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What is considered middle class?

mellowyellowgirl

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I was lurking in the millionaire thread which made me wonder what is considered middle class these days?

Are the majority of us on this forum who can afford groceries, roof over our heads, transport and trinkets considered middle class?
 

bludiva

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I think of it as not living paycheck to paycheck but not having enough to be able to quit working. I just looked it up and the Pew Reseach Center defines it as ~40-120k annual household income in the US. Depending on where you live though, 40k may not feel middle class and over 120 may not feel upper class or whatever it is called.
 

redwood66

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I think the amount earned that determines middle class would have to vary widely depending on your geographic location. One can live very comfortably on far less in some areas and not have enough with the same amount somewhere else.
 

Karl_K

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Family able to survive comfortably on one paycheck.
It does not exist any more.
 

stracci2000

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This thread is going to turn controversial, because there was another thread a few years ago, and we all had conflicting ideas of what middle class was.
My income is far below the average PSer. However, all my bills are paid and I have no debt besides a car loan. There is money in the bank.
It's there because I am frugal, and I love thrift stores. I try really hard not to overspend.
Food is on the table, and I can buy an occasional sparkly from a pawn shop or Ebay.
We recently acquired our own home through inheritance.
So we're OK.
But the Pew Research 40-120k stated above is a complete joke, because so many people will never make that kind of money, including me.
 
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LittleRed

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This thread is going to turn controversial, because there was another thread a few years ago, and we all had conflicting ideas of what middle class was.
My income is far below the average PSer. However, all my bills are paid, I have no debt besides a car loan. There is money in the bank.
It's there because I am frugal, and I love thrift stores. I try really hard not to overspend.
Food is on the table, and I can buy an occasional sparkly from a pawn shop or Ebay.
We recently acquired our own home through inheritance.
So we're OK.
But the Pew Research 40-120k stated above is a complete joke, because so many people will never make that kind of money, including me.
Oh no! I hope my comment above wasn’t controversial! I don’t want that. I simply meant to say it is possible.
 

stracci2000

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Oh no! I hope my comment above wasn’t controversial! I don’t want that. I simply meant to say it is possible.
Oh no, honey! I agree with you! I've been living comfortably on a disappointing paycheck for 20 years now!
PS, I love that kitty in your avatar
 

bludiva

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@LittleRed i think it's doable but harder than in the past

@stracci2000 one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is the easiest way to feel wealthier spend less! I can be hard to hear someone making 300k a year in nyc or sf feeling like they are middle class. Their stress is real but they are likely choosing to spend on things to maintain a high end lifestyle for themselves or their kids if we are honest.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/finance.yahoo.com/amphtml/news/households-need-earn-300000-year-live-middle-class-lifestyle-174504164.html
 

redwood66

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@LittleRed i think it's doable but harder than in the past

@stracci2000 one of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard is the easiest way to feel wealthier spend less! I can be hard to hear someone making 300k a year in nyc or sf feeling like they are middle class. Their stress is real but they are likely choosing to spend on things to maintain a high end lifestyle for themselves or their kids if we are honest.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/finance.yahoo.com/amphtml/news/households-need-earn-300000-year-live-middle-class-lifestyle-174504164.html
OMG some of the things in that budget list. $600 a month on Netflix, social functions, and getaways? Who pays $500 a month for a stroller, playpen and a crib? $500 a month for clothing? $2100 a month for food for three? Lordy that person needs quite a bit. This is not an example of middle class as most of us know it.
 

baby monster

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OMG some of the things in that budget list. $600 a month on Netflix, social functions, and getaways? Who pays $500 a month for a stroller, playpen and a crib? $500 a month for clothing? $2100 a month for food for three? Lordy that person needs quite a bit. This is not an example of middle class as most of us know it.
It's possible to live paycheck to paycheck on any income. But to be realistic, $2100 on food, which includes weekly date night, or $600 on entertainment is reflective of the cost of living on the coasts. Tickets to a show, be it theater or music usually start around $100/person. A dinner at a nice restaurant with tips and alcohol is $300-400 for a couple. Multiply by 4 and those numbers are correct.
 

stracci2000

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There is no reason a sensible person(living on the coast or not) should spend monthly $2100 for food, $600 for entertainment, $100 for show tickets, $300-400 for one restaurant meal and a $700 car payment.
Unless money is no object.
If money is no object, then you are not "middle class".
 

