How AOC And Other Congressional Members Can Afford To Raise Kids In Washington, DC

How AOC And Other Congressional Members Can Afford To Raise Families In Washington, DC

There are two things people seem to want more than anything else: money and power.

For the sake of money and power, we study like crazy, work like dogs, delay starting families, then abandon our children once we have them, all for these two things that really don't make us much happier. How strange we are.

Billionaires are in the top 0.1% of wealth. They make “everyday multi-millionaires” sometimes feel like uncomfortable failures.

But who are the billionaires of power?

They are our politicians who pass laws that affect the livelihoods of millions. Members of Congress, The President, and Supreme Court Justices are all part of the top 0.1% of power.

The Goal Of Financial Education

As a Financial Samurai, it is my purpose to share as much free financial education as possible so that everybody, not just the rich and powerful, can rise up to lead better lives. Free information on the internet is one of the main reasons why I'm hopeful for the future.

Imagine a world where everybody has their finances in order. For one, we'd all be less stressed. And when we're less stressed, we're happier. Happier people make better decisions. Happier people are also nicer, more confident, and tend to help others more instead of lashing out.

If everybody can gain access to good financial information for free, more people will eventually achieve financial independence as well. When you achieve financial independence, not only do you remove strain from the system, you also give back to the system. When you give back to the system, the system is subsequently able to help even more people in need.

Finally, with good free financial information, parents and students will no longer need to go into tremendous student debt to get a college education reserved only for the brilliant or the wealthy. Without massive student debt, no longer will millions of students need to put their lives on hold. Graduates can work in jobs they love. They will have an easier time saving for a home. There will also be less need to delay having children, which may increase fertility rates, decrease heartbreak, and decrease the need for expensive treatments such as IUI and IVF.

With so much opportunity to help others, if we have helpful information to share, we should do our best to share it for all to benefit.

Overcoming The Blindspot

One of the biggest reasons why so many people have a difficult time with their finances is because they are unable or unwilling to plan for the future. They cannot forecast their misery to lead a happier life.

For example, younger folks often can't imagine one day hating their jobs. Therefore, they don't save enough in the moment to give themselves options when that time inevitably comes. With insufficient funds, they're forced to continue doing a job they hate for longer than desired.

One of the main ways I help people see what they cannot or are unwilling to see in the future is by sharing financial archetypes to ponder.

One such financial archetype is a family of four with two kids under 18 living in a high cost of living area. There's nothing unusual about this financial archetype.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coastal counties of the U.S. are home to over 126 million people or 40 percent of the nation's total population. Yet the coast accounts for less than 10 percent of the nation's landmass (excluding Alaska).

Meanwhile, according to Statista, the average family has 1.9 aged under 18 children. In other words, a family of four living in a expensive city is quite common.

To understand and describe the pressures of raising two children in a high cost area of the country where 40% of the United States population lives, I published a guest post on CNBC entitled, It Now Costs $350,000 A Year To Live In A Big City With Family. The post was the most popular post on CNBC's website for a couple days.

The post was so popular that MarketWatch decided to pick it up and put its own spin on it, entitled, This Budget Shows How A $350,000 Salary Barely Qualifies As Middle Class, thereby pushing the boundaries of what I had written.

As the buzz began to grow, MarketWatch decided to send out one last poke, “$350,000… and STILL struggling,” that caught NY Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's attention.

AOC Tweet On Struggling

I loved AOC's tweet because she approached my budget with good humor (why MarketWatch removed FS as the source at the end of the graphic, I don't know). She also shared the budget with her 5.6 million followers. This is great because it got people talking about important things such as:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, dare I say this tweet is worth a million words. The article, the graph, and the tweet got America talking about our finances, which is the #1 thing I hope for as a personal finance educator.

And let the record show that I never said this family of four was “struggling.” Marketwatch said so. My original post on CNBC discussed how quickly $350,000 can go if you're trying to raise kids, save for retirement, and save for their education.

AOC's Blindspot

As an unmarried, 30-year-old woman, what AOC might not realize is that she might very well turn into this family of four one day.

I fully expect AOC to be a rising star in the Democratic party for at least another decade, if not two. As a result, she should prepare for a financial life in the Washington, DC area. If not, the cost of living in the NYC area is equally as high, if not higher in some neighborhoods.

As a Congresswoman, AOC currently makes $174,000 a year. This salary puts her in the top 5% of all Americans. However, the salary has been capped since 2009 given objections by the American people who give Congress a low approval rating.

AOC has an estimated $20,000 in college loan debt. Meanwhile, I estimate AOC has a net worth of around zero due to her student loan debt and the fact she was working close to a minimum wage job in early 2018 as a bartender.

If AOC saves aggressively, invests wisely, and doesn't have any kids, I believe she will grow her net worth to over $1 million by the time she's 40.

But here are some of the challenges AOC and other members of Congress face if they want to get married and raise two kids in the Washington, DC area.

Median Home Price In Washington, DC

The median-priced detached home is around $820,000 as of October 2019. As any real estate buyer knows, you oddly don't get very much if you pay the median price for a home. If you want to buy a move-in ready detached home in Washington, DC or the nearby suburbs, expect to pay closer to $1,000,000. The overall median price for property types in Washington, DC is roughly $620,000.

If the median-priced detached home grows by just 3% a year, by 2029, the median-priced detached home will be $1,102,000. If you have kids, your preference is to own a detached home with a backyard instead of a condo.

Washington D.C. median home price

Private School Tuition In Washington, DC

Although it's possible AOC and other members of Congress would send their children to public school in the DC area, it is rare. Those in the top 0.1% of power usually desire and require safety and more privacy for their children.

Let's say AOC has two boys and is OK with public grade school up until high school. She then decides she wants to send her kids to Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh's high school alma mater, Georgetown Prep. Here's the latest tuition.

Georgetown Prep 2020 Tuition

  • Day Student Tuition: $38,330

Other Fees:

  • Day Student Tuition Deposit: $2,000 reservation deposit for enrollment, credited towards tuition
  • Tuition Refund Insurance Plan .09%
  • Parents' Club Dues: $105
  • Estimated Book Cost: $800-1000

Let's say AOC doesn't want her two boys to ever go to public school. Instead, she wants to start them off in pre-K through 12th grade at Sidwell Friends, the private school where the Obamas' daughters went. Below is the latest tuition.

Sidwell Friends Tuition 2020

Lower School$44,280 (includes hot lunch and textbooks)
Middle and Upper Schools$44,280 (includes hot lunch)

ADDITIONAL ANNUAL FEES

Middle School textbooks and laptop fee (grades 5–8)$560
Upper School textbooks$500–$700
Daily shuttle bus transportation between
DC and Bethesda campuses (optional)
$1,050 one way,
$1,700 round trip
Lower School Early Risers (optional)$235–$1,045
Lower School After Care (optional) 1–5 days per week$1,600–$5,995
Middle School After Care (optional)$2,900

Let's say AOC keeps her kids in New York City and she commutes to Washington, DC three days a week. The annual tuition at Horace Mann is $53,200 a year once they hit pre-kindergarten. The total cost per year would, therefore, be $106,400, excluding any donations to the school. At a 25% effective tax rate, AOC would have to earn $142,000 in gross salary to pay for this tuition.

Tuition Schedule, 2019-2020 Academic Year

Nursery Division 
Threes Program, Mornings or Afternoons$38,200
Threes Program Full Days$53,200
Pre-Kindergarten$53,200
Kindergarten$53,200
Lower Division 
Kindergarten to Fifth Grade$53,200
Middle Division 
Sixth to Eighth Grades$53,200
Upper Division 
Ninth to Twelfth Grades$53,200

Finally, let's say that AOC's children decide to attend her alma mater, Boston University, instead of going to an amazing public school like The College of William & Mary for one third the price. Here's how much Boston University costs.

Boston University Tuition AOC

How on earth are AOC and other members of Congress going to afford such expenses off their $174,000 a year salary? Let's do the math!

