Are You Middle Class?

This post appeared earlier today in our Forums. We've elevated it here because we think it a useful exercise for the CM.com community to engage in. How realistic is the dream of financial self-sufficiency for today's society?

Are you middle class? Surprisingly, most people who think they are middle class, are not middle class.

Being middle class is being able to afford what most would expect a middle class family of 4 or 5 can afford:

  1. Income (from job and/or investments) to financially support yourself and your family of 4 or 5 without resorting to government assistance when it comes to rental housing, food stamps, etc.
  2. Reasonable health insurance/health care for your family (with affordable co-pays and deductibles, assuming no major debilitating conditions).
  3. Reasonable dental insurance/dental care for your family (cleanings, the occasional crown, braces for a kid or two, etc. with affordable deductibles).
  4. Paid off all student loans within 10 years of graduating college.
  5. Savings for retirement, around 10% to 15% or more of income put into a 401(k), IRA, or other investments to cover retirement at age 65, medical expenses, possible nursing home care, etc. (With or without Social Security or Medicare, your choice, depending on if you think it'll be there.)
  6. Savings for both short- and intermediate-term goals (such as one replacement computer/notebook, television, or home appliance a year; a gently-used replacement vehicle every 7 years for each spouse).
  7. Savings for long-term goals (having a 20% down payment towards the purchase of a house near where you currently live within 10 years of entering the job market, having public college expenses at least half-covered within 18 years of each child's birth).
  8. Kids' stuff: school clothes, tricycles/bicycles, inline skates or other sports equipment, uniforms or musical instruments, allowances, help with a used car when they reach driving age, etc.
  9. A family vacation for a week, at least once every year or two; a family vacation for a week at least 2,000 miles away, at least once every 5 years.
  10. Taking the family out to a decent restaurant (not Denny's) at least once per week.
  11. Some new clothes and shoes each year - no need to shop for second-hand clothes.
  12. Debt-free except mortgage - i.e. credit cards completely paid off every month (or at most three months).

If you're on government assistance, if you've delayed health care or dental care because of costs, if you can't save 10% to 15% of your income towards retirement costs, if you aren't able to save the equivalent of a 20% down payment towards a house (yes I understand you may not want to own, but y'know what I mean), can't afford to take vacations, aren't able to pay off your credit card every month, etc. - then you're really not what traditionally would be defined as middle class. You're struggling or you're working class or lower middle class. Even if you might have an iPhone or some of the latest fashions, you're really deluding yourself.

This goes double if both spouses work and such a lifestyle still can't be afforded. Over 50 years ago, most middle class women didn't even work outside the home.

Feel free to share this. And feel free to mention some other things that would be expected of a typical middle class family, that many who think they are middle class, actually can't afford

Addendum:

After I wrote this, I thought back on a New York Times article I had read a month or so back. It had come on the heels of a study on how much was the minimal necessary for a family to be able to not just "meet basic needs without relying on public subsidies" but also to know the "thresholds for economic stability rather than mere survival, and takes into account saving for retirement and emergencies."

Many Low-Wage Jobs Seen as Failing to Meet Basic Needs
"According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour."

"...and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker. That compares with the national poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four."
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/busine...

Obviously, the thresholds from the study don't factor in luxuries like vacations and a lot of other things. But it does factor in saving for a down payment on a home, an emergency fund, children's college, etc.

- Poet

 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/are-you-middle-class-2/

I think that list of middle class markers are still a bit too ‘American.’  Many on this site agree that the standards of living in the United States need to fall, since they’ve been elevated by a bubble in credit.  Standards of living will need to fall back to a point that can be sustained by our trade balance.
Naturally the definition of middle class would need to adjust downwards during this process (if it is to remain “middle”).  The size of the middle class always remains the same, but their quality of life is falling (as many of us are expecting).

I wonder how the middle class is defined in Africa, or India. 

America is still (but not for long) on of the very few places where the people “in the middle” have a pretty sweet life.

Just think about how other species have it… human’s are the only species who’s middle class isn’t constantly flirting with starvation every day of their lives.

It’s good to be human, and it’s even better to be American, for now.

 

Sorry, Macro2682, I wrote these things terms of the traditional middle class American family, because that’s how it’s been portrayed in the media, in movies, in commercials, etc. for many years now. And what was achievable for many in the past. In the 1950s, many arguably middle class American families could afford most of the criteria with just one spouse’s income. Now most have both spouses working.
Rather than define middle class downwards to always be in the middle quintile of affluence in America (and Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe), I think it’s important to instead define what constitutes the middle class and hold to those standards. That’s how Brazil or China can be said to have an “emerging” or “growing” middle class. Or in this case, that’s how we can chart (anecdotally, of course) our own situation in America, and see if there has been a decline in the standard of living over time, with wages stagnant and prices rising.

