How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

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bo105954027
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How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by bo105954027 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:16 pm

Me first:

Single, grossing $70k income. Living in northern New Jersey, a very HCOL area. Considering a cheapest single family house can easily cost $400k + $15k annual property tax, it looks really hard for me to afford a home. Currently renting a master bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment by $700/mo. By living with roommates, I am able at save up a bit in cash and invest in IRA/401K accounts.

I think to qualify as middle class you should have a family of a spouse and 1/2/3 kids, two paid off cars, a financing single family house with monthly cost (mortgage payment + property tax + maintenance) less than 1/3 gross family income, no other consumer debts.

I have a long journey to enter middle class. I consider myself working class now :|

How about you?


Edit:

I've noticed that some Bogleheads pointed out my criteria of defining Middle Class is too narrow. I have to say it just aims to describe a general status. For example, if you can easily pay off your cars by cash but decide to finance them as their rate is low, or your family financial status can easily support 2 kids but decide not to have a baby now, you are definitely qualified.
Last edited by bo105954027 on Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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student
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by student » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:18 pm

Here is link that gives useful info.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/20 ... dle-class/

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Pajamas
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:24 pm

bo105954027 wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:16 pm

I think to qualify as middle class you should have a family of a spouse and 1/2/3 kids
I don't think I've ever seen "middle class" defined in a way that includes family composition before.

Usually it is defined by income and wealth in economic terms and by education and occupation in social terms.

sailaway
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by sailaway » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:26 pm

Your definition of middle class seems oddly specific - ie, you can only be middle class if you make a narrow set of choices. By this definition, I would be surprised if 10% of US households qualify, given what I am hearing about student loans, car loans and cc debt. As a matter of fact, I personally know people that I would consider upper middle class that don't fit your definition of middle class because they have loans on their lexus or BMW, and/or they have four children. I would consider myself upper middle class based on both income and accumulated wealth, but only fit the debt free parts of your definition.
Last edited by sailaway on Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

alfaspider
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by alfaspider » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:26 pm

student wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:18 pm
Here is link that gives useful info.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/20 ... dle-class/

I think the pew site oversimplifies things, as it only talks about three income bands. When people talk about "class", there's often complex cultural aspects wrapped in. For example, a medical resident may make less money than an auto mechanic, but simply calling them both "middle class" ignores a wide cultural gulf that often exists between these two types (and the resident's near certainty of greatly increasing their income in the near-term). Beyond income, you also have signifiers like the 3-4 bedroom house, 2 cars, and 2.3 kids. Likewise, there can be huge differences even within tiers. Someone who makes $500k a year and a billionaire might both be considered wealthy, but they are on different planets in terms of means.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure how profitable it is to try to make these groupings unless you are a sociologist.

mptfan
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by mptfan » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:31 pm

sailaway wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:26 pm
Your definition of middle class seems oddly specific - ie, you can only be middle class if you make a narrow set of choices. By this definition, I would be surprised if 10% of US households qualify
I agree. By the OP's definition, unmarried people and people without children cannot be middle class.

annielouise
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by annielouise » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:42 pm

Personally, I see no merit in talking about "class". Everybody either thinks they are "poor" or "middle class". Even people in the top 1% of income say they are "middle class".

It makes way more sense to simply use the terms:

Lower income - bottom quintile

Middle income - 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quintiles

Upper income - top quintile.

While cost of living, family composition, and personal choices will affect how far one's income goes, splitting by clear income levels is still the most straightforward way to discuss these differences.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Isabelle77 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:42 pm

alfaspider wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:26 pm
student wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:18 pm
Here is link that gives useful info.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/20 ... dle-class/

I think the pew site oversimplifies things, as it only talks about three income bands. When people talk about "class", there's often complex cultural aspects wrapped in. For example, a medical resident may make less money than an auto mechanic, but simply calling them both "middle class" ignores a wide cultural gulf that often exists between these two types (and the resident's near certainty of greatly increasing their income in the near-term). Beyond income, you also have signifiers like the 3-4 bedroom house, 2 cars, and 2.3 kids. Likewise, there can be huge differences even within tiers. Someone who makes $500k a year and a billionaire might both be considered wealthy, but they are on different planets in terms of means.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure how profitable it is to try to make these groupings unless you are a sociologist.
Agreed. I have a close friend who is a classics professor. He makes a low salary but is highly educated, comes from an old money family and lives in a paid for brownstone in an expensive city. I’d qualify him as upper class but his salary is hardly lower middle.

protagonist
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by protagonist » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:23 pm

annielouise wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:42 pm
Personally, I see no merit in talking about "class". Everybody either thinks they are "poor" or "middle class". Even people in the top 1% of income say they are "middle class".
+1

Interesting, isn't it?

In another post I defined "rich" as anybody making significantly more money than the person doing the defining.
When I was working 2 jobs to pay my college tuition and my $30/month rent, I considered anybody with a car "rich".

People where I own a home in Venezuela consider me rich. I imagine our president would consider me poor. I honestly don't know what class I am in and it doesn't really matter. I have enough money for what I need and want, and that is all that is important regarding money.

It's all semantics, anyhow. What is important is not what class you are in or aspire to, what is important is that you are happy and comfortable with who you are,

michaeljc70
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by michaeljc70 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:32 pm

annielouise wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:42 pm
Personally, I see no merit in talking about "class". Everybody either thinks they are "poor" or "middle class". Even people in the top 1% of income say they are "middle class".

It makes way more sense to simply use the terms:

Lower income - bottom quintile

Middle income - 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quintiles

Upper income - top quintile.

