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Five Percent of Arlington Households Make $250k+

by ARLnow.com February 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm 1,138 101 Comments

$100 billWant to crack the top 5 percent of Arlington households in terms of income? You’ll have to pull in more than a quarter million dollars per year.

Arlington is ranked #7 of 3,143 counties nationwide for high-earning households, according to census data cited by the Washington Post. The starting point for the top 5 percent of high-earning households in Arlington is $250,001 per year, compared to the U.S. average of $191,469 and the Virginia average of $226,079.

In Arlington, 17,093 households — nearly one in five countywide — are in the national top 5 percent ($191,469+) in terms of income.

Arlington isn’t alone. Five D.C. area counties, including Arlington, were among the top 10 counties for high-earning households nationwide, the Post reports.

  • Rick

    Now we know there are 17,093, we need to TAX them more so they can pay ther fair share

    • Question

      how are they not paying their fair share?

      • Bender

        And yet the County Board treats us as if we all make that high income and can afford their increasing tax burden — which they now want to increase even more without getting voter approval. In fact, for many of us, it would take five years or more to make that much.

        • drax

          How does the county do that, specifically?

        • speonjosh

          County-imposed taxes have nothing to do with income.

          • SomeGuy

            Please explain this further, speonjosh. I believe they do have something to do with income, particularly when they’re calculated.

      • HoosNArlington

        And exactly 0% of that 5% (of +$250k earners) is made up of VT Grads. They’re too busy breaking into condos.

    • Taxpayer

      What’s that quote that parents teach their children early on…”Sorry, life isn’t fair”.

      “Fair share” is such a fictional statement. How is it “fair” to pay more because you can? How is it “fair” to tax higher incomes just because they have had some economic success?

      You know what’s fair to me? I pay an amount, you pay an amount, everyone pays some amount, and we ALL extract the same benefit from our contributions. However, I’m not extracting a full benefit from my contributions and others are extracting EVERYTHING from the system.

      • novasteve

        Fair share is a socialist codeword for “as much as I say/think you should pay”. Because otherwise it is horribly unfair that so many people pay zero federal income tax, yet get to vote, and benefit from programs that those who pay the taxes are even denied.

        • Luke 12:48

          For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.

        • Daddy Warbucks

          Not much has changed in the 80 years of the income tax. Rush-ranting does not change reality.

          Your minimum wage employment makes you no martyr. Now, if you want to talk about the attorneys you work for who make real money, then maybe they should rightfully treat you like a serf.

      • Karl Marx

        From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

      • drax

        You’re right. We shouldn’t use the word fair. We should simply tax people according to how much they can pay.

        • fool

          How do you gauge how much someone can pay, specifically?

          • drax

            How much income/wealth they have. In other words, a progressive income tax, like we have now.

      • speonjosh

        YOu pretty much answered your own question. YOu pay more because you can. Being rich doesn’t make someone better than someone who is not rich.

        • Obvious

          Nothing there about anyone being “better”. I certainly agree with Taxpayer. I don’t hold anyone in a lesser light because they make less. But there are MORE than enough handouts in America at this point.

          People’s personal responsibility has failed them.

          • drax

            Most of the handouts go to rich people anyway.

    • Question

      how are hey not paying their fair share?

    • CJ

      Between my wife and I we ‘gave” close to $135k to the Fed and local govt in taxes in 2012 alone.

      Is that not enough?

      • KathyInArlington

        Lucky you.

        • speonjosh

          Seriously. You realize how much income this guy must have had in order to pay that kind of taxes? And he has the nerve to come out in public and complain? Go look up “selfish” in the dictionary, see picture of “CJ.”

          No one is impoverished by income taxes. The sacrifices one makes to pay income taxes are proportional up and down the income scale. Meanwhile, those rich enough to pay $135K in taxes continue to enjoy luxuries far above the 99% of Americans who make substantially less.

          • Deadite

            But aren’t you the one being selfish by demanding that CJ give more of his money to the goverment? Especially considering he probably pays a higher tax rate than you already? Who’s being selfish here?

          • HoosNArlington

            $135k in taxes, assuming a 15% effective tax rate, is $900k income. If you make that much and pay more than 15%, you’re an idiot…

          • Staunch Independent

            I don’t know CJ but I think its a fair assumption that his money didn’t fall from the sky or sprout from a tree in his backyard. He probably worked very hard for it.

            Lets be frank here, he’s not *lucky* to be making the money. We’ve established that luck is most likely not the cause of his finances, there is a higher probability that it is from hard-work (not too many trust-fund babies in Arlington). *You* are the lucky one, getting to reap the benefits of a high tax payer.

