Definitions Of A Middle-Class Income: Do You Consider Yourself Middle Class?

A middle class income is all you need to be happy. However, we are a society who always wants more. Even after we reach an arbitrary income level, we aren't satisfied for very long. This post will go through the various definitions of a middle-class income.

A big part of defining a middle-class income will depend on where you live, your lifestyle choices, and the size of your family. One person's middle class might be another person's champagne lifestyle!

We All Think We're Middle Class

I have a theory the majority of us, no matter how little or how much we make, consider ourselves part of the middle class. When I worked at McDonald's for $4 an hour, I was dirt poor, but considered myself middle class because both my parents had jobs. I also had a bicycle and a cozy home to come home to.

When I finally graduated from The College Of William & Mary and started making more money, I felt poor because all I did was work in expensive New York City!

For example, I shared a studio with a high school classmate for $2,100 a month and that was in 1999. It was the only way I could attempt to achieve financial independence on a modest income. Even though I worked at Goldman Sachs, I felt poor financially my first year.

It was only after I moved to San Francisco did I feel I was part of the middle class again. Money was more plentiful, a starter home back then was “only” cost about $1,100,000. I also had more free time to explore.

I've experienced all three classes to varying degrees: poor, middle class, and rich. I believe there are wonderful merits to each of them.

From the poor Haitian immigrant who goes to college and becomes the first black female mayor in Utah, to the billionaire investor who gives 99% of his net worth to charity, everyone tends to come to center.

My favorite class is the middle class. But first, we must define what middle class means.

Middle Class Income Definitions

Here are the best definitions of a middle class income according to data and the government.

1) Standard Definition Of Middle Class

$25,000-$100,000 a year is what most would consider as a middle class income. The $75,000 spread accounts for the wide cost of living differential between places like New York City and Fargo, North Dakota.

Everybody who lives in NYC or San Francisco will tell you that earning $25,000 a year is poor. There's just no way to get ahead, support a family, and one day retire with that type of income.

If you're making $100,000 and live in Des Moines, Iowa, then you're living large. The last time I was there, I had a fantastic ribeye steak for $20 bucks and saw a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom, 3,000 square feet houses go for $180,000. When the cost of an entire house is only 80% more than your annual income, you know you've got it made!

2) Republican Definition Of Middle Class

Ex-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney came out and said the middle class is “$200,000 and $250,000 or less.” The $200,000 refers to an individual, and $250,000 refers to a couple. Why $200,000 + $200,000 doesn't equal $400,000 still baffles me.

The government is sexist and it takes people to really care before math can change. There just aren’t enough individuals who earn $200,000 each and are married. Hence, the rest of us who are not affected let this sexism continue. Hence, the rest of us who are not affected will let sexism continue.

If you live in an expensive coastal city, $250,000 for a household isn't exactly rich since about $65,000 of your income goes towards taxes. You can afford a car, take a couple weeks of vacation a year, max out your 401K and send your two children to private school.

But if you ask any $250,000 a year couple whether they think they are rich, I'm sure most would privately tell you no. In 2024, it costs $1.8 million here in San Francisco to get a decent house in a decent neighborhood. That's 7.2X a $250,000 household salary.

$200,000 Income And Still Not Feeling Rich
A family of four making $200,000 will see a tax hike of almost $4,000 a year under Trump's plan

Related: How To Make $200,000 A Year And Not Feel Rich

3) Democrat Definition Of Middle Class

President Obama's middle class is also $250,000 per household or less. He just didn't say it. Instead, he says “the rich” are those who make $200,000 or more as individuals and $250,000 or more as households.

Strategically, this is a better way of getting more votes because there are mathematically less people to anger. If you say “the middle class is $250,000 or less,” you run the risk of angering a huge portion of the 95% of people who make much less because they might think you're out of touch with reality.

Interestingly, President Biden has raised his definition of the middle class. Biden promises to not raise taxes on anybody making less than $400,000. Hence, perhaps thanks to inflation, and definitely due to the desire for power, Biden's definition of middle class is any person or household making less than $400,000.

The Political Middle Class Definition Epiphany

Republicans and Democrats have the same definitions of what a Middle Class income is, but they say it differently. After all, to retain power, politicians must court the middle class the most.

In politics, you have to be careful with verbiage. Math always triumphs at the end. If you can get 50% of the 95% of the population who makes $200,000 or less in America to vote for you, it's much better than getting 100% of the 5% of the population who makes more than $200,000 on your side!

Thankfully, these power-hungry politicians on 1/2/2013 came to a Fiscal Cliff compromise and raised the definition of “rich” to now $400,000 for singles and $450,000 for couples. In 2023, there will be another Fiscal Cliff compromise given we're running up against the debt ceiling again.

Today, we've also abolished the marriage penalty tax for income earners up to about $500,000. This is huge progress. Hence, the definition of a middle class income is going higher and higher, just like our elevated inflation rates.

4) Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Definition Of Middle Class

On August 24, 2022, President Biden unveiled his student loan forgiveness plan. For individuals who earn less than $125,000, they are eligible for up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness. The student loan forgiveness amount goes up to $20,000 for married households making up to $250,000!

Therefore, President Biden and his administration believes the definition of middle class is any individual making up to $125,000 or a household making up to $250,000. Earning more qualifies you for being rich, which President Biden can't be seen as helping.

Therefore, if you want to earn the ideal income to live a middle-class lifestyle and earn subsidies, make $124,999. $124,999 is a healthy middle-class income.

5) Financial Samurai Definition Of Middle Class Income

Finally, if you make within +/- 50% of your city's household income for your age, you are middle class. For example, the average household income in San Francisco is ~$100,000. Therefore, a person making $50,000 – $150,000 can comfortably consider himself or herself middle class.

You can also consider yourself middle class if you are renting or own + / – 50% of your city's median house price. Using San Francisco again, the median house costs $1.8 million. Therefore, if you are renting or own a property worth about $900,000 – $2,700,000, you are also considered middle class.

The cost of living in Des Moines, Iowa is obviously much lower, and incomes and home prices will adjust accordingly. Income is only one part of wealth. I highly recommend people focus more on building net worth over income.

Middle Class Share Of Wealth By Country - Definition of middle class incom

Why Most Of Us Consider Ourselves Middle Class

Now that you know the various definitions of middle class and middle class income, let's discover why so many of us think we are middle class when we are not. With the wealth gap widening post-pandemic, many rich people are now learning how to convince people they are middle class as well!

1) We adapt very quickly.

Remember how fast the excitement went away after getting into college, getting a promotion, a holiday present or receiving a nice big raise? After about a couple months, we revert back to feeling like our old selves.

We could be very upbeat selves in general, but we no longer feel that high of a big win. I have a friend who makes a million dollars a year, but considers himself middle class. The reason why is his other friend makes tens of millions of dollars a year! The hedonic treadmill gets us all.

If you want to get rich, you might as well get really rich. If you do, you will gain even more privilege than you already have.

2) Nobody likes to feel inferior.

If we so happen to earn below the median household income of $75,000 in America, we should realize we are “below median” and perhaps “below average” in household income generation.

But, nobody likes to feel below average in anything which is why the term “lower class” sounds derogatory! Instead, we'll find a way to justify our below median income by saying we live great, happy lives, and are doing things we love to do.

We'll tell ourselves making less is a choice, that grades don't matter, and that money isn't everything. There are certainly truths to all these reasons. Happiness stays constant above a certain income range, so there's no reason to justify why we are poorer than average, but we curiously do.

3) We are scared of being harassed, bullied, and murdered.

The more you make above the median household income, the more you need to fear for your life. A lot of wealthy people cannot control the urge to splurge the more they make. It's just natural to buy fancier cars, wear nicer clothes, and live in bigger homes. You only live once is Gen Y love to say!

All is good until you realize there's a stranger standing in your living room with a butcher knife ready to splice open your guts unless you give him all your valuables. We are seeing an uprising by the people against anybody who has more.

We also see the government take away more of our income the more we tell them we make. By projecting we are middle class or pretending we are middle class when we are actually rich, we avoid the uprising! We'll also be able to deflect criticism and get to join in the hunt.

Stealth Wealth is the way of the future! If you are wealthy, your best to blend in with society not stand out. Since the pandemic began, the wealth gap has widened tremendously. As a result, it's better to keep a low profile and stay middle class. Don't stand out!

4) Nobody likes to feel persecuted by the government or the public

Finally, nobody likes to feel like a bad person for making more money than average or having more money than average. You can see plenty of people criticize my household budget after revealing I am no longer financially independent based on my stringent FIRE rule.

If you make above a certain middle-class income, then the government will raise your taxes. Further, politicians and the media, will likely bad mouth the rich for being greedy and “not paying their fair share.”

Therefore, the rich have learned how to carefully convince the public they are middle class. This way, they get to more easily be a part of the best class in the world.

The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person by Financial Samurai

* The above chart is my calculation for the average net worth of the above average person. I use Empower's free financial software to methodically track my net worth. I also use the app to run my investment portfolios at least twice a year.

Personal Capital also has a great Retirement Calculator. You can run your numbers to see whether you are on course. The above average person takes action and leverages free technology to his or her advantage.

Middle Class Is A Wonderful Class

I've been rich and I've been poor and I will unequivocally tell you that being right in the middle is wonderful. Earning a middle-class income will provide for a comfortable life in any developed country. A middle-class income is also the best income in my opinion.

When I was poor, I was insecure about my future. I wondered whether I'd ever be able to earn enough to buy a home and raise a family. I worried I'd amount to nothing in my parents' eyes after spending so many years in school.

Envy, a feeling I despise often entered my body as I saw friends take wonderful vacations and drive new cars. Why them, not me? Protesting big corporations and those who have more made me feel better.

When I was rich, I wondered whether I really was as evil as people painted out rich people out to be. Self-doubt began entering my mind as I questioned whether I really deserved to make what I was making.

There is so much poverty in the world, I began to feel guilty about my wealth. As a result, I worked harder by getting into work earlier and leaving later. I then spent hours at night working on my online endeavors, so that one day I would no longer have to work and return to the middle.

Middle Class Income Definition
Source: Urban Institute, numbers are 20% higher in 2022

Now that I'm back in the middle in “fake retirement,” life is more carefree. I know politicians are now more on my side because they need the middle class vote to remain in power. I no longer fear being ostracized by others for earning an above average wage because I am average.

There is also less insecurity about my future because I have a house, enough clothes, a reliable car to get me around, and an affordable life insurance policy to protect my children.

I now spend time connecting with others online through my sites, sharing my knowledge and learning what I can from all of you. There's no need for me to fill Financial Samurai up with sponsored posts and affiliate advertisements.

