When Miriam received her first job offer, the salary was $100,000. She cried tears of joy.
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Now 30, she spent the first few years of her career working for nonprofits and earning just $25,000. Reaching her six figures seemed like it would change her life.
But after a few paychecks, the novelty wore off, and Miriam, who asked to be called by her first name only to protect her privacy, says her lifestyle hasn’t changed much. After deducting , she takes home about $2,500 per paycheck. This is enough to cover her bills in San Francisco and contribute to a 401(k).
“Getting a $100,000 salary was like getting a Fulbright scholarship. This unattainable, life-changing thing,” she says. luck. “And I feel materially different than when I made $70,000. I thought I had a huge pile of money in my checking account.”
Miriam, who now works in a tech company in a nontechnical position, sees the biggest difference in her retirement account. She acknowledges that this is a privilege in today’s economy. But the impact of donating her 8% of her salary to her 401(k) is hard to see.
Intellectually, she knows she is richer than she used to be. But from day to day, not much has changed. Her 401(k) savings aren’t going to help much if an unexpected charge comes up (or a financial adviser to stay off of those accounts until she retires, according to her planners). should not).
Despite earning the salary many dream of, Miriam still can’t afford what, like a home, reflected middle-class life. Especially in the city she calls her home. She hoped that her six-figure salary would boost her savings significantly, but in a few months she couldn’t afford to put anything extra in her emergency fund.
Miriam admits that her financial hardships are less severe than those faced by many other Americans. She doesn’t worry about how to pay her monthly bills. She lives in the apartment and city she loves. But she lives in one of the most expensive cities in the country, which means her six-figure salary won’t grow any further.
She can’t help but feel that she isn’t good enough to achieve all her goals. She’s not the only one who feels that way. New poll from Morning Consult.
A six-figure salary has long been a goal for many workers and a measure of success and achievement. But as Miriam’s experience shows, while that’s above the average U.S. income of $70,784, it’s not enough to feel financially secure in many parts of the country, making it difficult to buy a home. Some high-income earners said: luck They need to earn more to feel like they’re really making progress. The American Dream is much more expensive than it used to be.
‘The standard has changed’
Of course, there are many factors that influence whether a six-figure salary is enough to live comfortably, such as location, family size, financial obligations, and other goals. $100,000 in San Francisco is not the same as his $100,000 in Detroit. But no matter where you live in the US, you can bet that $100,000 won’t work as well as it used to.
Nicole Gopoian Wirick, founder of Prosperity Wealth Strategies, states that in 2000 $100,000 would have had a purchasing power of $175,000 today. In some cities, her $300,000 is her new $100,000, according to personal finance site Smart Asset. Wages have not caught up as the cost of living and inflation in the US have skyrocketed. Americans feel most acutely on the biggest budget items such as housing, food, and transportation.
“In 2000, we probably lived very comfortably,” says Gopoian Wirick. luck. Now, “$100,000 doesn’t go as far as we think it will.”
This is in line with how retirement goals are changing. For many years his goal of saving $1 million was for many workers, but now that number is much higher.
Isabel Barrow, director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines, said this is a two-pronged concern given that today’s youth often outpace their parents. Since few workers are provided with pensions anymore, the responsibility for retirement savings falls entirely on them. In addition, housing and childcare costs are prohibitively high, not to mention mounting student loan debt. The millennial continues to live paycheck to paycheck because even though her income hits her six figures, she has many other expenses.
For those who can save, there is less left for other goals or just a little fun.
“When you factor in savings, 401(k)s, healthcare, and rent, you’re not left with much,” says Barrow. Budgets are tight these days, even with a six-figure income for him. “
Evan makes $152,000 a year in sales for a technology company outside of Philadelphia and doesn’t even have the money to remodel his kitchen.
“Fixing a house or renovating a kitchen is seen as something huge and decadent, but the truth is, it’s so crazy to want to update something after 50 years. not. [old]says the 34-year-old luck. “Today, more than just spending and enjoying modest luxuries is considered a greater accomplishment than it should be.”
Like Miriam, Evan’s biggest lifestyle change as he raised his salary level was to increase his retirement contributions. He allowed himself the luxury of buying a Tesla using the proceeds from his Dogecoin investment. The Tesla is the first new car he has ever owned.
Evan asked to be called by his name so he could speak openly about his income. I still can’t imagine how much it would cost me to practically save in a place like college if I had.
“The standards have changed,” he says. “Should I be grateful that I can actually save? That’s right. We all need to make enough to live comfortably. It shouldn’t be as privileged as it is now.” yeah.”
give a sense of security
Saving for a child’s college education is also a major stressor for 33-year-old Joseph, who lives in Virginia and earns $150,000 a year plus stock as the CFO of a small company. Joseph, who also asked to be called by his first name for privacy reasons, supports his wife and his three children.
His wife stopped working when their first child was born. Childcare was too expensive for a dual-income family. This is a problem facing many families across the United States. Without her income, Joseph says it’s hard to calculate things like her family’s vacations and buying a house big enough to have a baby soon.・Being a household of 6 people.
“If you really want to pay all these three kids for college, it’s crazy that $150,000 isn’t enough,” says Joseph.
Miriam, Evan, and Joseph all admit they are lucky to earn as much as they do. Their lives have certainly become easier than when their income was reduced. For example, he worries less about what to buy at the grocery store than he used to, all three said. They can save some money for retirement and, in theory, earn more if they continue to advance their careers.
But for Miriam, the biggest disappointment of hitting a six-figure salary goal is that it doesn’t bring her the comfort and peace she thought she would. I can afford most things, but I want very few things.
“I had really very high expectations of what life was going to feel like,” she says. I live and don’t do much shopping.I don’t have as much endurance as I thought I would.”
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com.
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This is the annual income required to comfortably purchase a $600,000 home.