How AOC Can Afford To Raise A Family In Washington, DC

It is virtually impossible for AOC alone to afford to send two kids to private school starting in kindergarten. The tuition at Sidwell Friends would amount to roughly $90,000 a year for two kids, after tax. Based on a 25% effective tax rate, AOC would have to spend $120,000 of her $174,000 salary on tuition.

With $52,000 remaining of her salary, AOC only has $4,333 a month gross left to spend on housing, food, entertainment, transportation, personal health products, vacation, outside kid activities, and charity. After paying a 25% effective tax rate, AOC actually only has $3,250 a month to spend on life.

Unfortunately, the average rent in Washington, DC is $2,232 a month according to RentCafe. While the average apartment size for the average rent is only 743 sq. ft.! Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume AOC would have to pay closer to $3,500 a month for a modest apartment or townhouse for her family of three as a single mother.

If she does, AOC would be left with no money left over for retirement savings, her children's college education, vacations, food, entertainment, and charity.

Average rent in Washington, DC

The Solution Comes Full Circle

The obvious solution to AOC's situation is to have a working spouse. Although no woman needs a man or a partner to provide for her, it certainly helps to have a working spouse when you have two children.

For the sake of equality, let us say AOC marries a man who makes a similar $174,000 salary. Maybe that man is her current boyfriend, who knows. Suddenly, their household income comes mighty close to my original $350,000 a year household family of four.

Let's crunch some numbers to see how AOC and her husband can afford to raise two kids in expensive Washington, DC.

AOC Budget For Family Of Three On $350,000

AOC Budget Analysis

The main killer in AOC's budget is the $90,000 a year in tuition to Sidwell Friends plus the $20,000 a year in 529 plan contributions so they can help pay for private university tuition.

Even if AOC did send her kids to public grade school through 12th grade, she would still have to come up with $72,000/year X 2 if they want both kids to attend her alma mater, Boston University. $144,000 X 4 years = $576,000 in after-tax dollars.

Assuming the cost to attend Boston University doesn't change for the next 18 years, and AOC miraculously has two children today, her household would need to still save $32,000 a year to pay for all college costs.

Unfortunately, the cost to attend Boston University has gone up by at least 5% a year. Therefore, in 18 years, the cost to attend Boston University may be a whopping $173,000 a year using a 5% compound annual growth rate. In other words, AOC and her husband would need to save $1,730,000 to pay for four years of college expenses for two children in 18 years.

To do so, AOC and her husband would need to save $96,111 a year for the next 18 years, which thoroughly replaces the $90,000 a year they have to spend sending their two kids to Sidwell Friends from K-12 or the $106,400 a year if they go the Horace Mann route in NYC. Their $20,000 a year contribution to their 529 plan is clearly not enough.

There's really not much more in AOC's budget we can cut. She's already not building any home equity by renting. Sure, the media had a fit that she spends $300 to cut and dye her hair, but that's her prerogative. As someone who cuts his own hair and doesn't dye his hair, I can't judge her because I don't need to be presentable to anybody.

Sure, she could reduce her $8,000 a year vacation budget for a family of three. But when you have so much free time as a member of Congress, it would be a waste not to go to fantastic places with your family, especially during long summer vacation months. Congress is only in session 138 days a year or less, if there are mid-term elections. In August 2018, House members got the entire month off!

Finally, at least she and her husband are saving $38,000 a year in their retirement funds. Yes, I know politicians have pensions instead of 401(k)s. But I'm just using $38,000 as a combined annual retirement savings budget.

Here are some solutions for AOC's $350,000 household to consider.

Solution #1: Be OK With Public Grade School And University

Forget private grade school and private university. Although AOC's children might get scholarships as underrepresented minorities, if the system is working properly, they probably won't given their parent's combined incomes and their mom's position of power.

If AOC and her husband can't bear the thought of sending their children to public school like most of the U.S. population, including myself, then the only other way to afford such a luxury is by making outside income.

Solution #2: Do Some Side Hustling

Members of Congress are allowed to retain an amount of permissible “outside earned income” limited to no more than 15% of the annual rate of basic pay for level II of the Executive Schedule for federal employees, or $28,400.00 a year. However, there is currently no limit on the amount of non-salary income members can retain from their investments, corporate dividends or profits.

Therefore, AOC could theoretically boost her pay from $174,000 up to $202,400, which would give her household more breathing room to save for retirement or their children's education. Here's my step-by-step guide on how to create your own website to help you attract my clients and/or generate your own online revenue.

Solution #3: Lose Or Quit

Given AOC's tremendous popularity, there is an unlikely chance she will lose when she's up for re-election on November 3, 2020. But if she does, or decides to quit, I'm sure she could get a multi-million dollar book deal like every popular politician before her.

For example, I calculate Elizabeth Warren has an estimated net worth of at least $4 million, partly because she got a $525,000 advance for her book, “A Fighting Chance.” She also earned ~$60,400 in royalties for previously published books on bankruptcy and credit.

In another example, Joe Biden's net worth was quite paltry in 2017, despite he and his wife earning over $300,000 a year for at least eight years. Then their fortunes turned when the Bidens signed a reported $8 million book deal with Flatiron Books once Joe left office. In June 2017, shortly after they inked the book deal, the Bidens purchased their vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., for $2.7 million. The Bidens have reported they've earned more than $15 million on their tax returns since leaving office.

If AOC wants to go the book deal route, she should probably try and serve at least two terms to really make some big money. Although I'm sure she could get a $2 million book deal after only one term.

Solution #4: Find A Wealthier Spouse

Although I'm all for equality, there's no reason why AOC couldn't easily find a spouse who earns more than $174,000 a year. There are numerous positions across many industries that pay people with over 10 years of experience after college much more.

Given AOC is in the top 0.1% of power, she will naturally run in circles with other people of power and great wealth. Nobody would be surprised if she met someone who made millions a year.

The marriage combination of powerful politician plus wealthy business person is one of the most coveted status combinations in history.

Solution #5: Have Fewer Children

Having children is a blessing. But not everybody wants or should have children.

After doing the math, if the strains of having two children is too much for AOC and other Congressional members, then only have one. If raising one child is too much, then have none.

It should be a reasonable ask to not have children before first being able to take care of yourself. Our children deserve to be cared for in the best way possible.

Raising Children In A Big City Is Expensive

I understand that it's easy to laugh at a family who is just getting by on $350,000 a year, especially if you don't have kids or don't live in an expensive city or both.

But 40% of Americans do live in an expensive coastal city and millions of these Americans plan to have children one day.

Before you decide to have kids, do the math. Please sit down with your partner and talk about the consequences of having kids before getting busy during the three most fertile days of the month.

If we can properly plan our careers and our finances well before having kids, I strongly believe we will raise better-adjusted kids who will grow up to be wonderful adults.

I'm sure AOC and other members of Congress will find a way to make things work if they want or have children. As the saying goes, “have children and the money will come.”

Readers, do you think AOC and other Congressional members will be able to raise two kids in expensive Washington, DC on their salaries? What are some other ways in which a member of Congress can afford to raise a family?

Related posts:

How To Retire Early With Kids: An Impossible Mission

Maxing Your Your 401(k) Is A Choice On An Average Income

The Best Age To Have Kids Based On Biology And Economics

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114 thoughts on “How AOC And Other Congressional Members Can Afford To Raise Kids In Washington, DC”

  1. Part of the problem is that people start a career making six figures and expect to be wealthy immediately despite having student loans, mortgage, car, and family expenses. The reality is you got to spend about a decade paying down debt and investing before you really see results. Even then you’ll probably need another decade or working to maintain benefits and build a bigger retirement cushion.

  2. This post is so out-of-touch and unrelatable, it’s just a combination of absurdity and insanity. I typically enjoy Sam’s posts, but when there is the occasional “here’s a taste of reality” post from the perspective of a rich person who can’t wrap their head around all of the unnecessary money spent, he loses me.