Middle Class Is A State Of Mind

The income definition of middle class is whatever we want to project! We work hard to provide for ourselves and our families. Saving money is part of our DNA.

We realize the importance of community and rely on each other to flourish. Don't let anybody ever tell you that being average is not good enough. Being middle class is what makes all our countries great! And feeling rich is often a state of mind.

Middle Class Income By State

Finally, one of the best ways to get ahead is to start a business if you believe in your abilities. There's nothing better than being your own boss and seeing maximum correlation with effort and reward.

Not a day goes by where I don't give thanks for starting Financial Samurai in 2009. Start something special on the side while you have a job, and work on it until it gains traction. You might surprise yourself and reach a new class!

And if bing middle class isn't good enough for you, then shoot to be upper middle class! That's not a bad place to be either. Just make sure your household earns less than $400,000. This way, you don't have to pay more income taxes under Joe Biden.

Surviving off $400,000 in an expensive city with kids may already be tough enough. Once you add paying more taxes, you might as well downgrade yourself back to the middle class! There's really no point working so hard if you're not happy. Never forget that money is a means to an end.

Achieve Financial Freedom Through Real Estate

If you secretly want to rise above the middle class, you need to invest consistently and aggressively.

Real estate is my favorite asset class to build wealth. It is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income. With elevated inflation, real estate benefits from higher rents and property prices. Further, the cost of debt gets whittled down while asset values get a nice tailwind.

In 2016, I started diversifying into heartland real estate to take advantage of lower valuations and higher cap rates. I did so by investing $954,000 with real estate crowdfunding platforms. I believe there will be a “spreading out” of America thanks to technology.

Best Private Real Estate Investing Platforms

Fundrise: A way for all investors to diversify into real estate through private funds with just $10. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and manages over $3.3 billion for 500,000+ investors. 

The real estate platform invests primarily in residential and industrial properties in the Sunbelt, where valuations are cheaper and yields are higher. The spreading out of America is a long-term demographic trend. For most people, investing in a diversified fund is the way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations and higher rental yields. These cities also have higher growth potential due to job growth and demographic trends. 

If you are a real estate enthusiast with more time, you can build your own diversified real estate portfolio with CrowdStreet. However, before investing in each deal, make sure to do extensive due diligence on each sponsor. Understanding each sponsor's track record and experience is vital.


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The savvy middle class track their money carefully so it can be optimized.

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207 thoughts on “Definitions Of A Middle-Class Income: Do You Consider Yourself Middle Class?”

  1. I am middle class in sf and I always strived to have more than what was stated below. I compare myself to rich people who can afford to throw caviar parties and take their kids out every weekend to say “pier 39” and have a decent meal for $250 for 4 people for lunch, carousel ride included! And spend another $300 for dinner at the embarcadero. Unable to do that even with $200,000 a year, it’s depressing. So yes, I feel poor…having to bring lunch to make do every weekend if we want to experience an outing in sf…sucks….

    “If you live in an expensive coastal city, $250,000 for a household isn’t exactly rich since about $65,000 of your income goes towards taxes. You can afford a car, take a couple weeks of vacation a year, max out your 401K and send your two children to private school.”

      1. I love money for what it does. It has bought much happiness for my family. My family tells stories when we are together about our wonderful experiences on vacation. Without money there would have been no vacations and no stories.

      2. Gennadiy from Belarus

        Perception.It is only a perception.

        When my family of 3 came to US my wife was making $8/h(5.15 minimum wage in 1996) and I was making 6.But rent/w utility was 600. Food – 200. I had to work only 140 h/month to survive.We had 800 to splurge.400 immediately went to the saving account… I know how to be rich like a king.

        Then I became a truck driver.It was my childhood dream. And some bloodsucker was willing to pay me for that $10/h 45-50 h/week( sometimes 70-80). What a fool. Spent $80.000 to buy me a toy and pay me for playing with a toy.

        But then I wanted more. Over the road drivers make more.
        I found another rich woman, who spent $180.000 just to keep me happy and $40.000/year to my wife. What a wonderful country USA are.

        Am I a middle class now by income and savings? Hell, no.
        I am an affluenza.
        After 5 yeas of driving I got bored an went to IT.
        But I remember who gave me several very expensive toys. Investors.
        I love rich people and hate poor people.

    1. Boy, Ann — I’m looking at these numbers and wondering. You truly can’t find a great meal for four in SF for less than $250 or $300???

      I have trouble believing that…and if it’s that important to you, surely cutting back on dining so you CAN go to the Embarcadero once or twice a year would make more sense (and have more meaning) than hitting up Red Robin or Applebee’s regularly.

    2. Sanford j Blaze

      why are you so status conscious. why complain about your income when you are making more than $200,000. By making that much, you are in the top 1%.

        1. Sanford j Blaze

          Wow, I guess that really puts me out in left field. If 10% of people are making 200,000 or more, it almost seems that just about everyone is making a high salary. (over 100,000)

    3. Sanford j Blaze, CPA

      You get no pity from me. You’re making $200,000 per year puts you in a pretty high social status. I’m a CPA with a Masters degree in business administration from San Diego State University. The firm I work for maxed me out at just over $78,000/year in spite of my education and credentials. If I were working in San Francisco, I would most likely be making the same $78,000/year. Does that make me a low class unsuccessful person especially compared to you? So please, when you knock a 200,000/year salary, think of all the people who make a lot less than you in spite of being well-educated with professional credentials.

  2. Duncan's Dividends

    I clear $100,000 a year and I don’t let anyone around me know. I also live in what I would consider a lower income apartment complex, but the people here are fantastic neighbors. It also doesn’t hurt that I pay $1000 a month for a two bedroom with all utilities included unit, especially since I run the AC constantly in the summer because Phoenix is well….hot. I have my old condo in Chicago I rent out and will eventually buy again down here with the next market correction, but the Phoenix market is in my opinion overheated again. I make what is considered middle class for a family of two and I consider middle class similar to what Peter says. If I can make 40k off of my assets while sitting on my a$$ then I’ve hit middle class because I can actually retire with no worries.

  3. “You can also consider yourself middle class if you are making + / – 50% of your city’s median house price. Using San Francisco again, the median house costs $1.1 million. Therefore, if you are renting or own a property worth about $750,000 – $1,600,000, you are also considered middle class.”

    Not exactly sure what you are saying here. Median house price is 1.1 million then the +/- 50% range would be 80-120k median house price using 80k median income, but then the conclusion is drawn with owning a property?

    Would I need to make 733k-1.1 mill to be middle class in San Fran? Or is this an either/or statement rather than an ‘and’ ? Now that I think about it, its probably an “if not this then that” statement.

  4. I believe that the source of the income is more indicative of middle class income/status. For example, my spouse and I earn around 240K/year working for a living. My spouse or I could lose our jobs or be downsized. We have to save for retirement and pay for our children’s college. However, if I earned 240k/year on SOMA ( Sit On MY A–) income, I would consider myself wealthy. If I can generate 240k in dividends, then I would have 8 Million in the market with a 3% yield. Furthermore, I would be paying only 15% tax and not ordinary income tax rates plus social security taxes. Just a thought.

  5. This is a couple of years past the date of this article, but it’s fascinating…so I’m posting. Where I am, which is the suburbs of small town America, 100K is more then enough to live on. However, in other states, that changes. We do just fine and fall somewhere between 100-150K. But if we moved to say…Hawaii…that would change dramatically. There are so many variables involved in deciding what qualifies as the lower, middle or upper. Not to mention what the middle has to pay out. It’s 250$ to walk into an ER. BlueCross has recently raised all of it’s deductibles and co-pays. If money defines the class, it’s wrong. Health is the most important thing there is. Having free healthcare and being able to walk into an ER for free Tylenol…seems the better option at this point. I’ve got a kid with Epilepsy. It doesn’t matter what we make…at the end of the day, hospitals get it all. Just too many variables and factors to consider, all across the board.

  6. “Radical Ideas” is spot on! I grew up in the South Bronx and watched my parents sacrifice their hearts desires(dad, a musician and my mom-an artist) in order to afford 2 kids and a path out of the ghetto. I am sure they thought it was the thing to do–its what was expected in the 6O’s.

    We had poor but happy lives and they did a fabulous job. My brother went to Princeton and I, to Harvard and neither of us decided to have children. My brother would always say “I can’t afford a wife” and for me–I just wanted to “own” stuff.

    Although we could, no doubt afford kids… having no children has made my life more like I had always envisioned. Property, car(s), terrific vacations, and any fashionable clothes and accessories I like. I have a terrific husband, age-old friendships, and new ones too.

    From what I have experienced…no one ever goes to the nursing homes as often as they should, and as much as their family members there would like. That’s why there is sooo very much depression among the residents. With or without children, make choices true to your heart and you will be happy no matter what your “class”.

    Thanks for the support–R.I.

    1. Radical Idea

      Very well said – glad you are sharing with the world that there is a wonderful life that you would never imagine by taking the road less taken. Just as there is a wonderful indescribable experience as to be a parent – there is an equal one (blissful freedom) also.

    2. Sanford j Blaze

      Making choices true to your heart and being happy no matter what your “class”, is easy for a successful person with a Harvard education to say. In the real world, if you don’t have the great college education and are in less than successful circumstances, happiness is a very elusive unattainable goal.

  7. In my book a middle class lifestyle is one where you can afford a house, can raise a family, have some “fun money”, can take a trip every now and than, and can set aside a little for retirement each month. Where I live that means middle class for a family is about 100-150k/yr.

    1. Where do you live?

      Raise a family? “fun money”?? Buy a house? That’s a tall order in Silicon Valley.
      In Boston or New Jersey or just about any other major city, $150K would do it.
      In SV that will cost you $300-$400K/yr minimum for a normal upper middle class you’d be used to anywhere else.

      1. Sanford j Blaze

        Everyone seems to be raising the bar as to what qualifies as “middle class”. If the lower bound for middle class is now over 100,000/year, it translates to being low income if you make anything less than 100,000/year anywhere in the U.S. – Making 78,000/year, I guess I’m more of a looser than I thought.

    2. Sanford j Blaze

      Everyone seems to be raising the bar as to what qualifies as “middle class”. If the lower bound for middle class is now over 100,000/year, it translates to being low income if you make anything less than 100,000/year. Making 78,000/year, I guess I’m more of a looser than I thought.

  8. Gold Medal Finance

    I find this tends to be particularly the case in the UK – people don’t like to think of themselves as poor but conversely virtually nobody would ever admin to being upper class if their life depended on it!

