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Old 12-23-2014, 07:52 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
Looking for statistics and definitive numbers to attach meaning to the terms upper upper, lower upper, upper middle etc... become almost meaningless without a guideline for comparison. Thousands of analyses that are made to fit a perception, but by themselves only confuse.

This chart from 2011, is based on family income, and divided into quintiles.

Other measurements of wealth, based on Net Worth will naturally be different.
(edited to add net worth quintile chart)
I found the net worth chart interesting since most people on here are targeting millions to retire yet according to the chart only the top 20% will ever have that.

As for people claiming to be middle class..I only take issue when people complain about taxes and free loaders..Ie many people work their ass off every day and will make pennies on the dollar...don't look down on them and don't pretend your being bled dry supporting them. Be happy they take the jobs that need to be done that you don't want to do.

I also worry because too many people want to keep up with the Jones. I think people have a skewed perception of what middle class is and it leads to our society taking on too much debt and not being happy with what they have.

And even being upper middle class doesn't mean I should just throw my money out buying things..I'm not willing to pay more than $40 for a bottle of wine when out..so when friends select the $70+ bottle and I know they couldn't come up with even $10k for a mortgage even though the bring in $150k+ a year.. I feel like the bad guy saying let's select something else. Middle class use to mean going out to dinner and now it seems to mean and spending $200...this is where the confusion on what is middle class becomes a problem.
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Old 12-23-2014, 07:53 PM   #22
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With a roof, health, food and my wife, i'm plenty fortunate. Money is a bonus after my real wealth.


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You may be special, but for many people, without money there goes roof, food, health and wife.

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Old 12-23-2014, 07:56 PM   #23
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I found the net worth chart interesting since most people on here are targeting millions to retire yet according to the chart only the top 20% will ever have that.

As for people claiming to be middle class..I only take issue when people complain about taxes and free loaders..Ie many people work their ass off every day and will make pennies on the dollar...don't look down on them and don't pretend your being bled dry supporting them. Be happy they take the jobs that need to be done that you don't want to do.
That is not usually what is meant by free -loaders. We also support many people who have never worked, never will work, and harbor no intentions of ever working.

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Old 12-23-2014, 08:02 PM   #24
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The numbers are what they are.
If you're in the lowest quintile - you aren't middle class.
If you're in the highest quintile - you aren't middle class.

I would argue that being in 2nd lowest quintile would put you as lower middle class.
And being in the 2nd highest quintile would put you in the upper middle class.

I worked with engineers who made well over $100k, and many had wives who had similar income. Yet they wouldn't even concede to being upper middle class... insisting they were poor.

I live in a high COLA area. But even in a high COLA area - you don't have to live in the highest cost neighborhood or drive a 70k car. In fact, you can move to a lower COLA area.

I am grateful to have been upper middle class by household income (2 incomes was our choice.) I am grateful to have been able to save enough of that income to put myself in a high quintile for networth. My net worth makes me wealthy by objective standards - even if I don't have the trappings of wealth. I am thankful to have this. But I have enough family and friends who have less income/wealth to know that I'm nowhere near middle.
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:33 PM   #25
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The numbers are what they are.
If you're in the lowest quintile - you aren't middle class.
If you're in the highest quintile - you aren't middle class.

I would argue that being in 2nd lowest quintile would put you as lower middle class.
And being in the 2nd highest quintile would put you in the upper middle class.

I worked with engineers who made well over $100k, and many had wives who had similar income. Yet they wouldn't even concede to being upper middle class... insisting they were poor.

I live in a high COLA area. But even in a high COLA area - you don't have to live in the highest cost neighborhood or drive a 70k car. In fact, you can move to a lower COLA area.

I am grateful to have been upper middle class by household income (2 incomes was our choice.) I am grateful to have been able to save enough of that income to put myself in a high quintile for networth. My net worth makes me wealthy by objective standards - even if I don't have the trappings of wealth. I am thankful to have this. But I have enough family and friends who have less income/wealth to know that I'm nowhere near middle.
I think it's something with engineers..I'm an engineer too and its the same conversation...my "middle" class friends pulled down $400k this year but live in a ranch home so see themselves as middle class with $3-4M in the bank.