    1. It is definitely hard to relate if you are not one of the 40% of Americans living in an expensive coastal city who may want to have kids or have kids. I think that’s the whole point of the post. To help people understand, who are clueless.

      It’s also interesting b/c you know AOC, as a Democratic Socialist, will be carefully watched. Will she act like the people she represents, and send her kids to public school? Or will she continue to do differently what she says, and go the private elitist route?

      What is your family situation?

    2. Tony,

      You’ve mentioned you live in the MidSouth, are now 26, make $68K and don’t have kids. So I understand how you can’t relate to raising family yet, in a HCOLA. But hopefully, you can broaden your outlook. A person’s outlook pre kids is entirely different from a person’s outlook after having kids. You’ll just have to trust me on this, or not.

      You also mentioned that your father-in-law paid for your $32,000 wedding and you spent $10K on a honeymoon and $6K on a wedding ring. $32K is 10X more than what we paid for our wedding and your honeymoon is $9.5K more than we spent on our honey moon. Even though we were frugal and didn’t want to have our parents pay for anything, I can relate to why you went your route. That’s what most Americans do.

      The point is, everybody is different. And the more we can accept different situations, the more we will learn and grow.

      1. Fair enough. I doubt I’ll ever be in a situation that I become the subject of this post or others like it (by choice or otherwise) and I’m certainly not now, so I can’t accurately chime in.

        To your point, it’s definitely a change in perspective to see these posts and the resulting comments, seemingly split between agreeing with you and not.

    3. I think it’s all about perspective.

      I am currently living in a coastal city (Boston). The wife and I make approx. $375k/yr with bonuses. We have two young kids. We live in a massive (for the area) four bedroom 2,000 sq. ft. condo that’s walking distance to a subway station. Coincidentally, we both went to BU. I’m actually going to grad school right now, and Sam’s numbers are a little low – my tuition at BU right now is $80k/yr.

      Other bills:

      Daycare – $4750/mo (includes “discount” for the second kid)
      Mortgage – $4400/mo
      Groceries – $700/mo (from Trader Joe’s or Star Market, not Whole Foods)
      HOA – $300/mo
      Subway – $240/mo (two $120 passes)
      MA Income Tax 6% (don’t know exactly what it comes out to off-hand)

      School Savings – $500/mo (2x $250/mo 529c, one for each kid)
      401(k) – $3166/mo (maxing out both of our 401(k)s)

      No auto loans.
      No student loans (I worked two full time jobs while going to public school for undergrad, we’ve since paid off the wife’s loans).
      No annual vacations. My last time off was spent being daddy daycare to save money on daycare.
      No date nights / dining out – in the three years we’ve had kids, we have had 1 entire night off. We did get Domino’s delivered the other day, so I guess that counts as dining out.
      No consumer debt.

      Our wedding was a cheap affair – a potluck BBQ in my back yard in t-shirt and jeans with a cooler full of beer.

      We are by no means barely surviving. I can easily cover a surprise bill if needed. But, we certainly don’t feel like we have tons of cash left over at the end of the day, and we certainly aren’t spending it on seemingly frivolous things. It’s expensive to live in an expensive city.

      For comparison, I used to live in a small town in Texas. The wife and I made around $65k/yr. No student loans, no kids, but a minor amount of consumer debt, two car loans, $900/mo mortgage, no savings of any sort and had a similar amount left over each month as we do today.

  3. “Finally, let’s say that AOC’s children decide to attend her alma mater, Boston University, instead of going to an amazing public school like The College of William & Mary for one third the price.”

    Let’s be real, unless she pulls a Katie Hill and gets derailed, and she does becomes one of the big Dem star everyone is predicting, her kids will more likely get “scholarships” for having a special mom, or AOC will be side hustling with a one book that will pay for BU.

  4. Sam,

    Don’t know what you are thinking. Rooting for a left wing socialist who has been totally wrong on so many issues on so many levels. You got be kidding me.

  5. Sam – First time caller, long time listener.

    I am an attorney, not a financial planner, but I think there is a glaring error in your calculations (may be addressed in the comments, and I apologize if it is).

    AOC, like every other politician, unless from the DC or Maryland/Virginia area, have to maintain two residences: one in DC and one in their “congressional district.” Most politicians keep their families at home, as they generally only work in DC 3 days a week. A lot of politicians have “flop houses” in DC where they, along with some other politicians, all rent a DC house and basically rent a room. So the Sidwell Friends numbers are incorrect, as are the costs in DC. Assume only $1000 in DC for rent, and $2-3,000 back home (unless from a high rent/cost of living area, like New York (and AOC lives in the Bronx, which is far cheaper than Manhattan).

    I also thing the 401k contribution is incorrect. Politicians earn a pension for their work – I think they need 10 years, to receive their money, so doubtful many are saving into a 401k.

    A number of politicians take “fact finding missions” overseas, and at least bring their spouse. While they have to pay the cost of the ticket, the cost charged is not the same as the actual cost incurred.

    Finally, their “campaigns” are allowed to pay for a lot of things, so some of the monies assumed to come out of pocket are actually paid by their contributors/constituents.

    If you are really into this, politicians have to file annual reports on their incomes, etc. I suggest finding the annual report of Russ Feingold, a former Senator from my home state of Wisconsin. He was the “poorest member” in the Senate, as he only received his Senate salary. It is a good breakdown of some of the numbers.

    Keep up the great work. Back to lurking in the background.

    1. Great points. I used $38,000 as a combined annual retirement savings budget for the couple. I assume the husband contributes to his 401(k) and AOC pays something into her pension to receive her pension. But AOC might one day work in the private sector.

      I highly doubt she would only spend $1,000 a month for rent. Maybe, but hard to picture. I see no reasonable 3-4 bedroom home for rent for less than $3K in NYC either. That would be a steal.

      NYC private school is even more expensive. Horace Mann costs $53,400 a year. That’s more than Sidwell Friends.

      I’m just looking forward to how things transpire.

      Will AOC be a woman of the people by going to public school route? Or will she fence off her kids from the real world to only hobknob with the most privileged children in America?

      Hope she does the former!

    2. I live in DC and a studio room would cost at least $1500/mo. AOC and most politicians would get much better and more expensive room. My best friend is paying $3500 in a one bedroom apartment in a trendy neighborhood Logan Circle. Sharing a townhouse room/condo would cost 1000 each, Im sure AOC don’t wanna share bathroom.

  6. Why do you think people who don’t have two kids who don’t live in a HCOLA judge so much about people’s budgets who do have two kids and live in a HCOLA?

    Also, how come nobody is pointing out the hypocrisy of a Democratic Socialist needing to send her gets to private grade school and to $72,000 a year Boston University? I only know super rich people who send their kids to BU. If you were smart enough or could afford that tuition, you’d go to Harvard!

  7. “AOC would have to spend $120,000 of her $174,000 salary on tuition” ….No? That’s not how taxes work. You could say she’s spending $90K of her $130K post tax income, but saying she’d be spending $120K on tuition is just a lie.
    Also, why are these people paying for all 4 years of college, for both children, when their first kid turns 18? For each child, it’s really 22 years you have to save, and since in the budget they’re 2 years apart, it’s 24 years. Also, why are these 529 plans getting 0% returns? That seems truly incredible for a managed portfolio of mutual funds and ETFs over a 24 year period. After accounting for these 2 changes to make your fake budget a little more like reality, the per year contributions needed for would be significantly lower. The reaching and bending of reality being done to try to make it look like $350K a year is a struggle is really bananas.

    1. Feel free to tell me how much gross income is needed to pay for $90,000 in annual tuition if you have a 25% effective tax rate. Taxes are complicated, and I’m always interested in learning more.

      How many children do you have and where do you live that allows you to make it work in a HCOLA? thanks

      1. Maybe he believes AOC won’t have to pay taxes because she will pass a low that forces everybody else to pay, but her family?

        Socialism works until you run out of other peoples money.

        I’m guessing PPAE doesn’t have kids or doesn’t have kids and lives in DC or NYC, which is more expensive.