            When you punish people for making money — they go elsewhere and then you get no benefits. If you want the benefits of fat tax checks from the monetarily successful you need to court them with favorable conditions.

            This is not a new concept! Counties/Cities (Arlington included) often consider the draw to businesses when studying the role of existing or proposed laws. This is not really for the businesses benefit, it’s for the city residents. The business’ (or NGO’s or Government Employers) we have help shape and bring money into our city that we all benefit from.

          • drax

            No, it’s not even remotely established that luck isn’t involved in how much money you make – though it’s usually also the result of hard work. But that’s not the point–nobody wants to tax luck. Has CJ actually considered leaving Arlington because the taxes are too damn high?

            We have no way of knowing if CJ’s taxes are too much – for “fairness” or for keeping him from leaving – until we know his income too.

          • dk (not DK)

            The people I know who work the hardest (and I mean HARD, not sitting on their duffs in a posh K Street office) make relatively little money.

      • Rick

        IAW with prez – NO, you need to pay more

      • drax

        If you made, say, a billion dollars last year, no, it’s not even remotely enough.

        In other words, it depends on how much you make.

      • DaGruffalo

        135k after hiding how much?

        • speonjosh

          This, too.

      • dirty biker

        Hmmm so given deductions and assuming a pretty high marginal rate you MADE about half a million last year. Good for you. Of course around here that income pretty much pegs you as a) a senior lawyer or b) a lobbyist sooo go on, let’s discuss your contributions to the broader economy. I’d love to hear that you are an entrepreneur…

      • Hee-Haw

        not believable. In fact, anyone on here commenting about how much money they make are lying.

        • Tommy

          Especially when they use grammatically incorrect phrases like “between my wife and I.”

  • arlingtongal

    Wait. Isn’t one in five 20%?

    • JamesE

      60% of the time, it works every time.

      • arlingtongal

        5% seemed very low for Arlington. So it’s 20% of households in Arlington are in the national top 5% of incomes, yes?

        • arlingtongal

          Oh wait, now I get it. Jeez this post is too complex for me!

  • BBMS

    I was told there would be no math.

  • CW

    Thought it would be higher considering that the seeming majority of homes for sale are over $1M. People must be leveraging themselves pretty significantly.

    • Douglas Parker

      People must be leveraging themselves pretty significantly.

      Ain’t that America?

      • FrenchyB

        Keep in mind that the recent (and current) low fixed interest rates allow people to leverage themselves more.

      • speonjosh

        Little pink houses for you and me.

    • LeeHighway

      People who buy in that range often have other means to purchase besides income – whether it was buying a property before the boom, or an inheritance, or help from rich parents for a down payment….

      • Not In America

        Not true, as previously mentioned most are overextending themselves because they want to live in this nice area.

        And fiscally responsible multi-generational homes also contribute.

        We are lucky enough to have been here for years — before the property values skyrocketed. Our home was inherited from my in-laws who bought it as a fixer upper in the 70s for a fraction of the cost it would be today. (Of course today it would get bulldozed over in favor of the typical McMansion which most can’t reasonably afford but purchases anyway, as is the American way.)

        Of course it has been mortgaged a few times over the years and when we inherited the house, we inherited the existing mortgage too. So we didn’t get the house for free, but the existing mortgage is half of its estimated value. We would not be able to live in Arlington without incurring a significant and irresponsible debt if we had to purchase the home at market value.

        • CW

          I like how you start with “not true” and then proceed to agree with him and explain that you personally live in an inherited house you could not otherwise afford.

          • Tommy

            Agree–also, what evidence is there that “most are overextending themselves” in Arlington? Arl. has had one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the metro area, for several years.

          • Tommy

            Agree. And what is your evidence that “most are overextending themselves” in Arlington? Arl. has had one of the lowest foreclosure rates in the metro area, for a long time.

  • nolike#’s

    ARLnow, you need to fix this article, 18% of Arlington county households are in the top 5% nationally. So the first sentence should read, ” Want to crack the top 18 percent of Arlington households….” Either that, or start with, “if you have a house in arlington, there’s an 18% chance you make more money than just about everyone in the country”

  • CJ

    Only 5%??

    My wife and I make a little under $300k. We are currently in the market to buy a house and can’t afford anything in Arlington.

    I don’t get how a fmaily making under $400k a year can afford to live in Arlington. Even $400k would be house poor in most of ARL.

    • CW

      Exactly. Brand new McMansions go for $1.2M all day long, and, save for the most hideous, people snap them up like hotcakes. I can’t believe that a pool of only 5% of consumers is responsible for that. Then again, Arlington has incredibly low housing stock turnover. The amount of stock on the market at any given time is tiny.