  9. Radical Ideas

    Ok this is a crazy concept but a factor this humankind seems to over look is that children cost $250,000 each to raise. If you can’t afford a 2nd home how can you afford a child? We never seem to consider cloning ourselves as a “financial” decision. It’s taboo in this society. I chose not to have my own children and am enjoying pure bliss in my late 50s w/o any stress, money issues, or obligations. I have several friends that made this decision early on and it’s paying off for all of us now. Just something to consider – I know it seem way too bizarre to some. But soon it will seem more normal. Pass it on!

        1. Radical Idea

          Yes it is a poor reason to take the huge risk in having children just to make sure someone takes care of you. You may never get that old. Your children could pass on before you. There may be no nursing homes in the future. Why are the elderly not living with their families?

          There are so many things that can go wrong when you have kids….just look around. I have rarely seen a family that I think “now that is a great family”. Everyone I know have had some sort of major challenge that I would just as soon skip in this life. I see a bunch of stressed out moms with out of control kids that they worry about constantly.

      1. A report from the Department of Agriculture puts the cost at $233,610 over 18 years for the first child. (Subsequent children cost less because so much can be shared.) Most of this is from added housing costs, food, child care, and transportation. It doesn’t include college costs. The early years are the most expensive, when kids aren’t in school yet.

        However, this is only an average cost. The amount varies by location and income level. It is certainly possible to raise a child for much less than this by making strategic choices, such as split-shift parenting.

        Overall, I think the decision to have kids or not should not be based on money. I don’t have any because I’ve never wanted to be a mom, and yes, that decision has no doubt helped me financially. But if I had wanted kids, I’m sure I could have found ways to raise a family and still get ahead. It would just have taken a little more creativity.

        Oh, and to answer Babygyrl’s question: my nieces, my nephews, my much younger friends. Or, I’ll just have fun hanging out with the other old folks. I love playing bridge.

        1. Radical Idea

          Why can’t children be a financial decision? It’s just our society’s decision that makes it “taboo” to EVER put a $$ amount on this “right” and therefore perpetuates alot of the world’s problems. Parents that have children they cannot financially manage just creates more stress in their lives (parent and child), less time to give the proper attention to their children, etc…and guess who suffers because of a decision that is basically made on instinct (the lower regions of our body…) vs. our brain? Great comments on this subject that is not spoken or thought about much.

    1. American Fool

      Because… children simply aren’t a financial decision. Sure, finances play into it, and there are extremes, but children are an emotional decision. We have two, and by the time I’m in my late 50’s we’ll be hitting FI just like you. Well, technically we probably already have, if we were willing to downsize. Kids probably slowed us down by 10 years, but that’s not a choice I regret at all.

      1. Well that’s my point. It’s a belief. If you believe you are better off you are. It’s YOUR truth. If we decided as a society or believed as a society that you don’t get to reproduce unless you complete a degree in parenting or you cannot be on welfare or you are responsible for their behavior through their entire life not just 18. Guaranteed our prisons would be emptier and we probably would not need addiction rehab centers for instance. But our brains our a blank disk when we start in this world and we are programmed by what we are exposed to. Change is difficult as well as acceptance of any idea that is not the “norm”.
        Bottom line – childfree = more$$ and less stress :)

  10. I’m in my mid-40s and work in Silicon Valley at a large tech company. I make $250K a year. My wife makes about $10K/year out of the house. We have a small child. We live in a below market rate rental house. It just worked out that way because I have a great relationship with the landlord. Rent is $2100/month (should be $3500+) for a 1100sf 2Bed/2Ba. We’re on a busy street in a 3rd tier town with terrible schools (95% of kids at the schools get reduced lunch prices).

    Housing costs in a decent 2nd tier town (forget 1st tier) would be so astronomical they would basically bankrupt the rest of our lives which are more or less comfortable now. We don’t live extravagantly, but we don’t worry about monthly bills and take a couple of family vacations every year and I’m able to max out my 401k.

    A decent house in a 2nd tier town would be around 1100sf, need a good amount of work and cost around $1.4M minimum. I could theoretically swing it, but then we’d be strapped in all other areas of life including education.
    Schools in CA are really bad. I’m from the east coast and a general rule is the best schools in CA are still worse than the worst schools back east due to a number of factors like tenure, terrible tax base (ie, no money)

    By continuing to rent in our little Silicon Valley ghetto, we can at least afford to send our kid to private school for roughly $20K/year. A drop in the bucket compared to trying to afford a house in a decent school district here.

    CA is a strange place. Almost like a banana republic. There are the well off folks here making $700K+/yr that live like middle class anywhere else in the country. If you make less than that, then you live in old dilapidated (1950s) one floor stucco shacks that noone is ever incentivized to fix since housing prices go up here double digits year after year (with the rare tiny downturn). At least at my salary I can afford a house for my family to rent. Most people in our neighborhood are living with multiple families in the same size apartments/houses.

    Prop13 ensures that the folks that got here a long time ago stay put and pass their houses generation to generation paying $1000/yr in property tax on a paid off house that are now worth $1.5M+. There’s hardly any housing stock here which, with the larger (not mine) salaries in the area accounts for those few homes being snatched up at crazy land prices.

    So how do I feel living here? I feel like I live in a pretty poor/poverty-stricken area (95% reduced lunches is a good indicator), but I feel like I’m somewhere between lower-middle and middle-middle class for the area. I’m hoping I can scrape together enough additional savings somehow to keep up with the pace of appreciation on houses here to save up enough to maybe buy a little starter home here some day, but it feels almost out of reach.

    I feel like I could move to somewhere else like Boston or New Jersey/Fairfield county CT (Where the bankers of NYC tend to live) or even parts of LA or Chicago and be clearly in the upper-middle class. Then there are other places in Florida and Texas I could practically buy a house for cash and live like a ‘rich’ person on this same salary.

    So the definition of “Middle Class” is, IT DEPENDS on where you live.

    1. True. Ever thought of moving?

      As a small business owner, I’ve decided to make $250,000 a year gross, just like you. But for some reason, I’ve had no problems buying property over the past 14 years (bought 4). But, I’m also a super saver.

      Just bought a fixer in Golden Gate Heights in 2014 for about $1.25 million, and spent $120,000 so far fixing it up. I love it, and it’s not that big around 1,900 sqft. But, it’s cheaper than what you are describing. Maybe pursue a fixer and put some elbow grease into it?


      1. SF would be a bit of a haul for me to commute every day. I’d prefer to stay on the peninsula. I’ve looked everywhere(?) down here but haven’t found a spot like GGH. Great schools there but not much available in that or surrounding neighborhoods. Thanks for the tips!

        1. My wife and I make about the same amount of money in the Midwest, but we have plenty of student loans so we don’t really think of ourselves as above middle class.

          Anyway, some of the better private schools around here also have a price tag around $20k per year. Must be a popular number these days. We decided that we were better off simply buying a house in a good school district. Homes range from roughly $170k to $1 million+. So, in my case, there is a lot to be said for living in a lower cost of living area. For silicon valley types, however, that may not be a realistic option.

    2. Justin Clarke

      You are a reasonable person. The bad part about the people screaming for tax raises because someone somewhere lives like a king on 100k is unreasonable and quite frankly, stupid. I live in Texas with my parents, going to college, and we live very comfortably. My dad as IT for Fedex makes 110k a year and my mother makes 20k as the Assistant Director of a daycare facility. We live in a 750k home (that we got for 500k). My family includes myself, my two younger brothers, my younger sister, and my parents. To top it off, when my grandmother’s rent was too much in the Colony, she and my Uncle moved in with us and they don’t make any money. So we are fitting 8 people on roughly 140k pre-taxes, and living very nicely. Once we sell our second property that we moved from, life will be even better (hard to have flexibility with two mortgages).

  11. The problems with middle class incomes I feel started with the signing of NAFTA on December 8th, 1993 by President Bill Clinton. The result was the migration of millions of middle class jobs leaving the country that were in the production and manufacturing sectors which made the USA an industrial and financial Goliath. Ross Perot stated during its formation that if it was passed Americans would hear a “giant sucking sound” of American companies fleeing the United States for Mexico, where employees would work for less pay and without benefits.

    In addition we have 10’s of millions of illegal immigrants that have called the United States home over the last 30 to 40 years, the majority of which have low education, minimal skills sets and often limited language skills competing with Americans with higher educations (GED/high school or greater) for lower income job. They are willing to work for lower wages without benefits and tax our social services especially when it comes to healthcare.

    I would also be negligent if I did not mention the effects left by the Great Recession, or as I call it “The 2nd Great Depression” we’ve been living in since 2007 and is still taking its toll on the middle class today. This resulted in another devastating roll back for the middle class due to the lack of oversight by our Federal government, rollback of rules and regulations of big business and the financial industries which has had a devastating impact and will for decades to come.

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  13. My wife and I will clear $125k combined this year. We will be buying a home soon. We both have graduate degrees, have our own car. Our goal is to turn our side project into a full time business and generate more income that way. My wife works for a major university so we get an 80% tuition remission for our children. I think the main difference between the classes is access to opportunities. A person in the lower classes has a harder time digging themselves out as their time is spent on survival. A perdon in the upper class with a warchest of $500,000 in reserve cash can do whatever they want. Money buys choices and the more time you have to spend just surviving, the less choice you have.

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    1. Christopher

      Roger, I assume you would be OK with everyone paying the same percentage in taxes. Say 15% for everyone. Would that be fair? Factoid, the top 5% of tax payers pay 95% of all taxes collected. So I would like for you to tell me exactly what is my fair share.
      Signed me
      5 percenter

  18. I think that most of us in America have the opportunity to become wealthy “if” we start making good choices at a young age. I believe there is also a little luck involved as well. I am 43 years old and my wife and I combined make around $150k. Both my wife and I made some choices along the way which we will never really be able to recover from financially. Although we are making it and if things go right, we will be safely able to retire in our early 60s, we could have done better had we done things differently. A series of bad choices in life can make the difference between being wealthy and struggling for the rest of your life. I try very hard as a parent to make sure my kids understand this concept. I think I have given them the tools and the foundation to be successful and wealthy adults, but it all depends on their choices after they leave the house.

  19. Al Domenech Sr

    I demand that the term “Middle Class” be eliminated no matter what category it is related to.
    I am a “First-Class ” citizen who makes middle income and there is no “class” in putting me
    in the former. I don’t know who determined that we were “middle-class” this or “middle-class” that but either you are low-income, middle-income or high income. Of course the media, the “upper-class” see things their way and my way will find itself in some dark dungeon.

  20. At over 2 years past the first comment is this comment:

    My financial position: 28 year old accounting college grad, single parent making $53,000 in Los Angeles. Well my financial position is not ideal and is not mediocre, but like the ambitious person I am, I want more.

