Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Am I middle class?

And, in all honesty, should I really care?

By Karen Datko Apr 30, 2010 2:44PM

This guest post comes from J. Money at Budgets are Sexy.


I keep seeing these middle-class factoids from U.S. News & World Report at other personal-finance blogs (including Free Money Finance) so I thought I’d join in. I hadn’t looked through them all yet, but I was willing to guess that, yes, I am middle class. Let’s see if I’m wrong, though, shall we?


The middle-class matchup:

  • Income: “For the 50% of families in the middle of the scale, household income ranges from $51,000 to $123,000 for a typical four-person, two-parent family. The median is about $81,000.”
    • J$: Between my full-time gig, side hustles, and the wife’s TA position, we fall a little under $100k.
  • Housing costs: “For two-parent families, the typical home is worth about $231,000, accounting for $17,600 in mortgage payments and other costs per year.”
    • J$: Our house is worth about $300,000, and mortgage payments around $24,000.
  • Home size: “The median size of a new, single-family home jumped by 40% between 1979 and 2007, to about 2,300 square feet.”
    • J$: I think our townhouse is about 1,900 square feet, although in our area of the country it probably falls closer to the average.
  • Cars: The typical family “spends about $12,400 per year on two medium-sized sedans or the equivalent, with a new-car value of $45,000.”
    • J$: Wow, new car value at $45k? That’s a lot of car! And debt. Scary that that’s the average for middle class. Both our cars total about $12k in value. And we probably spend only a few thousand a year on them (gas, upkeep, etc. -- they’re both paid for).
  • College savings: “The typical family puts aside $4,100 for college expenses for two kids ….”
    • J$: N/A. We don’t have kids … yet.
  • Vacations: “One week at the beach or another destination is standard, at a cost of $3,000 or so for four. More affluent families can afford two weeks, at a typical cost of $6,100.”
    • J$: We *rarely* spend $3k on a vacation (this year we will for our Eurotrip), but we definitely spend $3k on total trips throughout the year -- Vegas, Boston, wherever our friends are going (and we can stay for free).
  • Retirement savings: “A median-income family that saved 3.2% of its income -- roughly equivalent to the national saving rate -- socks away nearly $2,600 per year for retirement.”
    • J$: I haven’t calculated it in a while, but I’m pretty sure we’re close to 40% savings. Haha -- drastic, much?
  • Number of earners: “In 76% of two-parent families, both parents work. The higher the household income, the more likely it is that both parents are contributing.”
    • J$: I work full time, and the wife works part time while in grad school. Before and after school, though, she’s full time.
  • Education: “The typical household head has a high school degree, plus about two years of college education ….”
    • J$: I have a bachelor’s, and she’s getting her master’s this year on her way to a Ph.D.
  • Household net worth: “The typical household has a net worth of about $84,000, according to the Federal Reserve.”
    • J$: We’re at $151k (holler).
  • Debt: “About 18% of disposable income, on average, goes toward mortgage payments, auto loans, credit cards and other forms of household debt.”
    • J$: We definitely don’t spend anything on loans, but our percentage of mortgage vs. income was high the last time I checked. About 30% maybe?

Pretty interesting to see these comparisons. From the looks of it, we’re definitely middle class. Not that it really matters much, to be honest. Who cares if we’re lower, higher, or just plain ballin’? Only OURSELVES.

If you can get to a point in your life where you are happy with your situation, and confident, you are on the right track. Money is great, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle.


How do you all compare?


Related reading at Budget are Sexy:

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.