9 ways to know if you're middle class

There's no hard-and-fast definition, but surveys show what kind of income and lifestyle you're likely to have if you -- and others -- think you're middle class.

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Dec 3, 2012 10:32AM
Times have changed. Few People really own any personal property today. We have little equity in our homes and if we do get it, we take out a second mortgage or equity line of credit. We want to drive new model, not paid for cars and trucks. Those annual vacations and holidays often end up being charged (as is our education). While the recent economic downturn has forced some reduction in our habits, as with our national debt, our level of middle class might just be measured by our personal debt. If you're carrying more than you should, your probably middle class - for the time being.
Dec 3, 2012 10:22AM

Does it really matter what 'class' you consider yourself? Does that actually affect your decisions - what demographic some survey considers you to be? It's like asking "what's your sign". (Yeah, because I'm going to change my decision to purchase a car or go back to school if I'm considered middle-class.) Pathetic that the label defines the individual anymore.

Dec 3, 2012 10:13AM

The one thing I've noticed is how few of you meet all of the "basics".  Apparently the middle class is disappearing.

Shall we take an informal poll?  How many of us meet say, 6 of the 9 basics, without qualification?  (For example, we shop at Target, but because my wife works there, & we take vacations, but have to save up for 3 years to do so, etc.)

Dec 3, 2012 10:10AM
and you're part of the problem....!! that party doesn't do anything that benefits you. it's that mind set that keeps us from progressing.. it only shows that if you were wealthy.. you'd be secular and distant. I know that won't change your mind because it obviously closed. However, being bitter towards those less fortunate or unable or old .. is just spiteful. I hope you have a better afterlife.. because we have to pray for people like you.
Dec 3, 2012 9:52AM
according to this I'm not middle class. There are 4 people in my household making an "income", but here's the thing. One is disabled and gets a paltry $700 a month, when she spent the better part of 35 years working 40 or more hours a week, most times in physically demainding jobs (which contributed directly to her disability). One gets $800 a month from a stipend, the third works part time and I'm the only one working full time. We make less than 40,000 a year.  We hardly ever take vacations, all of our vehicles are over 5 years old, and we shop at WalMart simply because it happens to be the closest store. My whole life I've always been in the spot that people forget to mention, where you barely make enough to pay the bills but you make too much to get any help and you just have to fend for yourself. I just recently (within the last year) was able to AFFORD healthcare. And starting in January, my deductible is $500 higher and I have to meet it before my insurance pays ANYTHING, so if I GO to the doctor I have to pay $180 for the visit until I have run up medical bills in excess of $1500 for a single person.
Dec 3, 2012 8:10AM
Kind of giggling at some of the posts on here. Can't really tell what we are from this list of items. We make WAAY more than the median income, but it has been years and years of being at poverty level, not taking handouts, and working my way up that helped ME get to a good salary. We have health insurance, are saving for retirement, and take fabulous vacations. Went to three new countries we had never been before last year and are going to three new ones again in February. I raised a son on my own that I could not afford an education for (let alone take a vacation OR save for retirement)...I started a 3rd 401k over in my 40's...always had to use the money to survive. My son is a successful and resourceful adult. I am raising another son now. HE has a college fund and there is enough money for every member of the family to eat every day. I guess what I am trying to say is the older boomers really DO NOT understand what it is like to be us at the end of the boomer, start of Gen X generation. It was during the time that I was in the market for that first home that interest rates were so high for mortgages that many could not afford them. Home values were also rising at that time, and you had to have 20% down. They already had theirs. It was during my working years that pensions and employer perks went away, so we do not have that to fall back on during retirement. Theirs were set up and growing to aid them in their golden years. I hear retirees saying that they paid into social security so they are entitled to it. They did pay in. So do I. We pay a small fortune in taxes and yet I am not counting on social security, even though I am paying in. The gen Y kiddos that are in my older son's generation do not understand the boomers. They have not lived through what they have gone through, but I see many in the over 65 crowd who seem to have much more than anyone else. It is funny when someone who is retired telling me too bad I can't get out and enjoy a beautiful day....but then they add that they worked for 30 years so they are entitled to it. Yes, I agree. They are. At fifty, I have also worked for 30+ years, only difference is, since I am saving for my OWN retirement, I won't be quitting at 62, or 65. It will be more like in my seventies. To sum it up, every generation has its challenges. What I resent is someone 15 years or more older than me acting like they know everything about the world. They were not starting out at the same time as I was. They had their own set of challenges but they should really stop telling ME how hard they worked and saved. The world is a different place now. I feel for the Gen Y folks.
Dec 3, 2012 6:11AM

