Ask the Readers: Would People Be Shocked By What You Earn?

By Linsey Knerl on 22 September 2009 (Updated 28 September 2009) 133 comments

********The winners of the $10 Amazon Gift Card are:

  • Comment #14: Surprised Submitted by Miranda 

    "We do live fairly modestly for our income. Our mortgage payment is about 1/6 of our monthly income, and we live well within our means. But I think people would be shocked to know our income because they don't realize how much I make as a freelance writer. We don't spread the information around, and just try to live mostly incognito."

  • Tweet from @InMyOwnWorld   " Nothing shocking about this salary! But I think most people assume I make more than I do"

 

It happens all the time.  People are amazed that my husband and I can live on such a very limited income.  (In fact, my friends from urban areas are usually amazed that the majority of people in my rural community live well under the poverty line -- and some do very well with it!)  Other times, I witness families just barely struggling to get by -- who also make an hefty income and are unsure where it all goes.

You don't have to live on either end of the earning spectrum to challenge the stigmas attached with your annual salary.  Sometimes, we can fool others into thinking our lifestyle matches our paycheck by the choices we make publicly and privately.  Would your friends and family be surprised to know how much (or how little) you make?  Or is it pretty obvious that you're either rolling in the dough... or rolling in bed over agony of how you'll pay your bills?

We want to know if people would be shocked to hear how much you make.  You don't have to divulge details (or even which way you are perceived.)  Just give us a sign that "Yes! My lifestyle is in no way a reflection of my paycheck.  And that's a good/bad thing."  Are you happy with how you are perceived?  Would you change it if you could?

Share your thoughts here in our comment thread or on Twitter, and you'll be entered to win one of two $10 Amazon giveaways. It won't fool anyone into thinking you're rich if you're not... but it's a great way slash your bill the next time you're buying supplies online.  Dozens of readers have already won.  You could be next!

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate

We're doing two giveaways -- one for random comments, and another one for a random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

At the end of the drawing, we'll update this post to include (and link to) all of your helpful responses.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Thursday, September 24th at 11:59 am CST. Winners will be announced after September 24th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings -- once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck!

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Guest

I'm so blatantly middle class it's not even funny.

Guest's picture
jamie g

As a school speech therapist, I am paid on the teacher's salary, which is notoriously low. However, many speech therapists in private settings or medical settings are paid significantly more. So, maybe it is a little shocking that I am a speech therapist on a teacher's schedule.

However, I am fairly content with my teacher's salary, but I live in a wealthy county in Virginia with good benefits. So I am shocked that people complain so much about the little money teachers make, at least in my county. (I was just talking with a school aid who makes about 1/3 my salary, and she puts up with A LOT!)

Guest's picture
Tammy S

We definitely do not live according to our salaries. I work for a drug company and I feel I make good money. We live very frugally. We don't go out to eat, I clip coupons and shop sales - why pay more for something if you don't have to!
My car has over 150,000 miles and hubby's has over 250,000 miles and there's nothing new in the future!
We love our life and would not change a thing about it!

Guest's picture
Sandy

My husband and I made very little money for a long time - both of us free-lance artists, and well, that kind of explains it. We said back then that if we were ever to make decent money, we would continue to live frugally and live way below our means. Over the last 5+ years we have made a very good income, and we stayed true to our initial thinking and we continue to live the same way. We just live very modestly - we have no stress over money-matters, and we are content and thankful for what we have. I hope that no matter what happens income-wise in the future, that we can continue to just be living in this fashion. I think it is a healthy way to go all the way around, and you will have more to give to others.

Guest's picture
Sandy

My husband and I made very little money for a long time - both of us free-lance artists, and well, that kind of explains it. We said back then that if we were ever to make decent money, we would continue to live frugally and live way below our means. Over the last 5+ years we have made a very good income, and we stayed true to our initial thinking and we continue to live the same way. We just live very modestly - we have no stress over money-matters, and we are content and thankful for what we have. I hope that no matter what happens income-wise in the future, that we can continue to just be living in this fashion. I think it is a healthy way to go all the way around, and you will have more to give to others.

Guest's picture
Daisy

I live in a 700-something sq foot bedroom apartment in a ritzy area, about 5 minutes downtown from Houston, Texas.

I am often seen toting around a Coach or Kate Spade bag, Stuart Weitzman shoes, and D&G sunglasses.

I am 26 years old and I make 45k a year.

The merchandise in which I am seen sporting is the reason I am in a $1300 of debt, the reason why I am reading your blog now, the reason I no longer use credit cards, and the reason why I obsessively watch every penny that leaves my checking account.

Seeing that so many people live in a crecit card centered universe, I don't think that people would be surprised that by my income; they would think I just finance everything else. And they used to be right.

But the thing I think they'd be VERY surprised now is the fact that I contribute 18% of my paycheck to 401k, 10% automatically to my high yield savings account, and $200 systematic investment to a fairly aggressive mutual fund.

I think a better question would be to ask, would people be surprised by the amount of debt that you are in? Or would people guess that you are in debt? Because I constantly find myself surprised by the amount of debt people are hiding these days.

Guest's picture

I think my friends might be surprised to know what I make. That might partially be because I'm an admin and there's a definite stigma attached to that job (though I do it because it's easy and affords me time to devote to my artwork--see? enough of a stigma that I felt I needed to explain myself). I make enough money to live on, surely. But I manage money very poorly, something I've been diligently trying to remedy with some success. (Baby steps.)

But Daisy points out that her friends would be more surprised at the amount of her debt--I think that's what would really shock each and every one of us: who owes what. My debt would shock people. (Daisy, I'd trade you in a heartbeat, but karma would kick my ass for saddling you with my debt.) I'm also contributing to my 401(k) pretty heavily, as well as my Flexible Spending account, and my ING savings.