For the record, no I’m not what I would consider middle class. Probably lower middle class, since we do save for retirement and we do have an emergency fund and are not in debt (handling 8 out of 12 on the chart). I would say that I was middle class from about 2002 through 2009. What changed was marriage and then children (twins), with my wife now being fully devoted to taking care of our babies (whereas before, she was pulling in part-time income while going to college full-time). Hopefully within about 8 years, things will change with the kids in school and my wife finishing her degree and working.

Poet

Thanks for bringing up the topic Poet, as I think it’s worthwhile looking at some of the items that we seem to count as “Middle Class” today:

One of the issues which has been being discussed on other topics lately is insurance and health care.  If you look back prior to 1973 and the passing of the Health Maintenance Organization Act, families had traditional insurance or paid for the care directly.  That is the things you list above were not really part of middle class.  If you went to the doctor or the dentist for any routine stuff (non major surgery) you paid for it.   So does this mean that families had to have more disposable income, or does it mean we use the services much more often?

I believe the HMO act was the beginning of the unsustainable health care course we are on today where costs are distributed across a large percentage of the population with little visibility to the individual.  This has allowed physicians, health plans, hospitals to charge much higher rates that would otherwise be possible in a free market.

Very few people I know had student loans.  College was much more affordable and either you worked your way through college or parents saved enough to cover it.  However, college costs have risen dramatically. Why? Why are they substantially outpacing inflation?   Is it possibly due to the SLM Corporation (better known as Salle Mae) starting up in 1973?  The GSE has allowed students to become saddled with government encouraged debt.  This has allowed the universities to charge much higher than market prices given the massive subsidy of government guaranteed loans.

It used to be much easier to save since your savings were actually worth something.  Now a 10% savings w/inflation is really only 2-3% now and probably much less if you look at inflation rates throughout the 70’s and 80’s.  The long term debasement of currencies that came to a head in 1971 with the shutting of the gold window which was a sign that much of the “wealth” throughout the 50’s and 60’s was just an illusion created by subsidies from the federal government in the form of money printing with a foreign exchange supported by gold convertibility which hid much of the negative inflationary effects.

Have we dramatically increased spending?  I certainly see kids with far more toys, people with cars rarely older than 4 years, fancy kitchens, appliances, etc.  I know I certainly felt we were in the middle class growing up, but even the richest families did haven’t near the high class stuff I see people living with today. 

I think the we have dramatically increased the standard of living for what is consider middle class today.  We have made it an illusion that you can have 2-3 kids and not sacrifice the new car, the fancy house, or the new toys.  I don’t believe that meshes with the reality of the middle class in the 50s, 60’s, and 70s.  I believe this new “have it all” is a recent phenomenon from about 1990 onward. To me it seems that the “middle class” of today is a considerably higher standard of living than the middle class of the 1960s.

I certainly agree with you that the middle class is shrinking, but I’m not sure if it isn’t somewhat of our own making as so many of  us have prioritized immediate consumption over savings.  We live the medium to upper class now for poverty later?

The thing is, the entire concept of “middle class” is largely a 20th century American phenomena.  Prior to that period of time (coinciding roughly with the fossil fuel revolution), there really was no middle class to speak of.  People were either wealthy or poor/working class (or indentured in some form or another).  The rise of the American middle class is almost entirely attributable to cheap, abundant fossil fuels.  These energy sources were so energy dense that they allowed great amounts of excess energy (beyond that needed to simply sustain life and meet basic needs) to be applied to other things.  These things became the trappings of middle class America.  If/when cheap fossil fuels are no longer widely available, the middle class is going to lose access to their energy slaves.  A very few may manage to make the move up into the world of the wealthy, but the vast majority are likely to return, over time, to their more historically common place as working poor.Plenty of people would argue (and pretty convincingly, I think) that this process has already begun.

First off, where I’m coming from: my husband and I are both professionals with advanced degrees and are earnings are in the top 20% of income in the U.S., so I’d say we’re a few steps above middle class.
That said, I significantly disagree that “eating at a nice restaurant” once a week is a middle class behavior.  I think that’s an astonishing luxury not at all what I recall from my upbringing in the middle class.

