How much income do you need to live well?

posted 6 months ago in The Lounge
  • poll: What pre-tax salary do you need to live well? (not household income)
    50-75k : (31 votes)
    22 %
    75-100k : (39 votes)
    27 %
    100-125k : (18 votes)
    13 %
    125-150k : (16 votes)
    11 %
    150-200k : (9 votes)
    6 %
    200-300k : (16 votes)
    11 %
    300-400k : (2 votes)
    1 %
    400k+ : (13 votes)
    9 %
  • Post # 31
    2917 posts
    Sugar bee
    • Wedding: August 2018

    We live in an expensive city, and last year made combined $270K. I would say we are currently living well by our own standards, we can vacation, buy nice things, live in a good area, drive reliable newer cars. 

    If we were to have children I don’t think we’d be able to “live well” off of our current income because I am not willing to give up some of the things I spend money on regularly (lash extensions, hair extensions, nails, botox, etc), overseas vacations, etc.

    Post # 32
    705 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: August 2012 - Iowa

    Wow, those numbers are crazy high, and I even voted based on household not myself (and we have 3 kids!) for the 75-100k. I live in a low COL area (midwest) which definetly helps. I would say we live well now (bottom of that range), but money is tight, so adding just 10 to 20k a year would allow us those vacations and more spending freedom, which would be great. Honestly though, i feel like if you make more, you just spend more! When I made 10k less I still felt like I was always broke.

    Post # 33
    812 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: June 2020

    I was living happily with my $30K grad stipend in the midwest. I had no debt and no itch to travel for vacations, and although I like to shop and eat out, my tastes aren’t expensive. I got my Toyota new in 2008 and it was paid off by then. So I was fulfilling my wants pretty easily while still saving about 30% of my stipend. 

    Now I’m in a higher COL area, but my salary is the in the 75-100K range, and I also have my SO’s salary. I traded in my 10 year old Toyota for a new one and will likely have that one for another 10 years. Reliability and low maintenance is all I care about for a car. My SO doesn’t have a car and currently doesn’t want/need one. Together we have more than enough in savings for a downpayment on a house; we just haven’t decided on location yet. We both still like to eat out and make whatever small purchases we want. We don’t want children, so we anticipate living well by our standards.

    Post # 34
    2510 posts
    Sugar bee

    I didn’t vote in the poll because individual income seems pretty meaningless. Plus, in order to feel affluent in the way you’re describing, I think annual income is less important than overall assets. I wouldn’t feel comfortable dropping thousands on handbags and buying new cars (a notoriously bad investment) unless I had assets into the millions, because before that point there are many things I’d rather prioritize. I guess my point is that many people with substantial assets still monitor their spending and live fairly frugally, and become millionaires precisely because they aren’t spending all their money. If you make a million dollars a year but spend a million dollars a year, obviously you’re in a worse positition than someone who makes much less but has a high savings rate. 

    We have a household income of ~150k now (an amount I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago), and I think it’s very comfortable in general. We’re able to save, we don’t stress over paying bills or carry debt, we can afford occasional vacations, regular meals out, etc. We have a six month emergency fund plus retirement accounts and general savings. Most importantly, money is not holding us back from the things we want. We feel financially ready to have kids, for example. But we certainly don’t feel rich in our HCOL area. We’re renters, and there’s no way we could buy a house here (real estate is in the millions plus sky high property taxes). So while we’re comfortable in many ways and would be extremely comfortable in most parts of the country (and world), we’re definitely not rolling in it.

    Living really well to me (financially) would mean:

    • Not carrying debt besides a mortgage (and maybe low interest student loans) 
    • able to comfortably afford (PITI under 1/3 of income) a 3 bed/2 bath home in a good school district and within a 30 minute commute of jobs
    • could comfortably afford extracurriculars/tutoring/daycare for kids and private school if so desired (would prefer to send to a good public school though unless we had a kid with special needs or something) 
    • never stressed about money
    • fully funded retirement accounts and healthy savings cushion
    • can afford to save for kids’ college educations
    • can afford luxuries like a monthly massage and an Equinox or yoga studio subscription
    • can give to charity generously
    • can afford an annual international vacation (plus smaller domestic trips to see family regularly) 
    • can afford most expenses without needing to save up (e.g. can easily replace a broken appliance, buy a cute dress on a whim, etc.) 
    • can afford to take a year off working if needed 

    ETA: I agree with PP that “living well” is more of an attitude than a number, though. Truly living well to me means having a lifelong loving marriage, healthy and well-adjusted children, plenty of time to spend with loved ones, the ability to pursue my passions, plus having my basic needs met – plenty of tasty food, clean water, sunshine, and a comfortable roof over my head. 

    Post # 35
    2678 posts
    Sugar bee

    We have a combined income of just over $300K.  My fiance and I are currently living well under our means in order to get our savings and retirement in order.  We are living together in my small condo in the city that I’ve owned for 10 years that has a low mortgage and low overhead.  We also paid cash for our weekend cabin and all of the renovations.   He has a loan on his vehicle, I own mine but I’m in the process of selling it because we don’t need two cars living in the city.  All toys (motorcycles, boats, etc. are paid for in cash).

    Having low monthly expenses gives us plenty of disposable income to enjoy going out to dinners whenever we please.  We do cook at home plenty as it’s something we enjoy doing together, but we also live in a city full of amazing restaurants.  We also love to travel and this affords us the luxury of traveling.  