While I don't have much in the way of designer duds, I'm an art and art-supply fanatic. That's probably where a goodly chunk of my debt comes from. (I've implemented a "use everything you have--no more buying until it's all gone--ALL OF IT" policy, which is helping a LOT.) I'm also in Houston (Hi Daisy!) but I got incredibly lucky with an awesome 1,000 sq. foot condo that I've been renting for years. I actually worked a deal with my landlord to lock me in at my current, ridiculously low rent, in exchange for me footing a couple of upgrades on the unit. Okay, so it was my dad's idea. And he wants to make the upgrades for me. I'm along for the ride.

Whoa, I'm rambling. Sorry about that!

Short version: Shock and awe. And another H-town gal representing!

Guest's picture
Maseca

People are almost always shocked when they learn how much my husband and I make.

To start, for an executive assistant, I make a pretty hefty salary, which most people do not expect. Combine that with the fact that we live very modestly despite our 6-figure plus income, the majority of our friends and acquaintances are usually surprised to hear how much we actually make.

Guest's picture

It's about living incognito. I really enjoy driving my $6,000 beater with 110K miles and 9 years of life already. It's the excitement of showing you have very little, even though you can afford more.

Linsey, I'm glad you're back.

Guest's picture
MichaelM

I think people wouldn't be too surprised. We have a mortgage, car loans and student debt, but all in reasonable proportions to our income.

Guest's picture
Des

The people close to us know we bring home good paychecks. So, we catch a lot of flack for living so far below our means. Our income increase happened quite suddenly, so we still participate in a socioeconomic class that lives on about 20%-40% what we make. We still have the smallest TV and oldest car of anyone we know, live in the cheapest zip code in the city, pay only in cash, and know where every dollar goes. I think our frugality makes our cohorts feel guilty at times, which causes them to give us a hard time about it.

Guest's picture
Jen

I don't think that they would be shocked by my salary but I am often shocked by other people's salaries.

Guest's picture
Tyg

We live in one of the biggest cities in California, and comparatively speaking we make large salaries (well, compared to our families, who live in rural areas of small east coat states), however we also have a large mortgage payment since the housing market is so expensive, and pay more for things like gas. To our families we appear to live the same lifestyle that they do (solid middle class - 1000 square foot house, IKEA and thrift store furnishings, modest holiday gifts, ect...) but in reality if you just look at the numbers on our paychecks without factoring in cost of living expenses we would appear to be rich by their standards. Compared to others in our area we are probably middle class though, considering that I stay at home with the kids and we are only on one income (but I believe that our one income is more than both of my parent's incomes added together). The important things (like others have mentioned) is that we are debt free (except for the mortgage), have a 6-month savings cushion, and that we live below our means.

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Sara B

I think people would be surprised more not by how much we make, but by how much we put into our 401(k). I think our friends know we both have good paying jobs, but we also carry student loans/mortgage/and a little bit of credit card debt (of course we're working on paying that down!). We make it pretty obvious that we try to puchase items with cash only - we've lived in our house for three years and our living room furniture is still lacking, but hey, that's okay.

Guest's picture
Dinodak

I'm 23. I believe I live a frugal lifestyle. Actually, I could cut out so much more and live on beans and rice but I choose not to. I am a year out of college. No student debt. No credit card debt. And 30k in savings and investments. I rent a room in a really nice house for $450 including everything. I make a very low $2,000/ month($24,000/yr). To most people that would be crazy low. I spend $40/week on food, $30/wk on gas, $100/month on entertainment. That leaves me $1,170 for a month to do whatever with (save, invest, etc.) I plan on doubling my income within a year and not increasing my spending.
I have to admit that I don't have any dependents and that's a big plus. It would be so much harder with a kid.
My friends (of the same age) are deeply in debt. They make fun of me for being "cheap". Sometimes it gets to me and I may buy something, but most of the time I stick to my goal. Today my one friend that is in debt with a new baby is going out to look at a brand new car. I tried to counsel him but they won't listen.

Guest's picture
Miranda

We do live fairly modestly for our income. Our mortgage payment is about 1/6 of our monthly income, and we live well within our means. But I think people would be shocked to know our income because they don't realize how much I make as a freelance writer. We don't spread the information around, and just try to live mostly incognito.

Guest's picture

In some ways we probably look (on paper) like we make more than we do, but in others probably less.

Guest's picture
Anita

At age 20-23 made 35k after taxes/retirement, I spent recklessly at the mall. I was a shopaholic but my credit card debts never amounted to more than 800 which I always paid on time and in full. I had about 1000 in savings but it never amounted to more than that. I also lived at my parent's house. I easily blew 100.00 on an outfit 3x a week. I still never had debt. I'm now 28 years old, make around 45k after taxes/retirement. I have no savings. I live pay check to paycheck and have nothing to show for it. My live in boyfriend and I rent a rancher in a ghetto neighborhood for 800 a month so we split it 50/50. I constantly find myself in a rut: Dad loses his job it's been 2 yrs now still no job, I had to supplement, his 20 yr old AC unit had to be completely replaced, guess who had to supplement that, then my car tires blew up, car repairs cost over 1200 then finally I had to buy a new car. Insurance went up because I'm off my parent's insurance. I no longer buy new clothes instead we eat out more than I am used to. I still have less than 1000 in savings. That is why I'm always reading blogs about finances and frugality. I feel like my situation now is worse than it was when I made less. Atleast back then I had clothes to show for it. I wish I could be a kid and lived at home sometimes. It sucks being an adult. We're trying to sock away money to buy a foreclosure property so we can stop wasting money on rent.
I love this blog

Paul Van Lierop's picture

I think they would be shocked to see what I make compared to how broke we are echoing a lot of the readers sentiments.  That's indeed why we are clawing our way out of the debt trap.  I'm now targetting the millionaire next door approach of living well below my means and giving up my penchant for purchasing new cars.  Oh how I do love that smell.