    • Quoth the Raven

      How? If you’re trying to buy a house over a million dollars, then I suppose I understand. But there are a ton of houses out there for a lot less. So why can’t you “afford anything in Arlington”? That doesn’t make sense.

      • SeaJay

        What I’m saying is we can’t get a 6000sf house on an acre lot right next to a Metro. What is so hard to understand about that?

        • Louise

          SeaJay gets it.

    • Sheriff Gonna Getcha

      CJ you’re being sarcastic right? Please say yes.

      With 20% down, 4.25% rate (added extra for jumbo), your payment would be $3935. Add taxes, HOA, insurance and its about $5,000/month. Say you make $275,000 gross a year, thats a debt to income of 22%, well well within the affordable threshold.

      • Sheriff Gonna Getcha

        This assumes a $1MM house btw.

        • YEP

          I’m kind of with the Sheriff on this. Problem is $300k won’t support an impressive house, nice vacations, 2 new European cars, expensive cloths, watches, etc. You either need to tone down your lifestyle or buy a less expensive house. I hear you and it kind of suxs not being able to afford everything you want when you’re in the top 5% but being vocal about it isn’t going to get you anywhere and you’re going to come off sounding like a pri*k. You’re in a tough spot that only 3% of the populations understands.

      • R. Griffon

        Came to say this. Thank you for bringing some real numbers and logic to the discussion.

        Another (although I think less reliable) rule is to spend no more than 5x household income on a home. Hence a median income family of $50K/yr. sholdn’t spend more than the (surprisingly median) price of $250K on a house.

        So by that measure $300K/yr. should put you in the $1.5M range – enough to buy most of the best of what ARL has to offer. Even a nice SFH walking distance to the Metro fer cryin’ out loud.

    • lance

      Try being an Arlington First Responder with 12 years on the job making $64,000 a year. Nothing against you and your wife but I think living in Arlington with my job is a little more important than you living here. Can anyone tell me where I can buy a home in Arlington making my salary????

      • Columbia Pikester

        Lance–I can. That was my salary a few years ago when I bought (at higher interest rates and prices than now). I paid $310k for a small but nicely renovated townhouse. Smaller places nearby have couples living in them fine.

        Try Fairlington and Arlington Village for a start. Have you looked into the possibility of buying a place? Do you want a “home”? No problem.

      • Marie Antoinette

        Lance, why does your job make it more important to live in Arlington? Give me a break. Before I got my head chopped off, I had to drive 40 miles each way to earn a living. It’s called life and market forces.

        • speonjosh

          Just because you endured a crappy life doesn’t mean other people should.

        • drax

          Studies have shown that it can actually be more expensive to live out in the far suburbs and drive 40 miles than to pay more in housing costs to live close to the city:


          “some argue that people should just move out to somewhere like Laurel or Bowie where housing is cheap. It might be, but transportation costs also rise, wiping most most or all of the gains”

        • Ballston

          I would say it’s rather important for our firefighters to not live 40 miles away. I don’t think my house fire is going to wait an hour while the firefighters drive to the station.

          • Jeff

            Good thing firefighters don’t have to drive from their houses to the fire station before heading your way. Fire stations are staffed 24 hours/day.

      • CrystalMikey

        That is a damn shame that someone who works for the locality can’t afford to live in said locality.

    • AL

      Boohoo! If you don’t like it, don’t blame it on the taxes. Blame it on demand blowing prices for everything here out of proportion with incomes.

    • RHouse

      I’m also confused by your complaints. My husband and I earn just under $300k and are looking to buy, but we have found several options in Arlington. We just have to balance location with size and condition–both cannot be fantastic. Are you looking for a large home with lots of upgrades within walking distance of the metro? It sounds like you are. If so, then you need to rethink your options, because your expectations are completely unrealistic.

    • WeiQiang

      come to SARWOK+

    • drax

      Oh, please. At 300k you can afford something in Arlington.

    • Rory

      20% make 250K or more. The headline writer screwed up

      • Rory

        Whoops. I screwed up. 20% of Arlington households are in top 5% income bracket

    • Hee-Haw

      IF you actually bring in around 300K, how do you figure you paid 135K in taxes like you commented earlier ? Something doesn’t add up.

    • Beth J

      Sooo, you guys make nearly $300k a year but you can’t figure out how to create and stick to a household budget? Housing in Arlington is expensive but that doesn’t seem to be your biggest problem here.

    • I call BS

      give me a break. My husband and I make well south of $200k, 4 years ago we purchased a nice little cape cod in North Arlington for $599k. It was not our first home, so we had equity to roll over, but still.

      Get over yourself.

  • Anon

    Yeah… 5% seems way too low.