  8. Al Mark Fuckerburg

    AOC? Lol, she is barely old enough to have a kid. She IS a kid. You just had to fit her into the title huh?

    I think another interesting question would be how she, or others in federal government, starts barely able to make 1st months rent ( she said she needed her first check to apt search) making 180k and becone worth mega millions! The math never computes.

    Also, if the Green New Deal was theoretically to pass, how would any of afford rice and beans?

    Cheers!

  9. With your idiotic budget, since that’s not how I live, your make a lot of assumptions. I see close to $13k per month in what I would consider savings, which is the option you get when you make 6-7x’s the national average. 401k, education, $500 vacation savings, college savings, life insurance… Blow those off for only 2 months, as those are merely a choice and you got a $25k safety net.

  10. Lol Sam, you made it to an article on The Atlantic too! theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/why-financial-confessionals-viral/600358/

    1. WannabeTrophyHubster

      She (author, Ms. Lowrey) started off fairly negative but then leveled off and gave the sort of level, well-considered work you’d expect from The Atlantic.

      “The internet, being the internet, responded with some combination of howling, baying, pitchfork-jostling, and scoffing. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York quipped that the thing the family was struggling with was math. Gabriel Zucman, a leading scholar of wealth and inequality, described the budget as laughable, while noting that it showed how much money consumption taxes could raise.”

      Haha.

      She also gives a hat tip and links to Sam’s 2015 “2-lawyer $500K family budget” from 4 or 5 years ago.

  11. Well, members of Congress have tended to do incredibly well in their investments. Nothing to do with the fact that they were frequently given insider information and were actually allowed to use it. Presumably, the STOCK Act in 2012 cracked down on this but we have no way to tell if it is being enforced or, perhaps worse, selectively enforced when it come to the President, the vice-President, and Congress. Congress deliberated less than 14 seconds before voting unanimously to exclude their own financial transactions from public review when, logically, they would be more visible, rather than less so, than those of the general public.

  12. In many cases working as a bartender is not close to a minimum wage job. Especially for someone like AOC who is attractive, personable and also worked in NYC.

    1. Funny Nate, this also stuck out for me in an otherwise interesting article. Sam needs to talk to some bartenders about their financial samurai skills. In a good club in Toronto a bartender with AOC’s looks, style and charm can pull in $10k/month in tips. The key is a busy downtown spot where she can get a lot of shifts. As Sam says, making big $$$ is all about the hustle!

        1. “If a Bay Area Janitor can make $235,000+ a year, why can’t bartenders too right?“

          I do not know a single bartender on this planet that will make $235k as a bartender, unless you are Tom Cruise from Cocktail.

          “Establishment survey, the sector that added the most jobs was the “food services and drinking places”, i.e. “waiters and barenders” category, which added 53,000 jobs, the highest monthly increase since March 2014. There have now been 89 consecutive months without a decline for waiter and bartender jobs, the strongest sector for US employment. Needless to say, these jobs fall within leisure and hospitality, that sector pays the worst wages, an average of $13.35 an hour, and $331.08 a week.“

  13. I came to US as an au pair ( sort a nanny/student exchange type) living in Mclean, VA 22 years ago. I didn’t have much money. I knew how to save my earned money and was studying hard in my free time- studying English ( my English was good but not fluent). Got student visa and stayed with rich families in Northern Virginia ( had free rent/car/food). I guess I was very lucky. Now I am married, have one child, am US Citizen and work for US government. My house is worth $ 85000 and my remaining mortgage on it is $75 000 ( we plan to pay it off in 2 years). I have no student loan debt and no other debt besides mortgage. When I think back how simply I was raised back in Eastern Europe- we had no fancy activities, enrichment programs etc. and somehow we all grew up and ended up being normal people. If I can achieve so much within 20 years of being in US, then people – who have been here living all life long should really have no excuse how to navigate through life successfully. My child already has so much more opportunities just being born in this country and living in Northern Virginia that I don’t worry at all about the cost of education for her.

    1. I’m happy for you. That is also such a cheap house, $85,000. You scored! I lived in McLean for four years from 1991 to 1995, and I was living in one of the cheapest houses, a townhouse for $200,000.

      The advantage you have is knowing the difference between America and another country and appreciating how good it is here. Unfortunately, most people don’t know the difference and take American living for granted.

      1. MacArthur Roth IRA wheeler

        Amen to that. People are accustomed to having everything available. You walk into a grocery store you have fresh meat, fish, vegetables.

        You can speak your mind about your government without fear of governmental retribution. Yet a meaningful percentage of citizens disparage our country and what we have.

        If your are willing to leave below your means and consistently invest you can achieve independence.

        A person can start a business and rely upon the rule of law to engage in free commerce, confident there are legal remedies if they are wronged.

    2. I’m sorry I made a mistake- our house is worth $850000. I sometimes can’t believe what I have accomplished- considering I had literally nothing and yes, of course – having a spouse with additional income helps, too. When I was in my 20s, all my money was going to college, so I didn’t have student loans. I wasn’t running to Starbucks, almost no eating out, no designer clothes/bags/shoes. Americans truly don’t understand how good they have in this country.

  14. I’m disgusted by the comments wishing ill upon AOC and future children. I expected better of the audience of this site. Anyone who has been through infertility would never wish that pain upon others.

    I happen to agree with a lot of AOCs points even if I don’t agree with all her solutions. Why is it people are so offended at paying for social programs but don’t critique the endless wars of the last 20 years? My preference would be for all the new social programs to be paid for by cuts to the overseas military empire instead of taxes on the rich. Just the INCREASE to the war budget last year would have paid for free college for all.

  15. Regarding the effects of climate change on the ozone and the Gulf, negative effects can take a long time to discover and understand, let alone fully materialize to a degree where it becomes undeniable to the general public. I’m pretty sure decades of ozone deterioration has led to the climate that we have today, where I’m still running my air conditioner in September. I’ve personally no idea what long term effects the BP oil spill had on the Gulf Coast ecosystem; I never really read up on that.

    Like I said, the long term effects of something can take s long time to visually materialize in a way that’s obvious to the layman. I’d be surprised if the coming irreversibleness of the effects of climate change were to lead to a drop in coastal housing prices and insurability. Just like unsustainable subprime mortgage lending practices still didn’t prevent a run-up on housing prices leading to the Great Recession (or the cessation of those practices, despite the breadth of telltale red flags that decision-makers and industry’s experts hadn’t to have had). Things just don’t always work that way. It really depends on the best interests of those who guide our policies and economy, not on what is or isn’t.

    Women generally do get paid less than men over the course of their careers, but that’s due to the fact that they usually act as family caretakers more often than men even if they are the ones earning more money. Taking extended leave or switching to part time will naturally inhibit one’s lifetime earning potential. In that vein, are you one of those people that believe that AOC wants to ban farting cows?

    In the end, our differences in opinion depend on trust. Because let’s face it, neither of us are climate scientists. I trust science, a PROCESS designed to eliminate bias and prejudice and look only at measurable facts and, after independent peer review, put forth a conclusion that represents the best answer to a problem/solution we can reasonable come to at the time. Others? Faith, Facebook memes, and Fox News. What am I supposed to say at this point?

    Sincerely,
    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  16. TheEngineer

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Money and Power.

    Money and Power are nothing more than utilities – they are tools!

    What are you going to build with them?

    If you are fortunately with the capability and the charisma to garner more Money and Power
    than the average population, you need to have an endeavor that is bigger than yourself.

    That endeavor has to begin with your mate and children, then families and friends and eventually grows to encapsulate your communities, your countries and your humanity – depending the level of Money and Power at your disposal (Melinda and Bill Gates are good examples).

    Too many of us are competing for Money and Power for all the wrong reasons, most popular
    is self-serving and ironically, we failed miserably at it.

    And thus, “How strange we are!”

  17. No private grade school in the budget. We purposely purchased our home in an area with adequate public schools, which a lot of high cost of living areas have. So non-applicable for us at least.