Guest's picture
Stacey07

Yes, people would be shocked. :) We've found that it's easier to live a "poor" life and let people make their assumptions than to explain why we don't have cable TV or cell phones. Our values don't really line up with our generation's values - and so a lot of people assume we're struggling. In reality, we're saving 20-30% of our income each month and hope to semi-retire at 45 or 50.

Guest's picture
cwaltz

I don't think people would be shocked. My husband makes a decent paycheck but with 4 kids even middle income can be tricky.

Guest's picture
Patrick

I really enjoy studying personal finance and talk about it religiously. Given that, I'd assume people would expect me to be extremely frugal. I drive a nicer car and live in a larger house than I would if I were single and without a child (safe, reliable car). I am a sucker for spoiling my daughter while she's still little (playset, toys, activities, etc.). Personally, I'm very frugal, but when you add in the adjustments I've made to accomodate my wife and daughter, I'm pretty middle of the road and could do a lot more to save a lot more.

I think others would be surprised by how little I make. I have a career that sounds prestigious and work for a large, well thought of company, but the pay is less than many of my peers at similar companies. Given that, others may be surprised at how little I have in the bank as a nominal sum, although it represents a steady 20% of my income since I began my career 10 years ago.

Guest's picture
carol lambert

My husband and I live on $900.00 a month and we live quite nicely. Besides using all available saving methods we also barter with friends and neighbors which is a big help to the pocketbook. Most folks would be really surprized how little we can exist on.

Guest's picture
valletta

over the last few years we have owned our own profitable business, sold that, been unemployed, and now both have good jobs....so i'm sure we've been keeping people guessing!
but, like my dad used to tell me as a kid, "You wouldn't care what people thought about you if you knew how seldom they did" :) Good advice

Guest's picture
Lorenzo

Acquaintances who haven't seen our house would be surprised. We live frugally, drive sensible cars, eschew designer brands, and feel some pressure from family to upgrade our furniture to match our incomes.

Guest's picture
Jessica

I think some of my friends would be shocked (those in debt) but not the friends who are in similar career paths to myself and my husband, who are also frugally minded.

They might be shocked by how little I make though. I'm not shocked, just wish it was more. That's what you get for doing non-profit work though.

I think it would be interesting to take an anonymous poll to see what people do think we make.

Guest's picture
cam

As I retired at a very early age, many of my friends and family have no idea of what my present income is, and its certainly no where near what I brought in when I was actively employeed. (BTW - I just Love, Love, Love being retired)

I still make gifts for most occassions, and I still don't spend a lot on groceries - I'm basically too lazy to cook much.

I still manage to do some traveling throughout the year as I have now for many years.

My hobbies haven't suffered any. The only obvious reduction is eating out - which I used to do a whole lot. Now, I'm pretty much down to once a week .... sad ;-(

So. No. Don't think anyone has a clue.

Guest's picture
Jeremy

We certainly do just fine.. but have incomes FAR less then our immediate peer group.

But what we do have, we choose carefully and frugally. Our retirements are maxed yearly.. but we don't have a big fancy TV.
We do go out to dinner.. but we always have a coupon or a gift card.

Our friends just know this about us.. but to other people it appears we are very much struggling.

But that's okay.. Our paid for cars and little non-house debt go a long way to freeing our cash flow up.. so we always have plenty of money and still can contribute to savings.

Guest's picture
Dr Sunshine

We have 4 boys and live in a very low income neighborhood. We moved there several years ago when things were tight. Our income changed dramatically in a very short time and now we'll be paying our house off in a few years. Nobody in our neighborhood has any idea we do as well as we do, but my family is always giving us grief about it. They have no room to talk though, they're all in debt up to their eyeballs.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

I don't think people are shocked at how much my hubby and I make since they know what we do for a living and there is a pretty set salary range for our jobs and age.  I think a lot of people overestimate, though, but we are definitely not flashy with our stuff at all. 

Guest's picture
Laura

It's common knowledge that my husband and I live off of one income, so I know that people think we don't bring in a lot of money (which we don't). The thing that people would probably be surprised about is how little I spend on groceries. We shop primarily at Aldi, and I clip coupons like there's no tomorrow, so we're actually able to eat pretty well.

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't think people would be surprised by what we make, which is a six figure + income in the middle of rural America, but they can never figure out why we always buy second-hand and drive the vehicles we do (3 paid for vehicles that all run really well...Toyota has 250,000+ miles and I've had it for over 13 years and still love driving it). We also do not have a cell phone plan which is very shocking to most people because my husband and I are both in the technology field. We make such decisions because we don't want to have any monthly payments going towards "stuff" that offers no return. On the other hand, we have a beautiful home on 40+ acres and have traveled extensively. By prioritizing what's most important to us, it makes saving so much more rewarding.

Guest's picture
kate

I think they would be shocked to find that we are actually able to live as well as we do on what we bring in.

Guest's picture

Since my husband is in the military, his income is public record and pretty easily google-able. I would love to know what the median is in our community because, as others have mentioned, it is all relative to the cost-of-living in your location. I feel like we do pretty well with what we have but I know that we haven't saved as much as we should.

What an interesting question.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

For starters, sometimes I'm shocked at how much we make! My household income has increased 10fold in the past 10 years.