Furthermore, you also threw in their the astonishing luxury of not dying from cancer.  Seriously, you think that’s a standard of middle class living through-out history?  On the contrary, we are now paying something like 20% of our wealth for health care which has become shockingly effective at keeping us from dying.  Each of us decides every day that we’d like to pay for health care expenditures that are equivalent elements of our budgets to food or housing, for the same reason we pay 20% of our budgets towards housing: there just isn’t any other good or services we value as highly as health care.

But the average spending per American is well over $4K/year on health care now.  Do NOT make the mistake that this is a middle class right.  This is an enormous, absolutely UNBELIEAVABLE benefit to us, equivalent of moving out of a cave into Levittown.

– Wendy

 

 

Rhare’s post I think brings up a very good point, in that the middle class expectations are rather different than they were 3 or more decades ago.  The part in bold from my post in the original thread (cross-posted below) outlines my own family’s experience, in that the only way for us to truly be ‘middle class’ in the ways that count is to not live the idealized middle class lifestyle.  And to be frank, regarding income and savings we are still well above the median household levels for our age group… I cringe at the thought of those trying to live that life on the median household income.  This ‘scope creep’ in lifestyle or standard of living is a devilish thing, and I’m glad we didn’t get caught up in it.  
Perhaps we should develop a middle class criteria list for a post-3E’s world?  Poet’s list I think is a good & reasonable definition for the current situation, but we know that’s changing as we speak and will look a lot different in the future.

 

Cross post from the original thread:

------------------

Well I’d say your criteria are pretty spot on, at least in terms of American living.  With my old job I would say our family solidly met those criteria, and probably considered solidly upper middle class in terms of income, though some might say our lifestyle is/was closer to lower middle (simple 2-bedroom apartment with no garage, both cars are 5 years old or older, and we buy secondhand stuff frequently).

Now we are a one-income household, at least until my entrepreneurial efforts yield fruit which I realistically expect to take a long while.  Long story short we still qualify in all your categories except for two, and it’s hardly a shock that one of those happens to be number 2… health care/insurance (the second is dental care/insurance, though that’s not a concern for us until the little one is much older).  We had our insurance through my job, and while my wife’s RN job pays well she does not get health insurance through her position.  In the short term we are continuing my insurance through COBRA (or as I call it, the Bend-Over-And-Squeal-Like-A-Pig priced health insurance), and while we can afford it, it hurts to pay more for health insurance than we do for rent and it’ll only last for 18 months.  And there aren’t any better options for us, as all comparable health insurance plans available for us to purchase are about as expensive or more so.  I don’t mean to sideline the discussion into a health insurance debate, but the simple fact is that this is our biggest challenge or predicament in terms of the listed criteria.

One thing that I think is particularly telling though, is that if we had bought into the ‘American dream of home ownership’ and bought expensive cars and the other crap that is expected of our income level, we’d have little ability to save or might actually be running a deficit now.  Living frugally and below our means has made all the difference in not only keeping our heads above water (or staying ‘middle class’ if one prefers) but giving us the ability to continue to save and pursue our own business interests.

Poet wrote:
Taking the family out to a decent restaurant (not Denny's) at least once per week
Hey, don't be knocking Denny's!  Why, there's no better place for taking your special someone on your anniversary for a Super Slam or Moons-Over-My-Hammy breakfast (no regular Grand Slam breakfast will do for such a special occasion Laughing)

 

  • Nickbert

[quote=bsm20]The thing is, the entire concept of “middle class” is largely a 20th century American phenomena.  Prior to that period of time (coinciding roughly with the fossil fuel revolution), there really was no middle class to speak of. 
[/quote]
I totally agree with you that the concept of the American middle class is tied to the American Century of cheap fossil fuels.  I was just discussing with someone that the sort of house that makes sense to buy is the sort of house that made sense to buy in 1900.  Could it function as a home without cars?  Without cheap oil?
But I disagree that there was no middle class.  Yes there were.  Merchants and professionals, educators and religious leaders, and of course government workers constituted the middle class and always have as far as I can tell from my readings of economics throughout history.
The things that are truly new in this century are communications and health care, in my opinion.   Used to be that only the wealthy could afford phones.  For example, there was a tax put on long distance charges at the turn of the last century to pay for the Spanish American War because it was viewed as only a tax on the wealthy.  And, of course, everyone died when they got cancer, poor and rich and middle class alike. 
So I’d say he’s got quite a lot of scope creep in his definition of what middle class means if you go back before the era of cheap oil to see what that term USED to mean.

