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Preview: Comments on My Open Wallet: What's Up with the Middle Class?

Comments on My Open Wallet: What's Up with the Middle Class?





Updated: 2017-12-07T22:14:08.309-05:00

 



This is a hot topic. Class hits home for everyone...

2008-05-30T14:40:00.000-04:00

This is a hot topic. Class hits home for everyone and is a taboo subject to discuss with most of polite society. Discussing it can lead to hurt feelings and even resentment. It's true there's no insurance that you'll be born into a family that can provide you with a comfortable let alone well-to-do life but the great thing about American in comparison to other countries is that you can still achieve financial success regardless of background. I hope the "American Dream" never dies.

Jerry
www.leads



I often feel like it's trendy to talk about how yo...

2008-05-28T09:32:00.000-04:00

I often feel like it's trendy to talk about how you are stretched for cash. Hubby and I (and our friends) are in our mid 30s and we see lots of overspending yet complaints about how they have no money. Or those who obviously make quite a bit and are doing well, just never talk about it at all. Maybe they don't want to brag? Personally, I am proud to be debt free and I will tell anyone who asks and hopefully lead by example. It's very strange to me, this clandestine way that, even friends, approach the subject of money. It seems taboo at times to be doing well.



Due to circumstances beyond our control, when I wa...

2008-05-27T15:24:00.000-04:00

Due to circumstances beyond our control, when I was growing up, my family's income was solidly lower middle class. I believe we lived a sort of average middle class life, though, due to the option of consumer credit (read: debt). Just awful.



It always boils down to your philosophy; not your ...

2008-05-27T00:41:00.000-04:00

It always boils down to your philosophy; not your income. The poor spend their money and invest what's left. The rich invest their money and spend what's left.



In my country, Brazil, the media never talks about...

2008-05-26T17:46:00.000-04:00

In my country, Brazil, the media never talks about an upper class. If the person portrayed is clearly rich, they use "upper middle class". I guess we have the same problems with definitions as you do in the US. People tend to believe the middle class is way broader than it really is. I am middle class, but, by my standards, I think my family used to be rich when I was a child. I see the difference! And if it's only 2% of the population who earns a certain amount of money, I think it's even immoral to call that a middle class.
www.escrevalolaescreva.blogspot.com



I just found this post, but apparently we're askin...

2008-05-25T11:44:00.000-04:00

I just found this post, but apparently we're asking the same questions:

See my recent post:
http://www.allaboutappearances.info/is-there-an-american-middle-class/



Where does working class fit in this description? ...

2008-05-24T20:09:00.000-04:00

Where does working class fit in this description? The American notion of class seems to jump from poor to middle class. Many working class people make good, solid incomes. Do they become middle class as their salaries increase?



How about this definition:"If you don't have to wo...

2008-05-24T05:49:00.000-04:00

How about this definition:

"If you don't have to worry or think about saving for retirement you are a member of the upper class. With the caveat that you are not trying to show off your wealth, i.e. a nouveau riche. Also people who come from families where this was the case in the past might also be members of the upper class"

This might be because you have inherited wealth or your CEO or whatever who just earns so much that you don't really need to think about saving.

I was just thinking today, personalised licence/registration plates on cars about one the most nouveau riche things you can do.

I certainly don't identify at all with all the descriptions of the middle class as people trying to display their status. I remember growing up my father commenting on the nouveau riche types that drove around in Rolls Royces etc. in a very negative way - not because they were wasting their money but because they were "ostentatious".



We have the rich and poor. Everyone else comprises...

2008-05-23T17:45:00.000-04:00

We have the rich and poor. Everyone else comprises the middle class, upper middle class, the working class and working poor.



Today's middle class is NOT worse off that the pre...

2008-05-23T16:14:00.000-04:00

Today's middle class is NOT worse off that the previous generation. Instead, we've chosen a much higher standard of living, which leaves less room for saving. We have more gagdets, more toys, more entertainment options, and more meals out.

We may have made worse choices (from the long-term financial security perspective), but we're in no way, whatsoever, "worse off".



While reading many of the posts here, I see the ov...

