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.
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
This couple’s struggle in this economy is not uncommon. They work hard for a middle class income and are left with only $150,000.00 year after taxes. And while 150k may go a long ways back in Lafayette, it does not go a long ways in Midtown Manhattan when you consider that a half way decent dinner for two costs $200.00, the yoga studio is another $300.00 a month and a round of drinks out with coworkers runs you $80.00.
You sound like you don’t think that the “financial services industry” exists outside of NYC?
I find it intentional. And that nice, fashionaly-tanned President you voted for supports the concept, too. :)
Extortion is used on selected people and that is what Obama&Co are doing.These people are being taxed more than anyone else.
A fair tax is a flat tax.
I agree. Completely.
If they are good at business, they should own and operate their own business.
They could take small salaries, only enough to live on, which would dramatically lower their effective tax rate. They could let retained earnings pile up inside a C corporation and defer an taxes until they sold their shares or liquidated the company; that’s the only “taxable event” for them personally, and it needn’t happen for 50 years. Meanwhile, whatever salary they want they can pay themselves as long as the business can afford it. Spend those early years with no kids building up their own business. Work like a dog building that business into a multi-million dollar enterprise. A C corp can own real estate investments, operate any business it wants to.
They do not have to rent in Manhatten, they could get a house for a relatively low price right now in the suburbs.
They could buy intelligently, taking into account that property taxes are killer expenses right now in the suburbs. Buy too big, and the taxes are 20k per year.
They’d find wonderful towns with people like them. They could take the train (nice ride) into NYC with everyone else; it only takes maybe 1/2 hour and runs late. For the occasional real late night you call the car service. Cars line up outside the office buildings, everyone does this. Stockbrokers, lawyers galore on the train.
They need to think outside the “dream bubble” they came up with in Louisiana; they’re chasing after a lifestyle instead of building a life. The folks who live in Manhattan who are smart have enough net worth that they own their place and they profit when they sell it. Renting in NYC is only for the truly wealthy who simply want a pad their or for real estate investor landlords.
“half way decent dinner for two costs $200.00, the yoga studio is another $300.00 a month and a round of drinks out with coworkers runs you $80.00.”
The last time I went out for dinner was, hmmm, I can’t remember, then I also bet she and a friend could partner up to do Yoga at each others apartments, finally I haven’t gone out for a round of drinks with co-workers for over 2 years.
Yet, for some reason I am going to pay my house off this month. Heck, I guess we better punish evil people like me!
The author of the piece is still immature. Someday she might get it, but I have my doubts...
These are the type of working people the GOP should be actively recruiting to our way of thinking.
High marginal tax rates are not a tax on “the rich” but upon those attempting to accumulate assets. I have long noticed that the better your financial situation the less of a tax bite you get on your income. Once I could afford a house, I paid taxes at a much lower rate. Someone who makes the majority of their income from investments rather than work pays at a much lower rate.
For wealthy liberals it must be nice to be at the top, pull up the ladder behind you, and pat yourself on the back for being so “giving” advocating higher marginal tax rates - when they have already accumulated a huge amount of assets - and the taxes are on those attempting to accumulate assets over their working life.
The term for folks like this is “HENRY”: high earner, not rich yet.
The problem with the HENRYs is that while they’ll bitch and gripe about their taxes, they really vote social issues and in support of things like abortion rights and gay marriage.
I’d guess that this overeducated, overpaid and overleveraged twit bought the whole war on women line hook line and sinker ... and voted accordingly.
I also see they are saving for a house. They have saved 3 years, and are 3 years away from having a $100,000 down payment.
That means they are putting $16,666 into savings each year. Or about $1,388 per month.
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