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We are the median: Off to a good start

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 sai
Brian and Katie Delano play with their dogs at their home in Tacoma, Wash.
Brian and Katie Delano play with their dogs at their home in Tacoma, Wash.John Brecher / msnbc.com / Today
Brian and Katie Delano are doing well on the median annual household income of about $50,000.John Brecher / msnbc.com / Today

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.

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

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!