Money

Couple making $100,000: We 'don't expect to ever retire'

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Theresa Sahhar and her husband make a combined $100,000, which is nearly double the median annual income in the United States.

They live in Olathe, Kansas, where the cost of living is "pretty reasonable," Sahhar told NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro during a segment on living on $100,000 a year. Still, they're "struggling to make enough money to do all the things that we normally do."

Saving is a struggle, thanks in part to the cost of education for their kids, which is one of their biggest expenses.

"We spend quite a lot on our children's education," she said. "Everything that [my son] participates in costs money. But I want him to really have the opportunity to develop everything that he possibly can."

She's not optimistic about the future, either for her children or for herself. "I don't expect to ever retire," said Sahhar. "I expect to work until I'm dead."

The Sahhars aren't the only Americans earning six figures and having a hard time setting aside money for retirement, college and other major expenses. One Georgia-based couple earning $180,000 doesn't "feel wealthy," nor do they "have a bunch of money stashed away anywhere," they told the Washington Post.

Financial expectations have changed over the past several decades as so many prices have risen while wages haven't kept pace. As Richard Rubin, economy reporter for the Wall Street Journal, tells Garcia-Navarro, "We've seen costs go up for things that seem like core parts of the middle-class life," such as health care and education.

"So even if food prices or electronic goods or other things have not gotten more expensive, those things — health care and education — have gotten more expensive. And so what it feels like to be middle class now can be different from what it felt like 25, 30, 40 years ago."

Some even say that "millionaire is the new middle-class."

No matter your income, almost anyone can begin saving for their future. Even if you just set aside a tiny percentage of your income in a retirement account, it's better to start small than not get started at all.

Start by investing in your employer's 401(k) plan, a tax-advantaged retirement savings account, or other retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA or traditional IRA.

Next, follow these three steps so your money can grow over time:

  1. Contribute as much of your income as you can. If you're funding a 401(k), the contribution limit for 2018 is $18,500 for workers under age 50. If you're funding a Roth IRA or traditional IRA, the maximum yearly contribution is $5,500 for workers under age 50.
  2. Automate your contributions. Have your employer do a payroll deduction or have your money taken out of your checking account and sent straight to your retirement account. After all, you can't spend money you never see.
  3. Get in the habit of upping your savings consistently, either every six months, at the end of each year or whenever you get a raise. Again, if you make this automatic by setting up "auto-increase," you won't forget to up your contributions, or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk.

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