How making $300,000 in San Francisco can still mean you're living paycheck-to-paycheck

commiefornia
#1

Yes, this is not an April’s Fool joke.

With the median price of a home in the U.S. at $300,000, you can can achieve homeownership and the idealized middle-class lifestyle in most parts of the country making a salary just under or above six figures.

In San Francisco’s land of $2 million fixer-uppers, the income needed to reach this status is obviously more. But how much more?

S.F.-based finance expert Sam Dogen pinned that number at $300,000, after surveying dozens of readers on his Financial Samurai blog and asking about their incomes and expenses living in the notoriously high-priced coastal cities.

With their feedback, Dogen broke down the budget of a couple with one to two children in San Francisco, Seattle or New York. He found $300,000 is the income necessary to put something away for retirement, save for your child’s education, own a three-bedroom home, take three weeks of vacation a year and retire by a reasonable age.

“It’s not an extravagant lifestyle,” Dogen says. “It’s a middle-class lifestyle if you consider a middle-class person should be able to afford a modest home, have at least one car, have a kid or two. There are no private jets in this budget.”

Dogen has put together a detailed blog post where you’ll find analysis and explanation on each expense, but here are a few points to note:

  • The $24,000-a-year childcare expense takes into consideration a babysitting rate of about $20 an hour, the standard charge in a city such as San Francisco. Preschool easily costs $18,000 to $20,000 a year in metro areas.
  • The mortgage is based on a $1.5 million, 1,750-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 2,500-square-foot lot.
  • The car expenses are based on a single larger car that accommodates a family.
  • Entertainment expenses include everything from Netflix to tickets to an occasional ball game to date night, which easily costs $200 in San Francisco when you consider expense for dinner and babysitting.

ALSO: Why a $400,000 income means you still think you’re middle class

Dogen adds that at $300,000, a family is still living paycheck-to-paycheck and not saving outside their 401K and 529 plans.

“We’re in this perpetual grind in San Francisco, and it’s a city for people who are willing to hustle,” he says. “At one point in the past, $300,000 was a lot of money. Now at this amount, you’re probably always going to end up working a long time and having a constant struggle to keep up.”

His recommendation is to make moving out of the region a goal.

How making $300,000 in San Francisco can still mean you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck

By Amy Graff, SFGATE

Updated 11:22 am PDT, Monday, April 8, 2019

Photo: Financial Samuri

Image 1 of 15

Financial Samurai personal finance blogger Sam Dogen breaks down a budget for a family of four with a household income of $300,000 living in a coastal city such as San Francisco or New York.

With the median price of a home in the U.S. at $300,000, you can can achieve homeownership and the idealized middle-class lifestyle in most parts of the country making a salary just under or above six figures.

In San Francisco’s land of $2 million fixer-uppers, the income needed to reach this status is obviously more. But how much more?

Recommended Video

S.F.-based finance expert Sam Dogen pinned that number at $300,000, after surveying dozens of readers on his Financial Samurai blog and asking about their incomes and expenses living in the notoriously high-priced coastal cities.

With their feedback, Dogen broke down the budget of a couple with one to two children in San Francisco, Seattle or New York. He found $300,000 is the income necessary to put something away for retirement, save for your child’s education, own a three-bedroom home, take three weeks of vacation a year and retire by a reasonable age.

“It’s not an extravagant lifestyle,” Dogen says. “It’s a middle-class lifestyle if you consider a middle-class person should be able to afford a modest home, have at least one car, have a kid or two. There are no private jets in this budget.”

Dogen has put together a detailed blog post where you’ll find analysis and explanation on each expense, but here are a few points to note:

  • The $24,000-a-year childcare expense takes into consideration a babysitting rate of about $20 an hour, the standard charge in a city such as San Francisco. Preschool easily costs $18,000 to $20,000 a year in metro areas.
  • The mortgage is based on a $1.5 million, 1,750-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 2,500-square-foot lot.
  • The car expenses are based on a single larger car that accommodates a family.
  • Entertainment expenses include everything from Netflix to tickets to an occasional ball game to date night, which easily costs $200 in San Francisco when you consider expense for dinner and babysitting.