While cost of living, family composition, and personal choices will affect how far one's income goes, splitting by clear income levels is still the most straightforward way to discuss these differences.
I'd go with something like this. Bell curve type distribution.

Edit: After looking it up (using national tax data), that seems to equate with <$22k (bottom 20%) being lower and >$112k (top 20%) being upper. I don't think I'd consider $112k rich especially where I live or $23k middle class.

MJS
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by MJS » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:42 pm

The Christian Science Monitor has a 2013 survey-based quiz to determine your [American] social class.
https://m.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/201 ... -find-out/

It's not quite 2.5 kids and a 3.4 bedroom house.

Jags4186
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Jags4186 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:50 pm

I think upper class, middle class, and lower class are old world ways of viewing things.

We have transitioned into a status society based on education and employment. A plumber or carpenter can make more money than a professor but many would consider them a lower “status”.

Regardless, middle class to me is a mindset. You have enough to have some of what you want but not everything. The saying “you can have anything but not everything” defines middle class to me. Wealthy people can have everything within silly amounts of reason and the poor go without.

Of course at the end of the day it all depends on where you live. We live on about $58k a year right now. That’s more than the median family income. I can’t imagine cutting out $15k if expenses as I don’t think we live a particularly lavish lifestyle.

Shallowpockets
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Shallowpockets » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:53 pm

Middle class is usually someone without much financial control over their expenses, but has a job paying enough to do so. If you have financial control over your life you are doing better than that. Not rich, but not middle class either. Or else how would anyone become the millionaire next door.

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CyclingDuo
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by CyclingDuo » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:56 pm

bo105954027 wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:16 pm
Me first:

Single, grossing $70k income. Living in northern New Jersey, a very HCOL area. Considering a cheapest single family house can easily cost $400k + $15k annual property tax, it looks really hard for me to afford a home. Currently renting a master bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment by $700/mo. By living with roommates, I am able at save up a bit in cash and invest in IRA/401K accounts.

I think to qualify as middle class you should have a family of a spouse and 1/2/3 kids, two paid off cars, a financing single family house with monthly cost (mortgage payment + property tax + maintenance) less than 1/3 gross family income, no other consumer debts.

I have a long journey to enter middle class. I consider myself working class now :|

How about you?
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Golf maniac » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:56 pm

You can make 70k in a HCOL area and not be middle class. You can make 40k in some areas and live very comfortably in the middle class. There is no way anyone can say this amount of income is middle class. It really depends on the region of the country you live in and the specifics of your area.

I work with low to moderate income single parents and they would love to make 30k and would be extremely happy and would consider themselves middle class at 30k.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:08 pm

The concept of "middle class" including the median income is something new, or perhaps American. When the term was first used it went something like:
  • Bottom 95% -- working class
  • Next 4% -- middle class
  • Top 1% -- upper class
A lot of talk about "middle class" lifestyle and values still makes a lot more sense in this context than one in which almost everyone is middle class.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Slacker » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:10 pm

We live a middle class lifestyle on an upper middle class income.

Annual spending of ~$45k/yr for 2 adults with animals renting an overly large home with a pool while earning several multiples of our annual spending.

I figure, based on the estimated average savings rate in the US and household median income in the US minus taxes then our spending isn't too far off from the median making our spending that of a "middle class lifestyle". Obviously, I'm not including "spending" on taxes or investing as we pay more in State & Local income tax + Federal income tax + SS + medicare than we spend annually on living and entertainment costs.

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blueblock
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by blueblock » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:35 pm

Using this CNN article's definition, I am both wealthy (net worth) and middle class (annual income).

http://money.cnn.com/infographic/econom ... index.html

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by sailaway » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:43 pm

blueblock wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:35 pm
Using this CNN article's definition, I am both wealthy (net worth) and middle class (annual income).

http://money.cnn.com/infographic/econom ... index.html
That was interesting. I imagine some of the numbers have gone up, as it seems to be an older article (references Obama taking office in 2009), but the various definitions are interesting.

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Smorgasbord
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Smorgasbord » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:47 pm

My definition includes a geography component. For example:

In the world, I am very wealthy.
In the United States, I am upper middle-class.
In my state, I am wealthy.
In my county, I am upper middle class.
In my town, I am lower middle class.

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Pajamas
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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:50 pm

bo105954027 wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:16 pm
your family financial status can easily support 2 kids but decide not to have a baby now, you are definitely qualified.
A lot of people either don't want to have babies ever or else are unable to have babies.

A lot of people live in single-person households. Apparently that is around 30% of all households in the U.S.

They can all still meet the usual criteria for middle class.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by Wildebeest » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:16 pm

Many years ago I had this discussion with my significant other. It was eye opening to have it at that time.

Forty years later the distinction between working class, middle class, and upper class seem meaningless, especially since we are comfortable and we did better than our parents.

I hope our children are as lucky as we are.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by SeaToTheBay » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:21 pm

To me, "upper-middle class" makes up a lot of people. These people can probably afford several nice things, vacation a couple times a year, pursue an expensive hobby, etc., but have to work for a living and cannot just buy expensive stuff without it substantially affecting their overall financial picture.

Truly upper-class in my mind is people who can spend $100/person on dinner frequently, drive a $100k car, or take a year off work without this type of thing making a major impact on their finances - unlike others, they don't have to plan and save and budget in order to make these things "work." Their lives are different in the options they have, in terms of working, paying the bills, etc. Paying off their mortgage isn't a matter of saving, making extra/accelerated payments, etc. - it's a matter of whether they want to use that cash to pay off the mortgage in full or invest in other ways.

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Re: How do you define middle class? Which class do you consider yourself in?

Post by prudent » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:21 pm

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