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[flagged] It now costs $350k a year to live a middle-class lifestyle in a big city (cnbc.com)
34 points by onetimemanytime 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments





Lmfao at this article, these people aren't middle class... $2450 a month (30k!! a year) on child care because both are working?

$2000 a month (24k!! a year) on preschool to give their kid a leg up on going to a $35k a year grade school & high school?!?

$70 per DAY on food because you can't be arsed cooking?

They factor in 8K for vacations and another 6K per year for date nights?!?

And then it ends with this stunner:

> According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 5% of households earn $350,000 or more a year.

> While $350,000 might sound like a lot of money, it’ll go quickly when you’re raising a family in an expensive city. We all deserve to live a middle-class lifestyle. Unfortunately, we’ve first got to sacrifice more than ever to get there today.

Uhhh if only 5% will achieve that level of income you might need to ask yourself if it is really middle class....When people talk about "out of touch coastal elites" this is the type of shit they're talking about.


The childcare figures are actually pretty in-line.

In our area (bay area suburbs), daycare for a 2-year-old is around $2000 a month excluding any extra babysitting. Preschool for a 4-year-old is around ~$1800. I can see how within SF proper they might be higher.


"The childcare figures are actually pretty in-line" with one of the most expensive and unrepresentative cities in the US.

Our preschool in the Bay Area was around $1200/month, but there were many places that were higher. Believe me when I say that the Bay Area is insanely competitive in every way. This is why we moved out.

Boulder CO minimum is ~1500 a month for 1 kid, and most places have stopped giving discounts for two kids. Where I grew up in Fayetteville Arkansas isn't too much diff. So for 2 kids that is ~2500 to $3000 a month for FT child care while both people work.

I do agree with you this is a crazy article to make this seem middle class. But I do agree on the point that our econ is broken...


I don't doubt any of these expenses, and this hardly seems like a lavish lifestyle... but at the same time, $38k in 401k contributions is hardly middle class. Especially when the median household income in the US is $59k per year.

If you plug that $38k in 401k deductions, and then add say another $10k in employer contribution, assuming you have two parents at age 30 who plan on working for the next 35 years, and who have, to date contributed $10,000 total to their 401k you end out with a $9.0m retirement fund at age 65, assuming a 7% annual growth rate. Going by the 4% withdrawal method you get a $360k annual retirement income which seems a little high.


Looking at the breakdown it all makes sense, and I don't fault them but at the same time I agree with you and don't think the middle class of the country has ever lived that well.

Vacations that require plane travel twice a year? Going out to concerts and ball games for regular date nights? Life Insurance?


Don't forget your $1.8 million middle-class house.

In SF that absolutely is a middle class house.

If you know something about SF, I'm curious - on a typical assessment of that sort of house, how much of that is attributed to land, and how much to the house (2br 1300 sq ft, the sort that would sell for <$180K in a normal city in a wealthy coastal state)

Also, when people talk about the price of living in Manhattan, the obvious response is - so don't live in Manhattan. Can't you work in the Bay Area without living in SF proper?


Almost all of the value is the land.

RE: Cost of living, I dunno, part of the reason the cost of living in SF / Manhattan is so high is that lots and lots of people make enough to be able to afford it.


About land value, of course that is what one would assume, and what is often claimed.

I thought the cost of living in Manhattan or other similar places was so high because people do other things than live there that are highly valuable. Which might be nature's way of telling you "don't live there".


Thats just how warped your perception is in that hyperlocal buble.

We all live in a respective bubble.

AKA "Eating at restaurants every day and spending hundreds of dollars on new clothes every month while employing someone else full time to watch your kids gets expensive."

Spending $70/day on food is not normal middle class living. Go to the grocery store once in a while.

> The parents’ ultimate plan is to send both children to private grade school

Are you kidding me?


If you think you can eat out with a family of four for $70/day in the city, you are sorely mistaken.

When I eat downtown with my family the bill is rarely below $100 with tax and tip for dinner, and that’s a single meal, with no drinks (tap water), and no dessert.

Even some place like B.GOOD (higher quality fast food) is going to be $50 unless it’s a “Kids eat Free” night.


His point is that middle class families aren't eating out anywhere near that much. They go to the grocery store, cook and eat at home.

My point is a family of 4 can easily spend $50 at the grocery store for 12 meals in a day without being exorbitant.

And that’s assuming the two working adults are brown-bagging it at lunch every day and not eating out lunch with team members at least a couple times a week.

So $70/day gives you room to eat out as a family maybe once a week, not daily. (No way a family with a 2 and 4 year old are doing that, but that’s kinda besides the point)

Of course there are people who claim they eat like a king for $5/day. And I don’t doubt it’s possible, but I doubt it’s common for a middle class family of 4 living in the city who are probably paying Amazon to deliver their groceries.


