Personal finance for people with moderate incomes? Meet the Middletons

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t earn a ton and happen to live in an expensive city. In fact, that’s a huge part of the reason why I blog: I didn’t see anyone else blogging who had a similar background and story to mine. So I decided to start blogging to hold myself publicly accountable and to tell my story.

In amongst the six figure earners in the FIRE community (or honestly, even the people pulling in high five figures), it’s incredibly easy for me to feel like an impostor. I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly said so, but my last COL increase put me at just under $45,000. I’m lucky if I can reach a 40% savings rate most months, and I’m certainly not going to be financially independent before I’m 30, so who the hell do I think I am to be adding my voice to this space with my non-profit salary?? Often it seems like I am never actually going to reach financial independence.

But that’s why I’m documenting my journey, as a way to show people (AND myself!) that it is possible. It’s going to take time and lots of creativity both in terms of earning money and lifestyle design. But I believe it’s possible, and that in and of itself is reason to be writing and—dare I say it?—reaching for financial independence for myself.

When Gwen and J were interviewing me for FIRE Drill Podcast, they asked me if I had any resources or recommendations for people with lower incomes. And I blanked. I couldn’t think of anything terribly significant off the top of my head, even though I write as a person who makes a middle income. Why don’t I have any significant resources I can point people to? I ended up saying there’d be a project called The Money Middletons launching soon, so to keep an eye out for that.

Well, it’s happened: The Money Middletons launched today.

What is The Middletons?

Basically it’s a curation site of personal finance content for Middletons, for people making “mild-to-moderate incomes.” There are lots of people involved with it, but it’s spearheaded by Stephanie from Poorer Than You, with help from Emilie of Wise Mind Money.

There’s a ton of personal finance content on the internet; you’ve got your basic advice like “track your spending for a month so you know how you’re spending your money and how much” and your advanced advice about backdoor Roth IRAs for people who make too much money to contribute to a Roth IRA directly. But it’s hard to find advice for the people who are in the middle and trying to get ahead. The Middletons is trying to change that.

I don’t write how-to blog posts because if you want to know about Roth IRAs or HSAs, there are plenty of other people who can give you all the information you need. And they’ve written it in a way more clear and concise manner than I ever could! But I write about my life, which is a how-to when it comes to being a money Middleton.

What is middle/moderate income?

That’s the signficiantly-below-one-million-dollars question, isn’t it?

There are official numbers for what the median income in this country is, and then you’ve got median income numbers by state or city. But a lot of it is subjective, right?

My $45k sure isn’t a lot (and is way below median income for DC) here, but in a place with a much lower cost of living, it would sure go a lot farther. What if you make six figures but send over half of it to paying off a bunch of student loan debt and are thereby living on way less than your income would suggest? And we all know that many, many people would consider themselves “average” or middle-class, even if, by definition, not everyone can be average.

So that’s not an easy question to answer. No one is claiming to have the answer, but The Middletons is an attempt to pinpoint that audience.

Although no, writing about how a family of three in Los Angeles or San Francisco would just barely be living a comfortable lifestyle with an income of $200,000 (cutting anything out of their $13,500 per month budget would be deprivation!!!) solely for the rage clicks it’ll generate you does not count as writing for a middle income audience. And honestly it’s insulting that the people who write that kind of content would look at my income and expenses and feel sorry for me and my life of deprivation. I spent $27,000 total last year in this ridiculously expensive city I live in and didn’t once feel deprived, so get outta here with that nonsense! It’s more than possible.

If you feel like you’re a Middleton, this site is for you!

Where to find The Middletons

You can find The Middletons here, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m obviously going to continue writing in the hopes that people in similar situations will find my blog useful, but I’m looking forward to seeing all of the amazing content that’ll be featured on The Money Middletons. See you all there!

13 Replies to “Personal finance for people with moderate incomes? Meet the Middletons”

  1. I’m lucky if I can reach a 40% savings rate most months

    Don’t like an imposter – that may be ‘low’ compared to some in the online FIRE community but it’s a$$kicking to 99% of Americans! And even more a$$kicking when you consider your salary and how ridiculously expensive DC is. I frankly don’t know how you do it.

    Great idea for a site, and as you know if you need median income data I have some posts on my site. I can also forward you to great resources if you wanna go down that rabbit hole 😉

  2. Unfortunately, nobody really wants to be average, or middle as you call it. People want to aspire to be greater.

    Not everybody wants to be at Middleton, white person, who doesn’t speak a second language fluently, and childless. People want different perspectives.

    If you highlight others, your blog will grow. If not, it will perish.

    1. The Middletons is a resource for people who are currently middle income, whether or not they strive for greater. There are a ton of different perspectives out there, so you’re welcome not to read one from a white, childless woman who’s only mostly fluent in her second language!

  3. Saving 40% is pretty awesome, especially given how much you make! Looking back, prior to finding out about FI I rarely ever hit a 40% savings rate in any given month, and I’ve always had a higher income than you do now. You’re much better off financially than a lot of people who have double your income!

    1. I guess having a lower income was actually a good thing at the beginning since it meant I ran up against living paycheck-to-paycheck early on in my career and therefore got my financial act together early on! ?? Although I absolutely look forward to one day making enough money that I could save 40% easy without even trying haha.

  4. Thanks for the link and info. One of the things I’ve always been disappointed with the FIRE movement on is how few “Middletons” there are, or how information for them is lacking. It seems like everyone is making six figures and then opting out.

    Thanks for your blog, and for giving me more info

    1. Yep, FIRE is much easier with an above-average income so of course the demographics reflect that, but that’s not to say it’s impossible for those of us making less. And it’s important to have resources and examples for Middletons to show that it is possible!

  5. The saving rate makes all the difference.

    I just started my blog about my path to FIRE today and just discovered your blog.

    I am very fortunate that my wife is one of those pesky high income people but everyone’s path is going to be different and I look forward to reading your updates!

  6. This is great! As someone whose earnings are right dead center in the middle for my area (thanks to your calculator) this is definitely right up my alley. In fact, I’ve been writing in this vein for a year or so now, and trying to spread the word about the incredible benefits of a career in the trades! I have learned so many useful skills during my time as an electrician that really translate over into money savings beautifully. I’m excited to see more of what this blog has to offer!

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