What’s A Middle-Class Income? Bet You Don’t Know!

The majority of us are middle class, defined as neither rich nor poor. Seriously, that's the official definition of middle class, because depending on who you talk to and where they live, you'll get different answers.

A $50,000 household income for a family of four is absolutely middle class in Des Moines, Iowa. However, in New York City, a $50,000 household income is closer to poverty. Being middle class depends on where you live!

What Is A Middle-Class Income?

Statisticians say middle class is a household income between $25,000 and $100,000 a year.  Anything above $100,000 is deemed “upper middle class”.  It's funny how there's no usage of the categories “lower class” and “upper class” isn't it?  

It's as if someone didn't want to hurt someone else's feelings. In cities such as San Francisco and New York, middle class income might very well extend all the way up to $300,000 given the median house price in San Francisco is over $1,600,000 in 2020. Further, it regularly costs $1,000+/sqft in New York City to buy.

Whether you make $30,000 a year or $250,000 a year, I venture to guess the majority will consider ourselves middle class.  There's an important psychology involved, and that is when it comes to financials, nobody wants to stray too far from the core.  

If you consider yourself rich, you will be hunted down. And if you start considering yourself poor, others will ridicule you for being dumb or lazy.

Classifying yourself as middle class keeps you safe and warm!


As a kid, there were only two things I ever wanted: 1) a Nintendo console and 2) a camera. I never got either because my parents wouldn't allow me to waste my time on video games, and a camera was a grown up toy.

It's a shame, because it would have been great to capture my childhood and reminisce. Ah, the inability of the middle class to have everything they want unless they work for it!

My family was by no means poor, they just weren't rich. In fact, we had everything we needed – food, clothing, love, and shelter.  We lead very simple lives, buying second hand clothes, living in a suburbian townhouse, and driving beater cars.

I still remember the paintless, 15 year-old Nissan Datsan my father drove. I'd duck in horror whenever he'd drop me off at school. I even snuck the metal beast out in a torrential downpour and two hubcaps flew off while I was doing burnouts. My parent didn't even know, the car was that pitiful!

Most wealthy people didn't grow up with a Butler named Belvedere. Instead, they grew up middle class just like many of us.  I'm always so disappointed when President Obama pits the rich against the poor since the chances are very high that we've all been in the same middle class once before.

The top 1% might even have more perspective than the majority of us. They know what it's like to not have much, and now know what it's like to afford almost anything. 

We should draw on their experiences.  After all, “the rich” are also the ones who donate the most to charity, provide jobs, and provide investment capital for our start-up ideas.


Middle Class Definition

Growing up middle class lets me appreciate all the things I have today. I can't imagine growing up rich because I would probably always feel inadequate compared to my parents. 

Imagine living in a 8,000 square foot mansion your entire life, only to be able to afford a 800 square foot fixer several years after college? 

Wouldn't it be nice to roll around around in a S500 Benzo with a driver, but only afford a Toyota Yaris upon graduation. After all, Americans are gobbling up average new cars prices at $50,000 today! Only the rich or fools are paying so much for a car in my opinion.

How about eating toro sashimi and prime rib every weekend with the folks, and all you can afford now is the occasional Panda Express. Yuck.

The middle class is what makes America hum. We're either a part of the middle class now, or have been there once before.  In other words, we're all about the same, so let's treat each other the same. 

No more bickering between different socio-economic classes. We all have the same rights and freedoms to do whatever we want, forever.

Related posts about the middle class:

The Top One Percent Income Levels By Age

Who Makes Over One Million A Year?

What Is Considered Mass Affluent?

Great Richer Through Real Estate

Being middle class is nice. But it's better to be rich. Real estate is my favorite way to achieving financial freedom because it is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income.

With interest rates down, the value of cash flow is up. Further, the pandemic has made working from home more common. Real estate should be in high demand for years to come.

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms. Both are free to sign up and explore.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT 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, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. 

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More Recommendations To Keep In Touch

Pick up a copy of Buy This, Not That, my instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. The book helps you make more optimal investment decisions so you can live a better, more fulfilling life. You can pick up a copy on sale at Amazon today. 

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 55,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

About The Author

81 thoughts on “What’s A Middle-Class Income? Bet You Don’t Know!”

