what does 60k salary look like?
August 9, 2010 12:45 PM   Subscribe

What does like on 60k salary look like? mortgage, car, bike, job title, investment portfolio, social activities, married, kids?

I've read that 60k is the "happiness" salary (people making more aren't more happier). I'm wondering what that looks like in real life. Would love details on if you have a car, if you're married, what kind of rec activites you include, what your mortgage/rent is, how many investments you have and any other details that paint the picture of your life.
posted by UltraD to Society & Culture (45 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
This depends totally on where you live. $60K in NYC is a very different amount of money from $60K in, say, Chattanooga. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2010

1. I think this will vary greatly based on where you live.

2. "if you have a car, if you're married, what kind of rec activities you include, what your mortgage/rent is, how many investments you have and any other details that paint the picture of your life. " doesn't equal happiness.
posted by punchtothehead at 12:52 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is so widely-ranging that I'm not sure responses are going to be useful in any real way. I live almost-entirely-carless and I'm single in a big city, in a smallish apartment; someone else with $60K-ish could easily be rural, car-dependent, and married with two kids.

$60K isn't a real number. It's an average. I guarantee you that someone living in New York is going to need more than $60K to live a lifestyle comparable to someone living in suburban Pittsburgh, where the number might be lower than $60K. The real point is that there's a level beyond which more money won't simply buy happiness, and that number is probably lower than you think.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2010

Tomorrowful: if I recall correctly research has shown that the amount above which money doesn't seem to buy happiness is about $20K/year.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:56 PM on August 9, 2010

Kids in daycare?

Student loan debt?

Consumer debt?

Those 3 things could totally pwn $60k.
posted by k8t at 12:57 PM on August 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

Just for clarity's sake, here is the link to the TED talk about happiness and experience from Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman. Within this discussion, he discusses the "flat line" of happiness above an average (adjusted for geographical area) top 20% salary line (which is what pins down the 60K number--just an average for top 20%). It was not the focus of the talk, but is what the conversations and media picked up on as "the happiness salary."
posted by rumposinc at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is a link directly to a comment I made in an earlier question where a poster wanted to know the best job they could get at $60K a year. The other replies in that thread may also be useful.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:00 PM on August 9, 2010

Even taking it as a given that there is some level at which more income doesn't make you any happier (I know there's research that supposedly shows this), that salary would differ wildly for different people.

A few of the many crucial questions: How many kids do you have? Are you pooling your income with your partner, or do you and your partner both rely solely on your income? What's the cost of living in your town? (I know your profile says Philadelphia, but I don't know if you're just passing by or if you're going to be there your whole life or what. Obviously, if you move to New York City or Los Angeles, you're going to need to make more money to reach the "I couldn't be any happier even if I made more money" point, all other things being equal.)

And aside from those obvious factors, people can differ in less visible ways. If you're going to feel disappointed if you don't go out to eat at a restaurant multiple times a week, that's going to cost more than if you're on a macrobiotic diet. Do you enjoy being frugal and bargain-hunting, or do you feel the need to have "the finest" of whatever kind of thing you're buying?

Also, do you need to have a car to feel like you have enough freedom or comfort or success in your life? That's another huge cost.

Of course, your starting point also matters. Are you in debt, or are you sitting on a fortune?
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2010

It wasn't making 60k for me that brought happiness. It was getting tenure, which came about five years later. Job security (or security, period) trumps salary.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Honestly? Life on 60k is pretty modest.

- I live in a small town (<200,000 people) in Colorado, which has a lower cost of living than my previous city, DC, but is still pretty expensive.
- I rent a small (<1000sf) house with two bedrooms and a backyard for $1200/mo. in a desirable, walkable, bikeable historic neighborhood with two bedrooms and a backyard.
- I make payments on a middle-of-the-road auto.
- I can feed two people very, very well - but we grow a lot of our own food, buy luxury items carefully, and cook almost every meal we eat. We also derive a lot of entertainment value out of gardening and cooking, which cuts our expenses in other ways.
- We can pretty much buy any small-ticket (<$100) items we want to pretty much any time, but we're consciously trying to save.

I would say that at $60k, two people can live a pretty comfortable lifestyle outside of a big city. Note that our lifestyle does NOT include - cable tv, eating out very often, drinking out very often, or expensive hobbies. And we don't get to save much, which we're trying to change by making our lifestyle just a little less comfortable. I have no idea how we would pay for kids, if we ever wanted to do that (we don't).