One of them got let go in December with $100k severance coming too them in Jan and they are worried about what if they can't find a job...umm they are in the very outskirts of Chicago where one of the still makes $200k and house paid off..Ie most people would have Fired but they act like they are worried how they will make ends meet.
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:41 PM   #26
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But, just so it gets said, most people in the world don't live in the US. The worldwide median household income is a bit less than $10K per year. Everybody on this board is "middle class" or doing even better. By present-day worldwide standards, most people here are stinking rich. By historical standards, even more so.
So true. Travel brings perspective. I feel impoverished at times if I compare my situation to some on this forum but I feel incredibly wealthy in so many ways. I have enough to meet my needs. I have enough to afford luxuries, like the best local organic foods. I can afford to travel economically. And I can afford to retire in a couple of years and maintain my same lifestyle without a 20% reduction! All of this with having worked only slightly more than half time for the last 25 years. So many people in the world are struggling day to day. I feel extremely lucky! Plus I just found out in this forum that I'm in the top tier of wealth for my age group. All of this in a service profession! I can't complain and I thank my parents for having instilled frugality in me at a young age and for telling me social security wouldn't be there for me so It wad all on me to save for retirement. Thanks M & D!
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:50 PM   #27
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True, but we don't have servants a la Downton Abbey so I find it hard to think of myself as stinking rich.
Yes, location matters.

While we are probably UMC by income, well-to-do by NW, a friend in a "second/third world country" has 2 servants in a nice (rented) house and lives on less than US$25K/yr including a 2 month trip to Canada every summer. We have no servants and I managed a month in "said 2/3 world country" several years ago. We do not live on US$25K/yr or even twice that and we own our house.
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Old 12-23-2014, 09:01 PM   #28
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You may be special, but for many people, without money there goes roof, food, health and wife.

Ha
I get what Dallas27 is saying and your point too Haha. You're both right. Yes, you do have to have enough to pay for a home, food, health issues. After that is achieved, it's the flip side. A 4000 sq. ft. home does not make someone twice as happy as 2000 sq. ft. home, and cars, planes..... Least that never worked for anyone I've known.

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Old 12-23-2014, 11:52 PM   #29
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Poor-mouthing is so common (not just engineers by any means) and I've never understood it one bit. Why would anyone want others to think they are poor? Are people afraid others will ask them for money? (You can always say no, unless the other guy has a gun). Me, I'd prefer that others think I was successful.

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I worked with engineers who made well over $100k, and ((many had wives who had similar income. Yet they wouldn't even concede to being upper middle class... insisting they were poor.
e.
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Old 12-24-2014, 03:57 AM   #30
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Anyone ever heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs? I don't remember all the levels he said people go through from basic security to self actualization but he pointed out how once a person reaches a certain level it is the human condition to look at a little more. Used to be at the top of my group, now I'm at the bottom of next higher group.
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Old 12-24-2014, 05:20 AM   #31
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Old 12-24-2014, 07:09 AM   #32
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Poor-mouthing is so common (not just engineers by any means) and I've never understood it one bit. Why would anyone want others to think they are poor? Are people afraid others will ask them for money? (You can always say no, unless the other guy has a gun). Me, I'd prefer that others think I was successful.

Amethyst
I think I can answer this easily and I suspect it won't be a shock to many here: jealousy. Many people get jealous of those around them having (or seeming to have) anything they don't. Out of that group, there are some who are willing to act on their jealously and that is what I am trying to avoid. I'm not talking about potential thieves/muggers. I'm talking about work peers, bosses, friends, etc.. All have varying degrees of influence on my path and success, but cumulatively it can add up.

Once I'm fully FIREd, I imagine this will matter a lot less to me.
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Old 12-24-2014, 07:24 AM   #33
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If 35k is middle class you have to remember that the bottom 47% supposedly receive some type of government support. So, most under 35k have more, money or services provided my the top 53% taxes.

I really consider the wealthy to be those that live in expensive homes.....1m or more.....fly 1st class or fractional jets......eat at steak houses, costing around $100 per person.....buy their clothes at upper end stores.....not Target or Macy's.