ALSO: Why a $400,000 income means you still think you’re middle class

Dogen adds that at $300,000, a family is still living paycheck-to-paycheck and not saving outside their 401K and 529 plans.

“We’re in this perpetual grind in San Francisco, and it’s a city for people who are willing to hustle,” he says. “At one point in the past, $300,000 was a lot of money. Now at this amount, you’re probably always going to end up working a long time and having a constant struggle to keep up.”

His recommendation is to make moving out of the region a goal.

“There’s a moving truck shortage in places like San Francisco because so many people are moving out of this expensive city and other expensive coastal cities,” he writes. "If you live in an expensive metropolitan area, consider relocating to lower your cost of living or at least try and take advantage of the valuation differential by investing in Middle America.

“Thanks to technology, there’s no need to grind so hard in cities where the median home price is over $1 million.”

#2

I’ve got a niece and her significant other living just outside of SF. Between them they are pulling in around 85k which sounds pretty good.

They are living in a sixty year old wood framed home built in the WWII era for war industry families similar to the one their dad and I lived in when we were in college.

He and I scraped by to pay 200.00/mo plus utilities mostly by eating a hell of a lot of wild game and fish we shot/caught and processed ourselves.

The kids though are paying 3,300.00/mo plus utilities and outlandish taxes of course and even with their combined incomes she qualifies for Medical.

California will implode upon itself in the next ten years or so.

2 Likes
#3

I = E except after C

I : income

E : expenses

C : Christmas

#4

It is somewhat disappointing that Trump hasn’t provoked North Korea into dropping the bomb on San Francisco, I guess.

#5

I live in a largely Blue Collar middle class town in NJ and the cost of living for me and my family is over $70,000 per year. Don’t bu fancy cars, don’t go on fancy vacations, have a modest 3 bedroom house and try to watch our expenses. Now when I included Federal and State taxes and healthcare cost that goes over $100,000 per year!

#6

Who and what are you correcting?

#7

With that governor your state elected you are fast on the way to being the California of the east coast. Your property taxes are already the highest in the country aren’t they?

#8

Get a high salary established on the coast and then, get the hell out of there. That’s what we did.

2 Likes
#9

The same applies to just about everywhere in the country. You take an average family of four earning $300,000 in the Midwest and most of them live paycheck to paycheck.

#10

I wasn’t correcting anyone.

It was supposed to be witty and fun.

A variation on the idea that expenses will find a way to consume the available income.

1 Like
#11

Ok… . Had to look at that with spell check on to see if I’d screwed up anywhere.

#12

They may be, but if they are, it’s because they spend more than they should, not because it costs that much.

#13

Yep, that’s a problem of profligate spending, not cost of living.

#14

So this is something I’m considering right now. I’m on the East Coast in a major city that is incredibly expensive. How do I go about bringing my salary with me somewhere else? It seems like all the jobs that I’m looking at in my field pay less as soon as you leave a major metropolitan area.

#15

We were headhunted, would have been kind of silly of them to try and entice us to come work for them offering us less money than we were currently making. Get in touch with a corporate recruiter. It’s not at all untypical to find someone willing to pay you as much or more than you are currently making. At least if you are corporate executive level, no idea how it pans out for non-executive types.

The midwest is hurting for employees, especially in the upper income levels so they have to at least meet east coast salaries to lure people to pretty much the middle of nowhere, culturally speaking.

If you do make the move, I suggest you learn to be a good cook because it’s an epicurean desert out here lol.

3 Likes
#16

NJ is either the highest in property taxes or definitely in the top five! Also near the top in overall tax burden nationwide. Number 3 in immigration as well.

#17

So when are you going to leave the Garden State?

#18

I once looks at NJ property tax rates and they were all over the place. Some towns more than 10% and some lower than in Texas, IIRC.

#19

Likely not till we (wife and I) retire. One of my friends recently retired and moved to Delaware in a 55 and over community. Property taxes are only $2,000/year.

#20

Come on up to Alaska! It’s a great place for retirees.