For our priorities, our income works pretty well. But a sudden medical expense or car repair bill - anything like that would wreck our budget for the month. Making more and being able to save more - to travel, invest, whatever - would definitely make me happier.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:07 PM on August 9, 2010

I make about this much. I also have a lot of student loan/consumer/car debt, a 2 year-old and another due this fall. I rent from family so the price is right, and needed so we can make double payments on our debts and pay them off sooner.

Even when we're debt-free and ready to buy a home, conventional wisdom says we shouldn't get a home that costs more than 150k, and in my home town (SLC, UT) that will get you an OK home in an OK neighborhood. Certainly not a dream home. And forget about buying fancy cars on a salary like this, unless, of course, you're single.

But all this smacks of being overly simplistic. Am I happy? I'm verry happy, and it has little to do with my possessions, more to do with my family and my friends, and my creative pursuits. I would love to make more money, but the only reason I want to make more money is so I can retire sooner so I can spend more time with my family. Ultimately I'm not that interested in gadgets and gear...they're fun, but they definitely don't govern my happiness in the way my wife and child do.
posted by jnrussell at 1:08 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

For us, a family of (then) four living on about that much in mid-Michigan, a fairly low cost-of-living-and-housing place it looked like:

Paid about $140,000 for our house, mortgage about $950/month, payment about $1300 with all escrows. Take-home pay about $3k/month, IIRC, maybe a little less because of voluntary deductions like 401(k) contributions.
Could not have afforded a payment on a new car.
Did contribute to 401(k), about 10% of pre-tax salary.
Could afford modest vacations.
Challenging to set aside emergency savings, as they got used up more quickly than we could save them, so ended up doing things like getting home equity loans for major home repairs, and also had creeping-upward credit card debt.

I recently had a conversation with a friend whose family of four lives on about that much, I think. I commented that it used to be true that we always fell behind in the course of the year and only caught up again because my parents give us big checks (used to be as much as $2000, is now regularly $5000) at Christmas, and she said it is like that for her and her husband as well, and that she didn't know how they'd stay afloat long-term without the annual help from parents.

I used to try really hard to do all the things you're supposed to do, like have that emergency savings and some college savings for the kids and set aside money for the down payment on the next car and max out the 401(k), and it always fell apart and I felt that I was failing to live within my means.

What I have learned now that our family income has gone up quite a bit (I did some freelancing last year, so with my partner's salary it came to about $96,000; this year on just his salary it will be I think $86,000) is that that $60,000 was not remotely as much money as I thought it was and that it actually is hard to live a middle-class lifestyle (even a relatively modest one--we never bought new cars, for instance, had only one car for many years and drove it to 250,000 miles, etc) on 60k for a family of four. I used to say, "We make a lot of money, why can't I make this budget work?" and only when we actually began to make a lot of money did I realize we had not, in fact, been making a lot of money before.

My partner's income jumped upward dramatically a few years ago, so we didn't tick up slowly, giving me the opportunity to know at exactly what number it shifted for us, but I can say that at $80,000 I could suddenly see how it was possible that people had the emergency savings and the newer car and the vacation and the decent wardrobe all at once.

We did, and still do, a lot of low-cost family outings like going to the park, the zoo we have a membership at, or the farmer's market. The big carnival at the county fair is one of the highlights of our family's year; we usually vacation by taking long weekends within a couple of hours driving distance rather than flying away for a week or more, and though that is now because that's our preference, at 60k it was pretty much the only option.
posted by not that girl at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Indeed, it depends on where you live. Here in DC, 60k is about what it takes for a single person with no debt to live comfortably, to have a decent car and a decent apartment, go out to eat and take a vacation somewhere nice every now and then, and to sock a little away towards retirement. It's not enough to buy a house or raise a kid easily (though, of course, plenty of people do that).
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2010

As far as job title, when we were living on that much, my partner was a computer programmer with less than 5 years' experience. He is now a Software Engineer with 9 years' experience and that's why we're livin' large.
posted by not that girl at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2010

agreed that a 60k looks different for everyone and can vary due to location which is one of the reasons I am wondering what life looks like. I referred to the "happiness" salary merely as a point of reference, not necessarily that it was true.

