Skip to comments.The Overtaxed $250K Couple: ‘We’re Not Rich’
Posted on 12/06/2012 9:04:34 AM PST by SeekAndFind
If someone had told me as a kid in Louisiana that my husband and I would have a combined income of $250,000 a year in our late twenties, I would have been pie-eyed. It sounds like a crazy amount of money. But after taking into account taxes, debt and living expenses in New York City, were actually finding it difficult to meet our financial goals.
Why Our Taxes Are Nearly Unmanageable
Last year, we paid $100,000 in taxes, which is almost exactly 40 percent of what we make. Even though we also paid $22,000 in student loan payments (we have about $145,000 in combined loans for my husbands law school and my grad school), we dont qualify for deductionsif you make more than $150,000 filing jointly, you cant deduct student loan interest.
We also dont get a deduction for home ownershipbecause we cant afford to buy one. Weve been saving for three years, and after another three years of diligent budgeting, we hope to have about $100,000, which would be enough for a 20 percent down payment on a home in a New York suburb with decent schoolsthe average starter home in these areas is about $500,000plus an extra $20,000 for closing costs and incidentals.
Were in a weird place: We dont have enough money to invest in a house or the stock market, which would get us tax exemptions. So we pay the full 40 percent of our salary in city**, state and federal taxes. People who are much wealthier can take advantage of tax loopholes, capital gains preferential tax rates and a larger mortgage deduction, so they end up paying only about 20 percent in taxes. For instance, in 2011, Barack Obama paid 20.5 percent in taxes. Mitt Romney paid 14 percent in taxes.
We find it ironic that wed have to make more . . . in order to pay less.
If were being honest, its not only taxes that are killing us. Living in Manhattan is expensiveup to three times the cost of living in other citiesbut I work for a private equities firm and my husband is in securities litigation. This city is the industry hub for both of our careers.
Weve discussed moving, but its unlikely that we would both be able to get jobs elsewhere. We rent a one-bedroom apartment near our offices in a neighborhood where they go for $3,000 a month. We could move to a slightly cheaper outer borough, but were both called into our offices at odd hours and we also work long days. So we pay for the convenience of living near work.
How Things Could Get Harder for Us
We budget constantly. As an accountant, Im always reviewing our spending, and trying to find ways to cut back. We take the subway. We dont buy name-brand clothes, and we dont buy anything unless its on sale. We take only one fun trip a year and the most weve ever spent on that is $1,600.
My husband isnt even putting money in his 401(k), so we can save more for a house. (I contribute to mine, but we have diverted all of our emergency fund to our house savings.) Its something we argue about, but these are the choices we have to make.
If our country goes over the fiscal cliff, our situation will become even more dire. The Bush-era tax cuts for married couples that make over $250,000 will expire, raising our taxes by 3 percent. Thats thousands more dollars we would have to paymaking it even harder for us to save money for a house.
Our lives are good. We work very hard, and enjoy what we do, but Im tired of people saying that were not paying our fair share. How much more are we supposed to pay?
Why the Tax Code Needs to Change
We both come from middle-class families and were taught that if you go to school and work hard, you can live the American dream: own a house, have a family. Its really all we want. We dont liveor long foran extravagant lifestyle.
Look, I know its relative. I realize there are families raising three kids on $50,000 that are just trying to put food on the table. My husband and I are very thankful for what we have. And we dont begrudge paying taxes. We even understand why people think were rich. Compared to many people, we are.
We just cant figure out how were supposed to make the American dream work for us while giving away half of our income in taxes.
The tax code needs to change, and if it were up to me, Id like to see the following:
* Adding a cost of living factor. The tax code should have a factor that takes into account location-specific costs, like average home price, the price of an equivalent bag of groceries, the average price of a car and the average cost of gas in a region. Once taxes are calculated, the factor would be applied to achieve greater geographic tax parity.
* Phasing out deductions and loopholes. If we lowered tax rates across the board, and cut the deductions and loopholes in the system (there are plenty of them to pick from!), we would put everyone on a more level playing field. I know its a touchy subject, but capital gains rates probably also need to be increased from the current 15 percenteven if its just a bump to 20 percent.
* Broadening the tax base. Right now, deductions and loopholes mean that many people dont pay certain federal taxes. If we eliminated them as described above, more people would pay taxes that they owe. By no means do I think that families in dire circumstances should be asked to dole out money to the government. But if more families could help chip in a small portion of their earnings, it would work toward generating more revenueand a little bit, spread across a large number of people, could go a long way.
* Lowering the tax rates. Id be fine paying in the 30 percent range. And if my husband and I did make it to a point where we were making above $500,000, reasonable tax increases (35 percent-39 percent) for this income would be acceptable.
