7 Things The Middle-Class Can't Afford Anymore

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Erika Rawes, The Cheat Sheet; originally posted at USA Today,

Though there is some debate over the exact income a middle class household brings in, we do have an idea of who the middle class are — most working class people. Today's bourgeoisie is composed of laborers and skilled workers, white collar and blue collar workers, many of whom face financial challenges. Bill Maher reminded us a few months back that 50 years ago, the largest employer was General Motors, where workers earned an equivalent of $50 per hour (in today's money). Today, the largest employer — Wal-Mart — pays around $8 per hour.

The middle class has certainly changed. We've ranked a list of things the middle class can no longer really afford. We're not talking about lavish luxuries, like private jets and yachts. The items on this list are a bit more basic, and some of them are even necessities. The ranking of this list is based on affordability and necessity. Therefore, items that are necessity ranked higher, as did items that a larger percentage of people have trouble paying for.


A vacation is an extra expense that many middle-earners cannot afford without sacrificing something else. A Statista survey found that this year 54% of people gave up purchasing big ticket items like TVs or electronics so they can go on a vacation. Others made sacrifices like reducing or eliminating their trips to the movies (47%), reducing or eliminating trips out to restaurants (43%), or avoiding purchasing small ticket items like new clothing (43%).

New vehicles

Very few people who earn the median income can afford to buy a new car or truck. Interest.com recently analyzed the prices of new cars and trucks, as well as the median incomes across more than two dozen major cities, and found that new cars and trucks were simply not affordable to most middle-earners.

"Median-income families in only one major city [Washington DC] can afford the average price Americans are paying for new cars and trucks nowadays." As of 2013, new cars are priced at $32,086, according to the study. Mike Sante, Interest.com's managing editor reminds us, "just because you can manage the monthly payment doesn't mean you should let a $30,000 or $40,000 ride gobble up all such a huge share of your paycheck."

To pay off debt

These debt statistics come from Debt.org: "More than 160 million Americans have credit cards." "The average credit card holder has at least three cards." "On average, each household with a credit card carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt."

Not only do we have large amounts of credit card debt, we also have student loans, mortgages, cars, and medical debts. Our debt is growing faster than our income, and many middle class workers have trouble staying afloat. Money-Zine evaluated debt growth and income growth over the past few decades and found that "back in 1980, the consumer credit per person was $1,540, which was 7.3% of the average household income of $21,100. In 2013, consumer debt was $9,800 per person, which was 13.4% of the average household income of $72,600. This means debt increased 70% faster than income from 1980 through 2013."

Emergency savings

To provide ourselves with a degree of financial security, we are supposed to have emergency savings to protect ourselves in the event of job loss, illness, or some other catastrophe. Most members of the middle class don't have at least six months of emergency savings, however, and some working people have no such savings.

A Bankrate survey found that only around one out of four households have six months of emergency money saved, and many of them are in the higher income groups. Another one-fourth have no emergency savings at all, and the remaining household have a small to moderate amount of savings, but not enough to cover six months of expenses.

Retirement savings

If you reach the retirement age with little or no money saved, Social Security is probably not going to be enough to cover your basic needs. Even if you want to work for your entire life, you have no way of knowing whether or not you will be physically capable of doing so.

Although having a lack of a retirement savings is a risky move, so many people bet on double zero, just hoping that things will work out in their favor. While some members of the middle class neglect this aspect of financial planning because they are procrastinating, there are also some workers who cannot afford to set this money aside. Nearly half of those who don't save for retirement say it's because they simply don't have the money.

As of late, around 20% of people near 65 have not saved anything for retirement at all, and the majority of people — 59% — worry that they don't have enough money saved for retirement, according to a Gallup Poll.

Medical care

Medical care is a basic necessity and something we'd think would be affordable for someone earning a middle income. A Forbes article published data indicating that workers in large companies — many of whom are members of the middle class — "face nearly $5,000 in premiums, co-payments, deductibles and other forms of co-insurance."

During the past few years, these costs have had a large impact on working Americans. A report by Feeding America found that a shocking 66% of households say they've had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care — 31% say they have to make that choice each and every month.