@ tomorrowful, i read through that link before posting and was curious what the rest of a person with a 60k salary's life would look like. I wasn't sure what number to pick as a reference & since I've heard 60k rather often...i chose it.

Just kind of curious.
posted by UltraD at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2010

To answer the question, my starting salary out of college was around $60k in San Antonio, TX (which has a very low cost of living). It is enough to
* support myself and my husband (who is currently unemployed), put 10% in a retirement account,
* drive a 2000 Civic and a 2006 Sentra,
* rent a 3-bedroom house in an OK neighborhood ($900 a month) or a 2-bedroom apartment more central to the city ($850 a month).

I have a little student loan debt that I've mostly paid off (I have also payed off a $15k car loan) and my husband has some money from his parents that we're saving for a down payment on a mortgage at some point.

We eat out around 2x a week, bowl or golf 1x a week, have internet but no cable (we can afford it - we just don't want it) and Netflix. We go out for drinks occasionally, take 1 vacation a year plus several shorter trips, and play lots of board games. I would not say there's anything I want that I feel I can't afford, except for a scooter.

It's hard to estimate, but I'd say that having a kid would significantly strain our current budget.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2010

$60,000 isn't much at all in Chicago.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:15 PM on August 9, 2010

Also, like peachfuzz, I should note that

- we don't drink
- we rarely eat out
- we don't even own a TV set
- we've never been on a vacation out of our area code (except our honeymoon)

We cut a LOT of corners. We live very modestly. It's not a bad life by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn't fabulous, either.

I would LOVE to go on vacations to other countries, or have a bigger kitchen, or a bigger backyard, or a car with working a/c. I WANT those things. I believe they will contribute somewhat to my happiness, and right now 60k won't bring that to me.
posted by jnrussell at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2010

Agree with k8t. We've considered me staying home from work and living on a ~60K income, and it isn't possible because of student loans and a mortgage.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2010

I make almost exactly this much, but I currently have more than twice that amount of educational debt, which eats up about 20% of my gross pay and 27% of my net pay. So, as a single guy with no kids and health insurance, I can just about make ends meet in northeast Indiana without a roommate, in one of the cheapest non-ghettofied apartment complexes I could find. I have enough cash so that I'm not living paycheck to paycheck, but no savings, and I won't actually be able to start saving money for... to be honest, I don't know when.

I eat out once or twice a month, do Netflix instead of cable, can't imagine ever paying for a traveling vacation, and am currently leasing a vehicle as I'm completely unable to afford to buy one. I'm about one major event, e.g. wrecking my car, getting seriously ill, getting married, etc., of financial non-viability. I could pare my lifestyle back a bit, but short of moving into a shithole apartment with a roommate--an eventuality I have not ruled out--we're talking savings of maybe an extra $100 a month, if that. This isn't going to change my situation materially.

There is little prospect for improving my income, either. I can expect "raises" in the 3% range, and while I'm lucky to get even that in the current economic environment--hell, I'm lucky to be employed in the current economic environment--I'm under no illusions that this represents an increase in my real income. If anything, my real income is going to go down, due to likely tax increases and inevitable inflation. So, when it comes right down to it, I cannot afford to save any money, make any investments, get married, have children, or buy a house, until I'm in my early 50s.

The fact that my employer is currently paying me somewhere in the neighborhood of the 15th percentile of my chosen profession does not improve my morale.

Tl;dr: $60k isn't nearly as much as it sounds, especially if you've got student loans, which most people will need to get even that big a salary.
posted by valkyryn at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The worst year in my life is the year when I earned $60k. I earn considerably less than that now (CONSIDERABLY) but I am soooo much happier.

My Miserable $60k Year was lived in Atlanta, a city I hated, which I'd been moved to for a one-year contract with the company (which I hated) that had bought out my former employer (which I had loved).

Culture shock? Yes. As someone who grew up in Alaska, and spent her entire adult life in the Pacific Northwest, let's just say I was "unprepared for life in the South" and leave it at that. I hated the bugs, the oppressive heat, the long commute, the sexism, the racism.

(Never before in my life had I heard someone say the actual "N word" in earnest; e.g. not as part of a sociological conversation, but in order to refer to black people.)

Hey, don't get me wrong, millions of people love the South. I just wasn't one of them.

