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

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
SQRT
Posts: 1299
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:44 am

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

Post by SQRT » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am

For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances. Advice is always consistent. Save more, spend less, you don’t need that. A good proportion of the respondents will say, “I make half what you make and save most of it”. These threads certainly point out the extreme diversity of how Americans live. Quite interesting.

Nyc10036
Posts: 571
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:29 pm

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

Post by Nyc10036 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:05 am

SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances.
Because he truly feels that he is "middle class".
It is blindfolds-on moment.
He is comparing himself to his neighbors. The one thing Bogleheads are told not to do. He finds his household "wanting" compared to his neighbors.

Thegame14
Posts: 1503
Joined: Mon May 07, 2018 11:53 am

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

Post by Thegame14 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:11 am

KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:46 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:37 am
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!
dw 37 and myself 39, make combined $160K, line in NJ right outside NYC, house is about $500K, two kids in daycare costs us $2,700 a month, mortgage taxes insurance cost us $2,600 a month, property taxes are $12K and I still max out my 401K, so we make 50K less and can do it with 2 kids, also went through a few long stretches of me not working and we survived... Don't drive expensive cars, don't go out to eat unless you have a gift card or coupon, and even then anything over $15 per person is much too expensive
Thegame14,

<<house is about $500K>>

Just for comparison, my neighborhood is about $200 per square feet. So, that will be about 2,500 square feet. What is the size of your house?

<< property taxes are $12K >>

Property taxes will be about 5K.

KlangFool
about 1,900 Sq feet.

Admiral
Posts: 2862
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:35 pm

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

Post by Admiral » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:11 am

SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances. Advice is always consistent. Save more, spend less, you don’t need that. A good proportion of the respondents will say, “I make half what you make and save most of it”. These threads certainly point out the extreme diversity of how Americans live. Quite interesting.
What OP should have done was simply ask for help without any characterization of what "class" OP feels he/she is in.

I find the finger wagging annoying and disingenuous (not to mention pointless). OP wants advice. The advice is not complicated. It can be hard to come to grips with one's financial situation. But there are no miracle cures.

mako171
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:18 pm

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

Post by mako171 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am

I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.

FrugalConservative
Posts: 221
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:44 am

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

Post by FrugalConservative » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am

NJdad6 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:09 am
musicmom wrote:
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.
No way. Would take 90 minutes+ to commute to Westchester. Horrible way to live.

I understand how the OP feels. Many of the comments here are not helpful. $230k before taxes will provide an average middle class lifestyle in HCOL areas after you take out federal tax, high state and local taxes, 401k, commuting costs, health expenses, mortgage, car expenses, utilities, college savings, etc. Most in this category are not driving BMWs, jetting to Europe or joining country clubs. They just want to have a nice house and live a relatively comfortable life like folks in other parts of the country.
Well said.

KlangFool
Posts: 16566
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:35 pm

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

Post by KlangFool » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:16 am

Thegame14 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:11 am
KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:46 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:37 am
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!
dw 37 and myself 39, make combined $160K, line in NJ right outside NYC, house is about $500K, two kids in daycare costs us $2,700 a month, mortgage taxes insurance cost us $2,600 a month, property taxes are $12K and I still max out my 401K, so we make 50K less and can do it with 2 kids, also went through a few long stretches of me not working and we survived... Don't drive expensive cars, don't go out to eat unless you have a gift card or coupon, and even then anything over $15 per person is much too expensive
Thegame14,

<<house is about $500K>>

Just for comparison, my neighborhood is about $200 per square feet. So, that will be about 2,500 square feet. What is the size of your house?

<< property taxes are $12K >>

Property taxes will be about 5K.

KlangFool
about 1,900 Sq feet.
Thanks.

KlangFool

FrugalConservative
Posts: 221
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:44 am

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

Post by FrugalConservative » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:17 am

mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
You couldnt pay me to live there. Stamford schools are at best ...bad.

Did you even click the link for the first home. Iol. That house needs a complete remodel.

Nyc10036
Posts: 571
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:29 pm

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

Post by Nyc10036 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:19 am

Admiral wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:11 am
SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances. Advice is always consistent. Save more, spend less, you don’t need that. A good proportion of the respondents will say, “I make half what you make and save most of it”. These threads certainly point out the extreme diversity of how Americans live. Quite interesting.
What OP should have done was simply ask for help without any characterization of what "class" OP feels he/she is in.

I find the finger wagging annoying and disingenuous (not to mention pointless). OP wants advice. The advice is not complicated. It can be hard to come to grips with one's financial situation. But there are no miracle cures.
Disingenous? How so?