Edited to clean up threading.

We can go beyond anecdotes.  Elizabeth Warren has done a very good factual study demonstrating this decline.  Even if you disagree with her political views, her rigorous study, based on hard data, is compelling, and controlled to compare the same factors over time.  The video is particularly good with eye opening graphs.  It was a real wake up for me when I first say it.  As I remember, housing, health care and day care were the biggest changes that account for the decline, along with income instability.

You did a nice job Poet in presenting this topic.

Article  http://harvardmagazine.com/2006/01/the-middle-class-on-the-html

Video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A&feature=related

Book  http://www.amazon.com/Two-Income-Trap-Middle-Class-Parents-Going/product-reviews/0465090907/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

 

[quote=rhare] 

I certainly agree with you that the middle class is shrinking, but I’m not sure if it isn’t somewhat of our own making as so many of  us have prioritized immediate consumption over savings.  We live the medium to upper class now for poverty later?

[/quote]

Warren’s study of middle class decline was controlled to compare the same factors over time.  Same size house, etc.  However, your are right Rhare that for many people increased consumption is also a factor.  I see it everyday compared to when I grew up.  Young adults expect the world and expect it now.  A lot of the older ones aren’t much better.  The middle class has been burning the candle at both ends.  Now reality intrudes.

Travlin

Fair enough.  I suppose a more accurate position would be that the historical middle class was largely an outcome of the process of increasing societal complexity, a process that substantially increased with the advent of agricultural support of urban centers, but really went exponential (and unsustainable) with the discovery of fossil fuels.The middle class would have originally consisted primarily of those specialized trades that sat in between nobility and peasant agricultural workers.  These people would mostly have lived in towns and villages and would have provided services mostly to the nobility, but also to each other.  Their lot in life would have been only marginally better than that of the peasants who worked the land.  They probably would not have owned any meaningful property, paying rent for the roof over their head.  Indeed, they would have been largely dependent upon the nobility.  The move towards urbanization and industrialization and their inherant added complexity increased the number of these people, and probably improved the standard of living (if not the quality of life) for many.  However, this version of the middle class had virtually none of the trappings of what we consider to be middle class.
In today’s middle class, people have many of the same things as the wealthy… Flat panel TVs, A/C, cars, homes that they own (more or less), access to markets, air travel, and, as you point out, health care and personal communications, etc.  The wealthy have more of it, better quality, and undoubtedly access to certain goods and services that the typical middle class does not.  However, if you compare this to the period prior to the industrial revolution, indeed, in some respects, prior to WW II, the situation is very different.  The “middle” had very little access to most of the things that the wealthy (or nobility) had.  Their lives had much more in common with the working poor than with the wealthy.  Non-farm home ownership, auto ownership, and most of the other trappings of what we commonly think of as a “middle class” lifestyle really exploded on the scene after WW II.   And it was funded with cheap fossil fuels that provided enough of an energy surplus to allow a vast middle class to actually separate itself from the working poor and adopt a lifestyle that really was more in the middle between the rich and the poor.  Absent this energy surplus, the “middle” would be where they historically were, just barely above the poor and light years away from the wealthy.

While this is a common belief, I’m not so sure that life expectancy gains are very related to our ever growing health care costs.   Access to clean water, food, and basic trauma care have done far more.  I believe we throw a lot of money at health care for very little return.  Other than trauma and basic dental cleanings, and OTC drugs, I don’t believe most people would notice a significant change in their life expectancy if their was no other care available.  We have been trained to go the the doctor for every ache and pain and that we need the latest greatest drug or we will die!

It’s why I put health care way down on the list of important things.  A good catastrophic high deductible plan to cover unlikely but large events and I have little worry.    Unfortunately we are trained we have to have it all, the latest and greatest drugs, diagnostic techniques and tests, and it all should be covered for everyone with no concern for costs or resource limitations.  It’s insane…

No one sees the trade offs.   What choice would you make:

  • $300,000 ($4k/yr * 75 years) to spend and have fun, or
  • An extra 5 years of life potentially in a nursing home, hospital, potentially incapacitated - but most likely with failing eyes, joints, and other assorted old age ailments.
I know I would take the money, put 1/3 into catastrophic trauma insurance to age 70, and spend the rest enjoying life now!  It may actually be much more than $300,000, since I don't think the $4k/yr figure I found includes the extra $250,000 for each of us in unfunded Medicare liability.

I sidestep the whole class thingy.
I collect grade A women. Naturely they would not glance at me if they are in fine fettle.

