It used to be that if you were in the middle class you could comfortably sock away money into a college fund and pay down a credit card. Increasingly that's becoming an either-or proposition for people who used to think of themselves as "comfortable" in Colorado. Todd Ely and Geoff Propheter helped lead a new study from CU-Denver that looked at these kinds of household budget decisions with people across the state and found money matters getting squeezed. From the study:

Both parents must be employed in some kind of professional or management job to join the middle class, but even with that, most middle class families still struggle to break even. This is because any analysis of the middle class must consider common expenses associated with a middle class lifestyle, including health care, retirement savings, college savings, homeownership, and taking an occasional vacation to unwind.. Researchers say the results offer a picture of how life is changing in Colorado.

The project takes work and methods commonly used in studies on lower income classes and tries to extend it to the middle class, the researchers said. The goal was to say, once you're self-sufficient, the question becomes what are the other aspirational elements people associate with the middle class and how much does it cost? The single word they use to describe the feelings they found? Angst. Because their numbers show that the middle class in Colorado is shrinking.

Three Key Data Points

(Source: CU Denver)

(Source: CU Denver)

(Source: CU Denver)