People who see me shopping at Aldi or the thrift store would probably be shocked to know how large our household income is. People who see me out at the riding stable 5 days a week, or the therapist we pay out of pocket to the tune of a gazillion dollars a month, probably think we make more than we do. Indeed, the therapist has often asked why we don't get a housekeeper--because I'm sure he envisions us being in the income class where everyone can easily afford $300/mo to have someone come in and clean the house once a week. And we could--if we ditched the therapist and the riding hobby.

So by living below our means in areas that aren't as important to us, we're able to afford a lifestyle beyond our means in others.

Guest's picture
GT0163C

I'm pretty sure that many people would be surprised as to how much I make. Some people would probably think I make a good bit less than I do as I live pretty frugally (very frugally some would say). But there are others who are convinced that engineers are rolling in bucks and would be confused if they heard my actual salary figure.

Guest's picture
gime

Because I am an engineer and my fiance is a chef, most of our friends know that we bring in a lot of money, 6 figures between the two of us. All of them are surprised by how "crappy" our stuff is. We rent an apartment for $800 a month and live kind of cramped, our tv is not flat, our cars are not luxury brands, and even though I don't need to, we buy all of my high end clothing and accessories on Ebay to save money on those.

Our passion is traveling and that is where people can tell a difference. We go on week long vacations 2 to 4 times a year. Our friends go on vacation once every couple of years, or they have their parents pay for them.

A lot of our friends envy our self control and make jokes or comments about how cheap we are.

Guest's picture
Iree

Some people would be surprised I would think but very little amount of people ask at all. My boyfriend and I make perhaps a combined 18k a year living around the Milwaukee metro. We have a beautiful spacious apartment surrounded by trees but plunked a block away from a busy intersection. We eat out for at least 5 of the meals per week, see a movie at least once if not twice a week (and then rent a few movies from blockbuster too), attend shows (Broadway, plays, dances, operas, festivals) about every other month usually out of town whether it's a train ride to Chicago or side trip to Madison. We fly to places like Boston, Seattle, Washington DC, Toronto just because we can and just for a weekend to sightsee. We celebrated Xmas last year three weekends in a row with different presents each time and spent even more on books from Barnes and Nobles throughout the year.

This is an awesome thing-- leading a full experience lifestyle that is. I still manage to pay off all accumulated charges on my cc every month and even put money towards savings.

Guest's picture
Emily

I earn a decent wage, but I live very frugally. However, I do splurge on things that I really want or need. So I'm not sure how others perceive me. If you pick one item out of my closet, it appears that I'm rolling in dough. But notice that I always pack a lunch, and then I'm pinching pennies.

Guest's picture
mylegs

The folks I work with (govt employee) would be shocked at how much we make. The folks my husband works (law firm) with would be shocked at how little we make. My co-workers are aware of my frequent trips and my nice, although aging, car. My husband's co-workers all live in WAY more expensive houses, drive new and expensive cars, and spend $20k on stuff that we do ourselves for a 10th of that price.

Guest's picture

People would be surprised at what my husband and I make. They probably think my husband makes tons more and I make tons less. I work at home so many people equate that to no income at all. Its fine with me because people don't rush to ask to borrow money. Unfortunately, they ask my husband for money all of the time. They assume people in his position make millions. With 4 kids, a mortgage, some debt, and the cost of insurance they would be surprised.

I am so tweeting (@Tworkathome) this and I think this will make for a great discussion on a few message boards as well.

Guest's picture
Gil

We constantly are shocked by how much people say they spend, how much debt people have and sometimes how much they make - even though they tell us they don't make enough and are always broke.

On the flipside, we definitely have much smaller incomes, smaller expenses and smaller amounts of debt than most of our friends (and some family members). But we are a frugal family. Even when we made twice what we make now, we spent the same amount and just saved the rest. We don't watch the same movie in the movie theater multiple times, buy a daily cup of coffee, buy random trinkets or do a lot of impulse buying - something we hear our extended family does on occasion. We also don't go out to eat a lot, buy much clothes or have any fancy (or new) cars. Some of those things just don't fit our personalities (or spending habits) and others we think would just be useless drains on our financial resources. What we do have though is have 6-8 months worth of emergency savings, no collectors calling us, a small repayment for school loans and more piece of mind than most people we know.

Guest's picture
Ann Marie

People are shocked by what my fiance and I can do with our incomes. I'm a grad student, which means I make $27K a year. In the Bay Area. My fiance makes about twice that, which is still not a high salary for this area.

What people are shocked about is that (1) we've saves $50K in the 4 years we've been in the Bay Area, and (2) we're about to buy a single family home in a nice part of Oakland. No one believes that a grad student has any business buying a home, and most of my student friends can't fathom the possibility, but it's because they spend most of their monthly paychecks on food, housing and travel, and we don't. We don't live like misers by any means (if we did, we'd have $100K saved), but we try to get the best value out of everything we do buy.

For us, it's all about delayed rewards. We think carefully about what we want and what we need to save to get it. We also never accrue finance charges on our credit cards, don't overdraw our checking accounts and pay things on time, which saves SO MUCH MONEY.

Guest's picture

I think people would be shocked to know how much I'm worth... not how much I make. It's not a conversation that ever come up though.

Guest's picture
Lewis

While my husband and I live in a nice house, I drive a relatively inexpensive car and I have also turned couponing into an "Extreme Sport". Oh yeah, and I religiously scour Goodwill for furniture or secondhand clothes.

We probably are higher earners than other people think, but as we don't have kids, they figure out we're saving more, which is probably true. A newfound frugality has come over me this year, though. I've seen many friends laid off from their jobs, and the economy has been so thoroughly trashed recently that I simply can't justify paying $29 for a new sweater when I can buy one just as nice for $3.79 at a thrift store. Same for the furniture overhauls I've done. We've wanted a new coffee table for a long time, but inspiration struck and I refinished a $10 coffee table, another Goodwill find.