Theres something really wrong with a system that considers us rich and not paying our fair share at 40 percentbut billionaires are only paying 20 percent or less.
Something is obviously broken.
We just hope it gets fixed soon.
Al Capone called extortion protection the gov call it a tax.
Easy answer. Easy solution to their problems:
Leave New York.
Nobody forced this couple to live in the most expensive area in the country and they want the rest of us to subsidize their decision with a “cost of living” factor.
Yup. In NYC, $250,000 a year is more like a lower middle-class income, lol.
Uncle Sam’s share-croppers.
And this dizzy broad should look in the mirror to discover the main thing that's broken.
And they live in NY City? I'm going to guess OBAMA VOTERS.
Supposedly this article should make us sympathetic to this high power couple wanna be’s but it makes me want to shove them off the fiscal cliff.
If the Houses extends the tax cuts up to $250K and the others expire (which will happen) I dont think this $250K couple pays anymore because its a fractional rate increaes.
Now if they get a raise or make more money, say $260K then they have to pay more on the extra $10K. Then they may think about not working as hard in some cases, not expanding their business.
What would happen if the House extended it to $500K instead of $250K as dems demand? (probably too late to try that)
Would that tax cut be a sellout?
Leave the cesspool. There are amazing places in this country where the life you discuss is achievable. And if you two have backgrounds in the financial industry, you might be surprised to find that there is work, culture, entertainment, affordable homes, and good food in most midwestern and Texas cities where you don’t have to live like animals.
I was amazed when I saw people earning $200,000 described as “the wealthy.” I have never earned anywhere near that, and I’d be really happy if I did, but I didn’t go into the type of work where that was likely. However, I never thought of these people as “wealthy” and it stuns me that suddenly not only are they the “wealthy,” but under Obama they have become the enemies of the people.
He’s not really worried about his wealthy rap, government and media buddies, and they’re not worried themselves, because they have huge amounts of money and so many deductions that their actual bite is probably lower. That’s why he wants to keep these deductions - raising taxes on the “wealthy” and defining “wealthy” as what are really simply upper middle class earners is just a way to let him and his buddies keep their stash.
Gee, I wonder if 0bama will be visiting THIS couple/sarc.
While I understand this couple’s situation, they have a bit of a priority problem. Namely, they are trying to save for a house when they have not yet paid off their debts. Their number one priority should be to pay off those student loans and any other credit debt they still carry.
When you are teetering on the edge, cutting debt gets you back to solid ground.
I agree with the headline. Taxable income hardly means rich. Net worth means it alot more.
Nevertheless, she doesn’t really know much. “Were in a weird place: We dont have enough money to invest in a house or the stock market, which would get us tax exemptions.” “Exemptions”? Why quote someone like this who doesn’t understand deductions vs. exemptions.
Also, her what’s reasonable rates are ridiculous. She’d bitch the high heaven at any stage of her life with a 39% marginal rate . . and that’s even before considering state and local taxes.
For too long libs have been able to “define” the “rich” Living in NY etc does increase the COL as we know, so what’s “rich” to someone is hardly that to another. Yes people do make personal choices where they live but 250k for someone who works 60 hours a week in a high priced area is hardly “rich”
Shoulda gone to State U., worked in dad's business to pay for it, and after graduation, hung a shingle on a storefront near home. Living like the rich is very expensive. This couple obviously haven't even planned on how they will pay for childcare and a decent school in NYC if they want children, and they are already in their late 20s.
Reminds me of the Tom Wolfe novel Bonfire of the Vanities, where the phrase "masters of the universe" was coined, which was about a man with a high-flying career who can watched it all go down in flames after one wrong turn.
Hmmm...if I were them, I’d max out the 401k’s. They can always take a Withdrawal from them for a primary residence..or take a loan. THat’s what I did. 100K in taxes? And she’s an accountant? Strange..
I imagine there’s lots of folk in NYC that would consider $250k/yr to be rich.
If these people were to live like someone making $40k/yr, they would think they were rich too.
I’ve seen a lot of ignorant responses on this thread that just shows you how Obama has managed to stoke the famous leftist “class envy,” not to mention hatred and resentment of urban residents by rural or small-town people. Ya done good, Bambi!
This couple works in the financial services industry, which is located in New York or a few other big cities. Ignorant Freepers may not believe that the financial industry is very important to them, but how do they think the economy survives, their pensions stay invested properly, and money moves around? I guess they believe Maw and Paw hop in their car and carry bags of money from one place to another. And of course they keep the money in their mattress the rest of the time.