Dental work

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "the U.S. spends about $64 billion each year on oral health care — just 4% is paid by Government programs." About 108 million people in the U.S. have no dental coverage and even those who are covered may have trouble getting the care they need, the department reports.

Oftentimes, people will purchase medical coverage and forgo dental because it's so expensive. Plus, dental insurance may cover only 50% of the more expensive procedures, like crowns and bridges. This leaves those who have insurance with large co-payments.

In many cases, middle-earners will delay or even forego some of these procedures in efforts to save on costs. According to the CDC, nearly one in four adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have untreated dental caries (like cavities or infections).

*  *  *

If only they had listened to Janet Yellen and found rich parents or bought businesses....!

But they are distracted...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Uncle Sugar's picture

The NWO likes to project the future through movies, tv etc.  I can't help but think that 'Walking Dead' is a sign of things to come.  Not real Zombies, but once the SHTF, lots of walkers in search of food.  Good luck bugging out to a remote enough location.

Latitude25's picture

No problem.  Uninhabited island via sailboat.

TheAnalOG's picture

Because of its superior divisbility, the middle class and poor will always be able to afford Bitcoin.

Anusocracy's picture

They can't afford to be stupid anymore.

Of course, that won't change.

nuclearsquid's picture

shit i have a pretty high income, and i only got 2 of em in the bag.


Rememberweimar's picture

No middle class ever existed. There has always been the working class poor slaves and the non-working class rich parasites...

Pool Shark's picture



"Very few people who earn the median income can afford to buy a new car or truck."


Maybe. But, that didn't stop them from financing one anyway...


rocker's picture

Yes, but since the middle class now earns less than 20k per year we have learned.

We now know why there are reality shows based on Repos.  

kaiserhoff's picture

Young people can't afford to own a dog.

How pathetic is that?

Because BenYellen.

Big Corked Boots's picture

All over Newark, Paterson, Camden, Trenton, Jersey City, etc (insert your favorite no-go city here) the peeps got whole stables of pit bulls. It seems that while EBT doesn't pay for dog food it is perfectly valid for beef. Go figure.

TruthInSunshine's picture

97% of Americans are retards regarding basic math & financial matters (and most other things). The ones who bother to vote also vote for those who tell the most lies and are the biggest criminals.

I recently learned that it's common for Canadians to finance vehicle purchases over 72, 84 and now, even 96 month terms, so they are also retarded. Anyone doing so, assuming they honor the terms of their finance contract, will have negative equity in their vehicle for almost their entire loan term - Retards.

"The life of a repo man is always intense."

Make sure to vote for Presidential Candidate Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in 2016.

PT's picture

Of course this article "forgot" to mention housing or land.  I hear you guys can still afford tents though.

Oh, hang on.  I forgot.  You can always "afford" housing.  You just don't make any repayments.  Easy.  Someone should tell the tent cities.

AldousHuxley's picture

Vacations don't define middle class. Plenty of workaholics in upper class. But the opportunity to get ahead in life through talent and hardwork is something middle class can't afford anymore.


1) Education to get ahead in life or stay in middle class

2) Housing in good school district to have their children get ahead in life over trust fund kids

3) Medical care to monetize special talents as highly skilled workers


In fact, ghetto lower middle class people live better materially than young professional with years of education debt working in large metropolitan area where high rents keep them forever indentured to landlords and riding subway with bums. Compare that to factory worker who can get a house for $150k in the mdidle of nowhere and fill it up with cheap toys & clothes made in China.

Refuse-Resist's picture

I agree except for one caveat.

Factory  jobs in flyovwer country? Not here.

If you're not in the protected monopolies, like healthcare and government, you're either on the dole, in jail, or working for WM or some other shitty multinational.


Here's a list of factory closings in ONE COUNTY OF NORTH CAROLINA. As a trained Industrial Engineer, who was told in 1987 that "future demand for IEs far exceeds supply and jobs for IEs will be plentiful in the future"

Fast forward to 1992. I work in a garment factory in Louisiana.  Clinton gets elected, passes NAFTA (along with repub shitbags) and boom, 3 months later the factory closes and we're told "we can make it cheaper in Mexico".