    And again, savings for college? At $12k/yr * 18 = $216k for…2 kids? Seems quite excessive for state schools. Again, it appears there is some cushion built in for private school/out of state tuition, which I don’t disagree if that’s what the parents want for their kids, but certainly not a necessity, and certainly not all the parents to bear, unless again, the parents want to bear the burden. I’ll just put out the $8k/yr when we get there, the house will be paid off for by then, so not concerned (at least about the factors within my control).

    Again, the want for the private school system, which is not a necessity of the “middle” class, even in a high cost of living area, is crashing the budget, in addition to other categories.

    (And for reference, my siblings and I all spent Preschool through College in the private schooling system, so I’m aware of the both the cost and need, or lack thereof. And interestingly, none of our children are in the private school system now, go figure.)

    Curious…Ever think that the cost of private school keeps rising in order to further separate those who “think” they are upper-class from the actual upper-class? How do you protect the upper-echelon? Continue to put the prices further and further out of reach, even from those making more and more. Personally, I would tell the example family, “Sorry that you thought you could make $350k/yr and live and save like the $650k/yr family, but you can’t. Its that simple.”

    1. Got it. I would say the majority of parents who make $650,000 a year would feel too guilty to not send their kids to private school. Even if private school only made it one percent difference in a child’s life, I think most parents would go tGot it. I would say the majority of parents who make $650,000 a year would feel too guilty not to send their kids to private school. Even if private school only made a 1% difference in a child’s life, I think most parents would do it.hr private school route.

      How did you overcome not spending the most amount of money on your children’s education? If you don’t spend your money on your children, where do you prefer the money to go?

      Thanks

      1. I absolutely agree that many, if not most, people make a considerable amount of life decisions based on guilt, which is unfortunate. And it seems like the more money one makes the more they think they are supposed to do or the guilt continues to mount.

        My kids are still young, one in grammar school and one toddler, but spending the “most amount of money” on education at the K-8 level doesn’t make any sense, in my opinion.

        Education is so child-specific and I think young kids need to start with an average or “normal” playing field so both the parents and child can accurately gauge where they sit, and honestly, I think the public school system, in most cases, serves that purpose. In my mind, doing so really allows the parents, teachers, counselors, etc. the opportunity to recognize the “advanced” ones and make appropriate recommendations. Then, you can decide what to do from there, and private school may be then become a more appropriate choice, assuming it offers the challenges the child needs to succeed.

        But having spent enough time in private school, there are just as many average kids that are just being put through the mill. The difference? Their parents are higher earners and can afford the private school. (On a personal note I really don’t care if my kid sits with a bunch of kids that were placed in their own sandbox just because their parents could afford it. And full disclosure, we are fortunate enough that we can afford to allow our kids to attend any school, public or private.)

        Personally, my 6-year-old is in public school, but outside of school is enrolled in skateboarding and inline-skating on a regular basis with supplementary short-term classes/programs thrown in the mix every once in a while. But honestly, these are all “average” classes, mostly through the city. Sure we could afford for private lessons and seek out the best instructors of all the classes, but for what? He’s only six.

        Perhaps a skateboarding lesson isn’t the same as a teacher teaching common core math, but if my kid is going to be a professional skater and not an actuary, then it kind of is. So my thought, let them experience as much of an average or normal playing field as possible, and if something peaks his interest or if excels somewhere beyond the norm, then lets focus dollars there, but until then, the money sits in the bank.

        1. I think even at $650,000, the choice to send your kids to private instead of public school is situational. We live in an area with good public schools, and there are a fair amount of families above that income level that elect to send their kids to the public schools, and also donate generously to the public schools via a nonprofit in our school district that exists solely to to fund educational programs that are not otherwise covered in the budget (STEM/coding, art, music). There’s a sizable volunteer base and it makes a difference with things like early reading. For our family, saving money on public schools frees up money for club sports and music lessons, and allows us to save more aggressively in 529 plans. My husband and I are both products of public schools and it didn’t hold us back at all in college, grad school or our careers.

      2. I agree Sam. We make half of $650K and we are even considering sending the kids to private despite living in the one of the best public school districts in the country. At $650K, it would be a no brainer.

        Even great public schools are focused exclusively on standardized test scores. There is no consideration given to the kids social or emotional development which is objectively more important then doing well on a test. There is also zero sense of community in a public school.

  18. Since AOC is Catholic, she should obviously choose from one of the many Catholic schools in the area. Tuition is only $10k at many schools. Georgetown Visitation or Gonzaga runs $25k-30k. Sadly a celebrity like her would need a private school.

    1. Good point. Catholic schools are such good value compared to non-denominational private schools.

      But then there’s the $72,000 a year to attend Boston University per child she has to save up for.

      1. Why does she have to pay for her hypothetical child’s/children’s education? I went to a community college, paid for my own classes and for into ptk (a two year college honor society) that then made me eligible for scholarships at a local University that paid 90% of the tuition (I also have a 3.9 gpa). I heartily recommend community colleges because of my experiences. Why should parents pay for their kid’s college?

        1. This site is geared towards financially savvy people many of whom are millionaires. That being the case, I don’t think it’s surprising that many of us plan to help with our kids’ college expenses. I’ll still encourage my kids to apply for scholarships and affordable state schools. There’s no reason to pay a big tuition at a pricey private school if it doesn’t get you much.

  19. Agreed, but I’m unconvinced of the “real” or “felt” effects on the lifestyle of a family earning $350k/yr.

    Healthcare? For most of the middle class working with insurance provided through work, the day-to-day effects on the budget seem negligible. Is healthcare costing more than 3 years ago? Yes, but a bill that was $38 before might be $50 today. 20 of those a year, which is a lot of Doctor visits, is still only $240/year. (For most programs with out-of-pocket maximums, I’m unsure the effects are that noticeable.)

    The 2-years at a junior college and 2 years at a state school might set you back another $2k/year than it did 10 years ago, maybe.

    The 3-bedroom, $650k house you bought in 2015? Might be $800k today, which will set you back another $7k/yr or so.

    In reality, I can’t imagine how a family earning $350k really “feels” an additional $10k/year in expenses. Sure I see the difference in the bottom line on a spreadsheet, but c’mon…

    For context, we are a family of four, living one tenth of a mile from the Beach in Southern California in a 3-bedroom home, bought in 2015 and we spend around $11k/month in total.

    …It seems like there are a lot of “wants” buried in the $18k/month that provide the context for the example, but seem a little unreasonable to an actual spender, like myself. The expenses in the example are quite bait-like, and shockingly it was picked up and ran through the media circus–go figure.

    Our $11k/month is inclusive of all our wants, yearly trips to Hawaii and Entertainment spending as well…i’m not sure what we would even buy or spend on to increase another $7k/month. It sounds like the family in your example maybe needs to scale it back a few notches and realize they can’t have everything as someone who makes $300k/yr more than they do.

    But despite all that, I guess I agree with the point of article–prices continue to increase.

      1. No private grade school in the budget. We purposely purchased our home in an area with adequate public schools, which a lot of high cost of living areas have. So non-applicable for us at least.

        And again, savings for college? At $12k/yr * 18 = $216k for…2 kids? Seems quite excessive for state schools. Again, it appears there is some cushion built in for private school/out of state tuition, which I don’t disagree if that’s what the parents want for their kids, but certainly not a necessity, and certainly not all the parents to bear, unless again, the parents want to bear the burden. I’ll just put out the $8k/yr when we get there, the house will be paid off for by then, so not concerned (at least about the factors within my control).

        Again, the want for the private school system, which is not a necessity of the “middle” class, even in a high cost of living area, is crashing the budget, in addition to other categories.

        (And for reference, my siblings and I all spent Preschool through College in the private schooling system, so I’m aware of the both the cost and need, or lack thereof. And interestingly, none of our children are in the private school system now, go figure.)