  1. Patrick Crawley

    I am a 38 year old firefighter living in the Chicago suburbs in a nice but mid-sized house that we pay about $1200 a month for in rent. I currently make around $50,000, and my wife earns about $75,000 as a registered nurse as a hospital, so our household income comes to about $125,000 a year before taxes, a very decent/good income. We have a family of six- me, my wife Shannon, my son Kieran, my other son Aidan, my daughter Bridget, and my other daughter Fiona. We live a comfortable lifestyle as a solidly middle class family, if not upper middle class. I grew up the son of a janitor and a maid, and my wife the daughter of a taxi driver and a nursing home aide, so we know what it’s like to grow up poor and working class. My wife and I vote Democrat, but are very moderate.

    LOWER CLASS: Unemployed/part-time menial unskilled job, migrant farm work
    WORKING CLASS: Blue collar, manual laborers, retail, service work, clerical, manufacturing
    LOWER MIDDLE CLASS: Low-level office work/skilled craftsmen (electrician, plumber)
    MIDDLE CLASS: Semi professionals (firefighters, nurses, cops, teachers, social workers)
    UPPER MIDDLE CLASS: Professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers, university professors)
    UPPER CLASS: Top-level CEO’s and executives, celebrities, movie stars, high-rung politicians

    1. The upper class is divided into two groups: The Lower Upper class is what you have stated for Upper class. The Upper Upper class are the aristocrats. It’s pretty much a closed caste. These are those who do not work and they don’t have to. Money has been in their family for generations–at least 100 years.

  2. I hope y’all know that 20,000 or 30,000 isn’t really middle class if you make a salary of 50,000 dollars or more then you are middle class, that is the national definition of middle class in terms of money. I’m not trying to be rude,it’s just true.

  3. Interesting feed. In my mid-50’s, life is full of surprises; many of them helplessly leaving unsuspecting people in poverty, and others quite the opposite. I would have never thought I would end up in this financial situation, but it has taken years as a single mother, now a grandmother, and underachiever to become active in changing my future. More than a decade ago, my husband abandoned our family for greener pastures. Since we married out of H.S. and I failed to graduate, I was left with no career or financial resources for sustaining our family. I attended university for three years, but my children needed to eat, so I quit for a job at a call center. I am grateful for the education I did receive and all the help I received from state institutions, but I could not sacrifice my children’s future for my own. We were desperately poor. We lost our home, vehicles, credit, etc. Fast forward to now… my girls will be graduating university soon in Chem Engineering and Mathematics. I taught them to choose their majors based on employment opportunities.
    NEVER FORGET BEING POOR. It’s not so much the lack of quality of lifestyle that is important in the condition, but the seclusion and isolation it drives one to, and the potential outcome of depression and often very poor choices left in its wake. Remember the quality of your life as experience, not wasteful purchases that end up being landfill property. Enjoy what you are able to purchase but don’t be capricious or wasteful in the process. Above all, be courteous in all communications. Self-entitlement and self-absorbed behavior say more about lack of self-confidence than a mythological social status. There are no conclusions that are so set in stone that one can’t be forward thinking and progressive to better conditions for others, too.
    We’ll see how it all works out. Now, I am starting to save money. This is a first, and makes me very nervous as well.

  4. those old Datsuns are worth some money man..you can turn them into straight monsters. ive seen one at the tracks beating ferraris, and corvettes

  5. Has any one been watching the news? The average Chicago teacher’s pay is $76,000, plus benefits and when they retire receive around $45,000 a year, plus their healthcare. And, didn’t they just get a nice pay raise over the next 4 years? Guess it depends on where you live.

  6. Isn’t it a little peculiar that people today love to talk about “middle class” like it’s the norm? It really strikes me as odd whenever suburbanites speak as though they somehow understand financial struggle. There’s only financial statement in all the world that I truly believe (in general speaking terms): People that make 6 figures or more are lucky and/or blessed, people who live above their means and get to live in suburbia are considered “middle class”, and everyone else either left down in the gutter, or caught somewhere in the muck of the gray area between what’s considered “poverty level” and that wonderful dead zone of income where there’s not really enough to survive but the government tells you to f^ off.

