Today, I went over to AARP’s local office to participate in a discussion about the future of the Social Security system. More about that later.
I just wanted to focus on one thing we didn’t really talk about.
Before our local group started interacting, we watched a video feed being broadcast to groups like ours at AARP affiliates across the country, which featured two experts who pretty much represented the expected “liberal” and “conservative” sides of the issue. They fielded questions from groups like our across the country.
At one point, they were asked to give their definition of “middle class.” Neither of them did, in simple terms, although both were eager to assert that their respective plans would benefit said class.
I don’t blame them. Middle class is a state of mind to a great extent, and as one of the experts noted, it’s hard to find any American who does not think he is middle class, however low or high his income. And of course, assets other than income play into any assessment of economic class.
But… in order to kick off a discussion, I’m just going to pick a couple of numbers and throw them out, and let y’all tell me how wrong I am and why.
I hereby proclaim that one is “middle class” if one’s household income is between:
I’m sure lots of people who make less than 50k will assert they are card-carrying members of the gray hordes of suburbia, but we have to make room for the underclass and working class somewhere, and I’m just going to say that working class ends and middle class starts at 50k. Perhaps higher. And with today’s prices, that pretty much means you are just hanging on to your bourgeois status by your fingernails.
Plenty of arguments could be offered for raising the upper limit as well. For instance, is a person who makes 100k still middle class? I’d say yes. So if a couple each make 100k, would they not be a middle-class couple making a household income of 200k? Sure, you could say that, but for the purposes of this discussion, you have to draw the line somewhere, and I’m drawing it at 150k.
Does that mean I think you’re “rich” if you make more than that? No. I think there’s a broad territory between middle class and “rich.” A place where people are comfortable, but they’d better not kick back, or they could still lose it all.
Of course, all of this is fuzzy. You could have $50 million in assets, but just be making $100k — or even $10k, or not a thin dime– in additional wealth per year, and you’d still be rich.
But given the obvious shortcomings of any definition of class based purely on income, what do you think?