The question of can a family survive on 50,000 dollars a year is something I hear only in the USA. I can answer with a strong yes. Fifty thousand is a lot of money, people need to put things into perspective. What is a good income for a family in the USA less than you think.

I not only studied Economics but has lived in Eastern Europe a good part of my life and people with almost the same price structure as the USA, people survive with their families on 800 dollars a month.

poor in the USA - American expectations about wealth

Me - walking (no car) to the library to get some books with my daughter an her cousin - in basic clothes (my wife cuts our hair), no cell phone etc, in Eastern Europe. I am a stock trading entrepreneurial capitalist, but does not mean I have to buy and consume the whole world.

I am not saying this to be uppity or for any other reason than to convey what I see. 800 dollars a month is actually not bad money. I am writing this only to say if you are an American and worried about money, do not. I want to give you confidence that you will survive. Forget the huge stigma in the USA about being poor. Who cares what other people think of you. I have been rich and poor and each has its pluses and minuses.

A prime example why Americans parents need not worry about money

For example my friend grew up with nothing, in a 160 square foot apartment with her parents and no running water and she is today a famous research PhD and MD and helps people with cancer in Poland. She is a happy lady with a family and her lack of material goods did not affect her in any adverse way. In contrast a friend of mind in the USA grew up in rich Connecticut gold coast and his father was Wall street guy. The kid is on drugs today. Money does not means anything for raising a happy family, in fact there might be a slight negative correlation. I am not a tree hugging hippie at all, I believe the best things in life are free and people who have an inordinate focus on hyper consumption will not be happy.

Example 2 why money does not matter for a family

Another friend of mine grew up with 10 people (two families in 2 small rooms. She is just as happy as kids in the USA. She started her own travel company and always talks fondly of her childhood. My point is you do not have to do that but put money and income in perspective.

My wife’s family and money

My wife grew up on a farm and when communism fell she remembers going to the store and looking at a candy bar (Mars) and she had no idea what it was. She tried to figure it out, but could not, because had never seen anything like that before. No one had anything.

She has a Masters and a few years of medical school, speaks a handful of languages (self-taught) and a grew up happier than a lot of the kids in the USA. She says her life is a fairy-tale.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. – William Blake

Fear of lack of money hurts people more than the actual lack.

American girl attitude about money – I never want to be poor

In contrast some American girl told me the other day she wants to marry a man with a good job so her kids can get language tutors and go to a good school. What a lame reason to fall in love. You want your kids to be fluent in French, go camping for the summer in Quebec and encourage them to study or like my wife did to learn French translate songs. I studied French for seven years to a University level and I think my wife speaks it better than I because she love translating French music lyrics. That lame American girl would be better off taking a trip to Italy and falling in love with some poor Italian guy, there and then her future children would be 100% bilingual and two passports and learn more about the world than any meal ticket in the USA she wants to spin her web around.

You want your kids to be smart? Do not spend all your time at the office to save for their education. Rather, spend time with them, teaching them when they are between 0 and 15 and the rest will take care of itself.

Gheez Louise, I will not give up love or family for money. I understand paying the bill but put expectations in perspective, and drop irrational exuberance like a bad habit. Being poor is no shame. Jesus said “blessed are the poor”. How is that unclear?

Poor Europeans are educated and happy

My point is very nice kids here growing up in poor countries with much less than a poor or impoverished family in the USA and making a lot with their lives.

My point is you can raise a family on less than you think and have a wonderful life. Since I have lived in Eastern Europe for so long, I can not imagine anyone having a hard time with a family on 20k a year in the USA. For Twenty thousand dollars you a year in the USA you and your family can have a nice life.

Looking at a frugal American Budget

Lets say you spend:

  • 500 on rent (could be less)
  • 300 utilities
  • 300 medical (Blue cross premium plus plan)
  • 400 on home cooked chicken soup type meals everyday etc.
  • Ah Mark what about entertainment? – It is called a book. But even books cost money have you seen the price of an e-reader these days? |They are called the library books. Did you know at your local library they will order you any book you want from the whole state?
  • Reading is what people do in other countries that do not have the latest iPod. In Russia on park benches everywhere you see someone reading some 30-year-old library book with aged pages. Its fun, I do it myself. I also spend the weekend on picnics in the forest with my family. Is that bad? Is that wrong? No shopping malls or gassing up the car and spinning wheels. Want another example, look at the Amish. Again I am an unrepentant capitalist, but I am just saying money is just energy and can be use for good and bad or conserved and you do not need that much to live a good life.
  • At 20,000 dollars a year you are cutting it close but even the above budget could be modified. However, at 25,000 dollars a year you are in a positive cash flow and 30,000 dollars a year you are saving.
If anyone does not see it this way leave a comment and challenge my number.

What has changed in the USA – the economy or expectations in terms of supporting a family and earning a good income?

I think the main thing that has changed since I left the USA is people’s expectations about life. Even in the 1990s people had different expectations. When I left the USA at the start of the 2000s the world looked different. Now when I return the middle class all has nice clothes from shopping malls and nice cars and high expectations. Really, being abroad has allowed me to see the change other people living in it everyday do not.

The wonder years – look at old photos and see how the economy has changed but smiles have not

Taking it a step further, look at old movies and photos of your childhood. I remember growing up in the 1960s in the USA and I think we were not that bad off economically as my father was not only a hard-working man but a clever investor. With five kids and living in Connecticut we did well. Yet time were different, we had no PlayStation or Plasma TV and I read used books and used my imagination.

Einstein was right, this universe is relative and we can not go back in time. But that does not mean we can not remember where we as Americans came from.

What if you can not support your family?

  • Move to West Virgina or Kentucky to a mobile home or Palatka, Florida or where it is cheaper. Or a place where there is great job growth like North Dakota. The USA has infinite possibilities.
  • Upgrade your skills, go to massage school or learn on your own a skill like IT that is universal and can be done anywhere.
  • Make a budget like people living in the 1930s depression did, very basic.
  • But I have been to many countries around the world and you would have a hard time convincing me that in crisis America things are that bad economically for you and your family. Try me.

I do not want to criticizes, rather give you confidence that you can do it and do not worry. If the job opportunity if good and you want to move do not worry about money. Money goes and comes but time, well it only flies. Most families if you look at the “statistical mode” (highest frequency of occurrence) not some average that skews results for the super rich live on 30 something thousand dollars a year. For 50,000 dollars a year you are rich.