How can the OP take the advice given if he maintains his woe-is-me mindset?




.

Admiral
Posts: 2862
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:35 pm

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

Post by Admiral » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:21 am

Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:05 am
SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances.
Because he truly feels that he is "middle class".
It is blindfolds-on moment.
He is comparing himself to his neighbors. The one thing Bogleheads are told not to do. He finds his household "wanting" compared to his neighbors.
Why do you care how OP seems himself? That's not the issue. Studies show that almost everyone thinks they are "middle class," including those who make 7 figures.

The issue is how can the OP afford a home on current salary, and if not, what the solution is.

Nyc10036
Posts: 571
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 6:29 pm

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

Post by Nyc10036 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:23 am

Admiral wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:21 am
Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:05 am
SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances.
Because he truly feels that he is "middle class".
It is blindfolds-on moment.
He is comparing himself to his neighbors. The one thing Bogleheads are told not to do. He finds his household "wanting" compared to his neighbors.
Why do you care how OP seems himself? That's not the issue. Studies show that almost everyone thinks they are "middle class," including those who make 7 figures.

The issue is how can the OP afford a home on current salary, and if not, what the solution is.
As I wrote before, unless he changes his viewpoint, he will continue to play the woe-is-me card which is not the least helpful.
Appreciate what he has. Not what he wants.
Until he changes this mindset, nothing will change.

.
Last edited by Nyc10036 on Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

MindBogler
Posts: 988
Joined: Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:05 pm

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

Post by MindBogler » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:24 am

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.
This whole discussion is strange without anyone asking to see a budget. What is your current monthly budget?

HEDGEFUNDIE
Posts: 4801
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:06 pm

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

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am

MindBogler wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:24 am
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.
This whole discussion is strange without anyone asking to see a budget. What is your current monthly budget?
I agree 100%.

$230k gross in NY means $45k total income tax (State + FICA + Fed).

Where is the other $185k going?
Last edited by HEDGEFUNDIE on Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

TonyDAntonio
Posts: 521
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2016 8:32 pm

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

Post by TonyDAntonio » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am

My wife and I had twins in San Francisco 34 years ago. We couldn't afford the rents and moved 35 miles north east to a small, unincorporated town called West Pittsburg (now called Bay Point). I worked for the phone company for the next 30 years while my wife mostly stayed home and raised our kids. Our first house cost $100,00. We sold it for $150,000 5 years later and moved up the hill to a new house. $200,000. We still live there and it is paid off. We put one kid through private high school and both kids through college. Our house is paid off. I'm retired with a small pension and a good amount saved. I made $100,000 per year only during the last 10 years of work. My house is worth about $600,000. Almost every other house in the SF Bay area is worth more. I don't care. Almost every one I know, including my daughter, has asked me over the years why I live in Bay Point. Because it's my home and my house is paid off and I'm plenty fine with it. And it's where we could afford to buy. The plan was never to leave SF for Bay Point but life happens.

You can have a middle class life in a HCOL area. It's all about choices and discipline.

oldfatguy
Posts: 608
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:38 pm

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

Post by oldfatguy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:28 am

FrugalConservative wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:17 am
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
You couldnt pay me to live there. Stamford schools are at best ...bad.

Did you even click the link for the first home. Iol. That house needs a complete remodel.
That's pretty much what this thread boils down to ... OP (and others) only want to live in higher priced neighborhoods. That's a fine choice to make, but it's not how most middle class people live.

PS - the first house linked above looks like a pretty average middle class home to me.

noretirement4me
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:56 pm

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

Post by noretirement4me » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:35 am

Alright OP, you're really taking your lumps here with that "middle class" comment, but here's a fellow NYer who can sympathize. I'm on LI and can understand how you feel, because that's largely how the missus and I feel. We often look around and wonder how people can get by with their new luxury cars (we drive luxury brands too, but both are 2004 models) and their giant McMansions and Hawaiian vacations. I honestly still have not figured it out yet, we make a decent living (similar salary to your situation) and get by comfortably enough, but we never feel like we've got disposable income or are "getting ahead". After bills and saving for retirement there doesn't seem to be too much left. Maybe we're just saving too much and need to learn to loosen up, but I think on our best day we're not going to be living an "upper class" life, whatever that is.