    With college debt, day care, and rent it seems impossible to get by-yet with some stroke of good luck I survive month after month. This year I am studying for the CPA and if all goes well, becoming a CPA. I have visited the idea of going back to school to get a masters, but adding more debt sounds like a huge downside.

    At several points in my life I was saving, contributing to a retirement, and not this stressed out about money…but now that I am a single parent money (lack there of) is my biggest source of stress. What advice would you give to someone in my position, so that I may not be so stressed about money? When does it get easier?

    1. First of all, there’s no better multi-tasker than the single parent. Props to you for making ends meet and holding it together.

      I’m not sure when things will get easier until you find another partner to help you. I wouldn’t take on debt to get a masters. Do it on the side, if possible. I really think the answer is to try and spend time finding that teammate in life, rich or poor.

  21. I’m 23 years old, i make around 25-30k a year after taxes working at a restaurant i know it’s not ideal forever but it is while i’m going to college i live in between reading and Philadelphia. I thought i made decent money compared to everyone else. It seems like no one around here makes more than 40-50k a year… i don’t get it.

    1. I made $40,000 base at 23 year old living in Manhattan, which means that was like making $25,000 a year! But through kicking my own ass and getting in at 5:25am and staying until after 7pm every day for two years, I got a promotion and a raise at a new firm, and away I went.

      Just got to do more with the amount of hours given. If normal people are waking up at 7am, wake up at 5am and work two hours on something. Two hours a week day ads up to an extra 400+ hours of achievement and expertise over a year. Surely that is valuable!

      How To Make Six Figures At Almost Any Age

  22. It makes no sense to define classes by how much money one brings in each year. There are geographical differences and life cycle differences that determine your lot in life. The “classical” definitions are roughly:

    Upper Class = You have enough in assets to live very well without working, but are expected to do good charitable works and support broad communities of people due to building productive enterprises. You are either well insured or have enough assets so that you and your family have no worries of defenestration.

    Middle Class = You own property. Period. You own a house or a business and have enough assets and insurance to be relatively comfortable during your & your families lifetime. You may or may not have to work, but have a good trade or profession that will ensure employment if required.

    Lower Class = You don’t own anything. You have no savings. You don’t have any great skills or knowledge and your existence depends on you working 50 weeks year in, year out. You live under constant fear of your job being obsoleted or becoming unable to work or dying and leaving your family with nothing. THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT THE GOV’T COULD GIVE YOU TO RAISE YOU OUT OF THE LOWER CLASS. YOU HAVE TO IMPROVE YOURSELF, BUY PROPERTY, SAVE MONEY, AND WORK HARDER. Sorry, but that’s the short answer to all of the gov’t idiots who think they can redistribute the wealth of hard working folks to non-productive folks.

    These classes are not rigidly defined but, rather, define what your life is like without resorting to an income chart that says nothing about where you’ve been and where you’re going. These classes are a continuum and people pass through classes during their lifetime (unless you’re very unlucky). But, feel free to disagree with this and use a dollar amount if you need to.

    1. I think your class definitions are right. I wonder if you meant to say that lower class people don’t work hard, as in “hard working” middle class people and “non-productive” lower class people.


    Haha… well in sociology there’s two theories about the existence of poverty and other classes.
    the functionlist theory
    Some jobs require more work, education or have more importance therefore should have greater rewards.
    and the conflict theory.
    Basically the bigger cooperations get rich off the little people and control them. Ect ect Karl Marx stuff..

    However.. I doubt anyone posting on this is in the upper upper class such as people with “old money” and many Generations of wealth like the Rockafellers ect.
    Idk I’m in college still only took an into to sociology… and learned about this… I just took an exam over it 2 weeks ago… I just remembered and it’s almost christmas and I do not want to end up writing another essay about social stratifcaton . Lol merry xmas.

  24. As a 33 year old single woman in the Boston suburbs I make 70K and consider myself middle class. Yes, I invest in my 401K, have a nice place to live (rent, cannot afford to own in this market) and decent car but I am, and always will be, a few paychecks away from being homeless unless I were to cash out my 401K. I shop at Market Basket, look for sales and try to live BELOW my means…that is key.

  25. Sasha Steele

    I have lived in NYC, the Hamptons, college in the midwest, CT Greenwich, Northern NJ, the shore, outside of Atlanta, Northern Florida, Ponte Vedra.
    Everything is relative. Whats rich to one is not rich to another- If your in debt up to your eyeballs with all the stuff, the bling, the clothes the things, vacations and kids, sports and activities then
    what is it all about? Your a broke middle class worker Beeee trying to keep up with the Joneses

    I have seen the millions a few billions being in NYC. I have see the upper class, the middle class the lower class. Education is key. Debt free is key. and teaching your children finance early in life.
    With kids that have $500.00 phones from poor to rich. phone bills that are as much as a paycheck at 10.00 an hour. The world has their priorities mixed up.

    Rich- is your health, Rich is taking care of needs not wants. Rich is a healthy loving mind. Rich is free of major debt. Rich is the things you cannot buy. Education is key. Hard work is key.
    and being frugal helps.

    Kids are expensive . No doubt about it. It all depends where you live. Taxes are key.
    Wait till everyone sees what there taxes are this year with our friend Obama. Even those making less than 18,000 a year will pay taxes. For all those people dumb enough to sign up for obama care well……. Now he has all your info connected with health care and taxes.
    You think its going to be free? think again. No doctors long waits and a death wish.

    We are a family of 5 our health insurance with no issues no drugs, no medications. Is 1250 a month with 6350 and 12000 deductible. Insane.

    Get ready America. If your not healthy, young or rich you will probably die a whole lot sooner as prices move up come November 15.

    Work for your health.

    Thats where the middle class is headed. Paying for the poor.

    Good luck to all of us as the rich pay 40% in taxes.


  26. Mick just because someone buys German cars and lives high on the hog doesn’t mean they are over financed. I drive a nice BMW, rock a Rolex, have a decent paying job in engineering and have no debt. I save for everything and buy it outright. I worked hard to get a full ride in college and never took a penny from my parents so I am in fact self made. When I graduated high school I had managed to have saved over 50k. Just busting my ass off being a cheap ass and investing the money. But I finally came to realize what’s the point of having money and working hard to not enjoy it? So I started buying expensive toys eat out 15+ times a week but it doesn’t hurt me. I live mostly off investment income and that was all self made. So at at 21 (in grad school) live quite well. It was because of my decisions though and I still live within means. I save 70% of my paychecks and everything. So sure I could get a chevy and save a few bucks and have even more money but what’s the point? I’m already on track to be a millionaire before 30 so why not enjoy life too? Tips for people – live withinsyour Means and attend anaffordableyuniversity. Also choose a degree that pays if you want that. I chose engineering (it pays a lot, and choose something that will open doors and that you will love). Money is important but not everything!

    1. I know that Sam has expressed some distaste towards the ‘YOLO’ mentality that has been cropping up of late, but I think you make a fair point about the need to enjoy what you have as long as it’s not excessive. I spent my 20s just saving money (with a few indulgences here and there), and I could have continued that trend indefinitely (I like nice things, but am quite indifferent to the prospect of downgrading). But eventually, wealth just becomes a number on a piece of paper, and there’s no point in saving for a rainy day that may never arrive. I’ll buy a nice car or a nice watch, and don’t feel the need to lie about them if people ask. I earned them because I worked hard for them.

    2. Props my man. I just turned 21 & i am very jealous of your lifestyle.
      I am currently working on my degree in Finance/ Financial Services
      do you have any additional tips?

  27. micklaslavic

    Yearly income is fleeting. Wealth is not determined by what you earn. It certainly helps to have a steady income to build wealth. Wealth is determined but what you save. My neighbor has two german cars and spends alot of time and money enjoying life today. I have two Chevys and would rather not go in debt or have my neighbors pay for my kids college. I save in other words. My 30 to 40 aged neighors live for today It appears, and vote for those that indirectly and directly at times promise the patriotic spenders they’ll be rewarded with the assets of savers as long as they support the correct politicians. They have had all the opportunity that all Americans truly have regardless of what leftists blather but choices are only something a saver need worry about. After all like the bank robbers those that have the character flaw that demands living for the day know to get money take it from the prudent savers. So vote correctly and sleep well knowing someone else actually sacrificed to aquire a nest egg….for there own family not some democrats pet constituency…..I wonder how many pro marxist have lost any family or friends to to those delightful animals they are so proud of.

  28. Sharoom Aya

    I totally agree with you on the “upper-lower class”. I am a freelance journalist and my husband is a legal office secretary. We pull in a combined $52,000/year but have 2 kids and live in the Chicago suburbs. My friends say we are upper-lower class bordering on lower-middle class, but we don’t live below the poverty line, so we’re lower class but not poor.

    1. I don’t know much about all of this, but I find it odd that if I fall into the lower class then I should be able to receive some kind of help or assistance when the father of my kids loses his job and I’m only working under 15 hours per week. It just doesn’t make sense to me at all. Why do the crack heads living on the street who make $0 get everything, but I who make only $500 a month, my boyfriend who just lost his job, with two kids and one on the way trying to keep our home, does not!

      1. well.. if you are only making 500/month then you most certainly qualify for food stamps and medical assistance at least.

      2. Crack heads on the street? The language baffles me. Me and my spouse both have degrees and have spent some time in the service, he is still active and we are OK. But when I lost my job for a few months we still did not qualify for any assistance not even child care discounts. It is frustrating yes. But to direct your frustration using language laced with racial bias is intellectually lazy at best.

        1. Racial bias?

          You’re one to talk. I don’t see where that person threw a black or white label on anybody.

          Stereotyping poor as crack heads? OP is perhaps guilty of that.

          Setting up false arguments and being a sociopath? That one is all on you Adrian.

  29. FreshOutOfCollege

    I think it may have something to do with age as well. I am a single 22 year old female who just graduated college. I consider myself middle class because I got a job out of college, pay for my own apartment, pay all of my utilities and bills which also include student loans. I can’t afford to buy a house yet because I don’t have enough of a down payment saved but having only been working for 7 months in the state of Massachusetts, I think my $50,000 salary isn’t terrible for someone in my position. So while I can’t afford a house, and my savings account isn’t too big right now, I still would say at this point in my life, I am doing pretty well financially.

    1. I agree with you completely. Only 35% of Americans hold college degrees, so you actually might have “upper class potential” and are at least middle class for now. What you do from here on out is up to you and destiny. Good luck!