However, when they fall on hard times I scoop them up.

Here is the deal. I husband them to back to strength and when they are fighting fit and ready for the big bad world, off they go. What do I get out of it? A whole crop of grade A children, and a sound network of females who take me in (and get me to do things around the house) whenever I am in town. (And yes, I do support my children financially)

The down side is that I need to be emotionaly strong. It is so hard letting the little critters go. I do get quite attached to them.

And the WC? (Dunny, for the less coy Australians). That has been the single most effective life extending agent ever invented. The flushing toilet. Who ever would have picked it? Pretty obvious in hind sight.

All Hail John Crapper.

http://www.huliq.com/8059/90898/thomas-crapper-day-he-did-not-invent-toilet

We need to redefine what it means to be middle class and what it means to be comfortable and happy.
What has developed in America is this very rigid system where everyone is expected to provide monthly payments of various kinds in order to survive. Each month, we are expected to pay:

Rent/mortgage
Car payments
Insurance payments (health and home)
Cell phone payments
Utilities
etc. etc.

All of this is predicted on people having regular, non-stop income. As someone who has only once held a full-time “day job” in my entire life (right out of college), I always found it odd that our entire societal structure was organized around people paying things ridigly by the month.

There’s no room to, for example, go to your mortgage lender and ask for a fluid system of payments that might give some leeway for up and down income fluxuations. The bottom line is, you are tied to your job and going on a sabbatical or otherwise taking a break isn’t very easy (unless you have a job that include “sabbaticals”).
I know people who gave up all material wealth to go volunteer in an ashram. There was a lovely yoga teacher I had in Los Angeles who was an older woman, very involved with the transition movement, who owned almost nothing and was supported 100% by the yoga ashram. She seemed very happy and well-adjusted.

As things break down I expect the monthly payments system to be one of the first casualties, and I wonder how large apartment complexes are going to deal with a sudden inability of most of their tenants to pay for rent each month on time. Will they do mass evictions? Or have to work with tenants? Or go out of business? Will people become squatters in their apartments?

I feel that the criteria listed are rather modest expectations for a real middle class American family lifestyle with up to two income earners! (I believe it would also apply to Australia, New Zealand. Western Europe, etc.)
Y’know, people who don’t necessarily spend or do all those things, but could afford it.

  • Like health and dental insurance, braces for kids.
  • Like being able to replace one home appliance or television, or computer/notebook per year. (Not one each.)
  • Like buying "gently used" (pre-owned) vehicles every 7 years per spouse. (I didn't mention size or model).
  • Like paying off student loans within 10 years, saving up with one's spouse for a 20% down payment on a house within 10 years, putting away for retirement and for half of kid's college at a public university.
  • Like a one-week vacation once each year or two years, etc. (notice I didn't mention an overseas destination or plane tickets).
  • Like not having to buy second-hand clothes.
If we are to think about whether we can afford to live what is expected of a middle class American lifestyle in the past couple of decades, then we have to think of what the expectations are that such a family can afford and provide and set that benchmark.

As the economy becomes more difficult (as they have over the past many years), we can compare to the previous benchmark, see how many Americans can still fit that definition. Maybe “vehicles” become glorified electric golf carts (like the Smart car) or perhaps a horse-and-wagon team. Maybe “health insurance” becomes being able to afford the town doctor’s when little Timmy’s ill rather than resorting to home remedies only, or affording a visit to the local dentist’s when you have a toothache is “dental insurance” rather than resorting to whiskey and a strong-armed friend with pliers. But the financial resources distinction will remain, separating the working poor or lower middle class from what is considered the solidly middle class.

But I still think the criteria are rather modest. Ten years ago, GM’s assembly line employees used to be able to afford the middle class American family lifestyle. The old-timers who still have GM jobs still can. Same with most teachers and nurses with several years of tenure.

But semantics aside, just look at the criteria or the money needed to afford them. Are you (or would you be) able to meet them all? If not, then maybe you are not middle class.

In fact, I suspect many who consider themselves to be economically middle class, but are brave enough to answer the question, would have to admit as I have, “No.”

P.S. - Travlin, thank you for bringing up Elizabeth Warren. (Especially the video: Must watch!) Nickbert, while I do like Denny’s and my wife and I have gone on occasion for a weekend breakfast (I am partial to the steak and eggs), I would like to say that the Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, and Claim Jumper are superior.