My advice then? It's what you've been reading in these forums over and over again. LBYM. Moving is not an option for you, so no sense agonizing over that. We were in the same boat as you 15 years ago, we just bit the bullet and bought a reasonable house locally - at the top of the market, mind you, so we're still reeling over that one! You're still young so your income will almost surely go up, so buy something that'll suit your needs without breaking the bank. Probably won't be the 4000sq ft mcmansion you want, but them's the breaks. She's a teacher so has a super stable job, you're in a good starting position here. Over time paying that mortgage will get easier as your income goes up so don't sweat the monthly payments. You will survive, but you'll just have to come to grips with the fact that you'll probably never shake the feeling that you're just "getting by". Others have already pointed out how ludicrous that sounds, but again, I can sympathize!

mako171
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:18 pm

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

Post by mako171 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:35 am

FrugalConservative wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:17 am
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
You couldnt pay me to live there. Stamford schools are at best ...bad.

Did you even click the link for the first home. Iol. That house needs a complete remodel.
Stamford is huge; several good schools, even a few IBs.

Re the first link...location brah, which was my point.

User avatar
MrBobcat
Posts: 377
Joined: Fri Jan 11, 2019 5:19 pm

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

Post by MrBobcat » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:36 am

CoastalWinds wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:50 am
MrBobcat wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:20 am
This is a common plight to all young couples regardless of time or place. It's not a new phenomena and no I don't believe it's harder now than in the 'good ole days'.
OK boomer.

https://youtu.be/ATTMB4gH3sU
I'm not a boomer. ;) But I will check out the video later.

Edit: watched it, hilarious, thanks linking that.
Last edited by MrBobcat on Wed Jan 08, 2020 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

randomguy
Posts: 9020
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

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

Post by randomguy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:37 am

BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 7:51 am


Perhaps you missed the phrase “dumpster fire”. The houses need 200-300k in upgrades to make them livable.
No that is still cheap. I was looking at 800k fixer uppers 15 years ago. Granted I wanted a large house (1700-2200 sq ft) and not a smaller one (the 1200 sq ft 3/1 ones were 100k cheaper). It is all about relativity.:)

FrugalConservative
Posts: 221
Joined: Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:44 am

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

Post by FrugalConservative » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:40 am

oldfatguy wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:28 am
FrugalConservative wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:17 am
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
You couldnt pay me to live there. Stamford schools are at best ...bad.

Did you even click the link for the first home. Iol. That house needs a complete remodel.
That's pretty much what this thread boils down to ... OP (and others) only want to live in higher priced neighborhoods. That's a fine choice to make, but it's not how most middle class people live.

PS - the first house linked above looks like a pretty average middle class home to me.
Yes I'm with ya. It all about neighborhood.
I think the boglehead idea of a middleclass lifestyle is completely different then the actual way those in the middle class live. The problem with living in a HCOL, everything is skewed due to the significant tax and housing cost burdens.

randomguy
Posts: 9020
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

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

Post by randomguy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:43 am

oldfatguy wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:28 am
FrugalConservative wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:17 am
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
You couldnt pay me to live there. Stamford schools are at best ...bad.

Did you even click the link for the first home. Iol. That house needs a complete remodel.
That's pretty much what this thread boils down to ... OP (and others) only want to live in higher priced neighborhoods. That's a fine choice to make, but it's not how most middle class people live.

PS - the first house linked above looks like a pretty average middle class home to me.
Without knowing the neighborhood, it is a bit hard to comment on houses. It has been 25 years since I was in stamford but I seem to remember it being a split town with some really nice areas and some sketchy ones. But in the end it will all come down to what you think is middle class. If middle class is living in a 2500 sq ft house, driving 2 bmws, taking international vacations every year, and shopping at whole foods, you are going to have a vastly different opinion than if you think it is living in 1500 sq ft (you might not even have granite:)), driving 2 civics, driving to a camp ground for vacation, and shopping at walmart for food.

oldfatguy
Posts: 608
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:38 pm

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

Post by oldfatguy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:44 am

FrugalConservative wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:40 am

I think the boglehead idea of a middleclass lifestyle is completely different then the actual way those in the middle class live.
100% agree

mervinj7
Posts: 1451
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:10 pm

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

Post by mervinj7 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:50 am

HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am
I agree 100%.

$230k gross in NY means $45k total income tax (State + FICA + Fed).

Where is the other $185k going?
Assuming they have $36k in 401k deductions, I got $51k for State +FICA + Fed. That leaves $142k. If they did buy a house for $600k, a 30 Year Fixed mortgage of $480k at 3.75% would be $2223/month or $27k/year. Property Tax at 2.39% would be $14.4k/year. So now, we are talking about $230k-51k-$36k-$27k-$14.4k=$100k (after tax, 15% saved to retirement, housing). In any case, we can only guess until OP posts his budget.

https://smartasset.com/taxes/new-york-t ... eVpXqNqULh

HEDGEFUNDIE
Posts: 4801
Joined: Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:06 pm

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

Post by HEDGEFUNDIE » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:54 am

mervinj7 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:50 am
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am
I agree 100%.