violet3

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This thread is going to turn controversial, because there was another thread a few years ago, and we all had conflicting ideas of what middle class was.
My income is far below the average PSer. However, all my bills are paid and I have no debt besides a car loan. There is money in the bank.
It's there because I am frugal, and I love thrift stores. I try really hard not to overspend.
Food is on the table, and I can buy an occasional sparkly from a pawn shop or Ebay.
We recently acquired our own home through inheritance.
So we're OK.
But the Pew Research 40-120k stated above is a complete joke, because so many people will never make that kind of money, including me.
This is awesome!!! My sister inherited her house too, and boy does that make things easier. I'm very frugal too, but I had to be for a very long time. Now that I have disposable income, I still am frugal anyway, and I think that's a good way to be - it will help later in life I think.
 

stracci2000

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This is awesome!!! My sister inherited her house too, and boy does that make things easier. I'm very frugal too, but I had to be for a very long time. Now that I have disposable income, I still am frugal anyway, and I think that's a good way to be - it will help later in life I think.
I have always been frugal since I was a little kid. Dad would give me $5 at a flea market and I would challenge myself to see how much I could get with it. And of course, Dad liked flea markets, so I saw the value in pre-loved items!
I do not live paycheck to paycheck. I could never! I get anxiety if I owe anyone. I'm a good saver. When I got the car loan, I wasn't sure that I could sleep at night, knowing that I had this hanging over my head.
It's just my personality, and a way of life for me.
 

redwood66

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It's possible to live paycheck to paycheck on any income. But to be realistic, $2100 on food, which includes weekly date night, or $600 on entertainment is reflective of the cost of living on the coasts. Tickets to a show, be it theater or music usually start around $100/person. A dinner at a nice restaurant with tips and alcohol is $300-400 for a couple. Multiply by 4 and those numbers are correct.
Living paycheck to paycheck on that income is a choice and that budget is not middle class for most of the country. BTW that budget was for 3 people, one is a small child.
 

madelise

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I think of it as not living paycheck to paycheck but not having enough to be able to quit working. I just looked it up and the Pew Reseach Center defines it as ~40-120k annual household income in the US. Depending on where you live though, 40k may not feel middle class and over 120 may not feel upper class or whatever it is called.
$117k is the poverty line in SF Bay Area.
 

bludiva

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$117k is the poverty line in SF Bay Area.
I thought it was considered low income but not poverty line which is even lower. I know plenty of families in the bay area that make good money and still feel stretched. I don't miss the cost of living or the pressure to find a windfall.

I think where it the idea of middle class gets murky is where people draw the line between want and need. Do people have to partake in certain things like those listed in that article to be living a middle class lifestyle? Maybe, I dunno. Middle class may be better defined by having a certain level of financial stability within your reach.
 

baby monster

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There is no reason a sensible person(living on the coast or not) should spend monthly $2100 for food, $600 for entertainment, $100 for show tickets, $300-400 for one restaurant meal and a $700 car payment.
Unless money is no object.
If money is no object, then you are not "middle class".
Living paycheck to paycheck on that income is a choice and that budget is not middle class for most of the country. BTW that budget was for 3 people, one is a small child.
I agree that a sensible person may not spend money this way and it's a choice but the author's point of view is describing living "to experience maximum happiness" not "how to live on a budget." Is 'maximum happiness" having a dinner out every week, new clothes, entertainment, vacations and a Volvo SUV? Maybe to some. I would describe that 300K lifestyle is comfortable upper middle class. Definitely not how most of middle class in US lives.
 

seaurchin

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“Middle class” covers a lot of ground, in my opinion. For ex. lower middle class and upper middle class may not share much resemblance. It can also include non-monetary factors like education level.
 

diamondringlover

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i think i am middle class...hubby and i both have to work...we own our home we finally are at a point where we can take yearly vacations however we always go on vacation here in the states and i no longer live paycheck to paycheck, i own a few baubles, got a little in savings..however one catastrophic event and we are screwed...its a fine line for us working class people...i work hard at trying to save money for our retirement which is right around the corner...one of my biggest fears is running out of money...
 

Maria D

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Family able to survive comfortably on one paycheck.
It does not exist any more.
From the moment my now husband and I started dating seriously, my mom drilled it into me that should we get married to make sure we lived on one paycheck and banked the other. That way if/when we had a child staying home with baby could be a choice, not a necessity. That is what we ended up doing, and I feel that we were very fortunate to be able to.

I've often thought about why this seems so much harder to do than it was in my parents day. What is considered surviving comfortably now? My parents had 4 utility bills: phone, electric, water & gas. Today we have all that plus cable TV & internet, cell phones for the whole family, subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime, weekly composting pick-up, music streaming service...