  • Housing Alternatives

    On the forum section, one lout was singing the praises of Barton House — apparently a run-down flop-house type apartment where even the illiterate are welcome.

  • slacker

    Hey didn’t I see these very same folks at the Occupy DC rally?

  • AL

    I would’ve expected Arlington’s top 5% to be much higher than $250k for households. That’s hardly any higher than the national 5%!

  • Cleetis

    The rest of the country looks at the DC Metro area like it is full of all these rich people living off the gov’t – how true!

  • NovaMe

    A household with 2 high paid government employees already makes that much combined easily. Lucky them, not for the rest of us obviously.

    • drax

      A household with 2 high paid anyones makes that much easily – which is stating the obvious. So what’s your point? To whine that government employees make too much? Maybe the rest of us make too little.

      • Jeff

        The point is it isn’t that surprising that 5% of households make that much around here.

  • Hmm…wonder why people make so much money here?…could it be the trillions of dollars spent killing brown people and all the private companies that suck off the teat of the Feds?…

  • FedUp

    My guess is that a large proportion of those 17,093 households have one or both of the spouses who are government employees or government contractors. Sort of a pickle; if we tax them more, we are taxing ourselves anyway since their paychecks come out of the taxpayers pockets it seems.

  • Jeff

    Not particularly surprising. As others have said, it actually seems low to me. I may be remembering incorrectly, but I could have sworn the census doesn’t define “household” income as a husband or wife – simply everyone living in a single dwelling. Given the number of rental houses with 4 or 5 unrelated young adults in the area, it doesn’t take a particularly impressive average salary among those unrelated adults to break $250k for the household.

  • Marie Antoinette

    It’s a sad state of affairs when $250k doesnt go as far as most people think…

    • CW

      What kills it for most people is kids and the support thereof. $250k, call it $160k post tax. Two or more kids who must go to only the FINEST private school to upgold mommy and daddys egos. Down to $90k right there. Then gotta have 4 bedrooms…$4k a month mortgage or more. $42 left over for food, utilities, savings, etc…I realize that still seems a lot to the bulk of the country but it is amazing how fast people pee away money here.

      • R. Griffon

        Wow you sound bitter.

        But your numbers don’t really wash as the vast majority of NARL parents don’t send their kids to private school. If we were talking about NW DC maybe it’d be a different story, but ARL schools are great and I don’t know a single family (and I know many) who don’t use the public system.

        But even going out of your way to negate $70K worth of after-tax income, you’re still left with maybe $30K pure discretionary after food and utilities (say an even $1K/mo. for those). $30K a year is PLENTY to be able to do the things you want to do, including vacations, luxury items, and yes – even savings.

        • CW

          Sorry, when I said “most people”, what I meant was “most people who make a ton of money and still say they are poor”. I was highlighting the way that people blow money. Yes ARLCo schools are great but every private school around here is stuffed to the gills and a waiting list out the door. Take it down a notch.

        • SouthArl

          Yes that’s probably true that most NARL parents send their kids to public school, but unfortunately it’s not the case for parents in South Arlington. Many South Arlington schools have serious issues with academic performance, fighting, class room disturbances, racial tensin and parents who are completely disengaged from the educational process. As a result, students who are trying to learn and get a good education suffer. While Arlington public schools are a wonderful benefit for those who live within the right jurisdictions, they’re not such a benefit for your southern neighbors who pay the same tax rates you do.

      • CrystalMikey

        Don’t forget the super large SUV, preferably BMW or Land Rover.

  • HoosUp

    And exactly 0% of that 5% (of +$250k earners) are made up of VT Grads. They’re too busy breaking into condos.

    • Boom! Roasted

      …or UVA grads, since they’re too busy repeating jokes on local blogs.

    • JamesE

      ^^^ not too familiar with government contractors are you.

  • Arl Resident

    I wonder how many are life long residents. Lived here my whole life. Parents bought their 3-4 bedroom, 3 bath house in north Arlington house in 1983 for $140,000. Thankfully their neighborhood hasn’t been taken over by Mac mansions!

    • drax

      Or McMansions.

  • Arl for Now

    My opinion is that the easiest way to pay fewer taxes in Arlington is to have an older car and a modest house. I can’t imagine having to face the tax bill on a $1.2M home even if I could afford it.

  • Arl for Now

    In my opinon, the easiet was to pay fewer taxes in Arlington is to own an older car and a modest house. I can’t imagine wanting a +$1M house because of the personal property taxes.

    • Arl for Now

      Oops, sorry for posting twice. Computer was slow.

  • Jesse

    The thing is that I bet 100% of those 17,903 paid their respective income and property taxes. It would be interesting to see what the statistic is for the number of households in Arlington that have not paid taxes.


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