$230k gross in NY means $45k total income tax (State + FICA + Fed).

Where is the other $185k going?
Assuming they have $36k in 401k deductions, I got $51k for State +FICA + Fed. That leaves $142k. If they did buy a house for $600k, a 30 Year Fixed mortgage of $480k at 3.75% would be $2223/month or $27k/year. Property Tax at 2.39% would be $14.4k/year. So now, we are talking about $230k-51k-$36k-$27k-$14.4k=$100k (after tax, 15% saved to retirement, housing). In any case, we can only guess until OP posts his budget.

https://smartasset.com/taxes/new-york-t ... eVpXqNqULh
$100k after housing and retirement. A "struggle" indeed.

Topic Author
Bob Sacamano
Posts: 406
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 8:54 pm

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

Post by Bob Sacamano » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:54 am

Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:00 am
Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:47 am
you may not be familiar with the tristate. the jobs are here, in NYC and immediate suburbs. not an hour or two into PA, NY or NJ. issue is, i'm in a role that is transferable and have no real need for NYC. i am competing with finance, big law and tech professionals who probably out earn us to the conservative tune of 2-3x.
I am very familiar with the tristate area.
I have lived in central NJ for 20 years.
And contrary to what you write, an or two hour into NJ puts you into prime jobs area for NJ.

As an engineer who never made more than $100K a year in my entire life, I never found it to be "a struggle".
Your family income is not "middle class".
My parents never made more than your salary their entire working life.

I find it very difficult to empathize with your situation.
.
central NJ is more affordable than Westchester by leaps and bounds.

JLG1111
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:37 am

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

Post by JLG1111 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:22 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:54 am
Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:00 am
Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:47 am
you may not be familiar with the tristate. the jobs are here, in NYC and immediate suburbs. not an hour or two into PA, NY or NJ. issue is, i'm in a role that is transferable and have no real need for NYC. i am competing with finance, big law and tech professionals who probably out earn us to the conservative tune of 2-3x.
I am very familiar with the tristate area.
I have lived in central NJ for 20 years.
And contrary to what you write, an or two hour into NJ puts you into prime jobs area for NJ.

As an engineer who never made more than $100K a year in my entire life, I never found it to be "a struggle".
Your family income is not "middle class".
My parents never made more than your salary their entire working life.

I find it very difficult to empathize with your situation.
.
central NJ is more affordable than Westchester by leaps and bounds.
Born and raised in Central NJ and living here now raising our kids and I agree. We make a bit more than you do and it’s still not all jet setting and Prada handbags. The NYC area is expensive for a reason. I hope you and your family find what you are looking for!

BV3273
Posts: 557
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:20 pm

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

Post by BV3273 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:29 pm

mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
10 minutes if you own a magic carpet. 30-45 minutes for the rest of us. 95 and the Merritt parkway are parking lots

BV3273
Posts: 557
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:20 pm

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

Post by BV3273 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:30 pm

I wish we had a jump to conclusions board. This would be perfect.

mervinj7
Posts: 1451
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 3:10 pm

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

Post by mervinj7 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:42 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:54 am
central NJ is more affordable than Westchester by leaps and bounds.
mervinj7 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:50 am
Assuming they have $36k in 401k deductions, I got $51k for State +FICA + Fed. That leaves $142k. If they did buy a house for $600k, a 30 Year Fixed mortgage of $480k at 3.75% would be $2223/month or $27k/year. Property Tax at 2.39% would be $14.4k/year. So now, we are talking about $230k-51k-$36k-$27k-$14.4k=$100k (after tax, 15% saved to retirement, housing). In any case, we can only guess until OP posts his budget.
https://smartasset.com/taxes/new-york-t ... eVpXqNqULh
OP, could you edit my post with your budget estimates? One thing I forgot to add was $12k in annual Backdoor Roth IRA contributions. That would bring your retirement savings rate to 20% which I'm much more comfortable with.

Without hard numbers, these kinds of threads (e.g. living in HCOL areas) tend to get derailed quickly into philosophical debates that are not actionable.

mako171
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:18 pm

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

Post by mako171 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:29 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
10 minutes if you own a magic carpet. 30-45 minutes for the rest of us. 95 and the Merritt parkway are parking lots
What no. This is wrong. I just confirmed my statement on Google maps, says 11 min.

