The budget breakdown of a couple that makes $500,000 but only ends up saving $7,300

Earning this amount makes you upper class
Earning this amount makes you upper class

Americans of all income levels are falling short when it comes to putting money away. As money expert at Intuit Kimmie Greene tells CNBC Make It, "Whether you're making $50,000 a year or $200,000 a year, we all have challenges saving."

Or, as this couple shows, you and your partner could be making $500,000 a year, enough to put you among the top 1 percent of earners in America, and still end up with very little besides 401(k) money.

Sam Dogen of the blog Financial Samurai breaks down the budget of two New York City-based spouses, each of whom makes $250,000 a year as a lawyer. They're in their mid-30s and they have two young children. "This one couple shared their story and I decided to anonymously highlight their reported expenses," Dogen tells CNBC Make It.

Take a look at exactly where their money goes.

As you can see, they both max out their 401(k) plan each year and are working on paying down student loan debt. But, even though they qualify 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.

They aren't the only ones who earn six figures and still feel average. As financial adviser Lori Atwood, who sees 400 clients in the affluent Northwest Washington, D.C., region, tells The Washington Post, some families earning $500,000 a year still end up with little to no savings. "It is true but ridiculous," she says.

In North Fulton, Georgia, a suburban area where homes sell for $500,000 to $800,000, residents earning six figures are 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 in a separate article, and even families earning up to $250,000 "don't consider themselves to be high-earners."

Here's how much you should save at every age
Here's how much you should save at every age

These situations illustrate how difficult it can be to avoid lifestyle creep, especially in expensive cities like New York and San Francisco, where highly paid Facebook engineers have resorted to asking Mark Zuckerberg for help paying rent.

These situations may also be anomalies. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which looked at the state of American retirement in a 2016 report, the top 1 percent of families had $1.08 million or more saved in 2013. The 90th percentile family had $274,000 saved, the 80th percentile family had $116,000 and the median working-age family had only $5,000 saved.

Regardless, the point stands: A hefty paycheck doesn't guarantee wealth or financial peace of mind. By contrast, budgeting and living beneath your means, no matter your income level, can help you out tremendously in the long run.

To keep more of what you earn, check out money-saving tips from a couple that banked $50,000 last year and smart ways to save, according to people who've socked away thousands.

Do you want to share your budget breakdown with CNBC Make It? Your submission can be anonymous, and we may post it along with insight from professionals. Email us at:

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!

Don't miss: Couple earning over $180,000: We 'don't feel wealthy'

These tricks can help you thrive on a budget
These tricks can help you thrive on a budget