I’d like to further elucidate and nail down a few things.
Given that you have to be at least wealthy (see my previous definition) to be upper-class or come from an established (at least more than one generation) upper-class family and be some sort of exception, I think there’s a fairly good line in the sand there between upper-middle and upper-class. Everything beneath that (socioeconomically speaking) and before working class is some form of middle class. And, of course, that covers a lot of people…
By the way, in short-hand, working class to me is that group of people who are barely “making it” but still definitely “making it” financially out of a lack of a good wage and who don’t have the family connections (money, social connections, understanding, etc.) to rest on. People in that group can sometimes have come from middle-class families (although rarely as high as the upper-middle class, I think), but they just had tough luck too many times or made poor decisions enough that they fell a bit lower than the middle-class. Those people don’t often own a home or if they do it’s not often well-maintained (in good shape) or it’s not well appointed. Being able to maintain a modest home and not skimp on your groceries too much or etc. but still struggling financially from time to time is one possible indication (in some cases) of the line between lower middle and working class in my mind.
When you can barely afford housing of any sort and have very little money in general…you’re poor. Again, it’s pretty simple. (Unless you are the child of the established upper class)
But what is “very little” to me (outside of net worth)? Well, that brings me to the title of my post.
Often when you read about class you find people discussing, “the amount of money people make.” I think that’s not necessarily the best place to start but I understand why it’s done that way.
So, I’m going to explain what my thoughts are on where the lines are according to wages, but please keep in mind that if you’re heavily in debt or come from a background either educationally, familial, geographically, or experience-wise that sets you back in non-material resources or propels you up and/or you have big debts your wage isn’t at all as clear cut in regard to class. And certainly if you are heavily in debt (which is relative to your net worth – i.e. billionaires could be hundreds of thousands in debt and it’s not the same thing as it is to a millionaire) it’s not clear cut in regard to physical assets either.
Anyway, if you are 60 and earn above $30,000 up to $55,000 a year you’re either working class or lower middle class depending on debt, non-material resources, and future prospects. Again, if you’re 60 years old and that’s your wage and you have less than $50,000 to $100,000 in savings/retirement/financial assets and little debt (debt that’s less than $10,000) you might be working class to lower middle class depending on your non physical resources and financial obligations. Furthermore, if you have a middle class or at least working class family of origin and at least a high school diploma with training in some marketable field with that amount you’re likely in that range (unless you come from the upper class of course). That might be being too “generous” in one direction or another, but anyway…
If you earn that amount with the same obligations, background, etc., etc. and you’re around 30 or 20 years old and in good health it’s a different story though, especially if you have the prospect of future advancement. In that case, if you’re not supporting a family of over one child and a spouse with that amount you might be solidly lower middle class, especially depending on where you live (note all related caveats).
Anything above $55,000 (unless there’s more than one dependent child) to $120,000 (a year) and you’re most generally swimming somewhere in the middle middle class… Of course, if you’re 25 to 30, unmarried, with no kids and making $100,000 with no or little debt (maybe some savings) and from a well-off background you’re edging very close to being upper-middle class if you’re not there already. And obviously some people are more firmly middle class (whether lower, middle, or upper) than others when you measure it all out given all the various factors.
If you’re making above $125,000 depending on your obligations, debt, age and etc. you may be upper-middle class or just barely upper-middle class. And again, net worth is so important.
$500,000 a year at any age is either rich or wealthy and either upper class or very upper-middle class/almost upper class, depending on the various factors. But you can be definitely upper middle with one million a year or upper class with $250,000 depending on the various factors. It’s incredibly complicated…and every case is different, of course.
If you’re making over a million a year your non-material assets become extremely important to defining your class (like your understanding of how to use, save and spend money). Beyond that I don’t think much changes. If you go through money too quickly or handle it unwisely that will never seem “well-bred” or at least will make you look foolish. Anyway… Most people never have to deal with that situation.
It feels good to be a little more exact. I’m sure I’m boring people and I could be more exact and accurate but this is a very rough sketch.
(Also, obviously, if you inherit money that propels your net worth into the wealthy range your non-material assets and debt become as equally important as if you’re earning the money. And frankly inherited money has its own non material asset inherently attached since it’s almost always familial.)
(Also, also…cues that indicate where you fall on the social spectrum (i.e. saying things like “I grew up in a hood.” or “We took our plane for the weekend to the Florida Keys.”) are complex to discern but can be discerned – hence earlier posts. But I won’t go into that much detail on this blog. Or at least not yet.)