Starfish
Posts: 1838
Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:33 pm

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

Post by Starfish » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm

watchnerd wrote:
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.
And this was, obliviously, a bad financial decision.
Putting more down is just mental accounting. It makes you poorer, not richer. It's not good advice.

BV3273
Posts: 557
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2015 7:20 pm

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

Post by BV3273 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:48 pm

mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:29 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
10 minutes if you own a magic carpet. 30-45 minutes for the rest of us. 95 and the Merritt parkway are parking lots
What no. This is wrong. I just confirmed my statement on Google maps, says 11 min.
Try it during rush hour. Twice a day and give me a call.

Isabelle77
Posts: 567
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2015 1:43 pm

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

Post by Isabelle77 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:56 pm

Hmm. Well, we live in the Boston suburbs, I'm a stay at home mom and my husband's base is 250K. He has a large bonus but we save it.

We have a 900K house on a 30yr mortgage, one kid in private school (one in public), and we still manage summer camps, a nice family vacation and trips to see grandparents in the southeast. We hit all of our savings goals. I feel pretty upper-middle class at the least. There are a lot of rich people around us but whatever, we're really fortunate.

JLG1111
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Oct 03, 2013 8:37 am

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

Post by JLG1111 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:56 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:48 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:29 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
10 minutes if you own a magic carpet. 30-45 minutes for the rest of us. 95 and the Merritt parkway are parking lots
What no. This is wrong. I just confirmed my statement on Google maps, says 11 min.
Try it during rush hour. Twice a day and give me a call.
+1 to suggest there is not rush hour traffic in the tri-state area is naive at best and really insulting to the hoardes of people sitting in it day in and day out at worst.

mako171
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 1:18 pm

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

Post by mako171 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:02 pm

JLG1111 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:56 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:48 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm
BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:29 pm
mako171 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:15 am
I’m going to repeat: Stamford CT. It’s literally 10 min to the border in Port Chester and you are in WC.

This location is great. Near the water: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/32-C ... 9887_zpid/

This is a great house: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5-Ma ... 6005_zpid/

Both in your price range.
10 minutes if you own a magic carpet. 30-45 minutes for the rest of us. 95 and the Merritt parkway are parking lots
What no. This is wrong. I just confirmed my statement on Google maps, says 11 min.
Try it during rush hour. Twice a day and give me a call.
+1 to suggest there is not rush hour traffic in the tri-state area is naive at best and really insulting to the hoardes of people sitting in it day in and day out at worst.
Oh please. Stamford to Westchester ain’t a bad commute in a car. Or ride metro north.

SQRT
Posts: 1299
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:44 am

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

Post by SQRT » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:03 pm

Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:05 am
SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances.
Because he truly feels that he is "middle class".
It is blindfolds-on moment.
He is comparing himself to his neighbors. The one thing Bogleheads are told not to do. He finds his household "wanting" compared to his neighbors.
Maybe that’s it. Certainly a red flag for Bogleheads.

PVW
Posts: 651
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 11:01 am

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

Post by PVW » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:05 pm

BV3273 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:30 pm
I wish we had a jump to conclusions board. This would be perfect.
First we'll need everyone to read the memo about the TPS report cover sheets.

randomguy
Posts: 9020
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:00 am

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

Post by randomguy » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:07 pm

Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:32 am
KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:15 am
NoVa Lurker wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:39 am

Note that I am 43 with three kids, so my financial position is similar to OP's, just fast-forwarded a decade. On balance, Northern Virginia is a good spot for people like us - lots of work opportunities, nice enough, and not completely outrageous home prices / taxes. Even then, $500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good school district.
NoVa Lurker,

I disagreed.

My neighborhood in NoVA fit that requirement.

KlangFool
Yeah, I'm trying to figure out where this "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" is coming from. I lived in the area for years and I can easily point to neighborhoods where this statement is completely false unless NoVA Lurker has ridiculous standards.
If you work in Arlington and want a move in ready home that is less than 20 mins to work (you know about 3 miles:)), I have no problem believing you have problems finding one for less than 500k. Have a job in Chantilly and it is lot easier. Obviously we all have vastly different ideas of what a good school district, move in ready, reasonable commute, and so on. NoVA isn't exactly cheap but it is much cheaper than a lot of HCOL areas. You tend to be getting really nice houses for a million and not fixer uppers. And the prices drop off pretty sharply as you move away from the 20 or so miles around DC.