I think it's reasonable to spend ~$11/person/day if you're mostly not cooking, and not economizing, based on firsthand experience. I mean, I understand that you can do math like "fast food meal costs $13, multiplied by 3, equals $39/person/day". But it just doesn't seem to work out like that, so something in your estimating logic is way off.

People's memories and estimates are often unreliable, but if you use one credit card for everything and it tallies your spending on restaurants, that's pretty definitive.


$11 eating out, in a major US city, for the whole day? Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Did I read that wrong?

Breakfast at Flour (egg sandwich, and a late) is going to run you $12, assuming you don’t buy that brownie for later. That salad at Sweetgreens is $15. Just the salad. Juice is charging $14 for a 16oz protein shake. We haven’t even made it to dinner yet.


Yes, I'm not disputing what a meal is going to cost, "major" city or not. For instance, I had a sandwich, drink, and a cookie at a non-chain casual-not-extremely-fast-food place, and it was about $16 with tip. If I get something cheap, where there's no tipping, it's still probably going to be near $10. On the weekend, sure, dinner for two might cost $100, never mind a large family. Might be leftovers though.

My point is that doesn't mean you average three times a typical meal price per day over a long period of time. And the reason I'm so sure is because I have the records which show I don't.

Maybe it's just laziness/time constraints. I can't possibly get up early enough every day to have a large meal, even if I could stomach it. And I only get half an hour for lunch on workdays.

My point is the relationship of averages to salient data points. Like I mentioned in my other post, it seems like I'm always going 40-60 mph, but my trip computer says my average is a lot less, and the average is very consistent no matter what kind of driving I seem to have been doing. Or, another example is time estimates, where short tasks are consistently underestimated, because it's human nature to ignore short delays/overhead.


$50 gets you two 16oz steaks (two adults can each eat too much steak for lunch AND dinner with that) and 15 or 20 _pounds_ of fresh vegetables at whole foods in the 94107 zip code according to Prime Now. And that's not even accounting for the umpty servings of dry goods like rice and legumes you get per dollar. What do you consider exorbitant? How much food can you eat in a day?

I’m not sure what you’re looking at... They’re selling USDA Choice strip steak for $18/lb.

2 pounds of steak before cooking isn’t lunch and dinner for two adults.

A single bell pepper is $1.50. They’re charging $0.69 for a single damn potato. Broccoli is over $3/lb.

These prices are insanely high. And I would assume some of the food you eat in a day is not going to be just bulk produce.


I'm looking at Amazon Prime Now delivery from Whole Foods in 94107.

https://imgur.com/eKQXa0Y - New York Strip steak $10/lb

https://imgur.com/GAug7XC - Green bell pepper, $1.79/lb

https://imgur.com/a/AI2eVqa - Broccoli, $1.49/lb

https://imgur.com/TP64IDK - Onions, $0.79/lb

https://imgur.com/a/7ME1g7D - Cauliflower, $1.76/lb

potatoes, $0.79/lb (tired of making imgur links now)

eggplants, $1.69/lb

zucchini, $2/lb

roma tomatoes, $1.49/lb

long grain brown rice (rice freshly delivered from Whole Foods instead of from somewhere saner!), $1.20/lb

Of course if you only ever buy the most expensive items and don't fill out your meals, then yes it gets expensive. But not being price sensitive in any way when shopping is like the very definition of being upper class.

> 2 pounds of steak before cooking isn’t lunch and dinner for two adults

You know that a proper meal isn't _just_ steak, though, right? Brown rice, legumes, vegetables, 8oz meat, spices. 2 Steaks, 2 people, 2 meals.


Groceries from Amazon Prime/Whole Foods is like estimating commuting costs using Uber. I just can't believe people live like that, or not for long. Nobody has a steak for every meal, or even every day, either.

Also, has anybody questioned that charity amount? That's like 1%. Like, you're making $300K and you can't afford 10%?


Not buying it, what are you eating and where are you shopping?

Of course you spend a lot of money to eat out, but you don't do that every single day. Even when you hardly cook, you don't have a sit down meal at a restaurant that charges $25/person every day.

If I think about the speed I'm usually driving my car, it seems like it's generally 50-60 mph, yet the trip computer consistently says I average half that. Because mentally, I don't weight all the time I spend not going full speed as highly.

I think a lot of the budget items are inflated in the same way - the monthly amount sounds like an amount you could spend in a month, but nobody would spend that much every month in perpetuity.


These people will complain about "the 1%" while being in the .1% globally. It's very strange to watch if you have perspective on global poverty.

I'm more worried that they complain about the local %1 while being in the top %10 locally. Having triple the median household income puts you well past the very upper end of middle class.

