5 Things the Middle Class Won’t Be Able to Afford in 5 Years Due to Inflation

5 Things the Middle Class Won’t Be Able to Afford in 5 Years Due to Inflation

Inflation’s grip tightens, and the affordability of several critical aspects of middle-class life is increasingly under threat. Understanding how rising costs could reshape what many have long considered staples of a comfortable life becomes crucial.

This article dives into five specific areas where the middle class might be priced out in just half a decade if current inflationary trends persist. Each item reflects a broader narrative of economic change and its impact on everyday life.

5 Things Soon To Be Out of Reach for the Middle Class

Predicting the economy’s future is always tricky, especially with variables like inflation, but I can speculate based on current trends. In five years, if inflation rates stay high, the middle class might struggle to afford the following:

  1. Buying Homes in the most expensive cities: Property values and rents have been soaring, making homeownership and even renting increasingly tricky in the most expensive cities in the US, Canada, and Europe. In the next five years, at this pace, only people who already own homes or are rich will live in these cities.
  2. Out-of-state and private colleges: College tuition and associated costs are already a burden for many, and they could become impossible to afford in the next five years for those who aren’t wealthy.
  3. High-end new cars and trucks: The average cost of new automobiles has grown exponentially in the past four years. At this pace, the cost of payments for luxury brands and high-end vehicles will be out of reach for the middle class in the coming years.
  4. Retirement Savings: With the rising cost of living, retirement savings could take a backseat as immediate expenses take priority.
  5. Leisure Travel: Vacations and travel could become a luxury for only high-income earners as transportation, lodging, restaurants, and entertainment costs continue to rise, making it hard for the middle class to afford lavish vacations every year.

Let’s dive deeper into these five items to understand why they have all become so expensive and may become out of reach of the middle class in the next five years.

The Vanishing Dream of Home Ownership in Major Cities

The trajectory of real estate in major urban centers across the United States, Canada, and Europe presents a sobering picture. Recent trends have shown a relentless surge in property values and taxes, creating an ever-widening chasm between housing costs and the earning capabilities of the middle class.

Statistical data underpins this narrative, where cities like San Francisco and Toronto have seen exponential growth in housing prices. If these trends persist, owning a home or even renting in these urban hubs could become a distant dream for the middle class. This shift impacts living arrangements and has broader implications for commuting, job opportunities, and discretionary income.

Skyrocketing Costs of Out-of-State and Private Colleges

Education, once a lever for social mobility, is increasingly becoming a luxury. The cost of attending out-of-state and private colleges has been on an upward trajectory that shows no signs of abating. A grim picture emerges when juxtaposed against the stagnant growth in median family incomes.

The average in-state cost of tuition and fees to attend a ranked public college is nearly 75% less than the average sticker price at a private college, at $10,662 for the 2023-2024 year compared with $42,162, respectively, US News data shows. The average cost for out-of-state students at public colleges comes to $23,630 for the same year. [1]

The rate at which tuition and associated costs escalate could render these institutions inaccessible to all but the wealthiest families. This shift threatens to deepen the divide in educational opportunities and potentially exacerbate the already widening gap between socio-economic classes.

Luxury Vehicles: A Distant Dream for the Middle Class

The automotive industry has not been immune to inflationary pressures either. In recent years, the average cost of new high-end cars and trucks has skyrocketed, distancing them from the grasp of the average middle-class consumer.

This price increase is not just a reflection of luxury brands’ pricing strategies but also a consequence of technological advancements and increased manufacturing costs for all automobiles. Consequently, if these trends persist, the luxury car and high-end overall car market might become an exclusive playground for the wealthy and high-income earners, leaving the middle class with fewer options like used cars or new smaller vehicles.

Retirement Savings: Pushed Aside by Rising Costs

Another casualty of the rising cost of living could well be retirement savings. As immediate financial obligations take priority, the ability and willingness to set aside funds for the golden years diminish.

This trend is particularly worrying as it suggests a future where a significant portion of the population might be unprepared for retirement, leading to increased dependency on limited social security benefits and potentially resulting in a lower quality of life in old age.

Leisure Travel: No Longer a Middle-Class Staple

The joys of leisure travel, once a staple of middle-class life, may also fall victim to inflation. With the costs associated with vacations – from flights and hotels to dining out and entertainment – rising, these pleasures could become a luxury reserved for those with deeper pockets.

This change impacts individuals’ lifestyles and has broader implications for the travel industry and the economies of tourist-dependent regions.

Key Takeaways

  • Escalating Real Estate Prices: City housing is becoming a luxury, with costs in significant cities outpacing average incomes.
  • Educational Exclusivity: Private higher education is shifting towards being an elite privilege due to surging tuition fees.
  • Automotive Luxury Gap: The market for upscale vehicles is increasingly catering only to affluent buyers.
  • Retirement Planning Hurdles: The financial strain of living costs jeopardizes future security, making retirement savings a lower priority.
  • Vacationing as a Luxury: Recreational travel is transforming into a high-income exclusive activity as expenses become prohibitive for many.


The potential future of economic realities shows inflation’s profound influence on societal norms and accessibility. Inflation, often viewed as a mere economic indicator, tangibly reshapes the fabric of everyday life, from residential choices to educational opportunities, from personal transportation preferences to future financial security and even leisure pursuits.

Understanding and adapting to these economic shifts will be crucial in maintaining the accessibility of what once were considered middle-class staples, especially in the rising tide of inflation.

While this analysis provides a speculative look at the potential impact of sustained inflation on the middle class, it shows the importance of economic policies and global trends in shaping these outcomes and that things need to change.

It is a stark reminder that inflation, often discussed in abstract terms, has genuine and potentially profound implications for the day-to-day lives of ordinary people. As we look toward the future, these issues must be considered and addressed in economic planning and policy-making at every level of government and business to ensure a more equitable and sustainable path forward for all segments of society.

Of course, this is speculative and depends on many factors, including government policies and global economic trends. Let’s hope the inflation rate of the past three years doesn’t continue in the above five areas the same way for the next five years.