We're also extremely frugal as of late because our dog has had to have chemotherapy treatments, which while they aren't making us go into debt, have caused us to trim costs wherever we can. Eating out less, bringing our lunches more, etc.

Guest's picture
Nicki

Since I'm still in my mid-20s most people assume I still have high student loan debts and a car loan for my recent purchase. However, I'm debt free and choose to live frugally so I can spend my money on more important things. It works out nicely though since they think I'm poor we tend to go to more reasonably priced restaurants or do potlucks.

Guest's picture
jbd

we were talking to a young couple at church about how she needed to keep working after their first baby was born. They'd only make 30,000 if she didn't, she said. I zipped my lips. But we make 30,000, own our home and car and we're a family of 4. What do they spend their $ on, I wonder. I'd like to have another 2-3 thousand per year. At this point, it is hard to save and live on so little.

Guest's picture
Kristin

A new neighbor in the new condo development where I live recently shared with me that he was laid off from his job of $80,000 a year just a week after he closed on the condo and is now making half that amount driving a truck and just can't pay all of his bills (mortgage payment, car payment, etc.) without his old paycheck. I told him that I make about $40,000 a year, and I manage to pay my mortgage and car payments without too much pain (and I'm paying for grad school tuition now besides). It seems like people have a lot of expensive expectations about what it takes to be middle class these days, but I'm quite happy.

Guest's picture
ryan

i dont think people would be shocked, as we all make around the same amount. but they are baffled as to "what is going on" with me, b/c i dont have all the luxuries they all are starting to acquire.

i just feel that i am blessed to make what i make, live in this country, and have no non-mortgage debt. i feel it is my obligation to take a shot at something, so i dont spend the money, as i am saving it for important things. more important than matching dishes, a new car, etc.

Guest's picture
Nicholas

They might be surprised how much I make for who I am working for. I am making a modest amount that a family of three or four could live off of and I only just started and live on my own(no family).

Guest's picture
stefanie

I have a feeling that most people would be shocked that my partner and I make so little. In fact, she's the only one with an actual steady income right now, and we both have student loans this year too. I've become very good at saving money on food and activities, so we're definitely not deprived - we're just getting by pretty much.

Guest's picture
Guest

Probably. I'm honestly surprised I am able to pay my bills each month with how bad everything has been. Though I may be forced to move as the cost of living is going up exponentially where I live. It's gotten so expensive that my electric bill literally doubled, and now progress energy wants to almost double it again. Making it so that the electricity in a one bedroom apartment would total a whopping $200+ dollars. Unfortunately, I'm a bit stuck with hardly any savings and a boyfriend who's in school for another year. I know I need to get out of where I'm at and I'm trying to find ways to save money and not be terribly miserable. I'm just praying that I'm given a door to a better place.

Guest's picture
Fracey

We live in a 3400 sq ft home, 3 acres, 3 kids- I stay home, my hubby works full time. 3 cars, big garage- my hubby's hobby is racing. Our oldest daughter went to Germany last year and we are involved in alot of activities- all of this on about $35000.00 a year. I know that we make less than most of our friends and family- but money isn't everything!!

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Brent

I work a white-collar job at an elite college. However, my wife stays home with our children which means that in the end, I'm probably the poorest person in our office (including the receptionist, whose husband works). It produces some internal tension, but I wouldn't trade my life for anything -- it's worth it to live according to our values and we find a lot of joy in it!

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Dan

Over the past 25 years I've probably earned around $3 million total. Today my net worth is $400K at best...not horrible but far from what it could/should be. I'm doing my best to make up for lost time and teach my daughter so she doesn't make the same mistakes. But if I could only go back and do it over...

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Dan

We are perceived as having a lot of money even though we don’t.

We’ve literally had family come knocking on our door for “loans” and are then surprised and even visibly upset when we tell them we don’t have the money to spare. Problem is they look around our house (nice house in good neighborhood, nicely kept and appointed) and it doesn’t help. Finances are definitely a topic that is now completely off-limits with everyone and family are no longer allowed in our home (money is literally the only reason they come knocking, even long lost cousins and uncles show up at the door).

One topic that I would like discussed is how to determine when and with whom to disclose your financial habits and lifestyle. We’ve sat down with both family and friends to get the word out on frugality and good financial health and how we work to death the little money we have (we have no qualms letting people know we scour the thrift nearly daily to score that great find, or that 90% of the items decorating our house are thrift finds under $10 or $15, Setting up an emergency fund, how to look for high interest savings to stash cash, etc.) but all they see is money they think we have that they don’t and they want.

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Jay

That is so bizarre to me. I can't imagine driving over to my uncle or cousin or whatever's house to ask for a loan, even if I was about to be evicted. Seriously. Where I come from, that just isn't even an option.

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Rosa

None of our friends would be surprised because we tell people - what we make, what we save. I feel like secrets about salary are part of what drives people to make bad decisions - they see other people spending and they think 'well, i'm the same kind of person that person is!' Also I like to counteract the idea that everyone has debt, that it's inevitable.

But other people would be shocked, I think. My son's friends families are generally quite a bit poorer because we live in a working-class neighborhood. An ex-con who worked in the cafeteria at my old job used to offer me a ride home because he felt bad for me waiting for the bus. Also I know our neighbor can't quite wrap his head around what kind of work you could possibly do from home sitting in an office chair - every year he asks at least once if I'm working these days.