Uh Huh.





gold-is-not-dead's picture

If someone wants to stay in the middle class range, owning a gold and bitcoin is mandatory. And food of course, for at least few weeks.

sylviasays's picture

In a interview with the Economist, President Barack Obama made the following statement: “I think you’d have to say that we’ve managed the economy pretty well and business has done okay.” He said: “Since I have come into office, there’s almost no economic metric by which you couldn’t say that the U.S. economy is better and that corporate bottom lines are better. None.”


AldousHuxley's picture

the game is pump up the market prices with liquidity (aka. QEX) then do a reset after they are out of the office. Long term, nothing really changed, but in the middle of the presidential term, you get to say that things have improved.


Although Obama himself did mention 1 metric that didn't improve: Median family incomes


All these jobs but not enough wage to purchase necessities. No Job and affordable housing OR jobs but unaffordable housing. To middle class, they are lose-lose choices.

Amish Hacker's picture

The article claims "average income" is $72,600, then mucks it up with "the median income." (Median household income is usually claimed to be around $52,000.) Either the author is playing games with words, or he is understating by 27% how difficult it is for Joe Sixpack to meet expenses.

Withdrawn Sanction's picture

True.  And to give Joe 6-Pack a real kick in the groin, Median Real HH income peaked at just shy of $57K...in 1999.  It has been falling in fits and starts for the last 15 years.  It almost matched 1999 in 2007 at $56.4K but has been falling steadily since 2007 to its $52K perch where it sits today.  So if it feels you're losing ground, it's cuz you are.

SilverIsKing's picture

Can someone please explain the difference between mean and median to these folks?

Major Major Major's picture

The mean is what you use when it supports your argument more than the median

The median is what you use when it supports your argument more than the mean

You can also calculate the harmonic mean, which may support your argument more than the mean or median

Lies, damn lies and statistics

TruthInSunshine's picture

Don't forget that as income inequality grows (for whatever reason(s)), the usefulness of tracking and attempting to utilize either median income (being the better metric) or mean income decreases as a data point to construct a thesis (due to an "outsize" or skewering effect).

Acet's picture

If there are 10 people and 10 chickens, with 1 person having all the chickens while the other 9 have none then:

  • In average (aka the mean) they have 1 chicken each
  • The median (being the middle point of all values) is zero chickens
  • The mode (being the point which is closest to the majority of value points) is zero chickens

Politicians tend to use the mean since it completely disguises the inequality in the distribution (as my example glaringly demonstrates). The correct one to use when it comes to social systems is the mode, since that is closest to what most people experience and the true impact for most of the population.

When mode is used it quickly becomes obvious just how bad things are for the majority of people in most Western countries and how fast they are getting worse (since wealth concentration does not affect the mean but it is pretty obvious in the mode since each extremely wealthy cronyist rich "wunner" creates millions if "losers")

Georgia_Boy's picture

I stopped retirement savings myself over a year ago to pay off debt.  I'm almost done, but have other major expenses coming up. Will have to replace our car (one-car family and it's an under-$20K car) in a couple years too.  I get one debt paid off, another comes up.  And I make 2.5 times the median household income for my zip code, don't know how others are managing it.  I'm just glad I went big on the long-term savings for the first 20 years of my career while I had the spare income.  I'll be OK.

The problem with credit being available for everything you want to buy is, it makes you feel richer than you are.  You can keep up the savings, but the balloon bulges elsewhere and you have more debt.  The other problem is with interest rates low, the debt payments are manageable even if you have a lot of debt, and it's easy to get complacent about just how much you owe.  The amount of the monthly payment doesn't mean jack if owning that car means you can't build any net worth for years while you're paying it off.

I'm in my prime earning and spending years now, and debt is the enemy. Staying out of debt is more important right now than running up the IRAs even higher.

PT's picture

I kept debt to an absolute minimum for my whole life.  But when I look at my lifestyle, I understand why others don't copy me.  I still don't understand how others survive though.

AldousHuxley's picture

they surive by rolling over their debt to lower and lower interest rates in the last 30 years. 

StandardDeviant's picture

Hope the music doesn't stop...

gold-is-not-dead's picture

Owning a debt now could be beneficial, because inflation will eat it.

gimme soma dat's picture

That's why I turned my student loan debts into the lowest payment possible.  I'm hoping inflation will eat what I owe.