  7. I grew up very poor. In my early 20’s it got so bad that I stole food from the local grocery store.
    If my parents had not bailed me out I would have been living on the street.
    I had long hair, a lot of unkempt facial hair and a hippy philosophy. If OWS had been around when I was a kid I would have almost certainly been a very vocal member.
    Today I am happily married and my wife and I live in a multi-million dollar ocean view home in Southern California. I own 21 rental properties and have many millions in other investments. I also own another multi-million dollar vacation home.
    I own a Mercedes and a Bentley. Tomorrow (Sunday August 26th, 2012) I will be taking delivery of my very first brand new Rolls Royce Ghost.
    I have given millions to medical research (I don’t trust charities). I have paid millions in taxes (and still do) and I never objected at all until Obama was elected. I used to be proud of the taxes I paid because it felt good to be giving back to the country that allowed me to succeed as I have. I am proud of what I built purely by hard work and taking business risk. I DID build it and the America I grew up in looked at people in my situation and said “I can do that too, I want to and I will”.
    In Obama’s America, people now resent me for my visible wealth with no interest in who I am or how I came to this point. They do not care about the good things that I do with my wealth, they just want to tear down my trappings because without knowing me, they are sure that I do not deserve what I have. In some way my success must have been built on their failure. It is my fault that they do not have what I have.
    What a shame it is that we have allowed this man who grew up in anger and resentment to affect us all. He was infected by radical angry men like Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers he now is infecting Americans with the same anger and resentment. He rose to power on a message of anger, resenment and entitlement cleverly disguised as hope and change.
    My message is “Do not resent a successful man simply because you envy him. On the contrary, strive to do better for yourself. Next time you see a brand new Rolls Royce drive by just think that the man driving it maybe worked hard for the privilege and maybe he DOES pay his fair share”.

    1. Michelle2012

      Congratulations on your new Rolls Royce Ghost! I completely agree with your message. I grew up with wonderful parents who taught me to work hard, because by doing so you can have whatever you want and anything is possible. They paid for my education and upon entering the real world I have found that many people resent others who are successful and wealthy. It makes me very uncomfortable that so many lazy people feel entitled to, and are dependent upon handouts. My husband and I are in our mid twenties. We just bought a beautiful six bedroom house that we love and work hard for. We live well beneath our means and we are doing our best with our money and our investments so we can one day be multi-millionaires like yourself. I also hope to be a philanthropist like yourself as well. So, I just want to say good job! I think your message is a valuable one. :-)

    2. Kathy Nilsson

      Many people blame Obama for their financial woes for class and and financial. I know problems like this have happened since at least the 1800’s. I don’t believe every rich person should be condemned for their wealth. I was supposed to get more money back from Trumps admin. But got less because my tax bracket was lowered. That was my money. He took

    3. Jennifer Bobic

      I think one of the progressive beliefs is that there is a limited amount of money in the world, and that to make things fair requires a redistribution of wealth to cut the money pie into more even pieces (there is no consideration of how hard someone may have worked to amass wealth, as progressives believe that can only be done on the backs of the poor). So, progressives believe we must cut up the money pie into even pieces. Conservatives (and many moderates) believe that we can just bake another pie.

  8. Thor Odinson

    Almost all comments equate money with class. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve worked around people who have trouble with English. “I ain’t got no time for dat” is an example. My parents would not have permitted such language. People with class will open doors for women. They eat with their mouth closed and know how to set silverware. They read rather than watch TV. Mow their own grass and don’t blow money at bars buying one for the “house”.
    If they enter someones house they take off their shoes, walk on drop cloths and never touch anothers tools without permission–put them away clean. Don’t wear a hat in a house and know some manners.
    I don’t buy or lease a car every few years. Obama seems to equate class with some income range. We might have referred to upper income, middle income or lower income but NEVER did we use CLASS!

    1. I’m glad you were raised with ethics and manors. “Class” isn’t Obama’s lingo, it is however society’s. Also, just because the team is losing, doesn’t mean the coach is to blame.

  9. As my name implys, I was born in jail left for the taken, lucky for me I was a boy, got to see my mother when I was six wouldn’t talk to her. Later when my grandmother died I was 11 had to go live with her and a drunken salior. Mean as a junkyard dog. Made it threw highschool, vietnam, as a navy diver on subs. My mom turned out to be ausome never meant my dad don’t even know who he is don’t care, his loss. My son grad from USD cum lade I thought it was a diease. MY spelling sucks but my son is debt free. What matter most is your family your health then money, been married 39 years. My and my wifes family never owned a home growing up, again the name says it all. But now we live in a million dollar home owe 300,000 have mupitle properties in other cities. Never made over combined income of 90,000, but did great on stocks and real estate. Yes we have our problems but after going to alot of other countries I’ll take the good old USA anytime. Just aply yourself, even with a highschool education you can do it. good luck.