  30. I follow the Marxist definition. If you depend on your labor to maintain your household and would lose everything if you lost your job you are working class, ie: proletariat. If you get enough steady income to live a comfortable life from a business, such as rental property, personally owned small manufacturing business or retail store, or even a portfolio of stable reliable investment securities then you are lower middle class, ie: petty bourgeoisie. Owning a factory that employs hundreds of workers, or a major service company makes you mid-middle class, ie: mid bourgeoise. The filthy rich billionaires who influence politics are the top of the bourgeoisie pile, the haute bourgeoise. Most Americans who claim to be middle class are really working class wage slaves.

  31. There are only three classes: The underclass – those who are long term unemployed or unable / do not want to work and who survive on charity or crime. The working class – those who, irrespective of income size are only a pay check away from humility ( in other words if they lost their jobs for any length of time would lose their homes) and the ruling class – those who own and control the means of production and who mostly live off the backs of that huge group of working people and their blood, sweat, tears and taxes. Middle class = Working Class.

    1. peoplearestupid

      Everyone complains about the higher class because they’re making money. You go start a business, put everything you own into it, be held liable for EVERYTHING that business does, and be motivated/smart enough to turn it into a powerhouse. You’re just another person complaining about what others have and say they are “living off the backs of that huge group of working people and their blood, sweat, tears and taxes.” -Envy and a lack of motivation. Those people are not slaves! They accepted a job for an agreed upon salary/ hourly rate. Nothing is forcing them to stay! They have NO liability if something goes wrong. Do you know how many companies fail in the first year? 50%! Meaning that 50% are either filing for bankruptcy or are in huge debt. That risk is why they get paid more. If you are working at a company and it goes under you still receive unemployment till your next job and a glowing recommendation, so yes, you are paid what you deserve if you disagree go find someone who will pay you more or get off your lazy bum and start something.

      1. What you said is true to an extend. The problem is that in the past years the owners of the companies are crushing the employees, that didn’t happen before. My father for example has a factory and pays twice salaries as other companies, however the other “owners” are upset with him because he is making people in their companies ask for more money. But the salary that my dad gives is what it is fair, he doesn’t need to be insane rich and he cares for his employees, if they are happy they are loyal and they work harder. That is what is missing now, people like my dad. Everybody wants to pay the minimum and get the most of them. I work in corporate America in software and we do get higher salaries that everybody else, however what I hear from my managers every meeting is “Do more with Less”, Do more work, produce more with less people and less resources. Then they tell you “you are lucky to have a job”. Some people actually believe that and do not complain when they have get raises in 6 or 7 years and then they get a 1%. On top of that we now have to be available 24/7. Have you ask yourself why there are less jobs now? because we are forced to work longer hours hence no need to hire another person to share the work, and it is our fault because due to the fear to lose our jobs, we have accepted that.

        1. You are full of it, you can’t pay double salaries and remain competitive in the marketplace. Your COGS would price you out. Nice story though.

    2. and it also depends on your out come. income and out come. my advise is this find the cheapest but livable house out their and by it threw a mortgage payment. most individual worker’s earn 600 bucks a week after taxes that is 2400 each month. 25% of college graduates earn less than 30k per year. and they still have student debt. hire individual contractors to fix house hold repairs. you do not need a big house in a fancy neighborhood. i live in Cincinnati Ohio. i earn 34200 each year. about 2850 each month i do fine. i live in a house i am only renting. yes you can rent a house also. plenty of decent houses in lower meddle class areas. use the internet to help find a house or an apartment for rent. plenty of decent homes out their for a decent price. the more you pay does not always mean better. banks do lie. America has a lot of false information in the schools, churches, news. also home buyers need to under stand finances better. buy a crappy house you can fix it up over your life time. many people make it harder on their self’s for not looking into things.

    3. I like your thought. I have said the same thing so many times. It just makes me feel relatively decent to have someone else make a similar statement.

  32. I would say that 100 to 250k a year would be middle class, but what about people with 3 kids working 2 to 3 jobs and making only 40k a year. they are still considered middle class and have a slim chance to none of getting any government help yet they cant afford their house payments, utilities, food or even clothes for their children. i think its ridiculous that they can consider someone like that middle class when you look at the difference in living compared to someone who makes over 75k a year.

    1. Spot on! I make 44k a year working two jobs and I have a shit ton to pay in student loans also I have two children (and I’m SINGLE). I don’t receive any assistance, no food stamps, medicaid, no childcare nothing. I don’t even qualify for earned income credit because the cut off is approx 43k. Sometimes I think why not just quit one of my jobs and get assistance. At least then I’d get to be home with my kids.

      1. Why do people have children when they can’t afford them? Woman do it to themselves thinking they will not be in the 50% of divorces and “believe” a man will be there…ladies get smart – and skip the kids – life is so much fuller and less stressful without them! When are we going to start looking at children as an expense that not all of us can afford? Poor children – they are the ones that suffer due to our egos.

          1. This comment you found rude isn’t that off based, but its not just the women’s fault. Both participated in intercourse should think about the future and possibility of kids and weather or not they would be able to support them.

        1. Firstly, I agree that if one is struggling that much then the kids should hold off a bit. I am just turning 29 and have no children and have been married for awhile. Secondly, if everyone stopped having kids, what do you think our population would be like? Would you have been born? No procreation at all?? How can you say life will be more “fulfilled” for everyone!? They’re are plenty “lowers class” poor people who have had children who have went on to become greatly successful, and lots are even rich celebrities who came from poor homes (Oprah being one).. So when you say things like that, think about it first!

          Lastly, I feel a slight bit of bitterness coming from you dealing with men, marriage, etc. I know a few married couples (my parents and my hubby’s parents included) who have been successfully married for decades. Look to those couples, and use the 50% divorce rate to look at in an optimistic way. Do your research and DON’T conduct your marriage like that 50%. ;-)

          1. Please people don’t have kids if you can’t afford to give them a better financial upbringing than you had. The hard truth is material things cost more today than when we were kids. Stop living in this fantasy world of (material things don’t matter).Try telling that to a teenage child getting picked on and teased in school for not having nice clothes and decent sneakers. This happens everyday in the real world and it could have an extremely negative affect on a childs ability to get a decent education. I’m not trying to be rude but the facts are the facts.

  33. Tbone i like your last sentence. (i still make 200k less than you but still lol) More people need to realize that. I am the one who really does care. The wealthy do not realize how much they our hurting this nation and world. But if you wake up unemployed you still need to do what you need to do to contribute to society. There are to many people out there that dont care about society or other people. We need to put that care back in thier hearts. There are so many hard working americans struggling so hard to get by anymore it hurts to see. We need to show the wealthy what it is to have a good heart and show them how much they are hurting good hard working men and women. Why is everything so unbalanced? To me there should be no classes. We are all one in the same right? Why should it matter how smart you are or what your capabilities are as long as you are putting foth the effort that should be all that matters.

    1. C.R. Visnesky

      The wealthy have no heart, they HURT people?? are you kidding??..when did a broke person ever hire you? you say everyone should work hard, so you should AIM your anger at the welfare skunks, the 50% who pay NO taxes, yet get many benefits thanks to rich people who pay taxes so the gov. can turn around and provide food and shelter to the people who do not contribute at all…I’m not talking disabled, ill, mental, and broke moms whose baby daddy ran off…I live in a town where all there are are welfare takers, and gov. service jobs to help them get benefits. When a1 19 yr old turns a temporary injury into a lifetime of dole, free food, takes $1000 ambulance ride, free- to get to hospital 3 miles away–for free care on MediCal– and at 50 is dealing pot for more” income”, with the gov. paying $600 of his $750 apt. rent…. yeah, go yell at of thousands who work the system, and NEVER give back.

      we have gone from a nation of people who wanted to achieve, do something contribute in their life, to hounding and blaming anyone who DID make a success. What you want is Communism… where everyone is lazy cause no one is responsible…try that.

      1. C.R. not sure if you work in corporate America but when you have a CEO that makes 1.8 million in salary and gets a 11.8 million as a bonus, but they tell you that you can’t get a 1% salary raise because there is no money you understand what Rick is talking about. Companies create jobs but they are abusing us. Today you need to be available 24 hrs 7 days a week. There is no longer 9 to 5, you need to do the same job that 10 years ago it was done by 10 people. That is my example, yes I make 100k and so my husband and we have a nice living BUT I have not have a raise in 7 years because the company has no money but all the top executives get millions in bonuses and the company is not in good shape. That is reality.

      2. You sound so worried about people doing what they can for crumbs. It’s a fact that if you don’t have STEM or sales talent, there isn’t an income out there to work towards. You can always respond with, “boo hoo, quit complaining, quit blaming, etc,” but when I send you my resume you have nothing for me. And when I send out resumes every day and come up empty, “I’m not working hard enough.” And when I have informational meetings with decision makers, and they like me but can’t give me a job or promotion or raise because of the “economic climate,” I’m making myself a victim. You obviously have no idea how hard it is for regular people to make ends meet. So a tiny fraction of people work the system for crumbs. You are outraged at that, but it’s fine that huge swaths of society are unable to have careers.

      3. It’s not a matter of who we should be mad at, the rich who won’t willingly give all of their money to the poor, or the poor who need government assistance to survive. Unfortunately we do live in a world where there are a lot of people who are happy to sit at home and collect. They will cheat the system and survive without ever doing more than filling out the paperwork for their food stamps. But you almost can’t even blame them. Why work a 40 hour week at minimum wage when you can make almost as much on your couch watching The Maury Povich Show? The fact of the matter is that there is a huge gap between incomes and we have large companies, where the workers are making $8 a hour while those higher up are making $500k a year, to thank for that. This country used to be made up of small, local businesses. If the business made a lot of money, so did the employees. I’m not saying that the cashier made as much as the owner, but you could be a cashier and still make enough to get by. So you’d like it if those “welfare skunks” could just pay for their own food, housing, insurance, ect? I bet they’d like that too. They know how much America says they’re worth. They know a 40 hour week isn’t going to improve their situation by much, so why put in the effort? The simplest way to fix this economy is to raise minimum wage to at least $15hr, more would be better. Some make the argument that flipping burgers isn’t rocket science and it shouldn’t pay much, but the truth is that the world needs cashiers, shelf-stockers, janitors and laborers. These jobs are necessary to keep everything running and to help us live our lives but nobody wants to pay the people doing them enough to have any life of their own. Which leads to the feeling of “why bother”. I say raise minimum wage and watch the amount of people on welfare drop!