2008-05-23T15:00:00.000-04:00

While reading many of the posts here, I see the overall response is one thing. "It Depends" I guess that is why this makes the answer so hard to answer. I guess I can now stand on my soapbox and begin talking :)Historically speaking for the US stand point, there were two classes. There were the working class (people that did all the work at factories, not college educated, hourly/trade workers) and the upper class which were those that managed them. As time progressed, things got a little more confusing. There became a middle class. Those that were not in the lower class, but those that did not make enough money or had the amenities of the upper class. Personally I think that the answer to whether you are middle class comes down to a few things. What does your daily routine entail? How do you live (financially responsible or not)? What kind of job do you have? How do you look at consumerism (gotta have the latest and greatest, or wait until there is a need)? What are your viewpoints on saving for retirement? Who are your friends? Are you playing keeping up with the Jones's? What kind of debt do you have? What is your credit rating? What kind of pursuits do you want for yourself (hobbies) and kids (activities)?Lets take one of these at a time. Please note these are generalities for purposes of comparison. Not a single person will fit in every category nice and neatly. It is a generality so that we can show some examples of where people fit on the scale.Daily Routine:If your daily routine is something like this you are probably middle class. Get up, shower, get ready for work, make sure the kids are ready for school, eat some cereal or something quick, get out the door and run to work. If your routine is more along the lines of get up, shower, have the maid or cook deliver something to you, great ready for work, etc. Then you probably are not middle class and probably in the upper class. =+=+=+=+=+=+How do you live:Being middle class, but growing up in the working class and having my family work their way up, I see a lot of things that make the different classes separate. The biggest thing I see is instant gratification. Instant gratification is something you see more and more in middle class and upper class families. This comes from "I want a new plasma TV" so they go and get it regardless of the need, their savings, etc. This goes right along with the mentality of a middle class family saying "my kids are going to have more than we did as kids." This mentality basically is what separates the working class from other classes because a true working class person could not afford a play set for their back yard for their kids to play on. They would tell the kids to ride their bike to the park and play there. They cannot drop $1000 bucks to get something like that while a middle class family might consider that kind of purchase. It is more of a list of things that you consider when you are in the middle class. =+=+=+=+=+=+What kind of job:The middle class has grown as companies have expanded and added more middle tiers to their work force. It used to be the guy making the decisions and the people doing the work. Now there is a middle tier that separates the working class from those that make the difficult decisions and these are the middle managers/supervisors. There are also a lot of middle tier people who are highly trained, specialized and thusly rewarded (with pay) handsomely for their knowledge and skills. If you reside in that middle tier - you are usually well educated (trade school, college, work experience, etc.) and have been around the block to see how things work.=+=+=+=+=+=+Consumerism:Consumerism is something which is an interesting topic. What I mean by consumerism is how people generally look at money. [...]



I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I ...

2008-05-23T12:56:00.000-04:00

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think class definition is relative, depending on how you grew up as a child and where you live currently. By New York standards, I'm probably solidly middle class, especially considering all the rich folk who bunker down in high-rises here, but compared to how I grew up (lower middle class in the Midwest, forgoing name brands for Kmart and buying off-brand soda), my lifestyle is waaaaay upper middle class (renting my own apartment, forgoing well drinks for Ketel One-and-tonics, affording West Elm furniture, and eating out whenever I feel like it). Any way you slice it, I consider myself extremely lucky.



Society as a whole is looking to define middle cla...

2008-05-23T08:15:00.000-04:00

Society as a whole is looking to define middle class, as the old definition has been smashed. We are in a period of great change, very similar to what happened at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Hence the division between the educated, or supposedly elite (clever labeling by the actual elite), and the blue collar/working class.

This change has increased the level of uncertainty, real or imagined. Thus, no one who exists on middle class wages thinks they are middle class, because they think healthcare, retirement and certain types of jobs might be falling out of reach.



I think we are alot worse off. Look at education ...

2008-05-22T22:02:00.000-04:00

I think we are alot worse off. Look at education and healthcare. Most people can't even afford it. Most lower income jobs have been taken over by illegal immigrants working at even a lesser wage( that is not a racial jab but the truth I see it everyday in my city) that Americans cannot work for and very few middle class people can afford housing anymore.



I don't know how to define middle class anymore. ...

2008-05-22T19:37:00.000-04:00

I don't know how to define middle class anymore. Certainly, the expectation of what one should be able to do on a middle class income is changing (hence the middle class squeeze). From a income, net worth and education standpoint, I am now forced to concede that we are upper middle class. HOWEVER, I still feel middle class and live what I consider to be a very sterotypical middle class lifestyle. Ironically, being able to comfortably live the stereotypical middle class lifestyle may be the new upper middle class.



I certainly wouldn't call a family of four making ...

2008-05-22T18:08:00.000-04:00

I certainly wouldn't call a family of four making $20K "middle class" even in small town America! That sounds pretty stretched to me. It seems you almost have to have a regional definition--you can live fairly well in some places on amounts that would seem ludicrously small other places. But then I hear of families that lament how they are "barely getting by" on $200K, and I think that maybe they need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses and think about what they really NEED.



Err, yikes. $200,000 is the upper limit on middle...

2008-05-22T17:12:00.000-04:00

Err, yikes. $200,000 is the upper limit on middle class? If that's the case, then count me in the middle class nationally after all.