the key is planning and trade offs.  an rv home costs about $5,000 used, Parking-utilities-upkeep,

for about $4,000yr.  This makes living near childrens colleges, (or vacations) greatly reduced.  By

using this as a basic model, tweeked

Dec 3, 2012 3:50AM
I like to think I'm middle class; yet my father made as much per hour as a UNION plumber/pipe-fitter in the 80's. Much better benefits..........three-fold better retirement (from his union) than I'll ever see.
I personally think middle class is about 45k per adult and 15k per child in a house, at least if I compare it to my "middle-class" upbringing.

Dec 2, 2012 10:33PM
There were TWO awfully wrong stereotypes among the 9 ways.

One is "You Shop at Target."  Most of the best low-priced places like Aldi, Ollie's, The Dollar Store, etc. were pointed out to me by people making well into six figures.  When my wealthy, Mercedes-driving cousin comes from out of state to visit, we can't drive past Dollar Tree, etc. without her ordering me to pull over so she can check it out.  I know people who say they're embarrassed to be seen at such places, but NONE of them are wealthy.  I'm still Middle Class, but comfortably retired with a greater income than most working people make. So if someone sees me coming out of of such stores I figure they'll say, "See: that's why he's got more than a couple pennies to rub together."  If not, what do I care?  I love my $14.77 Walmart athletic shoes and they're as good, come in widths, have pronation control, etc, as the $179 Nikes and New Balance's I used to buy when I was a high school track and cross country coach.

The Second is, under vacations, the remark that "the South of France is for the 1%."  You can spend 4-days at Cannes, France in late Spring or Summer for just a few hundred more than spending the same time at some Atlantic beach resorts - and that includes round-trip airfare from the East Coast.  I did.  There is a big free public beach, and you can also sneak onto some of the private ones late in the day - that's how we got to experience the most exclusive, Carlton Hotel's beach.  Air France runs some cheap air-hotel deals (sometimes less than $1000 and you can find them and similar ones in Budget Travel magazine or online) to various French cities and it's easy to find cheap one-day tours in English either through the hotel or by exploring the town a little.  For example, if you're in Paris, there are little shops offering cheap, one day tours one the right bank along the Seine near the Louvre.  We spent 5 days in Paris and took a one-day bus (a couple hours of driving each way) tour for less than $50 each to the Loire Valley to see a few Grand Chateaus of the old French Kings.  We also considered similar tours to places like Normandy.

A year's smoking at a pack a day costs as much as a trip for two in the Spring for 4 days in Rome including the hotel & meals, round trip airfare, and 3 long tours.

Many of my fellow Middle Class relatives have taken several big tours as I have. My travels have included two weeks touring China (Great Wall, Terra Cotta Warriors, 5-day Yangtze Cruise), a week in Egypt (including a 4-day Nile Cruise), a week in Israel, 9 days in France,  two weeks in the Aegean (3 days in Athens, 7-day Aegean Cruise, 3 days in Istanbul), and an Alaska Cruise. I never spent more than $2350/person for any one including meals and all the side-tours.  In the next decade I expect to do several $2K to $4K per person vacations, including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiking the Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, visiting Mexico City and the Yucatan, touring the Galapagos Islands, and do a cruise of Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica.  I retired early because of leg problems which are mostly healed now at 62, so I may not make the two climbs, but if not there are plenty of other things I want to see!

