSaver » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:25 pm

musicmom wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:09 pm
Northern NJ is lovely, not cheap, but not outrageously expensive.

We never made more than $120K yearly.
We sold a family home approx 2000 sq feet on the NJ Transit direct line to NYC last year for $420K.
Walkable diverse small city, great schools, shopping, restaurants, taxes 10K.

Many in our neighborhood walked to the Midtown Direct train to the city.

Just a thought.
What town?

mako171
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by mako171 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:17 am

I live in Greenwich, CT. The only reasons to be here are (very) high paying jobs, great schools, and LI Sound boating. Life is expensive as heck. You could look at Stamford, CT - great houses there in the 4s and 5s; and not too far from where you are now.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by campy2010 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:43 am

It is clear to me after a couple of posts that you don't like the suburban grind of Westchester. Why should you, you're 33 and living in the NYC burbs. And I find nothing charming about the NYC burbs. Based on your previous posts, you're on the path to being able to afford a house on your income. But it seems to me that the struggle is you don't really want to live there, despite all of the rationale evidence pointing you toward staying put. Following society's Life Script (TM) of get married, settle down near family, overpay for old house, have 2.3 kids and a labradoodle may be setting you up for a future of resentment and unhappiness. If it's not your dream, then it's no way to live. Explore your career options and see what you find in places where you want to live. You never know what viable alternatives are out there unless you explore them.

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watchnerd
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by watchnerd » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:57 am

Olemiss540 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:56 pm
Why not SAVE a bigger downpayment?

A 600k house with a 20% downpayment is EASILY affordable on a $230k gross. EASILY.

A 700k house is EASILY affordable with a $200k downpayment. Start saving and quit spending until you can afford the place you want.
The first house we bought (in SF Bay Area in 2010) was $710k, and we put %40 down.

The monthly mortgage was like $1700/month and that's when rates were higher.

Our mortgage was less than what we were paying in rent before we bought; we lived in an apartment saving our money until we were 40 years old and could make a large enough down payment to make the mortgage something we could afford to pay on just one of our salaries.
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by slalom » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:31 am

ohai wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:48 pm
Teachers in Westchester get $100k salaries with tenure?
Now you know why the property taxes are so high.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by AlphaLess » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:36 am

batpot wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:27 pm
How much of a "fixer upper" are you talking? It's within your budget.
Also, have you looked at costs of day care?

And I hate to break it to you, but $230k is far from middle class.
Median household income in the US is around $60k.
But not in Westchester county.
"A Republic, if you can keep it". Benjamin Franklin. 1787. | Party affiliation: Vanguard. Religion: low-cost investing.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by AlphaLess » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:46 am

rich126 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:14 pm
I happened to stumble upon the House Price Index at the FRED site (for Arizona - https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/AZSTHPI). This gives you a rough idea of the increase (and drops) of housing over the last few decades. Obviously within a state certain areas rise/fall at a substantially different rate than other areas.

For example, AZ peaked at an index value of 426 in 2006Q4 and bottomed out at 230 in 2011Q4 (thankfully I didn't sell and instead rented it out). Now at 2019Q3 it is at 436. In MD it went from 535 to 400. And now at 496. Using those states since I lived in both.

None of this takes into account house size.

And I got off topic so I'll let this rest.
It *SHOULD* account for house size, because the housing indices are based on repeat-sales method.
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by willthrill81 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:52 am

AlphaLess wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:36 am
batpot wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:27 pm
How much of a "fixer upper" are you talking? It's within your budget.
Also, have you looked at costs of day care?

And I hate to break it to you, but $230k is far from middle class.
Median household income in the US is around $60k.
But not in Westchester county.
Are you saying that $230k can only buy the same things in Westchester county that $60k could buy in a MCOL area?
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Watty
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Watty » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:56 am

AlphaLess wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:46 am
rich126 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 6:14 pm
I happened to stumble upon the House Price Index at the FRED site (for Arizona - https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/AZSTHPI). This gives you a rough idea of the increase (and drops) of housing over the last few decades. Obviously within a state certain areas rise/fall at a substantially different rate than other areas.

For example, AZ peaked at an index value of 426 in 2006Q4 and bottomed out at 230 in 2011Q4 (thankfully I didn't sell and instead rented it out). Now at 2019Q3 it is at 436. In MD it went from 535 to 400. And now at 496. Using those states since I lived in both.

None of this takes into account house size.

And I got off topic so I'll let this rest.
It *SHOULD* account for house size, because the housing indices are based on repeat-sales method.
Here is a source for that data.

https://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Download ... index.aspx

musicmom
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by musicmom » Wed Jan 08, 2020 5:19 am

@ImmigrantSaver-
Morristown

There are towns closer in that are possibilities:
Madison
Chatham
Maplewood
West Orange
Whippany
Livingston
Cedar Grove

Again, not inexpensive, but possibilities.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:14 am

sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:15 pm
BarbBrooklyn wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 9:24 pm
sailaway wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:59 pm
Sam1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:28 pm


I just looked and there aren’t any house under $350k in ALL of Westchester county. Really not one.
Zillow says otherwise, by pages.
Just for starts, Elmsford, NY 10523. Gave me a good start!
That’s not technically Westchester which is why Redfin doesn’t pick it up for me.
That's not what the geographers say.

You have a very specific idea of what you want that is eliminating hundreds of options. That is on you, not your salary.
That’s on Redfin. Not me.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:16 am

musicmom wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:09 pm
Northern NJ is lovely, not cheap, but not outrageously expensive.