Triple? $350K is close to six times the US median of $59K (2016).

Even In-n-Out for a family of 4 is pushing $40 these days. Food costs add up surprisingly quickly even when you cook most of the time.

The $1200/month for entertainment/clothes/charity do seem a bit much if they leave you with a net cashflow of only $100/month.


Cooking your own burgers costs 10 bucks tops. Going out to eat is a luxury.

I didn't read the piece but suspect there is a conflation of "middle class" with what might be better called "professional class"- 2 working parents in high end white color jobs in high demand locations in high demand cities who tightly manage their time.

$350k is at the very low end of this professional class with multiple kids. Kids, and proximity to good schools, get very expensive, very quickly.

Housing: properties that can fit families- but where kids need to share rooms- in demand areas sell for $2M. Look it up. Mortgage on that is $10k/month. Rents are equivalent.

Childcare: a babysitter off the books for one kid is minimum $20/hour. With multiples, and a baby requiring full time attention, plan for $1k/week. Don't forget the bonus.

Food: at Whole Paycheck, the only supermarket in high demand areas, with picky kids, it's basically $5/person/meal. A 4-5 person family is $60-$75/day, $2k/month. Meals out with the kids anywhere in that neighborhood are going to be $20+ entree, $10+ appetizers, $10/dessert, $10/beer. Family of 4-5 can easily get to $200, including tip. Twice a month and that's $6k/year.

So with just those "basics" you're already at $120k + $50k + $30k = $200k post tax expenses, so $350k pretax. No private school, no vacations, no cell phones, no savings, no incidentals.

Note that in the context of these areas, this "professional class" is absolutely "middle class" in relative terms. "Upper class" in these areas will be the numerous families with assets and incomes above $1M.


> with picky kids, it's basically $5/person/meal

Nit. Actually picky kids only want plain hot dogs and plain quesadillas and plain spaghetti. The ingredient cost of feeding picky children is a few cents per meal even after you add childrens' multivitamins and smoothies.

I think y'all have lost your minds on these food prices. $50 gets you two 16oz steaks (two adults can each eat steak for lunch AND dinner with that) and 15 or 20 _pounds_ of fresh vegetables easy at whole foods in the 94107 zip code according to Prime Now. And that's on top of the million servings of dry grains you can buy for a dollar. $50 every day? You're killing me.


Lol, happy to provide the entertainment.

Just to be more precise from an example I am intimately familiar with-

* picky in this case means "specific"- specific products or combinations of products are required to satisfy a given child's nutritional demands. One can bellow like the dad in Calvin and Hobbes- "if they're hungry enough they'll eat it"- but that will be to no avail.

* actual individual serving sizes of these specific products are often at least $1, and combinations of those servings are needed on a per eating event basis.

* "snacking" means that it's more like there are 4-5 eating events of $3+ per day per kid

* packaging, portion sizes, product lifespan and pickiness mean that a lot of food- probably 40-50%- gets thrown away, either not eaten during a meal or not gotten to before it "goes bad."

From a recent daily trip that bled for $60:

* oat milk - $1+/serving for a wannabe vegetarian environmental activist

* quick cook oatmeal - $1/serving (and don't forget the cranberry raisins, also $1/serving)

* bagel - $1/serving

* cream cheese - $1/serving

* cut fruit - $5/serving (snack!)

* yogurt - .75/serving (cheap!)

* specific brand of peanut butter granola - $2/serving

* non-nut snack bars - $1/serving

The "whole" thing is insane.


> * cut fruit - $5/serving (snack!)*

You know... If you buy a knife, you'll save a lot in the long run. It doesn't even need to be a sharp knife.

> quick cook oatmeal - $1/serving

Quaker oats costs $1 per pound, not per serving. Granulated sugar costs even less.

I have similar comments about your other prices, but you probably get the point.

[edit] Wait, no. One more. I have to.

> cream cheese - $1/serving

365 Everyday Value, Whipped Cream Cheese, 8 oz Price: $1.79 ($0.22 / Ounce)

HOW MUCH CREAM CHEESE ARE YOU FEEDING YOUR KIDS? :)


"Live in s/big city/San Francisco/"

As this chart from the article, SF is an outlier, only bested by NYC: https://fm-static.cnbc.com/awsmedia/chart/2019/8/22/salary%2...


Surprised Philadelphia ranks so cheap; I was under the impression it had prices similar to other New England cities like Boston or DC.