SQRT
Posts: 1299
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 9:44 am

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

Post by SQRT » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:08 pm

Admiral wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:11 am
SQRT wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:03 am
For the life of me I don’t understand why the OP would expose himself to criticism on this site by asking for “help” in his circumstances. Advice is always consistent. Save more, spend less, you don’t need that. A good proportion of the respondents will say, “I make half what you make and save most of it”. These threads certainly point out the extreme diversity of how Americans live. Quite interesting.
What OP should have done was simply ask for help without any characterization of what "class" OP feels he/she is in.

I find the finger wagging annoying and disingenuous (not to mention pointless). OP wants advice. The advice is not complicated. It can be hard to come to grips with one's financial situation. But there are no miracle cures.
Agree. “Class” is certainly not the issue but a great “red herring”. Especially here where there is really a lot of financial diversity.

User avatar
Psyayeayeduck
Posts: 200
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:46 am

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

Post by Psyayeayeduck » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:08 pm

mervinj7 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:50 am
HEDGEFUNDIE wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am
I agree 100%.

$230k gross in NY means $45k total income tax (State + FICA + Fed).

Where is the other $185k going?
Assuming they have $36k in 401k deductions, I got $51k for State +FICA + Fed. That leaves $142k. If they did buy a house for $600k, a 30 Year Fixed mortgage of $480k at 3.75% would be $2223/month or $27k/year. Property Tax at 2.39% would be $14.4k/year. So now, we are talking about $230k-51k-$36k-$27k-$14.4k=$100k (after tax, 15% saved to retirement, housing). In any case, we can only guess until OP posts his budget.

https://smartasset.com/taxes/new-york-t ... eVpXqNqULh

That is basically the heart of the issue. Without a budget of what OP is spending, we don't know if OP can or cannot afford. If their spending habits are near or the total income, they will have a bad time regardless of income.

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

User avatar
Psyayeayeduck
Posts: 200
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:46 am

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

Post by Psyayeayeduck » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:15 pm

randomguy wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:07 pm
Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:32 am
KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:15 am
NoVa Lurker wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:39 am

Note that I am 43 with three kids, so my financial position is similar to OP's, just fast-forwarded a decade. On balance, Northern Virginia is a good spot for people like us - lots of work opportunities, nice enough, and not completely outrageous home prices / taxes. Even then, $500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good school district.
NoVa Lurker,

I disagreed.

My neighborhood in NoVA fit that requirement.

KlangFool
Yeah, I'm trying to figure out where this "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" is coming from. I lived in the area for years and I can easily point to neighborhoods where this statement is completely false unless NoVA Lurker has ridiculous standards.
If you work in Arlington and want a move in ready home that is less than 20 mins to work (you know about 3 miles:)), I have no problem believing you have problems finding one for less than 500k. Have a job in Chantilly and it is lot easier. Obviously we all have vastly different ideas of what a good school district, move in ready, reasonable commute, and so on. NoVA isn't exactly cheap but it is much cheaper than a lot of HCOL areas. You tend to be getting really nice houses for a million and not fixer uppers. And the prices drop off pretty sharply as you move away from the 20 or so miles around DC.
Well, that's the problem when one uses "Northern VA" as the location -- it expands to a wide range of neighborhoods that vary greatly. It's why I had a problem with the "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" statement.

In addition, you are adding commute to the mix which, in itself, is a hairy issue as well. I mean, I was going by "work opportunities", "nice enough", and "not completely outrageous home prices / taxes" as the criteria.
Last edited by Psyayeayeduck on Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bltn
Posts: 768
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:32 pm

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

Post by bltn » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:16 pm

TonyDAntonio wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:25 am
My wife and I had twins in San Francisco 34 years ago. We couldn't afford the rents and moved 35 miles north east to a small, unincorporated town called West Pittsburg (now called Bay Point). I worked for the phone company for the next 30 years while my wife mostly stayed home and raised our kids. Our first house cost $100,00. We sold it for $150,000 5 years later and moved up the hill to a new house. $200,000. We still live there and it is paid off. We put one kid through private high school and both kids through college. Our house is paid off. I'm retired with a small pension and a good amount saved. I made $100,000 per year only during the last 10 years of work. My house is worth about $600,000. Almost every other house in the SF Bay area is worth more. I don't care. Almost every one I know, including my daughter, has asked me over the years why I live in Bay Point. Because it's my home and my house is paid off and I'm plenty fine with it. And it's where we could afford to buy. The plan was never to leave SF for Bay Point but life happens.

You can have a middle class life in a HCOL area. It's all about choices and discipline.
Well done.
Congratulations.

