Courtney Mishoe and her husband are making more than $180,000 a year, three times as much as the median annual income in the United States. Still, the suburban Georgia couple doesn't "feel wealthy," Mishoe told Todd C. Frankel of the Washington Post, who is calling attention to the people in the upper middle class worried about losing out under the GOP's proposed tax overhaul.
"I don't have a bunch of money stashed away anywhere," Mishoe says.
The Mishoes, who have a mortgage and three kids, live in North Fulton, an area where homes sell for $500,000 to $800,000 and property taxes are relatively high, the Post reports.
They aren't the only residents earning six figures and struggling to set aside money for retirement, college and other major expenses. Some living in the area who earn $100,000 "are living paycheck to paycheck," the Post reports, and even families earning up to $250,000 "don't consider themselves to be high-earners."
The problem exists beyond North Fulton. One New York City-based family of four profiled recently on the blog Financial Samurai brings home $500,000 a year and still ends up with very little besides 401(k) money. Even though it easily qualifies as "upper class, " after taxes, fixed costs, childcare and discretionary expenses, there's only $7,300 left each year to go towards other savings goals, investment accounts or retirement funds.
These families may be rich by many standards, yet they seem to just be getting by. This disconnect highlights a critical money lesson: Thanks to the high cost of living, and to lifestyle creep, even a hefty paycheck doesn't always guarantee wealth or financial peace of mind.
There's a reason personal finance experts like to say that it's not about how much money you make, it's about how much you keep.
While earning more won't necessarily solve all of your money problems, prioritization, budgeting and living beneath your means — no matter your income level — can help you out tremendously in the long run.
How much do you save each year? How does that compare to how much you should have saved at every age?
To keep more of what you earn, check out:
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!