To compensate for these perceived faults in my life I basically made every financial mistake a person could. I rented far more apartment than I could afford, bought a new car and got dealership financing, ate out for almost every meal, charged things on a card with a spectacularly horrible interest rate, drank a lot (Jack Daniels is expensive! Especially in those quantities...) etc.

I was single, childless, mortgage-less, and knew absolutely nothing about managing money. After a year of this unending misery, I scraped together a few thousand dollars, broke my lease, quit my job, stopped drinking, packed everything I owned into my car and drove back to the northwest.

Almost 10 years later I'm single, childless, mortgage-less, and can pinch a penny like nobody's business. I make about 1/5th that salary, but I work from home as a freelance writer, and am at least 10,000% happier.

In my experience, it's not that "money doesn't buy happiness." It's that "money is completely irrelevant to happiness."
posted by ErikaB at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't have a lot of debt, $60K can definitely be plenty. I live in a great part of a biggish city (actually, Philly, like the OP); I put aside for retirement, I go out to eat often, I can take vacations. I don't really have to watch what I spend, but since i do, I know for a fact that i spend less than I make, even after all the saving.

That said, I also don't have a car loan, and my student loan costs me less than 3% of my gross salary, and less than 5% of my net. I also have no kids. That frees up a lot of money that other people have to put into servicing debt. On the other hand, I could live even more cheaply if I had an SO to cohabitate with, or if I was willing to have a roommate.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2010

This is roughly my income from all the stuff that I do [MeFi + local job + writing + public speaking] and I put almost half of it in the bank [split between my IRA, my investments and the plain old checking account]. No that is not a typo. However, I am a crazy person in many respects, so let me tell you how this all works out.

I have a boyfriend but we do not live together or share finances. I have no kids which was an active choice, partly finaicially based. I have no debt. The debt thing is a combination of luck [parents paid for college, I paid for in-state grad school, got some money from grandma that I spent on my house] and choices [I drive an ancient car, I buy pretty much nothing, I live somewhere where these are acceptable life choices]. I live in a rural area where I pay about $750/month for a huge-seeming one bedroom + internet + utilities. I eat out a few times a week and that and gasoline [to visit the boyfriend] are where a lot of my discretionary income goes. I don't take vacations that aren't linked to jobs, or I travel when it's paid for by work. My cell phone and all my technology is paid for by work. I don't have tv or a land line. I never buy new clothes. I use the library or buy books at book sales or use paperbackswap.com. I regularly go to the doctor and the dentist, work pays for health insurance. I belong to a gym. I eat very simply at home. I have no expensive hobbies. I read and write letters for fun. I go hiking or hang out with friends. I contribute to charity regularly.

I own a home (more of a camp, really) and acreage in an even more rural part of the state that I rent out for the price of property tax [to another MeFite!] good deal for him, good deal for me. It cost five figures when I bought it [in cash, I am allergic to debt] and it's maybe worth twice that now, if I could sell it, which I probably can't. My credit rating is above 800.

I was a super-miser for the first decade or so of my working life and the combination of that and my debt-allergy [and luck of the draw as far as family stuff and my health] has meant that I can relax more in my middle-age and not make everything about money or lack of money. I have some choices and it's nice to have choices.

For many people, spending this much time and attention on money is not actually freeing yourself from it, but it's just sort of normal for me so I don't see it as limiting. I'm not pathological about it, I buy what I need and I don't stay home from social occasions because things cost too much, I just don't go to many of them because that's not the culture here. Living somewhere where this sort of lifestyle is totally okay is one of the reasons I chose to live where I do.
posted by jessamyn at 1:52 PM on August 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

I live in Arlington, VA - a county of some 200,000 right outside of Washington, DC. I make a little over $60,000, but I also have a lot of education debt. After paying for that, $60,000 still gets me a comfortable life-style - but I'm only a single guy. I could *probably* support an unemployed significant other on this salary, but it would be tight - and supporting children would be flat-out impossible.

I rent a small one-bedroom apartment and take public transportation - but I also get to eat out when I wish, travel fairly often, and hang out with friends. I'm comfortable, I'd say.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2010

What would you do if you won millions in a lottery? Perhaps: erase debts, help out family and friends, quit an unloved job, start a business , buy some luxuries, donate to charity. Put the balance into a bank account and some investments.