Dec 2, 2012 2:54PM
it depends where you live in high income areas like SF where we live 250,000 with a family is middle class.  Rents and house prices are so high, and let's not forget the increase in personal income tax with prop39 , in addition to the potential upper income tax hikes , and trying to raise three kids and save for college, well, the formula does not work!  We are in the red each year and that does not include vacations and buying clothes etc since it is just not in the budget.  This whole 250 wealthy thing needs to be reevaluated because in cities like NYC and SF it is a joke...we are not saving for college or saving anything!
Dec 2, 2012 1:47PM

MiddleClass is a mindset also, as was mentioned..

But it is a GOOD MINDSET...That can help you get there IF YOU ARE NOT.


Don't always trying staying with Joneses, but shadow them when you can.

Attribute ideas from the Rich or Wealthy, at one time they may have been poor, or in the Middle.

Work hard and prepare your life, but have some fun along the way; Makes life easier.

Dec 2, 2012 1:43PM
I was homeless at 16 and was very living for years with making less than half what our government considers poverty income. I decided after becoming a single parent with 3 kids at a very young age to change all that.  I now make over $250,000 a year taxable income by working 7 days a week and having other investment income. I have been careful about what I spend over the last 38 years of my working life. I have now raised and educated 3 children as a single parent and am now solely caring for my elderly parents on my own dime. I have done all this without one penny of government money. I do not consider myself wealthy due to the long work hours I do weekly. I consider myself middle class and resent the fact that there are those our there who believe government should tax the highest income earners to pay for those who will not get off there duff and work hard. Anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. Lets start looking at ways to encourage people to take care of themselves and their families without government handouts.
Dec 1, 2012 5:26PM
Guess we rate someplace around diddly squat, living on retirement income but thankfully we don't take any "assistance" and stay afloat, the word "vacation" is not in our vocabulary but we did save for our kids for college when we both worked and we paid 2 years for each (4) of them plus our house is paid for. I don't shop at Target, long ago gave up on them after going with a list of  8 things I needed and they had none of them too many times, Walmart and Costco maybe. But we have each other, decent health, heating oil in the tank, food in the 'fridge and no debt so I don't care how the world "rates" us......
Dec 1, 2012 5:10PM
What percentage of middle class people have taken a vacation in the past several years?

My guess is half or less than half of those who took vacations in the past few decades.

Dec 1, 2012 3:37PM
I've always considered myself middle class.  My income doesn't fit in the story's parameters though because its higher.  But, I shop at Walmart all the time, Target once in awhile.   No student loans because its been 25 yrs since college.  No kids.   In exchange for all that and being debt free, the Federal and State take about 43% of my income in income taxes alone.  So, some of you complaining about no cash left over, then think about the alternative---the government will take your cash once you get out of the middle class anyway, so not sure how much better off it will be.  Yea, it's better than where I use to be, but not that much better.

Dec 1, 2012 12:10PM
Pretty funny saying that "owning a home" is an indicator you are middle class.  What the author should have said is "owning a huge mortgage" is an indicator of being middle class.
Not many middle class people own a home, they own a huge f****g mortgage which they nurtured and grew by irresponsibly ATMing an equity they might have had in the house.
A hall mark of being middle class that was not listed: zero (0) net worth.

Dec 1, 2012 3:10AM
OK, I'm middle class as are most people I know, but honestly....I don't think any of them were/are able to put away $48,000 for each of their kids' college education.  Anyone else think that number seems high?
Dec 1, 2012 2:59AM

I am middle class for sure...my take on secure job is the best are the hardest...you can't just add jobs to the job market...how secure is that? I make about $65,000/yr delivering product in a stinky old truck that looks like a junkyard on wheels for a 70 year old company...I am a Teamster and haven't missed a scheduled workday for my almost 6 years with the company. You can't just add those kinds of opportunities...but it seems they are becoming more rare...I Love My Job!

Dec 1, 2012 1:43AM
Middle class means merchant, professional, etc.  The fake feelgood definitions of today are meaningless.  Working class is working class.  Pretending that everyone between Bill Gates and crack whores are middle class is useless.
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