  10. I am trying to find my classification . Not for others to classify me however just to understand where I stand to become a better steward with my money.
    I am a blue collar worker making about $47g married and wife is a graduate degree white collar earner making about $55g.We have no kids, both cars are paid off, and we have a small rental home where we break even on profit. (I live in Texas) Where do I stand on the economic chain? I hate spending money but I don’t want to be considered a tightwad either, my wife wants the finer things in life but I tell her often that we are poor. Our income is about $100,000 a year.

      1. I work my ass off. in simple terms, what the “F” is concerderd upper class? you fuckin people are so stupid!!! I work my ass off doing manual labour, i make over 150000.00 a year. why the F should i pay more taxes?

  11. @Jake from Debt Sucks
    I grew up “upper middle class”, but now i am part of the “poor”. While my husband’s income is $84K, we are unable to pay rent / keep a roof at that income level. Why? Because of taxes (on gas to get to work, our clothes, car repair, etc.) AND because we are a regular family – in other words: we have children. We have not aborted our offspring. The US has the same, one-child policy that china has, it’s just that ours is unspoken. Debt and poverty are now man-made, since we haven’t had too many plagues lately. I truly resent being told that the nuclear family does not deserve to exist, and that a “living wage”, is enough to keep one person alive with a can of tuna, and shared rental. Truly, communism won. Want to solve the housing “crisis”, and the depression? Return to true living wages, and nuclear families. There simply are not enough young people in the world, to need homes, goods, and services.

    1. EXACTLY! The reason people aren’t having kids anymore here is because of ridiculous taxes and outrageous day care costs.

  12. I have a different perspective from reading your viewpoint… I take this article as an individual “proclaiming” being middle class is great because of not having seen life as a “rich kid.” I can undoubtedly say that I come from a middle class background (my father is a retired officer from the Air Force and a program manager for several high profile agencies with varying projects) and saw how my father came from an environment of poverty and having “nothing” to developing goals and eventually getting the fairytale “big house” and “six-figure” job. Perserverance and planning has a lot to with where an individual ends up in his or her life, believe it or not…

    The only thing one could assume a rich kid would be sad about is not joining his friends in a spring break trip to Majorica, Spain and having to instead vacation in South Beach, Miami (I’m not feeling bad for this individual, if you’re catching me drift).

    What I’m saying is that there’s no need to “sensationalize” coming from a middle class background because we weren’t rich. I guarantee the rich kids aren’t sitting around saying to each other, “Dude, I’m sure I’d be happier if my dad was the store manager at Office Max and got me free office samples all the time.”

    If anyone wants to “move up” to the next tax bracket, the only thing holding them back is initiative, ambition, and the intestinal fortitude to “make it happen!” :-) We are what we aspire to be and shouldn’t complain about “s**t” if we fall shot, barring having made a real effort to achieve..


  13. lehoang Nguyen

    I came to America 10 years ago with my family… things was tough when i first move here but got better years later. My mom own a business and my dad working for a golf course they earn about more then 90K a year together+ my brother just got a job as a book keeper around 30k a year but they till can’t even buy a house& i live with my god father he’s a superintendent of a golf course and get around more then 100k a year but he got pay like crazy taxes he&me live in a small house… any way we all from Long Island New York Southampton, and out here in the summer time i see allot of lamborghini+bentley+ferrari+rolls royce… and it make me feel like we are so poor compare to them.

  14. I totally relate to your Nintendo story.

    Me: “But Dad! Nintendo helps improve eye-hand coordination.”

    Dad: “So does playing catch. Now GET OUTSIDE!”

    I read an interesting opinion from a libertarian blogger who claimed the term “middle-class” was invented by mainstream politicians and called it nothing more than language specifically meant to be divisive.

    He also wrote about how his family used food stamps, and still considered themselves middle class. His mother even told him “There are no excuses for failure in this country; success is the direct result of hard work.”

    That’s true most of the time – and even though I think this nation could benefit from making some changes, it would be great if more people still believed in the American dream.