        Curious…Ever think that the cost of private school keeps rising in order to further separate those who “think” they are upper-class from the actual upper-class? How do you protect the upper-echelon? Continue to put the prices further and further out of reach, even from those making more and more. Personally, I would tell the example family, “Sorry that you thought you could make $350k/yr and live and save like the $650k/yr family, but you can’t. Its that simple.”

        1. jeff – There is certainly a price to pay for living in a “good” public school system. Housing is more expensive and property taxes are higher. You are probably paying at least $12K per year for that “good” school that is cheaper than private.

          Public schools are not ideal for children. Class sizes are way too big, too much emphasis is place on test scores, and there is zero focus on social and emotional development. Teachers and administrators don’t care at all for your individual child. Stress, depression, and bullying are completely out of control for these reasons.

          I’d be willing to bet that the majority of households earning over $500K per year attended private schools at some point in their lives and the majority of households earning less than $100K attended only public schools.

  20. This is exactly us in DC suburbs. I went to Georgetown Prep. Last week, I took my 7 month old sun to campus to watch a lacrosse game. I told him, “someday you may step back on this campus as a public school student.” There is no way we can send him there or any comparable school. Our friends are paying $30k for their child’s kindergarten! This is why we are looking at Richmond as a saner alternative.

    1. How was your experience at a Georgetown Prep? I guess it’s hard to compare to a public school system since that’s all you knew.

      I went to McLean High School; a public school in Northern Virginia. It was OK, but there weren’t definitely fights and stuff.

      1. I went to public through eighth grade in Montgomery County.

        My parents asked me to try Prep for a year because they felt the smaller class sizes would give me more opportunities.

        I struggled the first year but found close friends eventually and was involved in three sports.

        I loved it after that.

        However, my college experience was unproductive because I was used to such a supportive/caring environment.

        I wouldn’t trade it. It was a magical learning and collegial environment.

        But I do think about the sequence of experiences for my son. You don’t want your child’s experience to peak in high school unless you can teach him that hard work and strong relationships and community are how to replicate that environment.

        I was not taught that or didn’t understand it if I was.

      2. I went to public school through eight grade. The transition was hard because the feeder school kids all had friends already.

        I made solid friends eventually who are still my best friends today.

        The environment was supportive and collegial.

        When I got to college, I struggled without that personal support. I think playing a sport in college would have helped.

        McClean high school is in a nice area.

        I run the track at our local high school. It is like a small city. In some ways I think that would be good for my son but in others I can imagine throwing him into a world where, reportedly, kids are having sex in the bathrooms and vaping in the halls.

        But will I be sheltering him from the “real world” by sending him to private or showing him what he can accomplish by consistently forging strong relationships and providing value in supportive communities?

          1. I went to University of Richmond. My classmates seem to have been successful career-wise- lawyers, doctors, securities brokers, insurance company owners, brand managers.

            I didn’t find success until my mid-thirties – a few years after I got an MBA and MA in government at Johns Hopkins – and when I cleaned up the mental health aspects of my life – including understanding my introversion.

            I believe graduate school is the time to go to fancy schools and undergrad is for checking the box and getting out without debt.

          2. University of Richmond and the Hopkins for grad school.

            My classmates all excelled in a variety of careers.

            Not sure if it is because of where they went to school or being industrious and personable.

        1. Drew – The large, highly rated public high schools are very similar to college. Unless you are an extreme extrovert or an incredibly talented athlete, your experience is probably going to be pretty miserable. Mclean has about 700 kids per grade, so you would really have to go out of your way to meet people and get involved in activities. There is no chance that teachers and administrators at a school that large will care at all about your kids.

          With nobody monitoring or caring about social or emotional development there will definitely be extreme abhorrent behavior. Your kid will definitely witness violence, drug use, sex tapes and bullying. Whether being exposed to that is good or bad for your child is up for debate in our friend circle. I suppose you will eventually get exposed to that in college so might be better off making mistakes in high school versus college or the real world where consequences are much more real.

          I just hate the thought of one of my kids getting hooked on heroine because they weren’t good enough to make the soccer team or find a healthy place in an overwhelming big environment.

  21. Financial Freedom Countdown

    Sam, there is a better way for members of Congress to make money. Insider trading!
    And it is perfectly legal for them while you and I will get thrown in prison for the rest of our lives.

    This practice was so rampant that in 2012 President Obama signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. The number of transactions made by your favorite congressperson dropped 50%. A year later they amended it so now they are back to their merry ways.

    1. Christine Minasian

      WOW!!!! That is so crazy- did not know that…of course the American people will never be told information like this. And don’t forget all the kick backs from lobbying, pharmaceuticals, etc. It never ends. I’m still mad that the Obama’s just bought a crazy expensive house on the East Coast!!! The inequities never end….

      1. Financial Freedom Countdown

        Chris Collins passed the information to his son who traded which is why he is in trouble.
        If he just traded for himself, like other “esteemed” congresspeople he would be fine.

        “The congressman himself, who was ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress, was not accused of making any trades. But just the act of passing along information can, under some circumstances, constitute an insider-trading violation.”

        https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/nyregion/chris-collins-guilty-congress.html

  22. The Alchemist

    “I fully expect AOC to be a rising star in the Democratic party for at least another decade, if not two.”

    In the name of all that’s holy—- Saints preserve us!

    Ah, but it’s a non-issue anyway, since we’ll all be gone to heaven in 11.5 years. Whew!

  23. I’m more pissed off with the fact CNBC cut “Source:FinancialSamurai.com” from the graphic. That’s just not cool.

      1. Amen to that. You were polite enough to share a post and some shithead over there cut that out, and that cost you 5.6 million people knowing where that came from. Smdh

  24. Nuclear family here in SF Bay Area. Here’s how we do it:

    – Kids in public school (supplement with home schooling, hands-on learning, etc)
    – Planning for state college not Ivy League.
    – City sponsored after school care. It’s not free but much cheaper.
    – Home cost under 500k. It’s in a decent and safe but not prestigious area (not in the City proper, obviously). I know this is hard to find nowadays but the bubble will burst just like it did in 1989, 1999 and 2008.
    – No credit cards, no car loans, no debt other than primary.

    We make well under 200k combined. We’re not careful with money by FIRE standards. We take trips to Europe and go out to eat too often and spend money on home improvements. We could save a lot more.

    Point being there’s a lot of slack. As others have commented, these “needs” are peer pressure driven and even if you manage to keep up with the Cortez, they don’t buy happiness, meaning or wealth for your kids in any case.

        1. Bottom of the market in the current cycle! Nice job.

          People who are buying after or now or not as lucky. I think this is something people need to realize. Can you comfortably afford your home now?

          1. Yeah, we can afford it. We’re very lucky. It’s difficult to time the market. In fact, after we bought our house, the market continued to drop for another 9 months. I felt like a sucker. Of course now I felt like a savant.

            The only advice I can give is to pour over price history data (both for the house you’re buying and comps) before making any decision. Here’s a little rancher that’s been on a wild ride: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/232-Clifden-Dr-South-San-Francisco-CA-94080/15478967_zpid/. Where will the roller coaster go next? I have a guess.

            1. Currently 50 homes in San Francisco for sale under $500k. Perhaps not a places FS desires to live though possibilities for us living in the real world.

  25. Aren’t these the very same people who advocate for higher taxes on higher incomes?

    I’m not on board with AOC’s ideology but I’ve always understood this point. In parts of the country you need more $ than others. You can not say that high income means you are rich so you should pay more but that is exactly the rhetoric they put out.

    We all live in different area’s, different COL, different responsibilities, different times of our lives (young and elderly), different situations nor do people, politicians, media know if I’ve been building my wealth for years or just starting out. How can people think they know how much yearly income is enough other than to just jump on the latest bandwagon?

  26. This is a very nice exercise, however its all unnecessary. According to AOC the planet will be extinct in 13 years. Problem solved!

    1. Nobody is saying that. The consensus amongst the scientific community is that the negative effects of climate change will be irreversible by 2030 (give or take a year or two). I’ve never heard AOC–or really anyone else–argue that the human race will go extinct a decade from now.