I'm shocked, in turn, when I find out that a family that clearly struggles with debt and always complaining about not having enough money has the same income my family does - and that happens pretty often. Suze Ormond says people have a margin of safety they feel comfortable in regardless of how much they make, and more and more I think that's true.

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Amber

The problem my fiance and I have is that everyone already knows how much we make and projects their own assumptions about our lifestyle. Then when we fail to meet those assumptions (by, say, spending just $5k on a wedding, as opposed to a lot more - which we could afford but is not aligned with our values), many seem very confused and wonder where "it all must be going." It's going into savings - for a house, for early retirement, for lots of things that don't include buying a lot of junk.

We are constantly fighting a culture of spend-it-if-you-have-it.

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Hyper

Some of my coworkers are shocked at how much I make relative to them. A couple strategic moves and a Master's degree before leaving school has left me making at least 10k more than many of my peers. That said, I rent a cheap apartment, have an old, beat-up car and barely spend my money. My friends in similar fields make a little less than I do, but all live in much more expensive areas. I think they'd be shocked to learn how cheap it is to live in a dying state.

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Rachel

We are pretty frugal, but out of necessity, and I think that even our close family (i.e. parents/inlaws/siblings) would be shocked (horrified) that we get by on so little, but we do.

I'd like to think that we would keep up the frugality and up the savings when things turn around from a salary point of view, but sometimes circumstance-dictated frugality can leave you feeling hard done by and deserving of more, I hope we will be strong enough to rise above it when the time comes

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NMPatricia

We recently updated our wills/trust/etc and the attorney asked in the course of the interview how much money we thought we needed to live on. We responded to him and he looked at us like we were crazy. No way he said. We responded that it was only that much because we had paid for our house and kept our monthly needs way low. No way was that possible according to him. But we just smiled...

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James

People would be shocked to know my income.
Lots of it goes toward legacy decisions from before I was frugally-minded, though.

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David

Some friends would be shocked because it is so low, others because it is so high.

In talking with family and friends in other states, I've noticed that what is considered a "normal salary" can vary widely depending on the cost of living. In the DC area (where I live), a $30,000/year salary for an entry-level job on the Hill is shockingly low given the cost of living (and given what an entry-level job earns in the private sector in this area, which is closer to $50k). In contrast, that same salary in other, more low-cost states would be shockingly high, especially for the entry-level.

So yes, people would be shocked to hear what I make!

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Kristy

We're living on a very tight budget (husband is a full-time student), and it's pretty obvious to our (middle class) friends - we often have to turn down invitations to go to the movies or out to eat. My hope is that maybe our insistence on living within our means will result in our friends spending less in return. We'll see.

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Lee

I was an interesting case. I earned big money, yet you would not have thought it. My entire income (and that of my wife) was sucked up in debt repayments. We lived like we were unemployed virtually. Always scrimping here and there to make ends meet. I tried my best to keep the outward appearance of wealth but I'm sure the cracks showed towards the end.

Now, I still earn the same money, and you still wouldn't think it! But it's now a GOOD thing. I'm all but debt free, 80% of my income gets put to one side and I still live like I'm unemployed. It's just that now I call it being frugal!

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Jennifer

My husband and I live frugally. We buy many of our possessions used and I make everything from bread to yogurt completely from scratch. We live in a small house and do not buy our son expensive toys. I think people would be surprised by our six figure income level.

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Guest

I am always shocked by how much my friends make, so I’m sure they’re shocked by how much I make. My friends are mostly smart, interesting people who have gone into programming and work way too many hours and make 2 – 3 times as much as I do OR MORE.

I have a 40-hour work week in a stable government job and I make the same salary as a first-year teacher in my area. I assume it’s just as difficult for them as for anyone to imagine living on 1/2 or even 1/3 as much money as they earn, but then all you have to do is look at my car, look at my house, notice that I always have roommates, etc., and then it all makes sense.

Fortunately, most of their social gatherings are parties at their houses or occasionally at a restaurant, and all of the expensive things they talk me into (like visiting them while they live in Europe) are things I really want to do and can totally afford.

My family knows I'm wealthier than I look but since most of their incomes are higher, they are too embarrassed to ask me for money. Heh.

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People who see us around town see my kids in nice clean, name brand hand-me downs. My husband and I are both sharp enough dressers. We keep our car nice and clean. But people who know me through my blog know that we make less than $1000 per month, way under the poverty line, and happily with no debt.

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happy with where i am

I think most people who don't know us and just look at our jobs titles and where live (CA) would be surprised, but with friends and family we're pretty open about what we make b/c I think it's a bit ridiculous that $ is such a taboo in out country. I lived in several other parts of the world when I was growing up, and oftentimes in those places one of the first things a new friend would ask is how much you make. It was rather shocking at first, and as a westerner in an very poor country, it was somewhat embarrassing, but I learned to appreciate the assumptions I didn't have to make by knowing.

My hubby and I make significantly less than his side of the family and on par with or more than my family extended family. The thing that would probably surprise people most is that, though I am self-employed, I make more than he does (though self-employment taxes make my usable income is significantly less than my pre-tax income). Hubby works 1/2 time at a public university and makes about $25,000--much less than he would in a similar position in the private sector. I am a private tutor, and, while many of my (extremely wealthy) clients assume I "do VERY well for" myself, I think they'd be surprised at how little I actually make. Everyone else I know, on the other hand, thinks that tutoring is about one step up from minimum wage and consider it temporary side-work rather than a career. My pre-tax income is about $60,000. I only work during the school year and less than 40 hrs. a week at that. In addition to working 1/2 time, hubby also has 1 month off (also unpaid) in the summer. When we were first married about 7 yrs. ago, we got into about $30,000 of debt over 2 yrs. (I had some health problems, was just starting to build my business, and hubby wasn't working)...after paying that off over the next 18 mo. we started saving and have since purchased a small home and that is and has been our only debt. We have several expensive hobbies, and although we're saving some $ each yr., we're not yet saving enough for retirement, so that is where our attention is now turned.