But, after the initial euphoria, that much money would create a bit of a headache: you have to worry about what to do with them and who to trust to help you. Do you want an apartment in Rio, an ocean going yacht and somewhere just the Central Park? Well you are going to need to find somebody to buy them, take care of them while you are not there, insure them and so on. Are your old friends really interested in you purely for who you are - or do you need to find some new ones who are as wealthy as you? You are a prime target for con-men, kidnappers and tax inspectors. And all that leisure time starts to feel a bit dull after a while.

If any of that sounds plausible then there might indeed be a case for an "n" shaped relationship between happiness and money. But I guess that the top of the n forms a wide range depending on where you live, how you live and who you are. $60K might be the summit of the graph but I doubt it is a sharp peak.
posted by rongorongo at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2010

I'm single and live on around $60K, the big plus for me is that my actual annual expenses are closer to $30K. I don't live in a very expensive area and don't spend a lot of money on expensive things (although I do splurge from time to time). I've been working for about 5 years and since then I've gone from next to no savings to $80K in cash and investments while also paying off my student loans, paying off a car loan, and buying a house with a $30K down payment and $20K in additional principal payments so far. Living with my parents for 2 years of that helped but I still spend way less than I make. I don't have any debt and have enough savings to not have to worry about minor day to day expenses. I don't think having extra money makes me happy, but if I'm going to live on $30K either way having a lot left over to save is nice piece of mind.
posted by sickle cell moon at 2:15 PM on August 9, 2010

Assuming the usual ongoing costs mentioned by others...
• Cheap used car
• Brown-bagging lunch as much as possible
• Maybe one "date night" a month at an affordable chain restaurant.
• Shop for most of your clothes at the big-box stores (Kohls, Target, Meijer, etc)
• Basic cable (no HBO, Showtime, etc.) IF you have cable at all.
• Redbox
• Prioritize needed maintenance for house and car several months out.
• Very limited socializing that requires going anywhere other than to someone else's home.
• No concerts/movies/ etc. unless planned ahead for and budgeted in.

This is for a couple.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:19 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

$60,000 isn't much at all in Chicago.

My mom lives on less than $20,000 a year in "Chicago." Of course, she lives in Griffith Indiana, not Lake Forest. Or Wicker Park.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:20 PM on August 9, 2010

Oh, and at 60k, you probably won't have bupkus for an "investment portfolio" unless your employer contributes to a 401k.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2010

I was making that much about seven or eight years ago living in suburban Pittsburgh. For me it was:
- Newish modest car (Chevy Tracker)
- Mortgage on a 3BR Condo Townhouse
- No other debt
- 10% into my 401K every paycheck.
- Eat out once or twice a week
- Cable with some extras
- Ikea Furniture
- Basically comfortable but not flashy.
posted by octothorpe at 2:30 PM on August 9, 2010

I think there are two very different questions being answered here.

I'm pretty sure that it's hard/impossible to live a middle class life on 60K with all the big ticket stuff that most people expect from what they see on TV or whatever (new cars, big ticket vacations, large house or house in a really nice part of town). Unless you live in a part of the country with a very low cost of living.

On the other hand, I make a lot less than that, my needs are met, and overall I'm a fairly happy person. But I don't have most of the stuff that people in this thread are talking about (I'm also lucky not to have any debt).
posted by Sara C. at 2:33 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Isn't $60k income for a couple actually $30k income per person? I would think the situation would be completely different if both had $60k salaries.
posted by Authorized User at 2:39 PM on August 9, 2010

Isn't $60k income for a couple actually $30k income per person?

Thankfully, 2 people living together spend less than 2 people living separately.
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on August 9, 2010

Should have added - if my husband also had a $60k salary... well, we could afford to have a baby for one thing.
posted by muddgirl at 2:41 PM on August 9, 2010

Isn't $60k income for a couple actually $30k income per person?

That does average out to $30k per person ... but they'll spend less on a lot of things because they're going to share a home, furniture, cleaning supplies, internet access, heat, electricity, TV, some groceries (they'll eat more but will probably waste less money on expired food), vacations, etc. One partner's health insurance can apply to both, at less cost than both of them getting health insurance independently.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2010

It's hard to answer this question without addressing spending patterns.

I think US$60K is a sweet kind of spot, where if you do some economical things like, say, bicycle commuting, brown bagging your lunch & cooking your own dinners, and not going overboard on fashion (shop at sale time) you can also have health insurance & splurge like slipping in an overseas trip at least once a year if you want, eating out at a fancy restaurant every now & then, going to the kinds of shows & sporting events that take a hit out of your wallet, running a car if you want to, and still put aside some money in the bank every month.