I imagine Dave Ramsey would advise this couple to pay off their student loans, DO NOT buy a house in New York, and when they are out of debt - leave New York.
I wonder - even if they took a $100,000 yearly loss in income to live somewhere else - if that could be made good by the lower taxes and lower costs of living.
A starter home in New York costing $500,000 could be had back home in Louisiana for $100,000.
They can't: she works in private equity, he in securities litigation. The chances of them both finding work in their fields in another city is small, and even if they did, it would likely be at lower salaries in another city with living costs that are almost as high as NY.
“My husband isnt even putting money in his 401(k), so we can save more for a house. (I contribute to mine, but we have diverted all of our emergency fund to our house savings.) Its something we argue about, but these are the choices we have to make.”
Well, all 401k plans allow you to borrow against your balance for down payment on a house. As long as you don’t take out more than half of the balance. You will have to pay it back with interest, but you’re essentially borrowing against yourself. No brainer.
This woman works in private equity and doesn’t know this fact? I don’t buy this story.
My wife and I are in the same fix but at the other end of the age spectrum.
We worked our asses off to provide for our children and today have parent-college debt (that won’t be forgiven by Obaumgabe) and retail debt accrued while the kids were growing up.
It was out choice and we work to pay it off. We despise the leeches that don’t pay and expect the Dhimmicrats to pay their debt for them.
I’m available if John “The Bawler” Boehner and “Harriet White” want to confab on the plight of the collective “responsible Americans”, I’m available.
First, they have student loan debt. That was optional. Now it’s not.
Then, they live in an expensive place. They could live in Kansas City or Denver for far less.
And they want the best schools for their children, trying to avoid the war zone public schools. That’s optional.
Their life is a series of choices. They want to make bad decisions and not have to pay for them.
Before you seek to ellicit public sympathy, please tell us for whom you voted for in 2008, and again in 2012.
I thought of that. See post 21. But I disagree that living in another city would be almost as high.
I think even if they took a hundred thousand dollar decrease in income - they might be better ahead in say Houston or Dallas.
IOW, they are "liberals". This is one of the cores of "liberalism".
Without going into the whole cost of living thing which is an illusion anyway.
If she lived down here she’d be hard pressed to get paid $100K or better out of college and $250K plus here will buy a lot of house. New college grads are dolts. She have the same problems here based on the COL adjustment of her making about 30% less at least.
I have been out of college for 30 years and just now make 6 figures after years in the biz.
Sorry, if you want sympathy, look it up in the dictionary. Or move. And I say that to anyone who cries the blues about that kind of salary.
But don’t get me wrong — these people should not be taxed more than anyone else.
And go where, to work in securities law and private equity?
There's basically one other option - San Francisco, which is worse.
Yes I’m disturbed at the responses to this thread. A very leftist jealousy towards a young couple who worked hard through school in majors that allowed them to get good paying jobs.
These jobs in large extent do reside in NYC.
The they got it coming, if you don’t like it move or they don’t know how to budjet are pretty much the same responses you’d see if this was posted in a leftist rag.
Indeed. Sour grapes.
I’m going to guess OBAMA VOTERS.
If they are from New Orleans, yes would be the answer
If they are from Jefferson Parish, most likely not. LA is finally a red state now and we plan to get the last socialist democrat out in 2014 - Mary Landrieu!!!
“Something is obviously broken”
Hmm, puzzler, bit of a puzzle (loosely quoting Jennifer Aniston there)...Maybe, JUST maybe, you could vote for someone who will NOT raise your taxes, and see how THAT goes?
Isn’t there some biblical verse that say’s something about sowing and reaping?
Fact! (It worked so well for Piers.) /s
Her complaint had nothing to do with working in securities law and private equity. It was the excessive tax burden and COL in New York.
Upthread I suggested they pay off their student debt and move south. Yes, they may take on lower paying jobs, but in the long run - they will make much more money and pay much less in taxes.
Meh. They certainly "can" . . . it's more like "they don't want to."
My read on their situation is that they're just bitching about reality. They don't "have" to live in Manhattan; they WANT to live in Manhattan. One does not go to law school, decide to get into securities legislation, and yearn for the corn fields of Iowa. One does not get a graduate degree in accounting, go into private equity, and dream of setting up shop in Biddeford, Maine.
They want to be the NYC power couple. They're just now realizing that to be the NYC power couple, they're going to have to pay some serious, big-time dues.
This is yet another example of a couple of young people getting smacked in the face by a little thing called "reality."
Freedom means the government not knowing your income or net worth. MYOB. Damn the progressives and the 16th Amendment!