      1. middle_class bye-bye

        Very true! I am a single mother of 4 with a annual gross of 70k. Even with 4 dependents I am taxed ridiculously, so I am very unhappy and now consider myself the working poor. America has not been good to me…:(

  15. So true! Some people even identify themselves as middle middle class! We want to be treated with the respect that comes from being a typical citizen of a democracy. Yet, no one wants to be considered “average” in other ways. Some countries have used a class system to keep people from upward mobility. In the US we’ve been proud that you can rise as far as your hard work and innate intelligence and talent will take you. Opportunities in any given area are not as good as some in other areas of the country. As we drive through many places in the US we notice there is still a lot of poverty in much of our country. A strong middle class seems to be essential to a healthy democracy; I certainly hope we can strengthen our middle class in the near future.

    1. I don’t know if there really is a scale. It’s more of an identity really since there is no such thing as the terms “lower class” and “upper class” in America.

      1. I guess your right although so many people I know still associate themselves with a class. I guess that is where that whole identity things comes into play. For me I would hate to be identified by what I owned or what my salary was- I would rather people know me for the things I do and what I contribute to a relationship.

  16. I think home ownership is a big part of what it means to be part of the middle class. The quintessential aspect of the American dream. Of course this is largely determined by geography. Someone making 30-50k in Texas or Florida can afford a decent house and live a middle class lifestyle. 30-50k a year in some cities like Palo Alto or San Francisco where properties values are 1 mil plus, probably wouldn’t get you very far.

      1. Yup, the reason I mentioned Palo Alto is because thats where I’m originally from. The properties my parents bought there is basically what enabled us to move from “poor” to the “middle” class.

        My parents bought a home there in the early 90’s. My dad was getting his PHD at Stanford at that time and was befriended by one his professors who was an American. He was really old and lived by himself, and my mom and dad use to go and help him cook his meals, clean his house and do his gardening. When the time came to buy a house, my dad had excellent credit but we didn’t have enough income to buy a 300,000 house. My Dad’s professor was kind enough to co-sign for him.

        To this day my parents still visit his grave every year out of gratitude and respect. Because of that opportunity to own that first home, my mom was able to open a lucrative day-care business catering to the young professional couples of silicon valley. We were able to buy a second home in the city, investment properties in Vegas, shanghai and Beijing.

  17. Roshawn @ Watson Inc

    Although I completely enjoy the topic, the designation is somewhat trivial because even when well-meaning people come up with quantifiable economic class cut-offs, there always seems to be a “yeah, I know, but in my ‘x’ I am considered middle-class because…” regardless of the income.

    I guess just about “everyone” is middle class, and almost “no one” is lower or upper class, right? Still, there are some middle-class lifestyles that are way better than others no matter what you call them.


  18. I grew up poor in the Soviet Union. We did not have a middle class. We had poor and party members (nowadays they would be considered upper middle class and beyond.) Now, in the US I am what is considered middle class and in a higher tax bracket than I wanted (or imagined!) to be :). I am more than grateful for all the opportunities this country gave me. Happy to be where I am. :)

  19. I love being from the middle class – I had what I needed and a few luxuries. During college I got used to living outside my income, but once I got out of grad school, I just looked back to my roots to get back within my income.
    Right now, my wages put me in the statistical middle class, but where I come from I feel like I earn quite a bit. I’ve got plenty of money left over every month to use to visit friends and family, and I enjoy every bit of it. There’s even some left to pay down debt.

  20. With your #2, then given I would say at least half the people can’t afford to buy the house they live in right now… does that mean half the people are all lower class?

  21. Hmmm.. “in a city of 20K”? Then you are for sure middle class! If you got a roof over your head, and aren’t eating ramen every day, then middle class it is. The great thing about earning 20K is that you have a roadway to earn much more.

    1. You have a roadway to earn more is a GREAT THING about only having 20K a year? What are you smoking? Everyone has a roadway because there are no caps on earnings. Why is it seen as special because he makes 20K? He will be lucky to get an employer to part with some of his tight fists of cash to pay him a fair wage for what he gives.

  22. Darwin's Money

    It depends on the prism you’re looking through, but if using a “statistician’s” viewpoint, I’d think it would simply be the “middle” of the median family income, so you might say, the cohort of 25%-75% of earners in the country. Then there’s the cost of living adjustment to apply on top of that.

    Now most people that make 80% of the median income may feel uncomfortable with that because they’re then “upper class”. For us, I don’t know, I’m guessing between salary and side income, puts me top 8-12% somewhere or something. Does that make us “upper class”? It sure doesn’t feel like it. Many of our friends make double or more what I make because they’re dual earners or lawyers or business owners or those “rich Wall Street fatcats”. And hanging with them, they don’t seem upper class either? After daycare, new car payments, paying for their sizable homes and vacations, etc., they’re not putting away much money either… but by the numbers, they’re probably pretty damn upper class – like top 4-5%. But they don’t “seem” to match the description.