        1. Kay, Seattle has already implemented a $15/hour minimum wage and the results are quite the opposite of what you project! If anything MORE people will be on welfare as a result. So far the increase in minimum wage in Seattle has caused quite a few companies to go out business. For the businesses still standing, many have dropped employees’ 401k plans, health insurance and vacation days to combat the price increase. So only do many people loose their jobs altogether, but others loose some of the mot valuable benefits of being employed. I would say those individuals are pretty worse off with the minimum wage increase, wouldn’t you? It just goes to show that people with no real knowledge of how economies and markets work should not be making such decisions.

          1. Lol, I am sure the top executives just wanted to keep their high pay. In order to combat their pay loss, due to a minimum wage increase, they decided to lay off workers, create new positions where one person does 5 jobs, cut 401(k), vacation days etc. Trust me, the top executives didn’t lose. As far as small business that ran out of business, it is because of the huge companies like (Wal-Mart) driving them out, not a $15 an hour job. Germany has restrictions on how huge companies can grow in their economy. Wad-Mart failed after only a few years in Germany because of the local law restrictions and workers-unions taking care of their people. In Germany, you can buy bread at 2000+ stores and pay almost the same price.

        2. Raising minimum wage is not the answer. You do not understand basic economics. You say “why bother”, if you can just sit on the couch and make as much? Because you are an American that’s why. Quit being lazy, work hard and you will be rewarded. Raise the minimum wage and you will no longer be able to afford a gallon of milk. Plus, you raise it, 50% of those fighting for it, will still be unemployed or become unemployed. Get the right attitude, why bother is such a disgrace.

      4. “The wealthy have no heart, they HURT people?? are you kidding??”
        … There are plenty that are exploitative in nature.

  34. At 250k here in Houston, I consider my household lower middle class. I can buy a normal car, normal house, and save enough to put my child through college and retire. To be wealthy, in my opinion, is not living paycheck to paycheck or having a job that owns you. If you wake up unemployed one morning and your not sick to your stomach, you’re wealthy.

    1. I don’t care if you live in the Plaza Hotel, $250,000 a year is RICH. Not upper middle class, not middle class, and definitely not lower middle class. I understand that there are different costs of living in different cities, but the national mean is $45K. Houston is not more than five times the mean cost of living. Did you read the article? You are in the top 5% of incomes in America! 95% of this country is poorer than you! If $250K is lower middle class, then doctors, lawyers, and engineers who are in the $100K range are poor.

  35. I would not want to be considered in your category, I earn 39,000 and support my husband, we save money every way we can. Coupons, sales,etc. it’s not easy, but we do it. God willing.
    I couldn’t imagine 100,000. I do not consider our family middle class. The median annual earnings have gone down in the past years, yet the cost of living increases. Unrealistic label.

    1. you’re comfortable where you are. and that’s a good thing. if you had $100k, you’d have a little bit more, but you’d probably feel the same as you do today – that you have enough & you get by with what you have.

      depending on where you live, you seem to be on that cusp of the lower middle class tier. but remember the income categories indicate pay/salary levels which aren’t a direct indication of one’s personality, attitude, etc. we all tend to make income personal & make income a high factor of own self-worth.

      poor(er) people aren’t bad or evil or unfortunate. but i wouldn’t assume wealthy people are necessarily good or lucky either. lol

  36. Me and my wife were able to go completely debt free (still have a mortgage though) by not trying to keep up with the rest of the people around us. My car is 13 years old and her car is 9 years old. I’ve been budgeting after hitting rock bottom in 2009. I write down all my bills for the current pay period and I make sure to include groceries, food, and gas as part of my bills. I put a little away in another account that is out of sight, out of mind that I don’t access often (for saving/rainy days). My wife finally got a job about a year ago and I’ve been promoted, but that didn’t make me run out and spend more. We kept things simple and didn’t spend beyond our means. I earned 96.7K this year and my wife made approximately 39K this year and I’m finally able to purchase a new car for myself. We’re now saving to buy a new car for her

  37. If there are three classes that have varing rangers across the country then one could separate the country into income territories with the three individual numbers. One (1) being the “Lower Class”, Two (2) being the middle class, and Three (3) being the “Upper Class”. Those territories with One (1) of Two (2) would have to pay the lower taxes and be attractive to the “Upper Class”. Meaning they would want to invest money there until those Classes raise to a higher level. Then territories would build up and up. I feel that building a fuzzy cloud around what the three class are, is not fair, since to everyone who can drive for miles and miles and see nothing but shacks, or homless, or homes that are of the fealthy rich or are just good enough does not help in getting money where it is needed for the territories mentioned. To say that 200K or less is “Middle Class” is a cheap shot. Lets put money where it belongs. Put money in places were it counts. Not, constantly in the pockets of the “Upper Class” accross the board.

  38. What is the ‘bottom’ of middle class? I am a college-educated burger flipper earning minimum wage.

    1. Darn I guess I’m poorr all that college and student loans and I make 29,500 per year before health insurance.

  39. Appearances deceive

    I consider myself middle-class based on household income of about $120K, yet I feel almost poor (the reason I say “almost poor” is because I, too, have been poor in my lifetime, albeit not for most of it). My husband and I, after years of living comfortably within our means, decided to buy a home in a more expensive region. Expensive as in higher property tax, sales tax, food prices, gas prices, and nearly everything that’s part of our daily lives. Even though our old home was paid off a few years ago and we have land elsewhere that is also paid for, we feel strapped simply because neither is likely to sell soon.

    It is not “up against the wall” strapped but more like “Better not lose that job” strapped. So another poster’s comment about considering more than just salary when defining wealth is spot-on. In a very short time, with just one major change, you can go from feeling fairly comfortable (NOT rich!) to feeling the effect of every unexpected expense.

    Some people will no doubt ask why would we put ourselves at greater financial risk, as this is our retirement home, not a career-based move. True that if we were indisputably poor, we could not do this. But even those who have more than poor people do can still feel poor due to taking on a large debt late in life, whether that debt is voluntary (relocation and new home) or involuntary (uncovered medical expenses). But to live with no financial worries would mean staying in an area that just doesn’t feel like home. Life is full of risks of all kinds.

  40. Ok, am stay home mom of two girls and i know that i can’t say am in middl class range. My husband who is supporting this year our home income, we will be making around 53,000.00. Now in days i considered that poverty (the right word, no middle class). He is struggling in trying keep up with the expenses. We live in a mobile home he is trying to pay up for. I do wish i could work and not depend on him so it won’t be hard on him. Daycare is so expensive! So the way I see it, we would have to be making at least 90,000.00 to afford daycare, finish paying mobile home, and be able to travel or go out once a while.I mean me and him have
    not have the chance to enjoy each other. I don’t ask to be rich but live without no worries. We are thinking to live in a house in three or four years but for now am hoping to have more time.

  41. I’m making more today then I ever have. 20,000. Ive been a single mom for 4 years now. I bought a home on my own 3 years ago put oil in the tank ( now pellets) buy food pay electricity phone and I still have a couple of bucks left over. I grew up in the same situation and don’t know how to live any other way. We have everything we need and some how we have some things others would take for granted like a computer.I worry from time to time but always find the way to wake up and do it all over again. We are happy doing the little things in life and have lots of time together which I think is worth more then money. I’m not sure what class I fall in nor do I stay awake at night thinking about it. I feel sorry for those how have their priorities wrong. People are born and people die and it really doesn’t matter how much they make in between. its what they do with their lives that really matter. If I had the extra money like winning the mega bucks my dream would be to find people I could help up. Not a hand out but people who make a difference no what their situation.

  42. Sam,

    You might think of yourself as belong in the middle class, but if you expand the group beyond just central SF, then I doubt others will see it the same way. The median person just does not have millions in net worth or passive income into the six figures. It’s nothing anyone should feel guilty about if one’s earned their way there, though envy does always try to cut in. I bet in SF, even being as well off as you are, there will be others around to make you feel back solidly in the middle!

    Middle class where I live at age 30 is probably individual income between 35K to 100K, with distinct social segments ranging from 35K to 50K, 45K to 75K, and 70K to 100K depending on profession. Upper class beings in the lower 100Ks, so lower 200Ks if you’re in a dual-earner household.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Like you said, middle class is under $100,000 a year b your definition and that is definitely where my passive income is.

      I’m very proud to be middle class! Middle class is about what WE see ourselves not how others see us.



      1. Gennadiy from Belarus

        Perception. It is only a perception.

        When my family of 3 came to US my wife was making $8/h(5.15 minimum wage in 1996) and I was making 6.But rent/w utility was 600. Food – 200. I had to work only 140 h/month to survive. We had 800 to splurge.400 immediately went to the saving account… I know how to feel rich like a King.
        It is a great feeling!!

        Before that we were living on $40/month official exchange rate. But 5/month for the utility. Free doctors visits and hospitals, but we did not use them, my wife was a doctor.

        I was able to buy one chicken a day for one day of work. My wife also. No new cloth for 6 years. And no second hand stores. Everybody was poor.
        Before collapse of USSR I was making 6 chickens/day or 1 shirt , my wife as a doctor made 3 chickens/day

        Then I became a truck driver. It was my childhood dream. And some bloodsucker was willing to pay me for that $10/h 45-50 h/week( sometimes 70-80). What a fool. He spent $80.000 to buy me a toy and pay me for playing with that toy. And 50% overtime. If a king is rich then I feel richer then a King.

        But then I wanted more. Over the road drivers make more.
        I found another rich widow, who spent $180.000 just to keep me happy and $40.000/year for my wife to keep her happy.
        Under current regulation I could not drive more then 60h/week.
        What a wonderful country USA are.
        Did I work harder? No. Capitalist bought me a different equipment and I drove a truck with a payload of 23tonn instead of 8.

        Am I a middle class now by income and savings? Hell, no.
        I am an affluenza now.
        After 5 yeas of driving I got bored an went to IT.(Ok, I spend some time with my wife, who trained me)

        But I remember who gave me several very expensive toys. Investors. Capitalists. Bloodsuckers.
        I love rich people.

        Sam, you are right about being a Middle Class by Classical Definition of the Middle Class because you can live off your capital( Nobles -Middle Class-Clergy) , but you are wrong about it in contemporary discussed definition (by income and savings in USA). You are at least Top20 . And Middle Class is 20-60%.

  43. My story is probably pretty similar to yours. I did the fast food thing as a teenager too, and I totally considered myself as living in a middle-class home because of my dad’s job. I don’t know, I think it’s a mindset thing; even though I’ve had to work for pennies, I always felt like I would eventually earn the same, if not more, than my parents. Now whether or not that would be considered middle class today is a whole other story.

  44. I too consider myself a middle class. I agree with you that every single one of us has a different interpretation of middle class. As for me, having an average-sized house, a car, a stable job, a few financial investments and at least once-a year vacation to a country I have not been in – is my definition of middle class.

