More month than money: The numbers show why your wallet seems lighter these days

Real median household income in the U.S. increased 1.3% between 2006 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census bureau. It's up to $50,233. But, consumer prices climbed 5.6% between July 2007 and July 2008, so most households have to meet bills with less real spending cash.

In case you're wondering why you're no longer able to pay the bills, part of that could be related to the fact that inflation is eating up your raises. You may actually be able to buy less than what you did last year because your salary increases have not kept up with inflation.

If you're wondering where you can earn the most money, move to Plano, Texas. The median household income increased to $84,492, up 10% from 2006 to 2007. Houses are cheap there too. The median home price is $225,000. Plano is the home of several corporations, including Frito Lay, JCPenney, EDS and Perot Systems. The city that came in second place in median household income was San Jose, Calif. at $76,963, where many high tech companies are located. But the problem there is that the median home price is $744,000, so living costs will kill your budget.

By region, people in the Midwest ($50,277) and the South ($46,186) saw their incomes increase, while people living in the Northeast ($52,274) saw their incomes decline. Incomes remained stagnant in the West ($54,136). When you consider where to live and whether or not you want to take that new job, always be sure to check out living costs and how they will impact what you'll earn. My favorite calculator for that is the Sperling's Cost of Living Calculator.

Here are some other key income statistics in this year's report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States 2007:

* Women are still trying to catch up to men in earnings. A woman working full time earned just 78% of a corresponding male. The real median earnings for men increased from $43,460 in 2006 to $45,113 in 2007. Women's earnings increased from $33,437 in 2006 to $35,102 in 2007.

* Black households have the lowest earning power. Their median income in 2007 was $33,916.

* Asian households had the highest earning power. Their median income in 2007 was $66,103.

* Hispanic households median income was $38,679.

Lita Epstein is the author of more than 25 books including the Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score and The 250 Questions You Should Ask to Avoid Foreclosure.
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