      Sincerely,
      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  27. In short, they can’t! I knew a Representative that had to live on his government income. He owned two suits. He had a family to support at home. He live on a friend’s sailboat on the Potomac River. I’m sure he ate at the taco wagon.
    It’s nice to be a billionaire in Congress. Few of them care about you and me.
    I live in my relative inexpensive house in Cathedral City, California. I cook at home and invited friends for potlucks. I rarely go out for meals other than the senior center. I rarely travel. When I do it is to friends’ houses where it’s free.
    I live on SS retirement and small income from an IRA. Fortunately, I don’t pay much for medical expenses. Medicare A, B, D and F. Payment for D and F are kindly paid by government programs to a total of around $40,000/year. If it weren’t for those programs, I’d probably be living in Slab City (look it up on Google). I’m one step ahead of a major expense from major financial problems: new plumbing, wiring, an earthquake.
    I’m in the top 20%. Financing is not Rosy.

    1. Yeah, you’re right about politicians. Have you considered moving out of California? That’s what my parents did when they retired (Sacramento to Oregon). It was tough to pull up roots but ultimately they’re living out their last years with a much better quality of life and cash to spare from the sale of their home. If you prefer the desert heat, Arizona is right there.

  28. Fewer children, not less children. Amazed at the bashing on here, in what way is the representative from NY 14 th district not representing her community? Unless you are one of her constituents, her primary job isn’t to represent your interests. The checks and balances of government will prevent a gross redistribution of wealth, while those who fight for the less fortunate will hopefully steer the country toward a happier future.

  29. You aren’t middle class if you are sending your kids to the country’s finest private schools k-12 and then attending private university. It’s like saying it is hard to afford a 300ft yacht on $200k per year in Florida. Yes it is, but since there is no need for this expense it shouldn’t factor into a normal persons budget. There is absolutely no need for your child to go to $40k a year private school to get ahead in this country. I’m living proof, as well as my CEO who attended Syracuse and makes $14M per year. Teaching your children proper morals and a strong work ethic are far more important than a private school pedigree. This blog seems to focus more and more on trying to fit into the WASP part of society. It isn’t worth it. Actually, a lot of private school kids I know have had major personal issues around drug use and depression. Having that much privilege at a young age is hard for young folks to deal with. The rehab clinics are full of private school kids.

    1. I think the point Sam is trying to make is that it is costing more and more for the middle class to move a middle-class lifestyle. The reason why so many families choose to send their kids to private school is because the public school system continues to degrade and get poor marks.

      Do you not find it is costing more and more to get the same?

        1. Agreed, but I’m unconvinced of the “real” or “felt” effects on the lifestyle of a family earning $350k/yr.

          Healthcare? For most of the middle class working with insurance provided through work, the day-to-day effects on the budget seem negligible. Is healthcare costing more than 3 years ago? Yes, but a bill that was $38 before might be $50 today. 20 of those a year, which is a lot of Doctor visits, is still only $240/year. (For most programs with out-of-pocket maximums, I’m unsure the effects are that noticeable.)

          The 2-years at a junior college and 2 years at a state school might set you back another $2k/year than it did 10 years ago, maybe.

          The 3-bedroom, $650k house you bought in 2015? Might be $800k today, which will set you back another $7k/yr or so.

          In reality, I can’t imagine how a family earning $350k really “feels” an additional $10k/year in expenses. Sure I see the difference in the bottom line on a spreadsheet, but c’mon…

          For context, we are a family of four, living one tenth of a mile from the Beach in Southern California in a 3-bedroom home, bought in 2015 and we spend around $11k/month in total.

          …It seems like there are a lot of “wants” buried in the $18k/month that provide the context for the example, but seem a little unreasonable to an actual spender, like myself. The expenses in the example are quite bait-like, and shockingly it was picked up and ran through the media circus–go figure.

          Our $11k/month is inclusive of all our wants, yearly trips to Hawaii and Entertainment spending as well…i’m not sure what we would even buy or spend on to increase another $7k/month. It sounds like the family in your example maybe needs to scale it back a few notches and realize they can’t have everything as someone who makes $300k/yr more than they do.

          But despite all that, I guess I agree with the point of article–prices continue to increase.

      1. Schools are a local decision. Why pay to live in a nice neighborhood when you don’t even trust the local school?

        Our disposable income went down moving from the NYC area to the Austin area despite my wife and I finding similar jobs in the same industries. It was still a great decision because we couldn’t bare another winter. We definitely have more space though.

        1. I disagree with it costing more and more to get the same. I can fly to Europe for under $1k. I can work remotely if I want. I get organic food at any local supermarket. The healthcare system can cure tons of diseases they couldn’t 20 years ago. Don’t kid yourself that things aren’t getting better. Don’t be mad you can’t live like a Vanderbilt or Carnegie on a middle class salary. No one ever could.

          1. Jeff C – Flying to Europe or buying a flat screen TV are certainly cheaper but are also discretionary. Housing, childcare, healthcare, and education are all essential and costs are going up well beyond inflation and are out of reach even for some families earning $250K-$350K per year.

            At the same time, public school systems are deteriorating and are giving families fewer viable neighborhoods to live in. There is an extreme shortage of housing in high quality school districts which is driven up property values way beyond what even some upper middle class families can afford.

            So while it may be true that this is the best time ever to be a single person that likes to travel to Europe, it is also probably the worst time ever to try to raise a family. Sam’s article is not an exaggeration because his example is basically our families budget. The only way to get ahead anymore is to somehow find a high paying job in a low cost of living area (virtually impossible) or work remotely and move to a low cost of area (doable, but risky).

  30. My utter distaste for AOC nonwithstanding, I still can’t get past the graphic above that Sam has shown time and time again. I live in a pretty expensive community in the Northeast, we definitely don’t make 350K a year, and we definitely don’t spend anything close to what he suggests in some of his categories.

    I know that this has been beaten to death, but you don’t need 350K/yr in 99% of places in this country to make it work. I have 2 kids so I understand the expense that brings. But…a $3,900/mo mortgage? Over 20K in property taxes? If you’re only making 350K/yr you shouldn’t be paying this much in either one of these categories. Also, some of the other categories are pretty silly (6k/yr for entertainment? Almost 5k yr in clothes?) Comeon.

    There is a LOT of fat to trim in this budget example.

    1. It’s true! I live in SF Bay Area with 2 kids and household of $450k and I just got my Property Tax Bill… $16800! Our monthly mortgage with taxes and insurance is $6500/month. I bought my house 1 year ago for $1.4M. It’s a small 1,330 sqft home 2/2! We picked a location in the middle of SF peninsula, my wife works in SF (she has a commute of 25 minutes) and I work in Mountain View (I have a commute of 50 minutes). We got kicked out of our rental condo (that we paid $4k/month for) because owner wanted to sell. We were tired of moving so we bought the cheapest house in the neighborhood (where schools are ranked 9/10 to avoid private school).

      We tried looking at houses less than $1M so that the mortgage would be less than $5k/month that was relatively low commute (less than 30 minutes for at least one of us) and it was nearly impossible to find something livable.

      We could have bought in a cheaper neighborhood and paid $1.2M and gotten a nicer house but we chose location over house.

      It’s a struggle because if my wife or I lose our jobs, we’re screwed with all of our expenses and while we could probably live paycheck to paycheck, we wouldn’t be able to save for retirement or college for that matter.

  31. Why include 401k and 529 contributions as ‘expenses’? If we are to count savings as expenses, then everyone including Bill Gates will be left with 0 at the end of each month. Is he struggling too in that case?

          1. I am not an accountant, so it may be wrong from an accounting perspective. But from the perspective of deciding whether a family is struggling on a particular income, counting optional savings as unavoidable expenses is misleading.

            1. Got it. Do you feel mislead seeing the budget and reading the post?

              If so, what would your solutions be for this budget if the five of them I offered are not enough?