    Truth be told, if I look at the numbers I’m considered rich or wealthy.. However, like many “wealthy” people. I think I’m a regular joe smoe

  45. I find it easiest to define “middle class” as everyone that is in between the poor and the rich. The CBO breaks it down into quintiles by income. I’d say everyone that is at the beginning of the second quintile up to $1 less than the upper quinitile.
    That way you can have the “lower middle”, “middle” , and “upper middle” classes that people frequently bring up.

    So, you were in the upper-middle to rich class when you were working. ;-)

    And thanks for the articles that you’ve written … they’ve cause me to force myself (painful as it seems at times) to put more away instead of spending it. :-)

    1. I will always consider myself middle class and project myself as middle class for as long as I live. It’s a great honor to be like everyone else!

      Hope you continue to sock more away and live a great middle class lifestyle!

  46. I agree that there is this need for most people to identify as middle class. There is something honorable and noble to say that you are smack dab in the middle. You are in the center and therefore can say you are both poor and rich at the same time. Whatever is most suitable at the moment. Its the middle class that is most identified with making this country great in our society which is why probably so many people want to claim entry.

  47. I like the poster above who mentioned “stealth wealth” and I guess you could say we are decent examples of that. My income has increased dramatically over the past few years..from low $100’s, to $200’s, over $400k this year. My wife adds another $50k.

    From the outside, you would never know it. I wear a G-Shock watch, drive a 7 year old car, and shop for clothes at Kohls.

    The money goes into income producing assets so I can walk away in 5 years in my mid 40’s.

    Sam, I admire what you have done and am following the same path. I also live in a very affluent part of the country (OC very affluent beachtown) and know what real wealth looks like. Compared to that, we are definetly middle class.

  48. Lets see, what class are we? We did have a great income, but much of it went to schooling. In the last two months, funding was cut and I lost my job. Next my husband decided to go out on his own so our income right now is zero. Based on assets, I am sure we are middle class still though.

    Life is always exciting, that is for sure.

    By the way Sam, I am still labeling you as rich. :)

  49. Where we live and what we can buy with one amount of money varies soooo much, especially with housing as you pointed out. I don’t plan to live in California forever because even though the weather is great, money just doesn’t go as far here with all the taxes they take out. And you make a good point about Romney and Obama both defining middle class the same but the semantics is different. Whomever ends up in office, I hope our recovery continues. Things are looking better it just takes time.

  50. I think “middle class” income varies depending on where you live, which neither obama or romney will ever mention (it’s just too easy to spew out a figure and say, “that’s middle class.”) $200K is definitely “middle class” in SF, NYC, and LA. But it’s not at all in Kansas City, Denver, or Sioux Falls – heck, it’s wealthy compared to the cost of living.

    Based on my salary and the cost of living, I consider myself below middle class (so I guess poor but I just can’t bring myself to acknowledge this state of being considering how much education I’ve completed!) living in LA (that’s Los Angeles, not Louisiana). However, if I moved to a more reasonably priced area, then I’d consider myself middle class. Oh, how relativity makes everything look skewed.

  51. Jason Clayton | frugal habits

    I consider myself middle class and fall within the income range. Although, I think I will always consider myself middle class until I have more money than I know what to do with coming in. At that point, I think I cross into upper class.

    I know this definition sucks, but it’s the reality in my mind. Dollar wise, I’m guessing it is around $500k a year, but could be off because I’ve never experienced it before…

  52. I tend to not focus on my class, because I find it keeps me from actually investing in the things that I need to focus on. But I do come from a middle class existance.

  53. Loved this post Sam – especially the political discussion within… “If you can get 50% of the 95% of the population who makes $200,000 or less in America to vote for you, it’s much better than getting 100% of the 5% of the population who makes more than $200,000 on your side!”

    Mitt Romney’s campaign advisers should take note, because Barack Obama does a much better job at this.

    That being said, I’m not sure being in the middle class completely encapsulates the “American Dream.” Most people will say it does, because that is where they are. To me though, the American Dream is all about the potential to achieve and break out of the lower or middle class and emerge into the upper class. After all, who aspires to stay average their entire life? Everybody wants to be rich – which is why you see them all standing in line to buy Powerball tickets.

    1. Buying Powerball tickets … how funny.

      I’ve done that a few times, but just wrote the money off since I knew the likelihood was very, very, very small that I’d win.
      As long as I can manage to put away 500x what it costs for a Powerball ticket every month (if not even more), then I am somewhat content.

      Truth is, if I had about $3M saved up today, I’d most likely renounce my current employment and go do something else. But I’m working on building that nut just like the other employees of the nation.

  54. Interesting insight about class structure defined by VALUES instead of income. What values do the upper class have that the middle class do not?

    By foreigners… I’m assuming you’re suggesting there is a lot of racism in the UK still?

    1. Great calculation. I can definitely see how $205,000 gets eat up pretty quick.

      The utilities and groceries bills are on the high side if I were to calculate, but the rest looks pretty spot on.

  55. There are some really solid public schools though JT! Have faith! I went to private when I was overseas, and public when I was in America, and I didn’t notice that huge of a difference.

    Just have your kid take AP level classes and not mess around w/ the wrong crowd and they’ll be alright!

  56. @JT

    I definitely look back on my private education through high school as to contributing why I am better off today than others in my age group. My private school cost roughly $4,000 a year in a town where the “rich” doctor or lawyer made $50,000 a year.

    I worked through high school to help pay my own tuition as my parents were not able to afford both the school and the athletic activities for me and my brother. Did I think it was unfair to have to work and pay bills at such a young age? No, because I had been helping out for years and it was an honor to help my parents and contribute to the family.

    Of course, back then there wasn’t nearly the government programs and handouts that we have today. Which is why I agree with Romney more and more about how pathetic it is that we live in a society where so many are willing to be dependent upon the government rather than be dependent upon themselves.

  57. Darwin's Money

    Being middle class can have so many variables, it’s tough to nail down. I certainly am not “upper class”, but realistically I’d call myself upper middle class without being ashamed of it. But it’s more than just present income or present wealth.

    First off, I don’t think most people that even come into money or earn a lot as a first generation are really “upper class”. There’s a difference between someone who was raised in an “old money” family that makes $500K a year and someone who is a first generation wall street trader making similar money. It’s fast money vs. old money. There are differences in the way these people think about money, behaviors, culturally, etc. (the old money is probably more refined, less likely to be in debt and make stupid financial decisions, etc.)

    But that aside, location plays a huge role. That’s why it’s silly when politicians set these arbitrary limits about who “the rich” are like you mentioned.

    If I had pick a number, any number in my area to say what distinguishes first generation money as Middle vs Upper class, I’d probably put it at like $350K. See, many friends and colleagues have 2 working spouses bringing in probably $250K-$300K between the two of them by the time their in their 40s and I just don’t think of them as upper class. Sure, they live in bigger homes and drive nicer cars but their lifestyles aren’t really much different than ours, just more to juggle since the nanny can’t pull off the same stuff my wife does by staying home. To the contrary, we’re friends with a surgeon who (it is estimated) makes over $500K. Their lifestyle, house, etc. is probably upper class. Top notch private schools for the kids, always the best restaurants, clothes, cars, vacations, etc. Anyway, just my 2 cents, I’m sure it’s dramatically different in different parts of the country.

    1. Why would you ever feel ashamed of being “upper class” in the first place though? Does being “upper class” have a negative connotation? Does being “lower class” have a negative connotation as well?

      1. Darwin's Money

        Well, under this administration, there is now a “stigma” attached to being wealthy. I’m sure you’ve felt a difference since prior administrations. Fat Cat, etc.

        Lower class, yes I think there’s a stigma. My mother grew up poor. Dirt poor. Her father died when she was a kid and her mother didn’t have very marketable skills and she tells stories about what it was like growing up poor in a city. I can tell the way she gets talking about it that it had a lifetime effect on her self-esteem and a sense of shame about where she came from. Being poor is not just a financial condition, it is a social and emotional issue for life.

  58. I agree with you about private school. I went to private school and so did my children. I don’t think private education would be part of the middle class though. A family earning around $100-150K probably cannot afford private education.

    1. No true, my single mother managed to send me to private school on a small hourly retail worker’s wage. No government assistance either.

  59. I usually do not think about it at all. Using income I am definitely middle class whether upper or just middle class I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me. I created my own set of values and goals to meet my expectations.

  60. Financial Advice for Young Professionals

    Haha its only natural for you to consider yourself middle class but I hate to break it to you. You’re way above middle class. I’m sure your online income alone surpasses the average IS salary. I think that’s awesome though and you’ve worked hard to get where you are. So I have no problem with that.

    I think middle class is awesome, I make a good salary but will probably never make millions an I still get to enjoy everything I do. I save, max out retirement accounts, take trips, etc. I don’t drive a new car but I own my condo and I’m pretty happy with where I’m at.

    1. I doubt it!

      One of the things I wonder though is whether I worked “upper class” work hours? If the middle class works 40 hours a week, and I regularly worked 65-70 hours a week (work + online), but make the same hourly rate as a middle class income level, doesn’t my higher income make me middle class b/c I had to work much longer for it?

  61. My husband makes just under $40,000/yr and I’m a stay at home mom. I consider ourselves in the upper lower class. We certainly are able to shelter and feed ourselves but not too much more. I wouldn’t consider us poor but I don’t think all lower class families are poor.

      1. Its just, I don’t identify with either the middle class or the lower class. Because with the lower class I feel like its people who really struggle to put food on the table and worry a lot about how they are going to pay bills. But I view middle class as being able to comfortably live on the salary you have. I am in neither situation so what do I call myself. I don’t worry about feeding my family and paying bills but I do have the bare minimum to be able to and certainly don’t live comfortably on what we make since we do struggle with putting money aside for retirement

        1. Shawn Gambon

          Dude, I totally see where you’re coming from. I am upper lower class, too. We have never gone hungry and we provide adequate housing, clothes, food, and other necessities with a little stuff left over so we’re not EXTREMELY lower class, or in other words poor, but we aren’t even lower middle class yet. I live in New Orleans and my wife and I make $53K/year combined before taxes while living on the Westbank. It seems high for NOLA because people argue that it is above the median/average household income, but the thing they have to realize about the median/average household income in NOLA, now around $45K, is that most people in NOLA are lower class and poor in neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward and the projects or ghetto, while the rest, mainly upper lower class people, live mostly in non-affluent suburbs or such like Greater Algiers and some parts of Gretna. In NOLA for a family of 4, this is the breakdown of income ranges (before taxes):

          POOR/LOWER CLASS: Under 25K
          UPPER LOWER CLASS: 25K-55K
          LOWER MIDDLE CLASS: 55K-65K
          MIDDLE CLASS: 65K-100K
          UPPER MIDDLE CLASS: 100K-200K
          LOWER UPPER CLASS: 200K-500K
          RICH/UPPER CLASS: Above 500K

  62. Cool article – I think about this subject a lot around election time (because just about everyone thinks they are middle class, so politicians only talk about helping the middle class, therefore EVERYONE thinks the candidate is talking about helping them).

