'$100K Is the New $50K': Here's Why Some People Say They Still Feel Poor Despite Making More Money

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Hey Dude, Where's My Money?

In today's world of rising inflation, it's not uncommon to find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering how — despite earning more — we still struggle to make ends meet. 

Take a look at this Reddit user's dilemma, for example: Back in 2013, their monthly income of $2,200 allowed them to live a comfortable life — complete with a mid-level apartment, a reliable car, ample groceries, and even an annual vacation. Fast forward to now, with an increased income of $4,000 per month, and it's a different story. Despite downsizing to a smaller apartment, cutting back on groceries, and settling for smaller trips, they say they're left with roughly $100 at the end of the month. 

It begs the question: Why does it seem like financial stability has become more elusive, even as our paychecks grow fatter? Here's what Redditors had to say about the disconcerting (yet very common) trend.

Related: 7 Simple Ways to Save Money Now

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Salaries Are Not Keeping Up With the Rising Cost of Living

Over the years, the cost of living has steadily increased, with prices of food and services skyrocketing. Yet, for many individuals, their wages haven't kept up, resulting in a vicious cycle where it becomes increasingly more difficult to achieve financial freedom. "Ten years ago, I made like 12k a year. Now I make 70k and I’m still paycheck to paycheck," writes one user.

"$100k is the new $50k," another Redditor succinctly puts it.

Related: How to Outsmart Inflation, According to Experts

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The Cost of Housing Has Skyrocketed, Too

It's not just the price of goods and services that have gone up. The cost of housing has soared astronomically, as well. "Ten years ago my boyfriend and I rented a two bedroom duplex for $475 a month. I checked that same duplex this week as it's available again... They're asking $2,000," writes one user, adding, "They have made no improvements to the interior or exterior either." 

"My old apartment in a normal US town went from $760 to $1080. Wages certainly aren’t keeping up with that there," writes another Redditor. (Quit ripping us off, landlords!)

Related: Recent Eviction? Here’s How You Can Still Get an Apartment

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Student Loans Are a Burden

On top of trying to stay afloat amid the ever-rising tide of monthly bills and expenses, there's an unwelcome visitor that never fails to make its presence known: student loans. "I have cut out as much as I can, and when student loan payments come back I'm going to be [expletive]," writes one user, adding that they are considering getting a part-time job just to try and keep up with all their expenses. 

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Becoming a Homeowner Seems Increasingly Out of Reach

Does anyone else routinely browse Zillow just to scoff at some of the exorbitantly priced homes? (No, just me? Cool beans). But in all seriousness, some of the houses on the market are lackluster at best, and straight-up mediocre at worst. As one Redditor writes, "My brain still has a hard time comprehending what a million dollar home looks like in 2023. It looks like a ranch house my poor friend lived in in the '90s with new cabinets and grey walls." 

Meanwhile, the equity on some of these homes just keeps growing. "My 60k home in 2011 is now worth 450k. It was a 1960s home, 1,400 sqft, 3 bed 2 bath, and in a garbage suburb — far from anything interesting," writes another user, triggering a cascade of tears from all of us who can't afford to buy a house. 

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The System Keeps Us Captive

According to one user, "Individuals with disposable income can invest in assets that keep pace with inflation, but if you're living paycheck to paycheck, inflation hits hard." Indeed, the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour) hasn't increased in nearly 15 years, forcing many workers to remain stuck in a hamster wheel of low-income work and unable to break free from the clutches of poverty. 

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Eating Out or Ordering Takeout Is Costly

In case you haven't noticed, eating out or ordering takeout can quickly add up, especially as the price of food increases. "I've been getting decent raises and not getting ahead at all. Sucks," writes one user, adding, "I've cut out mostly everything I can and feel like 3 years ago I could order a pizza without thought and now that's out of my budget." (Small silver lining: Check out our fast-food stories to find the best deals). 

"My friend and I went to a local Mexican restaurant and the bill with tip for two lunch entrees and two non-alcoholic beverages came to almost $60. It used to be less than $30," writes another user, adding, "I guess we just aren’t going out anymore." 

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A Ripple Effect

As the cost of goods and services rise, so too have the cost of equipment and materials, says one Redditor. "As a plumber, I can tell you that price doubling is from the cost of materials. I remember our company buying big copper pipes that would cost $300 three years ago, now they’re like $900 (last checked a few months ago), for the same exact item." The increase is starting to affect his work, says the user. "All of my co-workers are dumbfounded and it also bars us from doing more work since no one will be willing to pay for these jobs with the prices being so high, it’s out of our control."

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Working Two or More Jobs Just To Get By

With inflation not showing any signs of relenting, a phenomenon known as "moonlighting," aka working more than one full-time job without telling your main employer, has become a desperate means to an end for many workers. "I am making about 1.7x more than what I made 6 years ago," writes one user, adding, "I have since had to pick up a second job just to support my family and not lose our house. I am now working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, just to keep up with price increases. My girls started crying the other day cause I sat down to watch a movie with them and fell asleep in like 5 minutes cause I just couldn't stay awake."