It has been a while since we’ve seen a remake of the ‘Pity the Poor Couple Who Make Hundreds of Thousands Per Year‘ column, but a couple of weeks ago, CNBC decided to bring
sexy it back! This graphic explains what I mean:
There’s a lot that’s absurd about this, so I just want to get it out of the way:
- The $50,000/year in child care costs will vanish after a few years.
- This couple is saving eleven percent of their income for retirement.
- They are saving 3.5% of their income for college tuition.
- Their budget includes two traveling vacations per year and weekend getaways.
- They could save a couple of thousand dollars per year with a cheaper car.
- They only donate one percent of their income to charity.
As I noted, it’s a silly genre. But onto housing.
Many moons ago (let’s say the 1980s), people who were in a similar income bracket–which to be clear is neither middle-class nor upper-middle class, but gentry class–did have significant money left over, even after these expenses. What was different? Housing costs.
While I think in some of the cities this graphic purports to represent, a ‘good house’ (or apartment) doesn’t cost $1.8 million (I would argue in D.C., you can find one, depending on what you want, for ‘only’ $1-1.2 million), it probably isn’t far off, especially for San Francisco or NYC. But once inflation is factored in, I would argue many of these ‘nice houses’ (or apartments!) cost triple what they would, had housing costs only kept pace with inflation.
If they had, then, using the article’s numbers, the family would have around $46,000/year extra. That could be put into savings, used to buy lots things,
throw cocaine-fueled sex parties, and so on. While they probably won’t lose money on the house, it doesn’t seem likely that their housing values also will triple in real dollars, like it did for older Boomers and Silents. I won’t go so far as to claim they’re being ‘hurt’ by housing costs, but nearly everyone, including the gentry class, is being screwed by housing prices, if they’re not elderly* and they live in many metro areas.
Build more housing–and remove tax breaks for communities that make that difficult.
*Plenty of not-well off Boomers and Silents are being screwed too, but there is a generational effect here, based on the incomprehensible belief that housing can simultaneously be affordable and an investment vehicle with a good rate of return.