We never made more than $120K yearly.
We sold a family home approx 2000 sq feet on the NJ Transit direct line to NYC last year for $420K.
Walkable diverse small city, great schools, shopping, restaurants, taxes 10K.

Many in our neighborhood walked to the Midtown Direct train to the city.

Just a thought.
The property taxes are very high. My family has a $700k house with $25k in property taxes. I realize OP isn’t going to buy a $700k house but that gives you an idea. $10k in taxes is a lot for a $420k house.

Sam1
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by Sam1 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:17 am

AlphaLess wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:36 am
batpot wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:27 pm
How much of a "fixer upper" are you talking? It's within your budget.
Also, have you looked at costs of day care?

And I hate to break it to you, but $230k is far from middle class.
Median household income in the US is around $60k.
But not in Westchester county.
It’s $94k.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:13 am

Sam1 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 6:16 am
musicmom wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:09 pm
Northern NJ is lovely, not cheap, but not outrageously expensive.

We never made more than $120K yearly.
We sold a family home approx 2000 sq feet on the NJ Transit direct line to NYC last year for $420K.
Walkable diverse small city, great schools, shopping, restaurants, taxes 10K.

Many in our neighborhood walked to the Midtown Direct train to the city.

Just a thought.
The property taxes are very high. My family has a $700k house with $25k in property taxes. I realize OP isn’t going to buy a $700k house but that gives you an idea. $10k in taxes is a lot for a $420k house.
That’s crazy. In the Bay Area I pay $22k for a $1.8M house.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by 22twain » Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:42 am

WS1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:52 pm
I didn’t define middle class. I just speculated what the household median income for a mid 30s household might be.
It seems to me that threads like this tend to conflate two different concepts. To me, middle income is a mathematical construct, defined using the incomes of some group of people; whereas middle class is a social construct, defined by people's jobs, lifestyles, perceived status, expectations, etc.

Income and class are correlated, but the correlation is far from perfect.
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BV3273 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:51 am

randomguy wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:53 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm


I’m 34 next month and I live in southern Westchester. My combined income is similar to yours with two kids. I feel your pain lol.

I find most of the posts quite comical to be honest. On paper it may seem like we make a lot of money, but the reality is that our area is extremely costly to live in.

Real estate is completely overpriced and basically unattainable. I purchased my house in 2012 and have watched the housing market rise out of control. Dumpster fires are going for 600k+ and if your not paying sticker price don’t even waste your time putting in a bid. Taxes are going up, up, and away for areas with good schools you’re looking at 15k+ per year on the low side.

Area sounds pretty cheap if you can get a house for 600k:) These discussions pop up all the time when upper middle class people (call it the 200-500k club) talk about how hard it is to make ends meet. Whenever they publish their budgets they have tons of absurd items in them. See the blog post of the SF guy who thinks you need 300k to live a middle class life but who also thinks spending 20k/year on food for a family of 3 is middle class. The issue is that in HCOL, you tend to have a lot of options and exposure to this type of lifestyle. If your friends are eating at the 100/head place you might decide that is reasonable and normal. It isn't. Same thing with taking tons of international vacations, spending zillion of dollars on various kids activities, and so on.

If you look at a normal middle class lifestyle (i.e. what someone making 70k/year in a LCOL area) and you move that lifestyle to your more expensive area, you will find it doable on 230k. But you might be surprise on how little that money is. 8k on health insurance out of 70k is a much bigger chunk that out of 230k. Same thing with the basics of cars, car insurance, phone bills, clothes, and so on. In general the only really huge savings are in houses and taxes (i.e. but even their payroll taxes can really even things out).

People tend not to have much sympathy for the upper middle class people (i.e. if I made so much, all my financial problems would go away) but the upper middle class and lower end of the rich share a lot of issues with middle and lower classes. You need to go pretty far up (i.e. well into the 1%) to really get to the point where people don't have money worries about daily living expenses. The scale is just a bit different.
Perhaps you missed the phrase “dumpster fire”. The houses need 200-300k in upgrades to make them livable.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by stilltrying » Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:54 am

22twain wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:42 am
WS1 wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:52 pm
I didn’t define middle class. I just speculated what the household median income for a mid 30s household might be.
It seems to me that threads like this tend to conflate two different concepts. To me, middle income is a mathematical construct, defined using the incomes of some group of people; whereas middle class is a social construct, defined by people's jobs, lifestyles, perceived status, expectations, etc.

Income and class are correlated, but the correlation is far from perfect.
Very well put!

BV3273
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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BV3273 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:56 am

So far there’s been a debate on nationwide statistically data and a question about car payments. Let’s keep this going I’m having a good laugh.

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Re: Living in a HCOL and making a middle class salary is a struggle

Post by BarbBrooklyn » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:03 am

So, how much of a down payment have you guys saved?

45 years ago, DH and I lived on one salary and banked the other to get the down payment in hand.

600k for a house doesn't seem like that big a stretch on your current salaries. I'm assuming that your wife's income as a teacher will rise regularly. Do you also get periodic raises?

Dont let yourselves get detailed by older relatives' "sticker shock" at housing prices. Yes, that house WAS 12K in 1956. It's now 500K. Look at less expensive areas in Westchester. This doesn't have to be your forever house. Elmsford, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon all have nice affordable housing.

I remember the trepidation with which we looked at our proposed mortgage payment those first years. By year 5, it appeared very manageable and by year 10 it seemed minuscule.

Provided that you guys have been living a frugal lifestyle up until now, you should be fine.
Last edited by BarbBrooklyn on Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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