    So, it depends if you’re looking at it from a purley statistical standpoint or some other subjective means.

    Based on how Americans perceive “upper class”, it almost seems like it really is the top 1-2% or so to get there because everyone I know in the 3% or below seems to live a relatively routine life.

    1. Exactly… so the middle class is like the 10%-98%, instead of what’s normally the 60% or 75% of the population.

      So in essence, since more ID with the middle class, the stronger the country has become!

  23. Love this post. I’ve thought about this a lot lately — esp since right now I’m in a situation where, although unlikely, I have an opportunity to “strike it rich” with the company where I currently work, as an early employee of a potentially lucrative venture. Although chances are still against my being a millionaire+ before 30, I daydream about what it would be like if I was. Approaching my 30s, I’m getting ready to settle down and have a family — being a “millionaire” won’t be enough for me (in the San Francisco area) to consider myself “rich,” but would certainly put me in the middle class or upper middle class. I figure you have to make $200k a year here to be upper middle class. Even if I end up with a few million dollars in the bank, I wouldn’t want to raise my (future) kids in the upper class — like you, I’m glad I grew up middle class (or upper middle class) as I still feel like that lifestyle is obtainable if I work hard and get a little bit lucky. It would be terribly depressing if I grew up rich. I’d end up like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or worse.

    1. I agree with your 200K assessment to be “upper middle class” here in SF. $3,500/month 2 bedroom apartments ain’t cheap!

      You should come out to the next SF blogging/tweetup whatever function one day. There seem to be one every 4-5 months or so.

    2. We always felt that we gave our kids a huge advantage by not raising them in a rich lifestyle. ( Not that we could afford it!) However they were able to do on their own they could easily feel that they had done better than we did! It’s a lot more difficult to go down in lifestyle than to go up in lifestyle. Living below one’s means helps with all of this too!

  24. I grew up poor in a single parent household in the ghetto of Philadelphia. My backstory would be too long to type here. But let’s just say I went from poor to what I consider upper middle class / rich. My household income is 300k, I live in D.C and I’m only 27 with 0 kids. Due to my humble begginings I know what is is to struggle. I’ve been in situations where my mother didn’t eat so I could. Growing up poor and in the inner city has given me a huge advantage.. When you’re poor you know how to live without. When you grow up in the city you know how to hustle.

      1. I currently have 3 sources of income. My salary as an IT engineer (125k), My wife’s salary as a IT Project Manager (115k), Our real estate portfolio/Financial services/event planning (60k). Our income has yet to peak in any of those 3 buckets. But I would say, I probably will top out at 150k for IT income. The real estate/financial services and event planning still have huge upside.

        1. I thought 150-200k was the peak for IT too until I came across the 400k Google software engineer!

          That’s cool you have a side business making 60k/yr profit! How many hrs a week is that? Why don’t more people do that? Is it a choice in America to make less than 33k a yr (50% cutoff)?

  25. I grew up quite poor. We emigrated to the US and struggled for years. My parents eventually saved up enough to purchase a business and work for themselves. That enabled the kids to go to college and get an education. Now I’m middle class and very thankful for the opportunity the US gave us. I don’t think I want to join the upper crust, I wouldn’t fit in.

  26. I never thought about income level that much because it is relative to geography. Middle class seems to be that area between rich and poor. By definition, you are a homeowner, educated and a professional or manager. If you do not own a home, but earn $500K, what is your class? I see middle class as a general classification to identify a group of people who are not rich or poor.

  27. I had no idea the range was that wide for middle class, but it makes sense with the crazy price of living in big cities vs small towns. I came from a lower middle class family and used to be embarrassed by it, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I like your point about starting out with less as a kid and working your way to making more as an adult. I can totally relate to your embarrassing school drop off memories. My dad’s car didn’t have a muffler on it and oh man the whole school knew when we were coming!

    1. Oh yikes! That musta been embarrassing! However, I think it is an absolute BADGE OF HONOR to grow up lower middle class. It puts great perspective and appreciation on everything!

  28. Definitely grew up middle class (my father was an immigrant who came here to study in grad school with $50 in his pocket). Still consider myself to be middle class from the attitude and lifestyle.


