median

We are the median: Off to a good start

Dec. 12, 2011 at 7:07 AM ET

John Brecher / msnbc.com /
Brian and Katie Delano are doing well on the median annual household income of about $50,000.

Katie Delano has seen what it’s like to struggle financially. She’s determined to avoid that.

Delano, now 21, was a teenager when her father was out of work for nine months. Her mother’s salary as a teacher was only enough to cover the family of five’s health care costs. They ended up with credit card debt and other financial woes.

“Those nine months put, like, a fear in me,” she said.

Katie’s husband, Brian, 23, also saw his family's finances squeezed when he was a teenager and his parents took care of two of his cousins (and their own four children) for a couple of years because of a family emergency.

TODAY.com’s Life Inc. blog interviewed the Delanos as part of a series of stories on what it’s like to live on around $50,000 a year, the nation’s median household income.

The Delanos, who live in Tacoma, Wash., both consider themselves lucky to have stable, full-time jobs. She works as a barista for Nordstorm and he works for Home Depot.

Katie is going to school full-time and Brian is working another 17 hours a week as a tutor in preparation for a career in teaching. The plan is for Brian to start school again once Katie graduates next year with a degree in law and justice.

John Brecher / msnbc.com /
Brian and Katie Delano play with their dogs at their home in Tacoma, Wash.

They are paying Katie’s $10,000-a-year tuition payments as they go and don’t plan to take on any student loan debt. Their only debt is for their vehicles, and they rent a house.

Together since high school, they got married in 2010. They have two dogs and say their budget would be a lot tighter if they had kids.

The couple uses a financial planning program her father created to set a budget and plan ahead for things like holidays and birthdays. They try to buy only what they need and use coupons whenever possible.

They have a three-month emergency fund in case one of them loses a job and a general long-term financial plan.

Katie says she finds it comforting to have a budget.

“It sounds like we don’t have any fun, but we have budgeted fun,” she said. “It’s nice not to worry.”

More on this series:

Click here to see previous stories in our "We are the median" series. We’re also sharing our thoughts — and yours — on Twitter (hashtag #median), Facebook and Google Plus. We invite you to comment on our posts — but keep it civil and on topic, please!

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