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February 21st, 2010
09:03 PM ET

Living on $39,000 a Year and Thriving

Danny Kofke is a special education teacher in Georgia, and the author of "How to Survive (And Perhaps) Thrive on a Teacher's Salary."

He wrote the book with teachers in mind, but he says people in other professions can benefit from it as well.

Here's his interview with Fredricka Whitfield.

Filed under: Fredricka Whitfield
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Paganone

    My Wife and myself have lived on half that amount and lived fine. As a Civil Engineer , and every company refusing to hire, $39,000 would be a dream salary to make.

    February 22, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  2. Marisa

    My husband is in the Navy and makes well under $39,000. I am a housewife for the time being, until I finish nursing school, and we've got a 14 month old daughter so living on or under $39,000 a year in our case is completely possible.

    February 22, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  3. pistachio

    You can't possibly believe that there may be only a few people living on $39,000 a year. Obviously you do or there would not be an interview about it as though it is a rarity. I am shocked! Take your heads out of the sand. Everything goes up but not the pay and even if it does, rarely do people get a raise enough to cover the extra on their bills. I think if you did a survey you would find there are far more families living on $39,000 or even less then there are families living on more than $39,000.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  4. Jeff

    I'm sorry, but the naivete of this question makes me laugh. I and millions of Americans HAVE lived for many years on considerably less than 39k a year. It would be a DREAM for many Americans to have such a salary.

    February 22, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  5. RAT

    Talk about being out of step with reality!

    I am currently living on around $18,000 - in San Diego. In my old home region (western Colorado) the median household income is less than $39,000. Not everyone makes $50k or more a year, and most people actually DO survive!

    February 22, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  6. Amiee

    Ridiculous I've always lived on less than 39,000 a year and know plenty of people who do. Want to challenge do an article on someone making 20,000 or less who has a family!!

    February 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  7. Nan

    You've got to be kidding! My husband and I live on much less than that AND we have to buy our own medical insurance! I get so tired of teachers in general believing that they are always getting the short end in the pay and benefit department. It would be a DREAM for most families in this country to make what a teacher makes and receive the benefits they have. Wake up and look around, millions of Americans live on much less than $39,000 and no one is interviewing them on TV.

    February 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  8. Peanut

    Marisa, you have Base Housing so there's no mortgage.

    February 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  9. Tom, So. GA

    You all think 39K a yr is nothing, but I bet you there are a lot of 4 or more member families in South GA who wish they had an annual income of 39K

    February 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  10. Erica

    I WISH I had $39,000.00 a year income in this crappy economy. I would feel RICH.

    Me, my husband and son are barely surviving on less than $20,000.00. And I have a year of a Master's degree. What a load of CRAP. I can't even afford food most of the time.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  11. Cindy

    39k/yr is not that bad. I lived for years on that with two children who attended parochial school without financial aid. We didn't eat at restaurants, buy any clothes that weren't 75% off their KMart price, take vacations, buy a new car, own a home, shop as a hobby, or waste food ever. We DID attend lots of free concerts, museums, libraries, lectures and parks. We did have conversations and learn to value people more than things. The greatest blessing my children had was to learn that money doesn't make them happy.

    February 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  12. KidCanada

    All depends on where you live!
    Living in West Virginia vs living in NYC.
    Myself I couldn't think about living on less then 50K!

    February 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  13. Stephan

    This is a joke right? If you look at the Wikipedia page for "personal income in the US" you'll find that 66.68% of the population earns less than 39K/year.

    Sure, the *household* combine income % is probably lower than that, but still. There are PLENTY of household living on less than 39k, this therefore shouldn't warrant media attention over a book.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  14. Louise

    If my husband and I had a $39K income it would seem as if we won the lottery and would probably keel over dead. We have to literally worry about each dime ($0.10) we make. I think it high time some people get in touch with reality! The economy is only getting better for the "haves" of this nation and the expense of just basic necessities has risen to proportions many of us can not meet.
    I'd like to know how everyone would get along in their perfect lives if the low pay "have nots" just didn't serve them for a day, a week or a year. Imagine, no one to wait on you or cook your food at your favorite eatery or clean dishes to eat off of while you're there, no cashiers or stockpersons at your favorite store.......all h-e-double toothpicks would break loose! The lower class of this nation work just as hard as the upper class; harder in my opinion and for very little pay with no benefits and full time hours & pension plans are unheard of. What would Paradise look like for the upper class without us working fools. We can't all have PHDs or no real work would ever get done. Let's start getting real, America!

    February 22, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  15. Jenn

    Talk about being out of touch with reality!! I am a married working mother of two. My husband is a builder, and thanks to the housing crash, has not worked for over a year. We live on my $26K salary plus whatever small jobs he can get. The problem is the people that work for the media, the financial institute, and the government, as well as celebrities that think they know all, make substantially more than that and they can not comprehend what it is like to live in the real America. I challange them all to come live in my house for 2 weeks on what I make, without their fancy clothes and cars and expense accounts and then do this report again.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  16. Todd Heckert

    This is news.... I live on and everyone that I know lives on less than 39,000 a year.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  17. Scott

    This just proves how out-fo-touch the media and some other important people are in this country. I live on less than this with no problems. Heck, I even went to Europe twice in one year on a $36,000/yr salary. Now, if I had had a family I wouldn't be doing that of course, but it just goes to show you that you can manage your money wisely and come out ok. I wouldn't spend on such lavish things if I had a family.

    I've never "struggled" once with my salary. Largest salary I ever had was $42,000 and I felt like I had won the lottery. I feel blessed with the salary I do have and I know that I am fortunate to have my job.

    May people here need to learn some thrift and eat out less and realize that shopping is not a hobby.

    February 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  18. Billy

    Try being a 100% Disabled War Veteran Living on 3000 Dollars a month and raising a Severly Handicapped Child that doesnt Qualify for SSI because her Dad, Me , makes to much Money Monthly being a 100% Disabled War Veteran !!!! Not easy but we get by !!

    February 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  19. Steve

    Geez...I didn't realize living on $39,000 was news....we've done it for years.

    February 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm |