13 Things That’ll Become a Luxury for the Middle Class in the Next 5 Years

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The middle class in America could slip into the lower class soon, with many once-affordable things likely to see price hikes in the next five years.



Something as basic as groceries may become a financial hurdle for the middle class. It’s no secret—food prices have soared. A recent report from the Groundwork Collaborative highlights a 25% increase in grocery prices since the onset of the pandemic.

While there’s some optimism with inflation showing signs of easing, the question remains: Will grocery prices return to pre-pandemic levels? The outlook is uncertain. As consumers gradually accept these heightened costs, major consumer packaged goods companies may maintain their elevated pricing strategies. 



The dream of owning a home is becoming more challenging for middle-class families. Rising mortgage rates and property prices might soon make this dream less attainable.

To afford a median-priced home, now valued at $402,343, Americans need an annual income of $110,871—a 46% increase since early 2020. A study indicates that in 22 states and Washington, D.C., a yearly income of at least $100,000 is necessary to manage the cost of a median-priced home. 



Healthcare and long-term care expenses are other critical areas that are escalating beyond general inflation rates, with no signs of slowing down. Many middle-class families are likely unprepared for the financial burden of long-term care (whether for themselves or for elderly family members). 

Effective healthcare planning is becoming a vital component of a comprehensive retirement strategy to ensure the affordability of essential long-term care services, helping to protect retirement savings from being depleted too soon.


Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

The affordability of new cars for the middle class is expected to decline soon. Vehicle prices have increased significantly over the past four years, driven by advancements in safety features, autonomous technology, and electric vehicle batteries. These factors are likely to keep pushing prices upward.

While there has been a recent slowdown in the rate of price increases for cars and trucks in the United States, which has helped temper overall inflation and provided some hope for more affordable vehicle options, prices are still expected to rise. This trend poses a challenge for middle-class Americans considering the purchase of new vehicles in the near future.

Dining Out


Eating at restaurants might soon transform into a luxury rather than a routine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for food at restaurants were up by 4.2% in March 2024 compared to the previous year. When combined with factors such as wage increases, supply chain disruptions, and cattle supply shortages, the overall impact on dining out costs extends well beyond a mere few percentage points. 

This could mean that for many, restaurant visits may become reserved for special occasions only, as the affordability of enjoying a meal out becomes increasingly challenging.

Family Vacations 


The tradition of taking extended family vacations (especially abroad) is likely to become a rarity for the middle class due to the rising gas prices, increase in airfare costs, and escalating expenses of staying in hotels or vacation rentals.



As tuition fees continue to climb, the affordability of higher education for middle-class students is in jeopardy. Loans that once helped bridge the gap are becoming a heavier burden, and are only expected to increase in the next few years.

Private Schools


The combination of inflation and high demand suggests that private school tuition may soon be beyond the reach of the middle class. Tuition rates have been on a steady incline, and it is highly probable that they will surpass what a middle-class income can manage. 

This becomes particularly evident when considering the full range of expenses faced by middle-class families, including the continuously rising costs of housing.

Retirement Savings 


Retirement is increasingly becoming a luxury in the US. Nearly one-third of older adults who carry credit card debt report balances of $10,000 or more, indicating a rise in heavier debt loads compared to last year. This challenging financial landscape is especially concerning for both America’s seniors and states traditionally viewed as retirement havens. 

According to the AARP, which conducted interviews with over 8,000 individuals, one in five adults over 50 has no retirement savings. Moreover, one-fourth of seniors now expect they will never retire—a percentage that has been increasing since 2022.

‘Safe’ Investments for Retirees


The concept of “safe” investments is undergoing a transformation. Bonds and fixed income have traditionally been the backbone of a retiree’s financial portfolio, valued for their ability to provide income and stability. However, with persistently low interest rates and climbing inflation, the actual returns from these investments may not suffice to keep up with inflation. 

This situation challenges the purchasing power preservation for many middle-class retirees. As a result, there is a growing need to consider diversified investment approaches that protect against inflation, allowing retirement savings to sustain their lifestyle and goals effectively.

Travel for Retirees 


As retirement approaches for many, the aspiration to travel and enjoy leisure activities is a central part of their vision for a relaxed life. 

Yet, the escalating costs associated with air travel, accommodations, and dining are making what was once a reachable goal for the middle class increasingly luxurious. 

Latest Tech Gadgets


Staying current with the latest technology is becoming increasingly difficult for many. As the price tags on new gadgets climb, keeping up with tech trends might soon be seen as a splurge rather than a necessity. 

Streaming Subscriptions


Maintaining multiple streaming subscriptions is poised to become a luxury as the costs continue to climb. In the fiercely competitive world of streaming TV and movies, companies are pouring billions into developing their platforms and content libraries to keep pace with industry giants like Netflix. This has led to steady increases in subscription prices. Netflix has raised its prices several times since its inception, and Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus have also seen hikes, 

Despite the addition of ads to many platforms, the era of affordable access to a broad range of streaming services might be drawing to a close, forcing viewers to be more selective about their subscriptions.

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.