Admiral
Posts: 2862
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:35 pm

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

Post by Admiral » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:18 pm

Starfish wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:46 pm
watchnerd wrote:
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.
And this was, obliviously, a bad financial decision.
Putting more down is just mental accounting. It makes you poorer, not richer. It's not good advice.
Care to explain this post? Putting more $ down is certainly not "mental accounting." It's a choice to pay less interest on a loan. Putting more money down frees up cashflow, which can mean being able to max retirement accounts (and I'm ignoring the elimination of PMI, which is a large benefit). It also reduces the actual cost of the home.

The only reason to put less down is if one is ASSURED of making more money by investing. This is rarely the case. You can't view what's happened in SF and assume the entire r.e. market is like that. It's not.

User avatar
ray.james
Posts: 1321
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:08 am

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

Post by ray.james » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:20 pm

OP
I do not know about westchester but we lived in San Mateo of Bay area. We made ~200k for several years where we routinely saved 60-70k. After kid, that went down to 45k. We saved enough down payment to buy a home in 5 years. (online calculators tell me San Mateo is 50% more expensive). What are you talking about?

I understand the pain and the fact money does not go much further. But people are being tough on your post for a reason. Most people commute for hrs to make far less and often nothing left to save. I genuinely think you need to look at budget and actual tax numbers will help you and trim any unnecessary expenses.
When in doubt, http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=79939

User avatar
greg24
Posts: 3890
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:34 am

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

Post by greg24 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:26 pm

Flyover country sure is grand.

NoVa Lurker
Posts: 690
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 11:14 am

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

Post by NoVa Lurker » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:33 pm

Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:15 pm
randomguy wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:07 pm
Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:32 am
KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:15 am
NoVa Lurker wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:39 am

Note that I am 43 with three kids, so my financial position is similar to OP's, just fast-forwarded a decade. On balance, Northern Virginia is a good spot for people like us - lots of work opportunities, nice enough, and not completely outrageous home prices / taxes. Even then, $500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good school district.
NoVa Lurker,

I disagreed.

My neighborhood in NoVA fit that requirement.

KlangFool
Yeah, I'm trying to figure out where this "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" is coming from. I lived in the area for years and I can easily point to neighborhoods where this statement is completely false unless NoVA Lurker has ridiculous standards.
If you work in Arlington and want a move in ready home that is less than 20 mins to work (you know about 3 miles:)), I have no problem believing you have problems finding one for less than 500k. Have a job in Chantilly and it is lot easier. Obviously we all have vastly different ideas of what a good school district, move in ready, reasonable commute, and so on. NoVA isn't exactly cheap but it is much cheaper than a lot of HCOL areas. You tend to be getting really nice houses for a million and not fixer uppers. And the prices drop off pretty sharply as you move away from the 20 or so miles around DC.
Well, that's the problem when one uses "Northern VA" as the location -- it expands to a wide range of neighborhoods that vary greatly. It's why I had a problem with the "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" statement.

In addition, you are adding commute to the mix which, in itself, is a hairy issue as well. I mean, I was going by "work opportunities", "nice enough", and "not completely outrageous home prices / taxes" as the criteria.
You are right. I work in DC, my wife works near Tyson's, so we never considered going outside the Beltway and we ruled out Alexandria. For good schools in this limited area, that basically narrows it down to north Arlington, Falls Church, and McLean. Obviously, that is much more narrow than "Northern Virginia" -- I only meant to speak to our own experience, but I used a term that was too broad.

I really just meant to convey that I understand the OP's situation, since Westchester is nearly twice as expensive in terms of home prices+property taxes than where we are, which is already not cheap.

almostretired1965
Posts: 221
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:02 pm

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

Post by almostretired1965 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:36 pm

Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:15 pm
randomguy wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:07 pm
Psyayeayeduck wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:32 am
KlangFool wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:15 am
NoVa Lurker wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 9:39 am

Note that I am 43 with three kids, so my financial position is similar to OP's, just fast-forwarded a decade. On balance, Northern Virginia is a good spot for people like us - lots of work opportunities, nice enough, and not completely outrageous home prices / taxes. Even then, $500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good school district.
NoVa Lurker,

I disagreed.

My neighborhood in NoVA fit that requirement.