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since I started blogging at http://www.mewithoutdebt.com , most of my close friends and family know how much I make and how much deep I am in debt.

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I have been backpacking around the world for a year-ish now and people are all very incredulous when I tell them not only what I've already seen - but that I plan to keep on traveling for a couple of years from my internet-based work!

It's all about trade-offs I tell them - I make enough to either live frugally and comfortably in the states...or enough for perpetual travel in less expensive countries :-)

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MJ

Every person I work with makes similar salaries to me and they are living the high life, but since I am a one person income family its not that way for me.

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pam munro

Living in L.A. - more specifically Hollywood - for years, I have managed my image. As an actress I have never made a lot of $ - but because how one is perceived = reality, and looking good = success, I have always tried to keep up a stylish image while really cutting costs (see my blog!). So in that sense some people would be surprised. But on the other hand, we live in a rent-controlled apartment - in an area that's getting better all the time, so our rent is low - that's how we can afford our boat and our slip rental! Hearing that we have a boat makes people think we make A LOT more than we do. Then again, my husband, a "respected professional" who works in education really isn't paid according to his qualifications - and what's more, the powers that be are always demanding that he upgrade/renew his various credentials, which costs US quite a bit! With all of our frugality and ingenuity, we live pretty nicely,(with occasional bad streaks) but we do wonder HOW FAMILIES make it!

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Katie R

I grew up in a family that was very frugal: coupon clipping, only buying things that were 'on sale', eating McDonalds' burgers because they were less expensive than Burger King's, driving across the country rather than flying...etc :). As a result, I tend to live pretty conservatively. Even though my financial situation is different, I have a hard time breaking any of the financial 'rules' that influenced my childhood.

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Julie

i am a grad student, and my working friends would probably be amazed at how little you can live on in the big city.

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Andie

If our friends don't know what we make, it's because they are recent college grads who simply haven't been in the working world long enough. Friends closer to our age (late 20s/early 30s) probably have a pretty good idea since my husband is a programmer. I doubt people are particularly surprised at what we save since my husband used to tell people how much he had saved (before we were married).

If there's anything about our money that people might be surprised at it is how much we give away which is probably 15-20% per year. A good chunk of this supports various local community efforts by our church, but we also give to friends around the world who are doing non-profit work.

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Sarah

People are shocked that every internship I've had (including my current one) has been unpaid.

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S. Carvalho

I make a lot more than one would guess after a casual glance at my lifestyle. I'm 30 and currently earn about 98K, but I'm an immigrant too, so I save a bunch of it - maxing out 401(k), Roth IRA while I could, index fund investing on top of that, CDs on top of that.

I think the biggest reason I save so much is because I kind of don't need so much, and am careful about moving things from the want pile to the need pile, just because I can afford them. Manicures, pedicures, 600 threadcount sheets? Definitely wants.

I'm also careful about moving things from the "everybody wants" pile to the "i want" pile. Like a flat screen TV... people seem to think if you can afford one, why wouldn't you get one? I'm not sure that's right. On the other hand, I love photography and *want want want* photo stuff. So twice a year I buy myself a new photo related toy, a new lens/flash etc... I also love to travel, and never say no to a travel opportunity, although I research the best bang for my buck.

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Guest

My partner and I live on a charter school teacher's and a graduate student's salary. Recently one of my co-workers was shocked when I told him what I'm making - turns out it's a couple thousand dollars less than he makes, though we have the same amount of experience and were both hired at the same time AND I have a Master's degree (he doesn't). He was just a better negotiator than I was when he was hired.

Still, we make it work, we live frugally, and don't feel like we are going without.

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Sally

No, I don't think so. I'm pretty open about it.

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Jennifer

I am a tech industry employee, a high performer with the same company for the past 9 years, so with raises, bonuses and stock grants, I make a lot and I am sitting on a nice pile of savings.

But, I calibrate my lifestyle to what works for me, instead of calibrating it to what I could be spending or what 'society' would expect me to spend. This means that I live in a modest house in a modest neighborhood, I drive a 5-year-old car (that I plan to keep for a while) and while I like clothes and buy a few nice pieces every season, I don't have tons and I don't buy 'status' items. I occasionally spend a pile on something nice for the house, but again these items are not 'status' items so unless you really know what you're looking at, you would not know how much they cost. I have little interest in fancy electronics, so except for a nice MP3 player and dock, all my electronics are at least 15 years old.

I DO spend a lot on travel and a fair amount on fun things like eating out with friends, going to events and keeping up my sports equipment. I am sometimes willing to spend extra for convenience.

I save about 20% of my income and and donate about 8%, but these activities are invisible to everyone but my financial advisor.

Some of my friends have probably figured out that I'm pretty well off, but many would be surprised, judging from how they commiserate with me about their finances, or express concern that I might not be able to afford such and such.

I'm proud of the work I have done to be financially successful, so sometimes I feel like 'outing' myself, but since quite a few of my friends are less well-off, I don't want to make them feel uncomfortable.

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kazari

Most of our friendship groups are based around shared interests (rock-climbing, book-clubs, bushwalking) and we don't really talk about work much. When we do, it becomes clear that there is a wide variety of incomes amongst our friends.

I love this. It means that there's no sense of 'keeping up with the jones'. It also means our friends generally assume we are earning the same as them.

So recently, there have been a few people who've been shocked that we earn significantly more than them.

I don't know that this means our lifestyle is no reflection of our paycheck. I think it means our lifestyle is in sync with our values.

