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Think Six Figures Makes You Successful? Not Anymore

Wednesday, 27 Jun 2012 | 2:12 PM ET

Since the magical shoulder-pad wearing, “Greed is good” era of the 1980s, Americans have considered six-figure salaries a sign of success. And, while less than 20 percent of American households have actually crossed that threshold of success according to the Census Bureau, in this era of Justin Bieber and saggy pants, six figures just doesn't cut it anymore.

"What would have cost you $100,000 in 1976 would cost you $381,000 today,” Mari Adam, a certified financial planner and president of Adam Financial Associates in Boca Raton, Fla., told Bankrate.com. “That's just the inflation, and there are so many other things that have grown very expensive," she said.

In addition to inflation on everyday things like paper towels and gasoline, the costs of big-ticket items like housing, health insurance and college tuition have rocketed higher in recent years. Health-care costs alone have more than doubled in the past decade.

“Consider the rising costs of food, energy and the necessities of a middle class life, and that six-figure luxury quickly turns to six-figure mediocrity,” Bankrate says.

So, congratulations, 20 percent of America. You are shining examples of mediocrity!

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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