Like every other BS "It costs this much" story, it depends on what specific location you're looking at and how much you want to not deal with crime. In Philadelphia you'll find three homes selling for $450k, $800k, and $1.2m on the same gentrified block in Northern Liberties, and people will walk past you on the sidewalk saying "I grew up here, but I can't afford to live here anymore", and then there's https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Badlands and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Philadelphia

In the DC area it’s super duper expensive compared to Philly and has pulled further from it as Philly hasn’t boomed as much. In comparison, Seattle used to be a lot closer to Philly in overall cost of living back in the mid 2000s (still more expensive than Philly) but in more recent years has definitely surpassed the DC area in cost of living. However, Los Angeles was higher than both and has steadily gotten more expensive and accelerated substantially less.

CNBC has a very upper class idea of what they think middle class life is like. Weekly date nights, $6000/ year on Netflix or similar, $7800 annual vacations? Most people canct afford any of those, let alone all 3 every year.

> While $350,000 might sound like a lot of money, it’ll go quickly when you’re raising a family in an expensive city. We all deserve to live a middle-class lifestyle. Unfortunately, we’ve first got to sacrifice more than ever to get there today.

Then don't live in a big city (read: SF, NYC). Not everyone should, nor deserves, to live somewhere just because they want to.

Hell, even in some of the bigger ones, like Phoenix, you could buy a giant home + drive to work in a Tesla for that type of salary.


> A Bay Area Rapid Transit janitor who makes $234,000 plus $36,000 in benefits marries a Bay Area Rapid Transit elevator technician who makes over $250,000 in salary and benefits. Together, they’d make well over $350,000.

What? This is unbelievable. But if true, makes us all contemplate our career choices.


Seriously! I think I could move back to America, to a poop-stricken dump like the Bay Area and repair elevators for a quarter-million dollar salary. Live in a customized van or mobile home for 2 years, then take all that money and buy real estate across SE Asia.

>Recommendations for a better life >If you’re one of the many families struggling to get ahead in >an expensive city on a high salary, here are five >suggestions:

>1. Limit your household income up to $321,451 after all >deductions.

The solution is your money problems is to make less money. :facepalm:


I learned a long time ago that food is the number one thing I foolishly spent my money and wondered where all my expenses were going. Not much can be done about the preschool costs (I feel the pain there), but the very least you can do is create a food budget, go to the grocery store, meal-prep, and replace common expensive things like coffee/smoothies and make them at home. After about a few months of adjusting to new behavior constraints you start to optimize and learn new habits that turn out to be more comfortable to work with. (Bonus: I now enjoy cooking). If you still enjoy the odd day going out somewhere to work, never leave home without a tumbler or some canteen of some kind.

Ok, these costs are a bit incorrect. The actual housing cost is much much much higher: not just 4k, but roughly 16K (190K per year) per month for 2.8 million dollar house where you need to pay just 38K per year property taxes. And if you don't live on the penninsula or are willing to move into some high crime areas, you can even find a house for less than 2 million dollars.

All the other costs are much higher than they need to be. You don't have to spend 70$/day on food, even here in the bay area. If you're really smart with money and eat a lot of oatmeal, beans, rice and onions, you can get your cost down to less than 30$/day for a family of 4, even here in the bay area! Vacations, aren't really needed - that's a luxury, same for clothes.

So, if you calculate it for real, you'll find the biggest costs by far are housing and day care which account for about 70%+ of the budget.


A Bart janitor makes $234,000 a year?! WOW

2200 on food per month, utter nonsense. 380 on baby kit per month for children in preschool? Nonsense.

Recently moved to SF with family of 4, combined income of about 130k less than this and living well including private elementary schools and preschool.

Don't need a car here, even with a family.

We furnished our place with a bunch of stuff folk were giving away for free

We eat well, sometimes out.


I figured it out! It's an article designed to funnel traffic to the author's blog site by using outliers (like the janitor) as clickbait. Other commenters pointed out that this is partly absurd expectations of what middle class is and partly the absurd reality of bubbles like SanFran.

I looked at the author's blog financial samurai and my impression was that all articles, including this one, were designed to sell the idea of investing in houses in what it calls the heartland of america with a crowdsourcing platform the owner probably owns called fundrise.com

This almost seems like a hit piece that’d be written by my rural Appalachia in-laws that cry out in amazement that I don’t get multiple acres and a water supply for a $500k property instead of a studio apartment and believe that everyone makes much more money just by moving to the city.

It seems more like its written by bubble trapped millenials for each other. But thanks for the xenophobia.

Articles takes the cities with the most extreme living expenses, and tries to say those costs are representative. Some of the "big cities" are smaller than places like Houston and Dallas where you can live a middle-class lifestyle very inexpensively.

This seems incredible even to someone living quite comfortably in London for far less. Are these figures for real?!

Well the BART janitor makes the most. I guess you’d have to pay me that to clean piss, shit, and used needles.

utter nonsense



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