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Home Finance Retirement Planning for Retirement: Middle Class

Planning for Retirement: Middle Class

What Does Planning for Retirement Look Like if You're a Typical Middle-Class Family?

Meet the Middlesons.

Ma and Pa Middleson have three kids and typical finances that include a combined income of about $95,000 a year. They also have a cute house in the suburbs and various assets and liabilities.

Assets include:

  • A house (which has risen nicely in value so they can borrow against it)
  • 401(k) from work
  • Mutual funds
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Low Interest Savings
  • Cash
  • A dog that can burp on demand

Liabilities include:

  • Two cars (including one rust bucket that needs some extra spending on maintenance)
  • Mortgage
  • Student Loans
  • A line of credit for home renovations
  • A car loan
  • A small but deadly bit of credit card debt which they can't seem to pay off (much like trying to shed those last 5 pounds)

Each year, the Middlesons are able to put away about $6,000 in savings.

So with all those assets and investments, are the Middleson's ready for retirement?

They may actually be struggling. They have some debt, and with three kids, one of the big expenses will be college. If they were wealthy, they could simply hand over the cash to let Billy, Suzie, and Shane pay for their college educations. If they came from the other side of town, they could probably get more scholarships and government financing for low-income families. But since they're middle of the road, they're going to have to come up with a lot of the cash themselves.

And it is a lot of cash.

According to the College Board, fees, tuition, room and board, and basic costs at a four-year state school are about $20,000 a year. For private school, it's over $39,000 a year. These numbers do not include all the little extras, like an extra taco at lunch or spending money to have a social life.

It gets worse. Each year, college costs increase an average of about 8%. That means that when you start as a freshman, your total college costs will increase. So if you're starting at a state school and paying $20,000 a year to start, with tuition rising about 8% a year, your education will cost over $90,122. For a private school, that's $175,738—or about the cost of a new Porsche.

If Mom and Dad are helping you to pay for college, they may not have much left over to put into their retirement account. They also have less cash to pay off their own debt…including their own college loans back from when they were carefree and young.

The other option is that you pay for some of your education with student loans. That could still leave you with $80,000-$90,000 in student loans depending on how much your parents, grandparents, and you can bring to the table. Unless you launch an awesome career right away or start the next big social media craze, you're going to be paying off student loans for a while, which will cut into your own ability to buy a house, save for retirement, and live the life you want.

Depressing enough?

Yeah, retiring ain't easy.

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