Living on $46k - where the money goes

The median income for an American household is $46,242, according to the Census Bureau. Here's how five couples from different walks of life are managing now.

Susan Slingland
"I'm lucky," says Slingland, seated.
Boone, North Carolina
Susan Slingland
Job:
Susan: Piano accompanist

Income: $46,000

Susan considers herself fortunate. Being a collaborative pianist at Appalachian State University in North Carolina is a steady job in a line of work that offers too few such positions.

"Appalachian State is one of the few schools that has a full-time (with benefits) position for a musician like me - most schools hire a handful of pianists as adjunct faculty with part-time pay and no benefits and then use them like workhorses."

Slingland lives in a converted garage apartment that costs $675 a month. Her utilities, with the exception of heating oil, are covered in her rent. Susan gets her healthcare as a state employee and it costs $50 a month.

She drives a Dodge Neon and lives close to town. Gas for the compact costs about only $30 a month. She has no school loans and says she has no particular financial stresses or strains.

"I'm lucky," Susan said. "I know many people who went for 3 degrees of music [like she has] and are still trying to get jobs to pay them off. I was lucky enough through scholarships or assistanceships to always be able to pay my bills so I never had to take out student loans."

She says that's in contrast to most people in music school. "I've got a good friend, a tenured professor. He and his partner have so much to pay in student loans they'll be lucky if they can get out ahead."
The Ogles The Ogles' spending The Thibaults The Thibaults' spending Andrew and Ozgul Leone The Leones' spending The Wheats The Wheat's spending Slingland Slingland's spending

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.