KlangFool
Yeah, I'm trying to figure out where this "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" is coming from. I lived in the area for years and I can easily point to neighborhoods where this statement is completely false unless NoVA Lurker has ridiculous standards.
If you work in Arlington and want a move in ready home that is less than 20 mins to work (you know about 3 miles:)), I have no problem believing you have problems finding one for less than 500k. Have a job in Chantilly and it is lot easier. Obviously we all have vastly different ideas of what a good school district, move in ready, reasonable commute, and so on. NoVA isn't exactly cheap but it is much cheaper than a lot of HCOL areas. You tend to be getting really nice houses for a million and not fixer uppers. And the prices drop off pretty sharply as you move away from the 20 or so miles around DC.
Well, that's the problem when one uses "Northern VA" as the location -- it expands to a wide range of neighborhoods that vary greatly. It's why I had a problem with the "500k isn't going to buy you a move-in ready home in a good district" statement.

In addition, you are adding commute to the mix which, in itself, is a hairy issue as well. I mean, I was going by "work opportunities", "nice enough", and "not completely outrageous home prices / taxes" as the criteria.
I think the original statement is correct if you are talking inside the beltway, but the issue is not about school districts. EVERY public school district in NoVA: Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudon, Prince William is, compared to the rest of the country, way above average. Now you might have issues with individual schools, but even then my belief is that people confuse the quality of the "inputs" as opposed to the "value added" that a particular place has to offer.

P.S. I lived for many years in Fairfax county in a 2300 sq ft. house just outside the beltway in Springfield/Burke. We sold it in 2016 in the low 500s. Zillow now values it at around ~600K and it is/was definitely move in ready.

A

NJdad6
Posts: 226
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:51 am

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

Post by NJdad6 » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:44 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:54 am
Nyc10036 wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:00 am
Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:47 am
you may not be familiar with the tristate. the jobs are here, in NYC and immediate suburbs. not an hour or two into PA, NY or NJ. issue is, i'm in a role that is transferable and have no real need for NYC. i am competing with finance, big law and tech professionals who probably out earn us to the conservative tune of 2-3x.
I am very familiar with the tristate area.
I have lived in central NJ for 20 years.
And contrary to what you write, an or two hour into NJ puts you into prime jobs area for NJ.

As an engineer who never made more than $100K a year in my entire life, I never found it to be "a struggle".
Your family income is not "middle class".
My parents never made more than your salary their entire working life.

I find it very difficult to empathize with your situation.
.
central NJ is more affordable than Westchester by leaps and bounds.
Again this depends on where you are. A decent 4 bedroom in a good school district in Somerset county will run about $500k+ with about $12k in property taxes. Comparable state tax and higher auto insurance. Most of NJ commutable to NY is a HCOL area (at least in an area you would like to live in). Nicer towns and areas are significantly higher.

snowman
Posts: 1140
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:59 pm

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

Post by snowman » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:47 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Wed Jan 08, 2020 10:47 am
you may not be familiar with the tristate. the jobs are here, in NYC and immediate suburbs. not an hour or two into PA, NY or NJ. issue is, i'm in a role that is transferable and have no real need for NYC. i am competing with finance, big law and tech professionals who probably out earn us to the conservative tune of 2-3x.
When I saw the subject line, I thought these people are making $60 to maybe $100K. $230K most certainly is not middle class salary anywhere in the country. I believe OP addressed his "struggle" in his second post (above). When you "compete" in life with people in different professions who out-earn you by 200-300%, you will "struggle" your entire life, unless you increase your earnings to their level, move out of the area, or stop competing.

User avatar
mmmodem
Posts: 2118
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 1:22 pm

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

Post by mmmodem » Wed Jan 08, 2020 1:49 pm

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:18 pm
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!
Here's something positive from a family that lived in the Bay Area, CA. Our combined income never exceeded $150k. At one point, DW was laid off and we were on my single income of $85k. We own a 3 bed home in a good school district with now 4 children. We max out our retirement accounts and HSA. We don't drive luxury cars but we keep one late model SUV and one beater.

The way was simple. Spend less than you earn. (Simple, not easy.) We had no school loans because we paid for our college education. I went to community college and then transferred to state. We have no car loans. We bought a starter 2 bed home. Then used the equity and moved up to a 3 bed when child 2 was born. We didn't buy a brand new minivan when DW was pregnant. We continued driving her paid off 2 door Honda Civic coupe from college with 2 children. How did we get around as a family? It's very simple. We drove around in my 4 door Hyundai Sonata instead as a family. Saved another few thousand off from getting a Camry or an SUV. Only when child 3 and 4 arrive did we finally retire the Civic and got an SUV. Used of course. We go on vacations. Mostly domestic. We went on only one international so far but we're due for an Asia trip. We did move out of CA a couple of years ago but kept our home there so we'll be back someday.

Here's a story of a teacher that also survives just fine in HCOLA under $150k. They live 2 cities north of us.
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=290459

Locked