How much money do you need to live in NC? New online calculator breaks it down by county.

A new online calculator from United Way of North Carolina and Wake County shows how much money you need to live in each of the state’s 100 counties. MCT
A new online calculator from United Way of North Carolina and Wake County shows how much money you need to live in each of the state’s 100 counties. MCT

Wondering how much income you’ll need to live comfortably in a North Carolina county? A new online calculator can help with that.

United Way of North Carolina and RTI International recently launched an interactive tool called “Our Money Needs Calculator” to help North Carolina families determine how much money they need to make ends meet. The calculator takes into account family size and location, and also provides users with links to financial resources.

“A lot of people coming to use the calculator are in a bad situation and don’t know the way forward,” said Maureen McKeon, director of marketing and engagement for United Way of North Carolina. “If you can instill hope in people, you can encourage them to take a step forward.”

The idea for the calculator came about after United Way of NC released its “Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017” report, which showed that many families were struggling with their finances.

“We’re not talking about the homeless person on the street but people working full-time jobs and still struggling to make ends meet,” McKeon said.

The organizations came together to create a practical way to get information into the hands of those who needed it the most and give them financial tools.

The online calculator incorporates information from the user along with data from the “Self-Sufficiency Standard for North Carolina 2017” to figure out the costs of housing, child care, food, transportation, health care and other essentials in a specific county. It then provides an income amount that families will need to afford these necessities.

For instance, a family living in Wake County with two adults and two school-aged children will need an annual family income of $70,208 and a monthly family income of $5,851. That same family would need an annual family income of $66,050 and monthly family income of $5,504 if they lived in Durham County. The median household income in Wake County was $70,620 and $53,495 in Durham County in 2016, according to U.S. Census data.

Anita Barker, director of education and engagement for United Way of North Carolina, explained that the calculations represent the bare minimum of what families will need to get by.

“It doesn’t include that Friday night pizza, it’s just to meet basic needs,” she said.

The calculator directs users to “Let’s Talk Money: A Family Guide,” which shares tips to help families review their current financial situation and set future goals. The website also gives advice on how to secure basic needs, create an emergency fund and improve your family’s long-term financial future.

In addition, there are links to the “Economic Security Pathways Report” and a United Way website called NC 2-1-1, which provides information about health and human services programs.

“The language we use is very positive and very hopeful,” McKeon said. “We’re trying to tell people that this is possible, there are ways to increase your income and decrease your expenses.”

United Way is promoting the tool through its 53 sites in North Carolina which often work with other local non-profits. They’re also using social media and sharing it with organizations who meet personally with people struggling with their finances.

“This is a tool for families to use directly but also a tool for those who work with the families to use as well,” Barker said.

In the future, the online calculator could be used by high school counselors when discussing students’ educational pursuits and what specific jobs might pay.

McKeon noted that United Way believes the calculator is important because the economic mobility of a community is dependent on the financial stability of its families.

“This is really about the future of North Carolina, and it begins with making sure families have what they need to make ends meet,” she said.

The Our Money Needs Calculator can be found at www.unitedwaync.org/our-money-needs-calculator.