I’m following the CNN Money series focusing on five couples earning about the U.S. median income, $46,000 a year. The fourth couple in the series lives in Ruidoso, New Mexico, a noisy town.
Brent Wheat is a self-employed contractor and Shawna Wheat is an office coordinator. Together, they earn the “median household income range.” With three kids and a three-bedroom house, they are doing okay according to Shawna. They have three cars, including a truck used for Brent’s business. Like the other couples, health insurance is a problem. Medical costs were high last year due to a son’s car accident, and will be high this year thanks to the same son’s braces.
Do the Wheats want to do better? While Shawna says they’re okay, she does wish they could take a trip. Looking at their expenses pie chart, they seem to be in control of most of their expenses. The pie chart in their case is based on a total of $50,000 in expenses. It’s not clear if that is the same amount as ther annual income.
It’s also not clear if the 3% ($1,500) they pay to credit cards will eventually pay down their debt, or if they build up more debt at the same time. The 9% ($4,500) of their total expenses earmarked for retirement is better than a good portion of this country. I’m sure they’d like to do better in that respect, but they could be doing a lot worse.
I think that once they get their health care expenses in check — they might have to wait until the kids are on their own — they can take that trip they’d like.
Updated January 1, 2018 and originally published April 24, 2007.