Just some food for thought - does it not exist any more because pay hasn't kept up with inflation or because we've saddled ourselves with a ton of monthly fees for services that didn't exist 50 years ago.
 

bludiva

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From the moment my now husband and I started dating seriously, my mom drilled it into me that should we get married to make sure we lived on one paycheck and banked the other. That way if/when we had a child staying home with baby could be a choice, not a necessity. That is what we ended up doing, and I feel that we were very fortunate to be able to.

I've often thought about why this seems so much harder to do than it was in my parents day. What is considered surviving comfortably now? My parents had 4 utility bills: phone, electric, water & gas. Today we have all that plus cable TV & internet, cell phones for the whole family, subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime, weekly composting pick-up, music streaming service...

Just some food for thought - does it not exist any more because pay hasn't kept up with inflation or because we've saddled ourselves with a ton of monthly fees for services that didn't exist 50 years ago.
I think it's both. Housing, education, and healthcare costs are increasing faster than people can keep up with them. Problem #1. Systemic and requires a lot of concerted effort over many years to fix.

Our ideas of "necessities" have changed. Problem #2. Requires nothing but discipline or determination or thinking differently to change this one. When i was a kid it was air jordans and nintendos, now iphones are a good example. Not necessities. I've made it to middle age with no iphone, meanwhile my neighbor's 6 year old has been begging for one and seems close to getting it. o_O:eek2::lol-2:
 

Bron357

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I remember when I bought my first apartment in my 20s. I had to sell my car because I couldn’t afford to run it. I used to walk, get a lift or catch the bus. I lived on $50 a week for all food (except veggies and fruit) and entertainment! I used to read 7 books a week, borrowed from the library and if I went out it was on $1 drinks night. I certainly wasn’t buying any bling back then. Time passed, I got promotions and more income and things got a lot better.
These days, married, we own our home, have savings and I have a stack of bling.
I went from not being able to buy anything to now being able to buy just about anything but I don’t, I still look for bargains.
Middle class that me is all your lifestyle needs being met without financial pressure and the ability to splurge on occasion or weather a mild financal setback.
 

Karl_K

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The biggest reason it does not exit is it was a way of life not a dollar amount.
Today a whole lot of people expand their lifestyles to take their income.
Not to pick on anyone I know I'm going to use a hypothetical family using numbers from my area add some zeros as needed.
They were living on $50k for a family of 4 with good medical benefits from his job.
They were paying off a house and 2 older used cars both paid off. She worked part time a few hours a week because the cost of child care was more than she would make.
He got a new job making 70k and she got a raise also.
They got a more expensive house, 2 new cars with car payments and $1000 cell phones for everyone that cost $250 a month in charges and $150 a month cable bill.
They ended up worse off than when they started.
 

chemgirl

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I think this really depends on where you live. I was floored that middle class is “only” $40-120k. That’s so low here! I have single friends who make $100k and have to live with their parents.

Seriously, when one bed one bath apartments start over 2k per month, with $500 parking fee it’s hard to live on much less. Then add student loan payments. It’s not about being frivolous, it’s a cost of living thing.

People who want kids move to a suburb, pay $700k for a two bedrooms townhouse, $400/month per adult for a train pass, $3k/month per child for daycare and lose 2 hours per day to the commute. A detached house with a backyard would be well over a million, and people in my social circle who take that route tend to be “house poor” and seriously downgrade their lifestyle to be able to afford the mortgage payments.

Yes we choose to live here, but here in Canada, there aren’t really options for those looking to work in certain fields. For example, with chemical engineering, it’s a matter of living near one of the bigger cities, working in the oil fields, or doing something completely different in a smaller town. DH is a software engineer and again, regular employment means living in specific areas.

It is what it is. To me middle class is anything between $120-300k. Really middle class is being able to pay all of the bills, have emergency savings, put money towards retirement on a regular basis, and still pay to go out and do things sometimes.
 
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missy

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To echo other posters this completely depends on where one lives. With property taxes over 20K here (and one to two bedroom homes going for over 1M) if one makes 40K I don't think one is considered middle class.


https://www.businessinsider.com/middle-class-in-every-us-state-2015-4

A recent analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline blog found that the middle class shrunk in every state in the US between the years of 2000 and 2013 (the most recent data available).

"Middle class" is a tricky concept. Depending on where you live, you can feel middle class earning as much as $250,000 a year— about five times the US median income of $52,250 from the same time period.

In this analysis, Pew defined middle class households as those earning 67%-200% of a state's median income. So ... how much is that?
I will add that when I was in my twenties and single and earning less than 50K I was solidly middle class IMO. I owned my own apartment, took vacations and was also saving money each week. So if one is smart about what one earns one can live a nice lifestyle on not a lot of money. But that was in the 90s and I think it is much more challenging today to make things go further with less money.
 
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