If it feels like you are making decent money but still living paycheck to paycheck, you probably are.
Despite one of the most robust economies in the U.S., Colorado’s middle class is shrinking faster than the rest of the country, according to a recent study by the Bell Policy Center that shows Colorado’s middle-income families are struggling to make ends meet.
Jobs are plentiful, but raises haven’t kept pace with housing and health care costs. The availability and price of child care is pushing young families’ budgets to the brink.
It’s a “befuddling contrast of a top economy with a shrinking middle class,” the Bell Policy Center said in its study. Achieving and living a middle-class lifestyle in Colorado may no longer be as simple as earning a mid-range income.
The middle class — defined by the Pew Research Center as those earning two-thirds to twice a defined area’s median household income — shrinks substantially when it includes being able to afford “aspirational costs” such as saving for retirement and college, buying a home and taking vacations, expenses that were once mainstays of a middle-class life.
Fort Collins’ housing woes are well documented. Median home prices inch toward $500,000, and median monthly rents top $1,300, forcing half of Fort Collins families to spend more than 30 percent of their paychecks on housing.
MORE ON HOME PRICES:Home sales slow as prices soar beyond $400,000
More than 30 percent of Colorado’s middle-class families have no children living at home, but the other two-thirds that have kids are struggling to balance budgets without making trade-offs, according to the Bell Policy Center.
Coupled with high housing costs, the lack of available and affordable child care is a major barrier keeping many young families from achieving a middle-class lifestyle, according to Talent 2.0, a collaboration of Northern Colorado businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and chambers of commerce, which sees the issue as a major barrier to attracting and retaining top talent.