Why It's So Freaking Hard to Save

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"But I'm doing everything right." This sentence might go through your head when facing some kind of economic or career hardship. You went to the right college, you pursued the right internships, you landed the right job — but you still can't afford to build wealth or even pay for health care.

More and more, these problems are dragging down an American middle class that hears from its elders that they're clearly not doing something right. After all, in the post-World War II boom when they bought a house and went to college, they managed just fine on a lot less. New research published by the Manhattan Institute illustrates the truth, and devastatingly. In short, the data shows that your income can no longer keep up with expenses. A male wage-earner in a family of four needs 53 weeks of his annual salary at a median wage to cover housing, health care, transportation, and education. Spot the problem? There are only 52 weeks in a year.

For women, of course, the news is even worse — in the same position, she needs 66 weeks, thanks to wage gaps and glass ceilings. Earlier research has highlighted the tension between minimum wages and incompatible rents; if minimum wage increased at the same rate as Wall Street bonuses, it would be more than $33.50 today. These are frustrating realities, but even so, you may be in a better position to sock away some money than you think. Every little bit helps, whether you're creating a savings plan or contacting your electeds about why saving is so hard.