What do they earn? I'd guess 75k or more and they are at or above the middle class in my opinion. this is hard to define......another thought......I'd consider middle class or wealthy to be those that LBYM.......they are the most secure in maintaining their way of life over the long term.
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Old 12-24-2014, 07:27 AM   #34
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The whole categorization into classes is ridiculous. It's totally subjective. From the numeric levels of the categories to whether one's class should be based on income or net worth (or whatever else). And there are external factors - in some areas income may be $30K - somewhere else it could be $150k for doing the same job. In some areas, COL may be 10 times that of other areas. IMO, people can categorize all they want. But none of it has any use as far as I'm concerned.
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Old 12-24-2014, 07:42 AM   #35
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+1

Perhaps economic class is a frame of mind rather than a function of income or wealth.

And likewise, social class is a function of behavior rather than income or wealth.

I know some people of modest means who are classy and people of ample means who are vulgar.
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Old 12-24-2014, 09:08 AM   #36
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I sort-of get that sense of self-preservation, although clearly, the gambit doesn't fool people at work who know what one makes.

Anyway, people get jealous when you're smarter than they are, too. I haven't heard of anyone playing dumb at work for self-protection, though. Then again, that might explain why some inept people keep drawing paychecks - like the secret millionaires on this forum, it's all an act, and they are secretly very productive.

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I think I can answer this easily and I suspect it won't be a shock to many here: jealousy. Many people get jealous of those around them having (or seeming to have) anything they don't. Out of that group, there are some who are willing to act on their jealously and that is what I am trying to avoid. I'm not talking about potential thieves/muggers. I'm talking about work peers, bosses, friends, etc.. All have varying degrees of influence on my path and success, but cumulatively it can add up.

Once I'm fully FIREd, I imagine this will matter a lot less to me.
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Old 12-24-2014, 09:26 AM   #37
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I do know a few people in the"higher" class (by just about anyone's financial standards) but it sure didn't give/buy them much class.
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Old 12-24-2014, 10:00 AM   #38
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This reminds me of a speaker we had a church back in the 1980's.

The church was starting a drive to fund some needed maintenance and increase the usual yearly pledges. A lawyer from another church was asked to speak to the congration about giving and sacrifice. It wasn't bad until he mentioned how a few years ago, legal work and fees dried up at his firm. He informed us that since bonuses were not given out some lawyers "who routinely earned $250,000 a year had to find a way to survive on only $170,000 that year".

I remember seeing the pastor's eyes roll.
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Old 12-24-2014, 10:09 AM   #39
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I agree that the whole classification system is just a bunch of hooey. I have never made a considerable amount of money and as the charts above list, I never made it out of "middle class" to the "upper middle class" but I am retired. This isn't to say nah nah boo boo to those that aren't retired, but I know plenty of folks that earned DEEP in the 6 figures and don't a have a pot to urinate into. I think it boils down to a couple things...the continued class warfare that consumers have fallen for. There is a reason there are so many ads everywhere...people keep buying all that crap. So, in order to keep up with Jones', you have to keep on spending. It isn't vogue to have a nice savings account, instead having a 6,000 SF McMansion and a 6 series on lease is the sign of "success". And, this all helps to drive the other issue that is so rampant...jealousy.
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Old 12-24-2014, 10:10 AM   #40
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Going back to the original article...
Why so many wealthy Americans think they are Middle Class

It opens with:
Quote:
By Treasury Secretary Jack Lews reckoning, being a millionaire does not constitute living high above the ranks of ordinary people. Lew said last week that back when he was in the private sector enjoying six- and seven-figure pay packages, My own compensation was never in the stratosphere.
and concludes with:
Quote:
While Lews comments leave him open to charges that he is out of touch with economic reality, he is not alone, as surveys show many Americans also have misconceptions about income distribution.
A recent study by Harvard University and Bangkoks Chulalongkorn University found Americans grossly underestimate the divide between CEO and average worker pay.
Such misperceptions were recently spotlighted by comedian Chris Rock in an interview with New York magazine. Of inequality, he said: People dont even know [about it]. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.
What I read into the article was that the average citizen does not relate to the real wealth differential between their own status and that of the public and private leaders who make the laws and define the economic structure that is America.

Anymore than one can envision the daily life of a Warren Buffet, can one who lives in the rarified social scale of Washington or The Hamptons... relate to the outlook of young persons who have seen their life formed in the poverty
of the projects in Chicago.

For some of us here, including myself... little exposure to either extreme, but whatever the sense of what "should be", IMHO, a subject that will be in play for long time in the future.
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