I think geography matters. My income puts me abov...

2008-05-22T16:58:00.000-04:00

I think geography matters. My income puts me above middle class on a national level, but here in New York City I'm solidly middle class. I don't think of myself as anything but right there in the middle.

I still live like a student in some respects, although maybe more like a student with generally nicer stuff than I had when I really was a student. (I know of at least a couple of students whose lifestyle is considerably higher than mine, so I'm not sure that's a relevant comparison anymore.)



There's a series of articles (found here) that sug...

2008-05-22T16:21:00.000-04:00

There's a series of articles (found here) that suggest that one differentiator for class is the way a person approaches money (the third article); upper class never or rarely has to think about money, middle class nearly constantly worries about money, working class cares about money inasmuch as it fills their gas tank and bellies, and lower class doesn't worry (because there's never any).

I think this is a more scalable approach to class demarcation, as it takes into account a wide range of variables (cost of living, net worth, income, resources) without requiring a complicated formula. In many ways it's a bit simplistic in its approach, and it certainly has exceptions, but I think for the most part it's an excellent rule of thumb.

I'm middle class by net worth and income, and while I'm doing rather well at keeping a strict eye on my finances, the fact that I have to do so guarantees that I'm middle class by the aforementioned definition. I'm more relaxed about money that many I know, but a large part of is that budgeting became a habit a few years ago and with the budgeting came a keen sense of "I don't need that, and I don't even really want it."



Very thought provoking post. In some ways I think ...

2008-05-22T16:09:00.000-04:00

Very thought provoking post. In some ways I think the distinctions within the broad middle class have to do with possibility of improving one's situation and overall financial security. The NYTimes tool is very good in that it shows the various elements of class. I know for us our salary is very high compared to other families in the US but we live in a big city and have VERY high expenses with the childcare we pay for. We feel totally squeezed and like we can't get ahead. However, if you look at our education, salary, retirement savings (net worth) we're in good shape. However we have BIG cash flow issues and debt and inability to save outside of 401K.



I think anonymous, just above me, is right about t...

2008-05-22T12:40:00.000-04:00

I think anonymous, just above me, is right about the differing problems of upper- and lower-middle class.

I make about $50K a year and I own my apartment. I pay more than I used to for health insurance which covers about half my health costs, and pay out of pocket for the unusual health care that my insurance doesn't cover. But I don't have a car, so it sort of balances out.

I am middle class by any definition, but not feeling anything like as secure as I expected middle class to feel. I am pretty frugal, so I have no problem paying the bills on the day they come in, but I have a mortgage and minimal savings, with retirement from my full-time job less than 15 years away. I expect I will have to work at least part time until I can't work at all. I, like many in the so-called middle class, am about 6 bad months away from bankruptcy.



I think the key differentiator that others have al...

2008-05-22T12:01:00.000-04:00

I think the key differentiator that others have already mentioned is the divide between "upper middle class" and "lower middle class." The core (median) of the middle class barely exists anymore, and the umc is behaving as you describe in the second paragraph, while the lmc is being squeezed as you describe in the third. It's impossible to generalize about the middle class anymore.



My personal opinion is the the term "middle class"...

2008-05-22T11:10:00.000-04:00

My personal opinion is the the term "middle class" has certainly broadened to include a much larger segment of Americans who only a few short years ago would be considered "upper class." Society has for the most part determined that "middle class" means larger homes and more luxury (non-necessity) items than years before ... and like the linked Scott and Leonhardt's article mentions, has completely done away with the "working class."

I'm not so sure that "salary" has as much to do with being "middle class" as how one chooses to live. We've all seen millionaires living in 2 bedroom bungalows and people with incomes bordering on poverty taking cruises and buying new upscale European automobiles. "Class" classifications have pretty much disappeared IMHO ... and perhaps that is a good thing?



PS I've always been better off than my parents wer...

2008-05-22T11:05:00.000-04:00

PS I've always been better off than my parents were at my age. But I'm not an American :)



At the lower end the US definition of "middle clas...

2008-05-22T11:03:00.000-04:00

At the lower end the US definition of "middle class" covers more people than British or Australian definitions. Especially in Britain where most people traditionally considered themselves "Working Class". Certainly someone on less than average wages unless they had at least a college degree or some other "pedigree" to compensate wouldn't be middle class in those countries. The upper class in any country is small- a couple of percent at that. But here is a huge gulf between upper middle class and lower middle class.

I'm certainly middle class, whether in the middle of the middle class, in the upper middle class or the fringes of the upper class (eg I was a tenured professor at a top 50 private university in the US and likely will inherit more money than most middle class people manage to save themselves which my parents inherited in part) depends on how you measure things.