    I liked your point about how we adapt quickly, which is why we don’t view ourselves as upper or lower class, even if we are. I think that’s a great point.

    Nice post.


  63. It has been quite a few years since psych 101. So I might
    have a memory problem. What comes to mind is that only
    those who are wealthy from old money were truly rich.

    Meaning, if you had to work to earn your wealth you are
    not in the wealthy/rich class regardless of your net worth or

  64. I think the $250k for couples vs $200k for an individual comes from shared costs. You’ll definately feel like your at the same income level as an individual with $200k, since that $50k will pay for the extra food, cell phone service, car and a little bit more extra space the other person needs with a couple. They don’t need an extra kitchen, bedroom, etc.

    1. True, but that is egregious math that tax penalizes two single $200,000 makers who want to get married, as the extra $150,000 in income just doesn’t suddenly disappear.

  65. My income is in the top 10% of households. But Romney says I’m Middle? When I was in school 50% was middle. Hmm. Maybe your math doesn’t have to make sense when you’re a politician.

      1. Mike was referring to my asking for three days a week at my job. To spend two days a week experimenting and learning about starting an online venture. Not necessarily only blogging. Although the blog was a way to get that message out, and motivate others to demand more. I also spoke with Mike that I may not be able to reduce my work week at all, and that my wife might decide to take a year leave of absence to try the same. The latter is the way we are leaning currently. We want to try making $1.00 Online. Then $10. Then $100. etc. NOT through the blog. I have no intention of monetizing the blog any time soon. Just documenting what we are trying and what is working.

        This is what I replied to Mike on

        @TheFinancialBlogger – It was great to meet you also. I learned a lot from our talks. I want to clarify that I technically haven’t gone all in on blogging as suggested in this post. I am negotiating a 3 day a week work week. One that would probably become 4 days. Also , I am not all in on Blogging, but instead life. I intend to use the time off to pursue many new things. To go to the park with my three children when they want, not when my job allows, and also to experiment with other forms of income. I understand that Blogging is not perhaps a financial goal, but I think people could relate to my story and journey. I imagine others are like me, and are tired of hearing home run stories from people who started on 3rd base. I started with everyone else, staring down the pitcher. Scared of the next pitch.

  66. Sam, I agree that the middle class is the best class. As a tax guy, I would be more specific and say that the upper middle class has it the best ($150k-$250k range). You make enough not to have to worry about things like a pesky $300k mortgage, but don’t make so much that you get taxed to death! Plus, if you practice frugality like you do, you aren’t really left needing/wanting most anything.

    I have a tentative plan to make $100k by the time I’m 30, and $200k by the time I’m 35. I haven’t reverse engineered it to a ‘T’ yet, but I have a high level overview of my plan. The upper middle class is the place to be!

  67. I’ve never thought about the “cap” put on middle class. Around here $250K/year is ridiculous. I guess I just accepted that number because I hear it all the time on the news. I think middle class is relative. If you’re able to feed your family, own a house, and own a car then you are middle class. I’m not sure where the line is between upper and middle. I suppose upper would be if you stopped working today you and your family would never have to worry about money and not have to change your standard of living. Median income in my neck of the woods is about $26K so I guess I’m above average :).

  68. I consider my family middle class, and I think the income for middle class depends heavily on geography. where I live, you can get by perfectly well on about 45k per year, but in more expensive locales, you’d have a lot of trouble making rent, much less saving and buying a place

  69. We are middle class. That range is huge because I still consider ourselves middle class before and after I quit my job. The only time I wasn’t middle class was probably when my parents were both working minimal wage jobs.

      1. I cannot imagine what I would spend more money on that would make me any happier that I am. We have a nice house, take nice vacations, etc. I don’t want anything else except to retire early….which is the reason for saving 50% of our income in the first place!

        No complaints here. I like being poor.

  70. “But, nobody likes to feel below average in anything! Instead, we’ll find a way to justify our below median income by saying we live great, happy lives, and are doing things we love to do”

    Well said! Another solid evidence why I love your blog because it’s more than finance, money, politic, etc. You also covered the human behavior aspect of life in your blog in a realistic manner.

  71. jefferson @SeeDebtRun

    I suppose that my family is firmly in the middle class, but it is just a label… As you referenced, different salaries mean far different things, depending on where you live. Here in the Midwest, you can get a nice suburban four bedroom for around $200,000, which makes your salary stretch a bit all around.. It is hard for me to even comprehend folks spending 3-4 times that amount on their home, and what type of mortgage payment would really mean.

    I don’t really strive to get in the upper class, nor am I concerned about slipping into the lower class.. I just want to find the best life that I can for my family and I..

  72. Travis @Debtchronicles

    I live in Rochester, MN – which geographically and economically is not all that far away from Des Moines, IA. I make a good salary, and admittedly live pretty well even while paying off my mountain of debt. I think a lot of people who are in the “upper” portion of the middle class salary range still view themselves as “in the middle” because they don’t manage their money wisely and they don’t realize the full potential of their income.

  73. According to every definition you got up there, I’m in the middle class, lol. Thing is, my wife and I are happy. We’ve got a house, our two daughters, and we make enough to eat and have heating. So what else do we really need? I don’t really want to become an upper class dude for why you say, more stuff to protect and worry about. Bah! As I am, in the neighborhood we’re in, we don’t really have to worry about getting knifed for our possessions. It’s a sweet deal sitting in the middle!

  74. Money Beagle

    I define the middle class as ‘You can keep things going with your income but you’d be in trouble if you lost that income for a length of time.’ If you aren’t making money but can still live large you’re likely in the upper class.

    With that definition, I’m purely middle class.

  75. I’m a real advocate of so-called “stealth wealth.” In my family situation, we’re likely in the top 2 or 3% of households (based on income) in our area, but we live in a rather understated home (3 bed room, 1.5 bath, 1650 sqft on just less than .1 acre), in a neighborhood with one of the cheapest costs of living in an already cheap part of the country. We work hard and bring home large incomes, and aside from a few vices like good beer and the occasional nice dinner out (and our indulgences don’t look so out of place given how people try to “keep up with the Joneses” spending way more than we do), all of our earnings get plowed into building wealth.

    That said, by the definition of “rich” above, we are not “there” yet. I have no doubt that at some point in the future our incomes will rise to flirt with that line, and eventually surpass it, all-the-while I’ll be sick to my stomach over the taxes we’ll be paying. Hell, I’m already sick to my stomach with the taxes we pay now! And I don’t even live in 10% state income tax land like some people. Regardless, I think I’d be foolish to consider our family anything but “upper-middle” class based on the region in which we live, and other factors.

    1. Same here Michael. We speak the exact same language regarding “stealth wealth.” I would much rather someone perceive me middle class or poor, than rich. Based on how I dress and what I drive, as well as my age, that is exactly what they will see.

  76. I think most people DO consider themselves middle class, just like most people consider themselves at least a little smarter than average. I don’t think it’s so much about income levels though as it is the perception of being able to afford the “typical” things that those around you have (without a lot of struggle).

  77. I do consider myself middle class as an individual and as a couple (myself and my girlfriend). My view of middle class (in my area, which is not super expensive to live in) is about $50,000 to $150,000. Anything much higher than $150,000 is probably in the top 5% of household incomes in the area.

    1. I agree with you – while our net worth is higher than most and we are early retirees, we are really just simple folks – we live well below our means, and consider ourselves just average. I guess I don’t think of that often – I’m not one to really care where I fall on some scale.

  78. The Financial Blogger

    Hey Sam,

    with all respect, I don’t think you can consider yourself in the middle class. You are going to tell me that your income is in the middle class range but not your net worth. Since Bill Gates doesn’t have a salary anymore, is he in the middle class? I don’t think so.

    My definition of the middle class include both salary and net worth. Someone with a net worth under 500K and earning between 50K to 100K is in the middle class in my opinion. If you worth 5M$, you don’t have the same problem than someone who has 300K mortgage and makes the same income as you, right?

    It’s the same thing for someone who makes 250K per year but has for 1M$ in debt. I’m not sure I would put it in the middle upper class… I would probably consider that he is part of the middle class.

    In the end, the middle class also relates to where you live. You should compare your salary and your net worth with the median of your city/state. As you said, living in Iowas is much cheaper than living in NYC!

    I consider myself in the middle class since my wife doesn’t work. My income is relatively high but our household income is relatively medium :-)

    1. I’ll have to say ditto to that one. :-)

      Although, if one wanted to limit it to the POV of just income, I’d say it the 3 middle quintiles. Thus the term “middle”. LOL

    2. I’ve never been compared to Bill Gates before, but thanks I guess!

      If you have a net worth of $5 million, but can only generated $100,000 in income a year living in SF or NYC, I say you are middle class. You’re doing OK, but you’re not rich.

      Based on where I live (SF), I am very middle class.

      1. The Financial Blogger

        Would you say that the median net worth in SF is 5M$? I guess you would call someone how makes 50K/year and a net worth of 200K a homeless? ;-) hahaha!

        1. Nope. 50K/worth 200K is also middle class! That’s the point of my article. We are all middle class! Middle class is whatever we project it to be and whatever we want to project!

      2. You’re kidding right?

        You could draw down $125,000 in principal every year from that nest egg and still haveover $1,000,000 left.

        That coupled with a $100,000 salary makes you much better than middle class no matter where you live.

        1. So you are saying draw down $125,000 for 32 years, and at age 67 have $1 million? What if the person lives until 90?

          $125,000 a year is $125,000 a year less than Obama and Mitt’s middle class income a year, and only $25,000 more than the $100,000 general definition in point #1. So how is this rich again?

          1. Frank Miller

            Why do I feel middle class when I make 600k+ a year and I’m single? I live in a suburb near Seattle and housing is not that expensive either.

            1. Probably because money doesn’t buy happiness after about $250,000 per individual. Life is much more rewarding having someone you care about spending time with you. Money doesn’t even compare.

  79. I’ve discussed this with my wife and we both came to an agreement that we are upper middle class or in the bottom most tier of the wealthy / rich class.

    You already know my annual income & net worth from previous comments.


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