When talking about the consumerist, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses lifestyle, people tend to rant on about widescreen TVs & other consumer items, but I think it's more the day-to-day expenses that build up, like buying a couple of coffees a day, or not making your own meals on a regular basis. Cut that kind of self-entitled behaviour out, and you may find that you have a nice little buffer of discretionary income to save or spend as you like.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:02 PM on August 9, 2010

Starting at around 26 I started earning that range of money and up to $75k. I live in Kansas City, single, no kids, and rent.

My life looked like: Loft downtown between $800-$1100, car payments of $500, and lots of fun.

I never had to worry about money. I saved money on accident just because I lived below my means. Let me rephrase that. My salary was above my lifestyle. Being a simple guy, I don't really have much expenses. Mid-range clothes, dive bars, cheap beer, and bargain home decor.

Now I'm unemployed. I'm not much less happier. One could even say I am happier. Working made the search for more seem more important. I worried about job performance, reviews, bonuses, and job security. I just don't like living in cubes.

I've since moved in with a friend in a different part of town and my entire monthly expense are now much much less than my previous rent alone.

My data point may not translate to others though. Most people around me and my my age are here because they absolutely have no money and need cheap accommodations. I'm here so I can still live a life and not worry about running out of money until I find work.
posted by damionbroadaway at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2010

For me and my husband $60k looks like

2 bedroom apartment
One nice car with loan, one crappy car without
about $500-600 in student loans
health insurance (for both of us!)
eating out a couple times a month (but minus alcohol, desserts, appetizers, etc)
no kids (health insurance for them would be a major expensive addition)
movie or concert about once a month
no real savings and unfortunately some debt due to a recent move
No vacation planned this year, but we have been able to go abroad in the past by saving pennies

Basically we save on the things we don't really need/want (big house/apt, buying movies, big tv, etc) and spend on what we do want (going abroad)

And just like EVERYONE ELSE we would be able to do SO MUCH BETTER if we just had A LITTLE BIT MORE!
posted by aetg at 3:59 PM on August 9, 2010

You might like to read this short article in the New York Times:


Sorry my link posting skills are obviously not up to snuff. Just copy and paste into your browser or maybe an Admin. will help out.

The article is titled: "But Will It Make You Happy"
posted by leafwoman at 4:09 PM on August 9, 2010

I make 65k and my gf makes about 40k and we live in Chicago. Neither of us has debt thanks to our generous parents who paid for school and same goes for our cars which they also gave to us. For us money means:

- A large 1bd apartment in an older walkup (modern appliances though) with a private deck in a nice neighborhood

- Eating out or ordering in several times a week (usually the latter due to my ridiculous schedule and lack of energy to cook)

- New toys for me when I need them, such as a $500 camera for a trip we just took, although I usually ask for my family for other ones for the holidays such as my xbox and such

- Putting 20% of my pay into my 401k

- Putting additional funds into a small but growing investment portfolio

- Having funds to invest in my internet marketing business for media costs and such

- Usually one vacation a year that costs a couple grand (we just went on one that came out to 3-4k

- Knowing I could last a year or two of living frugally if I lost my job thanks to the cushion I've saved up

- My networth is roughly $55k right now including investments

To be honest, I get terrified thinking about having kids at this point in my life because they are so expensive and even if I were to get regular increased of $5k-$10k every couple of years, I still wouldn't have enough to retire at a reasonable age if I had kids. I have no idea how people who have kids with this income plan to retire.
posted by Elminster24 at 4:42 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

What does life on 60k salary look like?

In the greater Los Angeles region - it doesn't look like much. I make somewhere around that ballpark. After rent and student loan payments, there's not a lot left.

mortgage, car, bike, job title, investment portfolio, social activities, married, kids?

No mortgage, but my rent is more than some of my friends' mortgages. My apartment is 250 square feet. But hey, it's at the beach.

Car - 11 year old Corolla. No plans to replace it until it dies a final death.

Bike - no. Tried that, decided I didn't want to become roadkill.

Job title - taxonomist.

Investment portfolio - a truly pathetic 401K that is worth about a third of what it started out as.