    He’s 15 years older than I am, so his retirement and savings are in a much better place than mine, so he is trying to pay for more expenses so that I can continue to build on those.  He wants me to be able to retire around the same time as him….which would be nice, but we have some time before I’d feel comfortable with that.  

    He has two kids, but they are out of school and on their own.  He’s over the hump with child rearing expenses and can now just enjoy it for himself.  I love seeing him enjoy his money. 

    I think we are very comfortable where we are at right now and living well.  Luxury goods aren’t a priority to me at this time.  Not saying I haven’t had my eye on a certain handbag, but that would be a splurge for me and a one time thing.  


    Post # 36
    9828 posts
    Buzzing Beekeeper
    • Wedding: City, State

    I mean I can live well on what I make now but I would live better on a million dollars.

    Post # 37
    54 posts
    Worker bee

    I voted $200-300k. I live in a pretty expensive city. I’m from (born and raised) a very inexpensive place so what I would need to live well there is drastically different than what I need to live well in my current city. Living well to me means:

    1. The only debt I have are my mortgages, which I can comfortably pay off quickly (10-15 years).

    2. I can easily go on a very nice vacation once a year and take 1-3 smaller trips in a year.

    3. Small emergencies do not put me in financial strain (cat gets sick, $2k+ medical bill, etc.).

    4. I can comfortably afford to invest money in order to make more money (stocks, real estate, etc.).

    5. Having 1-3 children would not cause me to change the life I have become accustomed to.

    6. I can comfortably afford the luxuries I like (spa, yoga retreats, jewelry).

    7. I have at least $200k in savings/cash just sitting around in case something awful happens.


    Post # 38
    359 posts
    Helper bee

    Depends. I make $42k and I guess my fiance is about the same. I can buy a house solo and live pretty comfortable with budget or used cars. And still have fun.

    My goal is that no matter what I or we make, I want to live like there is just one of us. That alone makes life pretty damn comfortable. Even at the lowest of incomes. Our mortgage is very easy. We are working to pay a 30 year loan off in well under 10 years. So even though we could afford double, or much much nicer things, we act like we can’t… that way any and all hardships that come along… aren’t hard at all. No worries.

    Also only debt we have is mortgage.

    Post # 39
    269 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: May 2012

    Serious (not snarky) question: you mention you make less than $100k now. Are you in a career path that will get you to your goal of $300k+ in the next few years? Or will your hubby make a lot more? 

    If not, do you need to adjust your definition of what it means to “live well”? What is the plan to get there? Have you even priced out what it would cost to do all the things you listed, and determine if you really even need a household income of $550k?

    Post # 40
    1257 posts
    Bumble bee
    • Wedding: June 2016

    SO and I live well on our current salaries, at least by my standards.

    – We own a house large enough to ‘grow into’ in a good school district with good commute access

    – We have enough to pay for our hobbies without penny pinching (although in the horseworld there is never enough money – it’s just a black hole of a hobby)

    – We can visit his family (NZ) 1-2x a year 

    We’re not big into fancy cars, dinners out, or designer clothes. We can afford what we need and are interested in but it’s just not where our priorities lie. We’d rather throw that money at our mortgage or retirement then ‘consume’ it now.

    I’m currently pregnant with our first and we may need to rejiggle the budget a bit once we’re paying daycare. Likely this will come out of our monthly savings contribution so we won’t accrue as quickly.

    Post # 41
    288 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: London

    For what its worth if i made even half of the lowest choice on your poll id be able to live well!

    As it stands, i dont and i am unlikely to ever earn even half. I still have a life im happy with and yes its not easy but i have a good life. 

    If i wanted to live without money woes, a good $35k at least would be such a weight off my mind, bump that to $50k and i could buy my dream home!

    Post # 42
    468 posts
    Helper bee
    • Wedding: September 2019

    maybeee :  Ditto. Guess I can’t live well since I make under $50k. But I also don’t agree with the OP’s definition of living well. I don’t want a new car every 5 years, don’t care about staying in 3-4 star hotels (we usually use Airbnb), etc. But, I don’t own a home, that’s one thing that my salary has prevented. Combined with my FH we’re around $125k and go on one big trip per year, lots of smaller weekend getaways, and eat out/get takeout fairly often. We’re planning to buy a house in the next year or two. More money would be nice, sure, but I do feel like with our combined salary we are living well, except for lack of a house. And we live in one of the highest COL areas in the country, so we would probably be buying a house now if it weren’t for that.

    Post # 43
    951 posts
    Busy bee
    • Wedding: October 2017

    My income also isn’t on your poll.  For me, living well is living in an area I love with people I love.  The only things I really care about on your list is owning my own home, which I do, and eating out, which I also do.  I don’t really care though about owning the most expensive home or eating out at the most expensive restaurants.  

    Post # 44
    2678 posts
    Sugar bee

    I also had a really kickass life when I was making around $75K on my own.   Owned a condo, went on multiple trips every year, ate out with friends a few times a week, bought a car, new clothes, never went into debt.  Maybe my savings/retirement weren’t being contributed to as often, but I was still putting money in.  

    Like a PP said, buying a new car every few years isn’t important to everyone.  We live in the city and rely on public transportation to get to and from work.  We really only need the car because we need it to get to our weekend home and to visit his kids in the suburbs.  A large home is definitely not something I will ever need as I don’t plan on having kids.  We’ll probably buy another vacation property somewhere in a warmer climate at some point and maybe consider moving into something close to 1200-1400 sq ft, instead of the 700 we have now, but nothing extravagant.  

    It’s all about priorities.  


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