How far does a $50K salary go when you’re starting out? It depends a lot on where you live. Recent graduates in entry-level jobs will make an average of $51,347 annually in 2019, according to recruiting firm
The Wall Street Journal interviewed five millennial workers in five different cities about what it’s like to live on roughly $50,000 a year. They told us about their living expenses, how much they save and what they do on Friday nights. Here are their stories, edited and condensed from recent interviews.
Leslie Paez outside her Houston apartment.
Callaghan O’Hare for The Wall Street Journal
Houston Age: 25 Salary: $45,000 Occupation: Payroll and HR administrator, Double Oak Storm Tex Rent: $683.50, splitting a $1,367 two-bedroom townhome with her fiancé How do you get to work? You can’t really get to a lot of places without a car here in Houston. The only time we use Uber is if we’re going somewhere at night or on the weekends. I pay $375 a month for the car [not including insurance]. My job is kind of far away, so I fill up [the tank] once a week. What’s your typical Friday night or weekend plans? We have a lot of bars near downtown or midtown that have games you can play outside like cornhole or pool tables. Normally if we decide to Uber [if we’re going out with friends], it might be anywhere from $13 to $25 to get there. We might go to dinner. I’ll have maybe one or two drinks, and that’s pretty much it. Altogether, we normally spend around $100. We used to do that like twice a month but now that we’re getting married soon it hasn’t been often because we have so much going on. We had 320 guests invited, we got it down to 280. We’re probably spending roughly $35,000. Are you able to save? No, everything I would save goes basically to the wedding right now. More on her life in Houston here.
Natalie Blockhus on the balcony of the apartment she shares with a roommate in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park.
Jenn Ackerman for The Wall Street Journal
Minneapolis Age: 24 Salary: $47,500 Occupation: Resolution specialist at Ameriprise Financial Rent: $870 for a bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment How do you get to work? Typically I ride the bus because parking downtown is an average of $9 a day, so that adds up really fast. I have a metro pass through my job that I pay for out of my paycheck and it’s about $60 a month for unlimited rides. I do have a car, and I try and pay my insurance semiannually instead of doing it monthly. I pay around $450 twice a year. That way I can deplete my savings at once and not have to worry about it. What’s your typical Friday night or weekend plans? There’s this bar called Cowboy Jack’s downtown that we go to sometimes, or if we go to Uptown, Stella’s Fish Cafe turns into a little bar scene at night. We try and pregame at home as much as possible, so once we’re out we don’t have to buy as many drinks. We’ll all split an Uber to a bar, which ends up being $3 to $4 a person. It depends how rowdy we’re being that specific night, but we probably spend $30-ish on average. Typically I stick with a vodka lemonade—I’m not ordering Grey Goose or anything like that. Are you able to save? I’m not in a relationship and I don’t have any kids or pets, so I’m trying to keep my 401(k) [contribution] as high as possible. It’s at 10%, so I’m seeing less of my salary than a lot of other people are. I also try to put $200 monthly into a savings account. Being in the finance field, I do have a financial adviser who helps me coordinate what I should be doing. I also do save up for some fun girl trips. I’m going to visit my friend who lives in North Carolina in October. My friend and I are splitting a checked bag, so we can save on that. More on her life in Minneapolis here.
Investment adviser David Dick at his office in Oklahoma City.
Brett Deering for The Wall Street Journal
Oklahoma City Age: 24 Salary: ~$45,000 Occupation: Investment adviser, Voya Financial Advisors Rent: $362.50, splitting a $725 one-bedroom apartment with his fiancée How do you get to work? I drive eight or nine miles to work and I make it, depending on traffic, in about 15 minutes. For car insurance alone, we pay about $125. I have a brand new vehicle and she has an older vehicle. What’s your typical Friday night or weekend plans? I like to go to Topgolf. It’s a place where we can go hit golf balls, have a few drinks and order dinner there. If you’re doing that, you’re gonna spend around $100 or more. If only drinks, maybe $30 or $40.