  29. I tend to agree that the term “middle class” has much less meaning than it once did. Incomes and occupations used to go hand in hand. If you moved the money or ran the company, you were upper class. If you did manual labour, you were lower class. Everybody in between was middle class.

    But so many manual labourers make more than the people “in between”, that I the term “middle class” has much less meaning any more.

    1. Plus cost of living in some areas is such that even if you move the money, you’re really nothing special. “Running the company” is now what America does.

  30. I absolutely grew up with little $, it seemed. We had, as you say, the important things; but not much more. Never really had a lot of ‘wants’, just ‘needs.’ I was usually embarrassed by our house (the structure) as well as our vehicle. We maintained everything we had well.

    My dad always made education an imperative. To me he stressed math & science. But then I always kind of liked those a little more anyway. I think my dad would’ve liked to see me go into compu-sci, but that wasn’t for me. He was killed in a car wreck when I was in my early teens.

    I have since moved on, I am now back in college finishing a bachelor’s. Even w/ the education I have, I make what my family did annually. My wife and together bring in quite a bit more. Where we live, we are doing well. If we were in NYC, Boston or LA our situation would not be as good.

    We consider ourselves in the M/C; good jobs, nice enough house, cars that work, etc. I think sometimes that some people we know think us ‘richer’ than we are. Perhaps b/c of our work, or other things.

    We have 2 rental properties which may contribute to their thinking. If anyone were to look at our financial data for everything, they would certainly re-think that position. Point is, we do well enough for us. Certainly better than when I was growing up. I worked hard, studied hard. My wife has done the same. We continue to work and study to improve on what we have. We have a long-term view; our shortest outlook is probably about 3-5 years.

    Growing up w/ less certainly makes me appreciate not only what I have, but the effort of attaining it all. I also have an appreciation of the flip side, w/o all the effort and learning, I do not think I could have gotten this far. I am excited to think what further education & training will bring me.

    As a previous poster said, it gives us control over our money/ cash flow; not the other way round. It gives us a certain sense of freedom that we enjoy.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts JR. I can see how two rental properties would uptick others wealth perception of you. Given your story, I’m assuming you find the 99% movement a little frustrating then.

      1. He’ll respond to your comment, I’m sure, but as his wife, I had to respond. The 99% movement and OWS annoys the **** out of both of us!! He’s working full-time while finishing his bachelor’s. I worked full-time both in undergrad AND law school. Our free time (some of it anyway) is spent cleaning out the gutters at our rental properties, for example, while other people are out having a good time. We don’t have a ton of money, but we WORK for it and we plan ahead. Nothing is handed to us, nor do we expect it to be.

        1. I very find the 99% movement and the Occupiers irritating. I hear little more than a group of misguided individuals with only time on their hands looking for another hand out. Some seem to have legitimate complaints, however their actions are just about worthless to any end.

          Our rental properties were houses we would rather have sold at the time; however, given the housing market we found our only real option was to rent them out. We do not ‘rake in the cash’ as some seem to think. We’ve put our own time & effort into each property; add that time to full-time jobs and school makes for some long days. Yet there are some who think we ‘have it pretty easy.’

          Sure, if by ‘easy’ one means ‘learning the in-depth workings of the law’ and ‘how the body human functions’ all while working (job), commuting, maintenance (properties) and learning all the codes for the properties. No worries. I sleep very well.

          I am of the opinion that the Occupiers need a firm boot placed far enough “so that the water from my knee will quench [their] thirst.” If they were to put a portion of there energy into something productive, imagine what they could achieve! Instead they threaten those who live and work in the area and otherwise generally pester the average working joe. They violate doorsteps and other public areas w/ bodily excretions… I could go on, but it just gets worse. These are the folks I offer up as poster-children for why the gene pool needs a life guard.

          If you are in want of something, find a productive way to work towards setting and achieving it. Don’t sit idly and expect things to be given just b/c you there. I guess that is my soap box view.

          1. Ah, another person insisting that the 99%-ers are all just lazy bums. Except that it isn’t actually true. These are what we call “the working poor.” And the working poor work MUCH harder than the people at the top. That’s how a pyramid works, the higher you get, the less work you do. Sitting behind a desk sipping gourmet coffee isn’t working.

        2. A wife / husband reader tandem! First time I think this has occurred. I’m honored to have you guys!

          It’s amazing the division that has been created here in America. I don’t think there’s ever been so much divide, well since racism was rampant perhaps.