He’s a financial lawyer, she works for an equities firm. Both have NYC on the resume’. Ok, so move to a place like Austin, Overland Park, Grand Rapids, or some such location.
Some local law firm will hire him. She goes down to the best of the local banks and gets in their program to become a branch manager. Combined maybe you little more than half of what you do in NYC.
Buy a nice house, with a nice yard.
Buy a cool car or pickup.
Park it for free in your driveway or garage.
With your new found privacy, have some fun and knock out a few kids the way you’re supposed to.
Join and be active in the local church of your faith.
Learn how to really make a steak.
Buy a telescope and look at the stars from your backyard. Buy a jaccuzzi and do the same thing, naked as a jaybird. Go to the lake on a summer afternoon.
Buy any size soda you wish.
Buy a pistol and a 22 for fun.
Find the boutique coffee shop in town and go tehre a lot with yor laptop.
Pay your 22 dollars and go to the local theater production hall that is in every town that size.
Watch TV and shake your head at the people in New York on the news shows, and Saturday night live.
Fly there any weekend you please on Southwest if you have some sort of odd Manhattan fetish.
And never EVER vote domocrat. They want to create NY paradise everywhere.
Duh. Move to Jersey.
Been there, done that. My family and I did the only logical thing after living in Manhattan for 21 years: LEAVE.
Wagghhh Wagghh, will someone give them a Whambulence?
* 1st their are no Loopholes, their are Deductions, Credits and Exemptions.
* 2nd, you are vacuous to the fact you are your own problem. If you got that Romney ain't the problem @ 14% that would be a start, and Obama isn't the good guy for paying more, The problem is you don't know you don't know that you are no longer competitive and your kids will be surfs because you can't compete against over 20 Flat Tax Counties and a Country like the Czech Republic, who's tax code is kicking our sorry butts....
Move out of NY, just don’t come to NC. We have enough Mid-Atlantic and NE carpetbaggers moving in.
Con Men, like magicians and pickpockets, are masters of misdirection. “Look over here at the pretty girl while I take your money.” We all know that raising taxes on those making over $250,000 a year isn’t going to solve our financial problems. Even Obama knows that. The Shill always knows that the misdirection is a con. This is all just part of THE BIG DEMOCRAT CON GAME. A good Grifter will even let the Mark have a “taste” of money. That’s how Madoff ran his Ponzi Scheme Con. One of the best known con games is where a Grifter exchanges a $1 bill to a Mark for a $100 bill. The Grifter gave a dollar to get one hundred dollars. The Democrats will let the middle class have a “taste” of tax cut money, and then the con will hit. The middle class is being conned. The lower class is being conned. The Grifter and his team of Shills are patient when there’s big money involved. And there’s big money involved in this.
And I have to believe they would say that the student loans were a good investment so that they could be earning at their current rate in their 20s. No sympathy from me.
The author almost gets it, she just needs a bit more thinking....
I especially enjoyed how she totals up her taxes paid and lets us know that it was 40%. Then she explains how her totaled tax bill is higher than Obama and Romney’s Federal bill. Who woulda thunk that her prop, state and fed taxes are more as a percentage than someone elses federal rate.
Then she goes on to dream about a more complicated tax system by factoring in COLA rates.
I wouldn’t hire her as an accountant, but not being a New Yorker, maybe I am missing something.
Did a little quick math. If they paid 40% in taxes, then netted $150,000. Paid $3,000/month in rent, still leaves $112,000. Paid $22,000 during the year for student loans, still leaves $7,500 PER MONTH to spend on subway, off-brand clothes, food, etc. How could 2 people spend that and have nothing to show for it?
“They can’t: she works in private equity, he in securities litigation”
Move somewhere like Austin, Omaha, Albuquerque, Kansas city, Phoenix. He works as a lawyer. She works at the local bank. With the experience and education they have, someone would be happy to have them. And with their salaries that would seem so pitiful to you, they can live buy a nice house and live the high life in their new world.
They chose that career. With every life comes sacrifices. A soldier endures separations, low pay, and danger. An oilfield worker freezes out in North Dakota. A schoolteacher in Missouri can’t walk to see the latest Broadway show.
And people who elect to go rack up 150k in school debt and work in the hub of the financial industry,,,live sad lives in NYC watching the high flyers all around them, probably don’t have a washer and dryer, and will maybe own a home someday, and are always on a treadmill.
And now she wants a special tax code that gives her unique deductions based on the expense of NYC? That has Obama voter written all over it. And no, i do not care how much they suffer. NYC and her industry goes for Obama big time. Manhattan went 84% for Obama. And they are living in a heaven that is 100% democrat run. So i hope they wallow in it.
They should call Schmuck Schumer