They must do this as they watch costs of the biggest budget busters – health care, education, housing and child care – continue to outpace wage gains, says Amy Traub, an associate director of policy and research at Demos, a public policy organization.
A lot of things need to go right for middle-class workers on their way to financial independence, she says.
"You can’t lose a job for a prolonged period of time. You can’t have a child get sick. You can't help out a loved one financially," Traub says. “You not only have to be very disciplined, but also very lucky."