  31. I grew up in a solid middle-class family. However, I consider myself lower-middle-class and completely admit it. Not due to laziness (I’ve been working non-stop since 13) but due to choices. I took the path less traveled -started my own business at 26 – handed it off to Mr. LH. Then, picked a low-paying career path that I enjoy – teaching. Along the way I’ve made some very poor financial choices that I’ve only just begun to correct in the last few years. Maybe someday I’ll consider myself a solid-middle-class person. But I think that’s a few years off still.

    1. A fellow teacher? Nice! Here is the perfect example of the fluidity of the term “middle class.” I live in Manitoba, Canada. As teachers we make 50-85K a year (max out after 10 usually), and that is without your masters degree or anything. I know that this is substantially more than my teacher friends in MN and ND make, but I’m not sure about the other states. My significant other is in her final year of her education degree, and then she too will be a teacher (or so the plan goes). In NY, or even Toronto, Canada, we would be the definition of middle class; however in rural Manitoba, we will likely have one of the top 5% household incomes in the area. Does this mean we are actually upper class? Regardless, I have pretty much everything I want, so I’m not too worried about how others define my pay bracket.

        1. That would be great if that was the US average. I think the average in the US is around the mid-30’s. However, in the LA area, it’s around the mid-50s’s. So once I actually get a job (which is very unlikely right now), things will be grand. ;)

          1. A look on the website that list teachers salaries in my area. 70,000 to 120,000
            is the norm. And with all the benifits it is much higher. Plus at least 4 months off a year. Upstate NY

        2. The BLS reports the median annual salary for high school teachers was $57,200 in 2015. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $91,190, while the bottom 10 percent made $37,800. Compensation is typically based on your years of experience and educational level.

          The average teacher salary across the USA (not factoring in grade level, years of service, education level, etc. . . just the national average of all teachers) was $56,383 in 2015. As a note, this does not include college professors, this is pre-college level teachers.

          While I am sure there can be other studies found that will not match this exactly, I simply did a fairly straight forward search and looked at two sites and have a fairly good degree of confidence that they are at least close for the years designated (2015 in this case). Of course, as we all know, a teacher’s salary is based on working 75% of the time (summers off, where additional income should/can be earned based on one’s choice – most other jobs don’t offer such a feature!) versus nearly all other types of jobs. We all also recognize that there are other “financial” benefits that are part of a teachers job and not calculated in to the “salary” as most teachers in the USA are employed by the government and receive what are no longer considered “standard” financial benefits associated with a job.

          FWIW, like all fields, there are some truly wonderful teachers that make huge impacts on individual’s lives. A lot of average teachers and a small percentage of pretty mediocre or lousy teachers. The smallish percentage of truly great teachers are worth more than their weight in gold and certainly more than they are typically compensated.

      1. I’m certainly not complaining (actually… don’t tell my union this, but I think we could probably afford to take a pay freeze for a few years in order to restore the infrastructure deficit and budget problems)

  32. I absolutely grew up poor and am now in one of the higher tax brackets.

    I’m from a family of 9 siblings and my father died when I was about 4 months old. My father was an engineer with a Master’s degree from Massachusetts Institue of Technology – thus if he had not died I probably would have grown up – upper middle class.

    However, the house I grew up in – was only purcased a few years before my father died. Thus my mother made payments for about 17 years while raising the nine children on ONLY Social Security benefits for the first 10 years. When I was about 10 years old she went out to work but never made the “big bucks”.

    I worked my way thru college – I studied real hard and worked about 20 hours a week while in school and 60 hours a week during the summers. I paid cash for most of my college education – it was a lot of work – but definately worth it!

    I’m very happy that I grew up poor as I now realize the value of a dollar. I realize that I can spend it now or save it now and spend it later on something else. When I was a kid – I tried to stretch my $.15 at the 5&10 store as far as I could. I still try to get value in whatevery I purchase.

    I think I can determine for myself what it is “worth” spending money on since I have been poor and now have some extra dollars. For example, when we vacation we often travel to South East Asia or India. In these countries, we often stay in $20 a night rooms and often go to 5 star hotels like the Taj Mahal in Bombay and the Oriental in Bangkok for lunch or dinners that cost $50 to $100.

    I love being able to have ownership over my $ rather than my $ have ownership over me. I think growing up poor and then earning my own $ has given me a respect for money that I would not have had I grown up with more $$$$$.

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