Prisoners_dilemna's picture

Just as social security and pensions will get paid out, in severely devalued dollars...

So too will you pay back every single cent of your student loan debt in devalued dollars.


Or they will finally apply a meaningful measure of inflation to your debt, only, and legally raise your debt to ensure the banks aren't losing purchasing power.


I mean our society would crumble and there would be blood in the streets without banks. /S


Lanka's picture

Many obtained a HELOC, bought vehicles, etc.; stopped paying on their mortgage/loans for two years, then defaulted on the loans and gave the keys to the bank.

Refuse-Resist's picture

Household income is another propaganda technique.

What matters is median individual income, which in this country, according to the SSA, is around $26000 per year.

That means around 70M people with jobs make less than $13/hour.


Even here in poorsville, your life is pretty shitty if you make $13 per hour. Especially if you have one or more kids.

With that many people making a  shit wage, how is a consumer economy supposed to function?

I can't see it working worth a shit once everybody gets saturated with consumer debt.

Which is about now.


gold-is-not-dead's picture

Every sallary nominated in fdrns is not enough because of inflation.

neidermeyer's picture

Hell , I'd finance one on a 84 month term if I could and wait for the hyperinflation to roll on in.

junction's picture

So far there are no statistics on the wealth of the political class, the so-called governemnt experts like Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, Larry Summers and the like who migrate from academia to politics to TV talking heads to writing books no one reads.  By and large, these incompetents are no different than goombah mafioso or the Chinese Communist party cadre, guys who gets the best table in the restaurant because of their connections and corruption, not due to ability.  In the USA now, as in Communist China, there are protected thieves and then there is everyone else. 

Pool Shark's picture



Dental Work?

Doesn't matter if you're British middle-class...


tvdog's picture

I've got terrible teeth dating back to them giving me tetracycline as a young child to save my life. A year or so ago, I paid $2000 for a root canal and crown on one tooth. Needless to say, I'm not getting any other teeth fixed unless I'm in pain.

nufio's picture

I have great dental coverage from my employer but whenever I visit the dentist, the office enquired about my coverage and gave me a plan to max out the 2000 $ yearly coverage in XRAYS, various fillings, examinations, wisdom teeth extraction etc etc. FUCK THAT. Even if I paying for it out of pocket I am getting that shit done when im in mexico. Whats with the pricing by these dentists?

COSMOS's picture

Totally agree, they look at you like a young virgin when you come in with your dental plan full of money, they give you lots of attention, suggestions, and a shit load of dentist love postcards in the mail, after they are done they discard you like a ghetto whore, you no longer even get a postcard for your birthday.

Incubus's picture

Were you expecting a hug after the act?


COSMOS's picture

I always did wonder why I felt loose between my legs after coming out of strong sedation at the dentist's office.

buttmint's picture

...head to Thailand for superior, low cost dentistry. A root canal and crown will cost $2-3k USD in America. Much better quality is $300 for root canal anmd $300 for 3M crown (not gold).

I got tired of getting raped by American dentists. Now when I fly, my savings pay for my vacation.

mrdenis's picture

So you use a toothbrush ,not a teeth brush .......

walküre's picture

Also referred to as "Legalized Mafia".

FreedomGuy's picture

@junction, you are absolutely correct. I did a post on Harry Reid once showing his original wealth and what it is now. I would absolutely love to see a study on Congress and the Senate to see how wealthy there were at the start of there often long careers and at the end and exactly how they increased (Hillary and cattle futures, anyone?). I also want a breakdown by party, state and any other interesting demographics.

Anyone like to bet what we would find? Yeah, you know it.

Moe Howard's picture

A post nobody can red arrow. Thank you.

ajax's picture



But every character on USA tv has PERFECT TEETH

toady's picture

I got'em all! That's pretty crazy when you think about it.

I skimped on the dental for decades, but I just got some thru my wifes work because I need to get some work done.

And the vacations aren't all-inclusives in a tropical paradise. More like snowbirding when it gets hot, and the occasional Vegas/LA/San Diego weekend.

I'm feeling kinda 1% right now!