Social activities - mainly music. Playing it, buying it, listening to other people play it. This is an area in which I spend freely. And I'm willing to spend a bit on quality yoga classes. As for anything else - I rarely go to movies, I hate shopping and buy everything I can second-hand on eBay, I don't own a TV or have a cable bill. I rarely eat out and when I do, it's low-end ethnic eateries and not Dining with the Stars.

Married, kids - neither, by choice.

The happiness factor: for my needs, this is enough. More money wouldn't make me happier, because chances are it would come with a trade-off: time. I value time much more.
posted by chez shoes at 7:39 PM on August 9, 2010

We've been getting by on about 60k for the past three years in Omaha, NE. Prior to moving here we were very frugal and had our old house almost paid off. We have two kids, a 3100 sq. ft. "fixer upper" house, a 2006 civic and a 2003 hyundai santa fe. I work from home so we don't have daycare expenses. We rarely eat out and grow most of our veggies. I do a lot of shopping at the Goodwill and I clip coupons. We do eat out once a week or so - that's sort of our entertainment as Omaha is a surprisingly diverse foodie town. We don't take vacations and stuff like going to Starbucks is a rare treat. We have a membership to the zoo and to the nature center and we entertain our kids with these and with the library. Family members babysit occasionally so we get date night every couple of months. We splurge on organic food and good wine and my husband's homebrewing hobby, as well as a membership to the Y.
posted by Ostara at 8:47 PM on August 9, 2010

Assuming the usual ongoing costs mentioned by others...
• Cheap used car
• Brown-bagging lunch as much as possible
• Maybe one "date night" a month at an affordable chain restaurant.
• Shop for most of your clothes at the big-box stores (Kohls, Target, Meijer, etc)
• Basic cable (no HBO, Showtime, etc.) IF you have cable at all.
• Redbox
• Prioritize needed maintenance for house and car several months out.
• Very limited socializing that requires going anywhere other than to someone else's home.
• No concerts/movies/ etc. unless planned ahead for and budgeted in.

Interestingly, that was not my experience at all. We spent maybe five years with our household income ranging from low-50's to low-60's. That was adequate for a modest house, non-fancy new car (think Honda Civic pricing) plus an older used car, date nights once or twice a week (and not at chain restaurants), movies and minor shopping on a whim, etc. We never felt like we were skimping, though certainly major expenses, like house maintenance or projects, had to be budgeted and planned carefully, and we weren't taking (nor really wanted to take, honestly) expensive vacations, nor were we buying expensive consumer electronics. Kids would have been possible, but with compromises elsewhere (no new car, fewer date nights).

I commented that it used to be true that we always fell behind in the course of the year and only caught up again because my parents give us big checks (used to be as much as $2000, is now regularly $5000) at Christmas, and she said it is like that for her and her husband as well, and that she didn't know how they'd stay afloat long-term without the annual help from parents.

From watching friends and coworkers, this is really common, and you have to take this into account when you are comparing yourself to the Jonses. There's a big difference between living on $60k and living on $60k plus $5k or $10k in tax-free gifts, plus access to no-interest loans that tend to get forgiven -- between the tax-free aspect and the loan goodies, that might end up as the equivalent of $75k or even more, which is a lot easier to live on than the $60k salary. Many of the people I know bought their first car, first house, and paid for many first-baby expenses this way. If you have access to this kind of family help, it radically changes your situation.
posted by Forktine at 5:29 AM on August 10, 2010

Is this $60K before or after taxes? Makes a huge difference. Anyway, in a couple of years we'll have our cars (nice, but bought used) and credit cards paid off, which will more than double our disposable income. At that point we'll be able to afford to travel, go out to dinner more than twice a month, etc. But right now? Well, we rarely buy new clothes, we don't have cable, we go to movies maybe 3 times a year, and we don't have very much in savings. More money would absolutely make us happier, not because we want a huge flat-screen, but because we wouldn't have the debt hanging over our heads.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2010

If my SO and I moved in together, we'd have $60k before taxes. I live in London where the average deposit on a flat to buy is $90k (between us, we'd be looking at about $1300 per month rent on a small flat outside the centre). We both have slightly expensive hobbies (boardgaming, crafting) and neither of us smoke or drive, so I guess it evens out. The worst thing is the high cost of buying a place here makes saving for it feel a bit like a big waste of time.
posted by mippy at 5:39 AM on August 11, 2010

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