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mahesh kawle

I have gone through the most of the comments on blog. Yes the speech therapist living on teacher’s salary, {a little shocking
Submitted by Jamie g on September 22, 2009 - 07:13. }
Emily@Under$1000PerMonth on September 22, 2009 - 13:57.
Absolutely!
Submitted by Brent on September 22, 2009 - 11:21.
Now its time for you get shoked

I am living on less than $100 a month and I am very happy , with my

wife two children and good clean neat house, and my family is happy.

i am only bread winner and two children are studing. at all depends on your mind set ,to be happy or keep going unhappy.

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Guest

It would be nice if you can clarify where you live ,

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Ceres

People may not be shocked at how much I make, but they are always shocked at how much I save. I've more than tripled my salary in 5 years (I switched career so started at the bottom of the totem pole back then), but I live mostly as if I still make my starting salary at the non-profit. The extra money goes into (in that order): funding my retirement; spending on friends and family; down payment on a house; annual vacation; donation to charity; occasional indulgence.

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Katrina

I make almost $600 a month as a student worker. My rent is $650/month. Besides that, I have groceries. Thankfully school is paid for through scholarships, but I'm still pinching pennies! And it doesn't help that it's expensive to be in my major, a design field...

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Guest

I think most people that know me would be shocked at how little I make. I still dress very nice (ebay/thirft store shopping) and live below my means. I don't buy things unless I have researched that I am getting the best deal for a quality item (buying cheap/poor quality doesn't mean you'll end up saving money in the end!).

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Rebecca F

Nope, no one would be surprised at all.

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sbm

Others assume that people in my field (higher education) make astronomical salaries, but I don't. More often not, there's more month than money.

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Alex

Im 29 years old, right now self-emplyed and a full time student. I own a 1992 Lexus LS400 showroom edition. I have been on my own since I was 16, have been working since I was 12, (I couldn't legally worked N since at that time we lived near the park n Shea stadium, I collected bottles n cans) I learned manual labor n at 29 I'm a single parent, make around 7k a month clean just from work, own a couple of houses that provide a steady stream of money, my furniture is at least ten years old. I have ZERO debt n recently bought a new house cash, fixer upper n fixed it myself due to my extended family moving in with me due to financial hardships. My family and friends don't know I own property or how much I make. As far as they go, I'm a full time student n unemployed. I own a vacation home in Florida n looking at a place in Costa Rica, I live well below my means but enjoy my life. I can basically write my own ticket to anywhere to do anything n money wouldn't b an issue but I like spur of the moment events n spending time in nature. My money doesn't define my lifestyle or interests, n I prefer meals at home because I love cooking as much as I live numbers, (I work with them everyday). I never had to depend on my parents n for those of u who just wish you could move in with your parents, wait till they knock on your door n cone hone to roost.

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Guest

My answer is yes, definitely. I live in Asia and teach EFL at a university. I also do other types of work here-- all related to English. Most people think that kind of work is for recent grads or just one step up from the peace corps. I probably shouldn't say this on a public forum with unemployment at 10% - so as to protect my turf, but I make way more than $100K doing what I do. Anyone not lazy can do what I am doing. We save about 80% of that as we have no debt and live frugally. Retirement at 50 anyone? See you there.

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I seriously doubt anyone would be for me personally. I'm a poor college student working in retail.... Hardly a shock. ;) Maybe if they knew I was averaging $11 or so an hour, but that's hardly a shock I think. (Just pretty good for a student working through college I suppose.)

Now, for some people, I think if they found out how much my husband and I together don't make... They might be in disbelief. Everyone seems to want to think we make so much money because of our cars. Well, we don't, honestly. We just have a clear sense of where our priorities lie and spend accordingly.

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Alex

Retirement at 50? It's 43 for me. :) so I guess I'll see u there. As far as the teaching English goes, I lived in Japan for 6 years, and I loved that 6 figure income. It's as easy as you implied and a fun way to work. It felt like I was getting paid to go out n just talk to people as if I were home relaxing with them. Great times.

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Thanks for all the great comments. This is exactly what I thought. There are a lot of people making a lot of money everywhere. 6 figure salaries teaching English in Japan in commentary #90!

I shall include the Japan anecdote in my post, "Fortunes, Fortunes, Everywhere! where policeman, fireman and longshoremen make easily $150,000/yr.

It's great to be an American!

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Kelli

because it's really not all that much at all, but my husband and I have really improved on our frugality, so we choose where to scrimp and are able to afford other things (we bought a house last year and average a vacation a year, etc.). Also, we try not to be too cheap when it comes to gift-giving. We don't go into debt buying presents for others, but we do try to be reasonably generous, because that's an area where we can spend since we save elsewhere, so our family and friends might think we make a little bit more than we do. As long as they don't think we have so much money that they come looking for a loan... ;)

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Flo

... but they wonder, why I never have any money left. It gets eaten up by debts.
But step by step its getting better, although I had to cut down my lifestyle a little bit (but not that much).

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Lilith

I live from what I can make at student jobs and teaching and performing, starving artists unite !

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Dan

I am a grad student in my early 20s. My income is very limited and I live far below it. However judicous use of sales, etc. often fools people into thinking that I make a lot more money than I do.... For example, I wear a lot of designer clothing; however, I pick it up on sale at prices that compete with the big warehouse stores. Also, I drive a large SUV...I bought it a few years ago with cash (that's easy to do when you live within your means). I have a sweet ride, while many of my friends are tryig to figure out how they can finagle a car loan on top of their student loans and their credit card debt...

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Therese

I don't think anyone would be shocked by what we earn, but our kids have the idea that they will be inheriting debt, even thought that is not true.