              How would you suggest AOC and others utilize their pre-tax retirement accounts to pay for life given it has a 10% early withdrawal penalty? If AOC and other Congressional members have a pension, which they do, how would you expect them to draw from a pension before serving their time?

              The way I see it, AOC and her colleagues are stuck working until 60+.

              Thanks

  32. It is true there are so many expenses many people do not fully prepare for or think about before getting married and having kids. Coastal cities are very expensive and private education can be a crippling expense on budgets.

    Thanks for continually raising awareness on so many financial topics that get people thinking and spur motivation to look at ones current and future expenses. Financial health and planning are so important to being able to live a comfortable and less stressful life today and in the future!

  33. An entertaining read to be certain. The comments, even more so.

    I live in the Midwest so I do enjoy this take on life so I can see another view.

  34. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, everything you wrote is true- we recently moved out of the Washington DC area due to a corporate transfer-

    We really appreciate your honesty and hard work producing these charts, seeing it laid out like that is really eye-opening! It encourages me to keep on reducing expenses and being aware of “where does the money go”? Every month… we all want to be Samari Warrriors like you!!

  35. I hope she never reproduces but if she does she’ll find a way for the productive to pay for it.

  36. Wow I’m blown away by this post of how relevant, informative, and inspiring it is. I especially like the fact that you mentioned internet to be the democratized solution to financial education for all!

    My parents and in-laws all live in the coastal cities of California and my husband and I have contemplated about moving closer to be with them now that we have a baby (we are expats in Switzerland). But doing the math, I realize how expensive it would be to comfortably live in a coastal city now that inflation is at full speed and everything seems so much more expensive since we left half a decade ago.

    This post gives me a lot of reflection regarding my own situation, so thanks so much!

    1. I would have thought Switzerland would be more expensive than coastal California. My friend lived in Zurich for a couple years and talked often about how expensive everyday items were. Do you find it to be fairly affordable?

      1. We live in Lausanne which is the 5th largest city in Switzerland so it’s not as expensive as Zurich or Geneva, BUT it is still quite expensive.

        When we left California in 2013 we thought Lausanne was super expensive, but over the years the prices in LA and San Francisco have caught up. The thing about living in a small city like Lausanne vs big cities in California is that there’s not as much stuff to do so you don’t end up spending as much. Plus, people are much more simple here so you don’t really feel the pressure of upgrading your phone to the latest one or buying expensive clothes. Whenever I went back to California, I always felt like it’s normal to overspend because that’s what everyone else does! Just my feeling though.

        1. I’ve thought about moving to Spain to enjoy a California style climate but with more focus on simplicity and family. Any thoughts on an American happily living in Spain with a child?

          1. How long do you plan to live in Spain? Do you have friends or family there? How old is your kid? Do you speak Spanish?

            To be honest, moving to a diff country feels like marriage. The beginning is like honeymoon, then you discover the good and the bad about your environment, then you will just know if you can stay or you got to go. For me, I was super excited on the first 3 months, then I started to feel homesick and it was so hard to mâle new friends since I didn’t know the language. But then I found a job, met new people, and learned French gradually and things got better (after about a year). Now we’ve been here for 6+ yrs! Time flies.

            It’s a great experience though so I’m sure it would be the sale for you in Spain. It’s easier if you have friends/family and can speak Spanish. Kids usually adapt without issue before grade school I think.

            Best of luck :)

  37. Yeap, it’s not funny. She’ll be in that situation before she knows it.
    I’m sure she’ll figure out a way to make more money by the time the kids go to school.
    Get on some board or join a lobbying firm. She’ll get paid after 2 terms.

  38. AOC’s “solution” will be to have taxpayers fund much of the items you mention. She is a charlatan – pure and simple. I don’t know if her book deal would be worth what you indicate as the book would be pretty thin.

    With regards to expensive living in a city. Your analysis seems to be driven by “market rates” not invoice costs. Just because sticker on car says $40k does not mean people pay $40k. I know of no one who spends what you detail to live similar lifestyles in “expensive” cities.

    I do appreciate your insights, analysis and advise specially when one considers the cost. You are a deal man.

    1. Any thoughts on how to not pay sticker price for private school tuition if you are a congresswoman and your household makes $350,000 a year?

  39. Nice article. One solution I don’t think you explored is dealing with a longer commute.

    Before moving to another part of the country, I used to work in NYC and lived in Jersey City. The cost of housing just being across the river can save you a ton money. My commute was only 45 minutes (this is not bad for the NYC area) and I lived in a condo with 3 bedrooms (enough for my family of 4). My monthly housing cost was half of what you are estimating. Similarly, I have friends who work in the DC area and live in cheaper areas of Virginia.

    Private School was definitely not an option and not necessary. Again, you can live in areas of NJ where public schools are good, cost of living is descent, and commute is ~1hr. In the DC area, Virginia public schools are highly rated.

    Your budget doesn’t seem like a middle class budget. You’re roughly suggesting it’s necessary to spend ~$1M per child on education from the pre-K years through college.

  40. I bet she’s a miserable person to live with so she’ll never have kids. That and her $174k a year will give her plenty of time to pin down how much she will allow a cow to fart in the NEW, New green new deal.

    1. Looks like my comment didn’t post. I’ll keep it short.

      I think a few of your buckets are inflated or not necessary. If you work in NYC, you can live in NJ areas with good public school and half the cost of housing. Likewise, in DC you can live in Virginia which also has good public schools. The offset is a longer commute.

      This budget assumes it’s necessary to spend $1M per child on private education from pre-k through college.

    2. Wow, do people ACTUALLY believe in the whole “AOC wants to ban farting cows” thing?

      Sincerely,
      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

      1. ”Nobody is saying that. The consensus amongst the scientific community is that the negative effects of climate change will be irreversible by 2030 (give or take a year or two). I’ve never heard AOC–or really anyone else–argue that the human race will go extinct a decade from now.

        Sincerely,
        ARB–Angry Retail Banker”

        Wow, and people actually do believe this? See how that works? If you live long enough, youll realize the climate stuff is BS. Theyve changed the prediction every year since the 70s.

        One volcano eruption could produce more results than the “paris accord” claims it can in 100 years. Ever heard of the year without summer? Global temps dropped over 1 degree.

        Climate is the lefts religion.

        1. Yes, that’s the way independent peer-reviewed science works. As new facts and variables are brought to light, new tests and experiments and calculations are done that may–or may not–change the original conclusion. Sometimes a little. Sometimes not.

          If scientists gave us a timeline for something like this in the 1970s, and it remained completely unchanged and specific to an exact date, then I’d be more skeptical. That’s closer to the purview of 2012-esque doomsday predictors. You know, ACTUAL religious and conspiracy theory fanatics.

          Sorry, my friend, but I’m going to have to go with the consensus held by independent, peer-reviewed scientific-theory-derived conclusions (aka “science”) from experts in the field on this one. As convincing as laymen on comment threads, social media, and YouTube can be (especially when they use all caps and ironic memes), I feel like the scientific community barely–JUST barely–edges past them on the issue of climate change.

          Though now that I think about it, I remember it snowed last winter once or twice. Ah, there you go. Climate change debunked.

          But yes, “climate is the left’ religion” truly is a compelling argument.

          Sincerely,
          ARB–Angry Retail Banker

          1. They did give us timelines in the 70, then the 80s, then the 90s and now. Theyve all passed and here we are. Remember the ozone layer in the 80s?

            Remember when the bp spill in the gulf was going to have ramifications for 100s of years? Completely back to normal in 6 months.

            Funny that coastal real estate isnt getting cheaper and still being insured. Or how our ex president purchases a 15 million dollar waterfront estate (low ground land) while telling us the oceans are coming for us!!

            I bet you believe women are paid less than men too.

            As always, follow the money. Climate change is no different. Humans will adapt and create technology to get us to the next round. Always have and always will. There is always a disaster around the corner every century and yet here we are.

            Bitching about climate change (On the internet and in an air conditioned rooM) while every poster on this site probably flies on airplanes 100 times more than any avg joe.

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