There’s a ShowBiz [Cinemas] in Edmond that has bowling and a $5 movie night on Tuesday. I’m a big “Lion King” fan, that’s my favorite childhood movie ever. It’s maybe $30-$40 for popcorn and tickets and everything altogether. We tend to cook in a lot and save money doing it that way. In four years together, we’ve never been on a vacation. We’ve thought about it every year but then we always ask ourselves, “What could we make this money do for us that’s not gonna be gone in three days?” Being in Oklahoma, we are big-time hunters. We tend to hunt a lot during the fall and winter. The deer we do harvest, we eat and we haven’t really bought red meat in the store since last November. Are you able to save? I’m not on a fixed salary. Being an independent financial adviser, I have to plan for my own taxes. I also have to plan for my errors-and-omissions insurance that I have to pay at the end of the year to keep my license. I put 30% or 40% into a savings account. I’m a big-time saver. I max out my Roth IRA, so that’s $500 a month. More on his life in Oklahoma City here
Patrick Komorous puts 15% of his salary in a 401(k) and pays for his M.B.A. classes in Charlotte, N.C., with student loans.
Andy McMillan for The Wall Street Journal
Charlotte, N.C. Age: 26 Salary: $48,000 (plus commission) Occupation: Utility sales representative, Sealed Air Rent: $1,400 for a one-bedroom apartment. How do you get to work? I live about 10 to 15 minutes away. Even in really bad traffic, the worst case is like 30 minutes. It doesn’t cost anything to park where I live. I go to Wake Forest University at Charlotte campus for my M.B.A. Whenever I go to class downtown, I’ll normally just park at my apartment and walk. What’s your typical Friday night or weekend plans? If we’re going out on a Saturday afternoon, there are a lot of places to grab a beer that’s been locally brewed and eat at a food truck. I typically spend between $50 and $100. The minor-league [baseball] games are a really fun time. They have games throughout the spring and summer that are $10, $15 for a ticket. Then you buy a beer or two, and you can have a lot of fun for $30. What are you saving for? The biggest thing for me is retirement. I pay for school with student loans, but I put about 15% of my money into my 401(k) each month, mostly because the company will match about 5%. I try to put about $200 a week into a savings account, for a rainy day more than anything else. I want to buy a new truck soon. I’m driving the same truck I’ve had for 10 years, so I don’t have a payment every month and the insurance is cheap. I got really close to buying a condo in the spring, but I wanted to put 20% down, and at that point I had maybe 15%. I have a real serious sit down probably once every few months where I type out all of my expenses and use an Excel sheet to budget it out. But then you get a little distracted or life moves a little too quickly and you get off track. More on his life in Charlotte here
Rebecca Determan on the porch of her Tucson home with her dog, Luna.
Cassidy Araiza for The Wall Street Journal
Tucson, Ariz. Age: 27 Salary: $45,000 Occupation: Project specialist, University of Arizona Alumni Association Rent: $800, including home-owner-association fees, for a two-bedroom condo How do you get to work? I live about three to five miles from campus, so it’s about a 10-minute drive for me. Once students are back, it can take up to 20 minutes. The price to park on campus is $726 for the year. I do have the luxury of getting to go home for lunch, I see my dog, Luna, a 10-year-old Yorkie, get her a quick walk. How does Luna factor into your budget? She’s an older dog, so I knew that I had to get pet insurance. With that, her food and some toys, I budget about $50 to $60 a month. What’s your typical Friday night or weekend plans? I love to eat out, which is where all my money goes. I really enjoy a restaurant called Seis Kitchen. Typically, I’d go to a happy hour for a night out, and a more expensive drink is anywhere from $8 to $10. Are you able to save? It’s super tight. I have a goal number that I try to save every month; that sometimes doesn’t happen. I put away money into my retirement and [my employers] do a match. But if you were to ask, “What does your savings account look like,” that is not a pretty sight. I used my savings to pay for my master’s degree, so I’m just trying to rebuild my savings right now. More on her life in Tucson here
The added expenses of living alone can come as a shock if not budgeted properly. These two Washington, D.C., area professionals compare the monthly costs of living alone versus living with roommates.
Share Your Thoughts Have you considered moving to a city with a lower cost of living? What factors made you move/stay? Join the conversation below.
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