Poet

 

I think this is a “Must Watch” of Elizabeth Warren. The data presented is just fascinating.
Real income with women in the work force, what middle class families really spend money on, bankruptcies more common, and more…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A

Note: If you want to skip the long introduction, click below instead (opens in a new browser window):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=akVL7QY0S8A#t=386s

Hat tip to Travlin for bringing it up!!

Poet

Adam Smith’s quest for egalitarian distribution of wealth and mobility was based on the premise that unregulated free markets and capitalism were the answer to the conundrum of wealth and privilege locked up in 18th century landed nobility.We can recognize now that this was and is false.
One of the significant identifying metrics of what is to be middle class is the notion that this was meant to be a transition state, a purgatory of sorts, as some and hopefully most, if desire were to exceed ambition, could secure passage to upper class status after taking advantage of the principles of mobility, and using grit, determination, and hard work elevate themselves (bootstrapping, in the vernacular) to a higher position. And if they choose not to participate, as mobility is in fact optional and dependent on the individual, then a comfortable and sustainable life awaited those who pride family and other values over risk taking, asking only a modicum of hard work in return. And if they choose to do nothing, than the venial sin of the lower class would await. Middle class is not about how much we consume and of what brands, but of the potential, realized or not, that greener fields await and are possible for those that desire (and want to work for it).
These simple definitions are now cast asunder, with a declining middle class, as any most any measure of data will show. Declining income, declining wealth, declining standard of living, declining purchasing power, and declining savings. But increasing lifespan, and of course increasing debt. Increasing hours in the work week, increasing wage earners per household. Increasing healthcare costs. The zealots wave their placards. Privatize everything. Let the free markets work. Exercise free will, liberty and responsibility.
Adam Smith’s bill of goods now fallow, has led us full circle to a world where once again the wealth is in the hands of a few, and mobility for the masses is all but extinguished. The process of this lengthy and much delayed cycle is as inexorable as it is repeatable, it is not the domain of excessive government intervention, it is not a crisis of monetary system, it is the artifact of a well known and perennially denied truth.
And yet the blood boils accompanied by the shrill and incessant admonishment that this is a morals problem, a problem of consumption, a problem of too much government or too little oil, a problem of excessive regulation, a problem of excessive taxation. If only they would remove the  __________ (insert slogan of choice) then all would be well. If only we could reinstate the good old days, when men recognized liberty, when real men were free. But nobody seems to know exactly when the goods old days actually were, any period subjected to close scrutiny was even worse, much worse, than today.
And those held unaccountable to history spin yarns and prosthelytize their fiction.

Three things I’d like to correct re mid dle class of the past

  1. We shared a car, we ate out once a month, we didn’t have cable TV. cell phones, etc

  2. The reason housewives didn’t work outside the home in 1950 was because housework was a full time job with 3-4 kids.  No dishwasher, no clothes drier (hanging them out in DEC is really fun.  My mom had an old washer with a hand crank wringer try that some time.  We planted a huge garden and canned/froze tons of food. So now I work at a comfortable, challenging desk job so that I can have these labor saving devices in my home.  If you men had been a middle class housewife in 1950, you’d be glad to trade the hard work for a nice cushy professional job. We did NOT go to work to keep a middle class life style, we traded up in the world.  The upper middle class, do-nothing trophy housewife portrayed in sitcoms of the late 50’s and early 60’s was a media created aberation. 

3)  We also ate real food in the 50’s – not McDonalds.  We played outdoors instead of watching TV 5-6 hrs a day.  No wonder health care costs are rising.  Obese, out of shape couch potatoes COST A LOT to keep alive (it would be a lie to say keep healthy, because they are not.) 

So some gains and some losses. 

That said, when I first went to work, I could afford all those things you mentioned, except no kids yet.  Every year, it gets harder and harder to keep up, and like you we don’t waste a lot. 

This discussion really ticks me off.  More talk about class - like the survey earlier this year.   WTF does any of this discussion have to do with “What Should I Do?”   What is it about discussing “class” that intrigues you people? 
After reading this article, is anyone better prepared to meet the physical, mental and spiritual challenges of the near future with this discussion?  Really I want to know.

Furthermore, look at what criteria you are measuring yourselves against.  It is totally friggin’ meaningless.  With the way the world is changing, it is a total illusion.  Here, you tell me what friggin class Im in using your criteria…

  1. Income:  Zero - I quit a 6 figure job to pay off my debt and make prepare my homestead and family for a very rough future.  I have a BS and a MS in engineering. At one time, I had a 7 figure net worth.   I quit for many reasons but the main one is that money is meaningless.  It is just keystrokes.
  2. Reasonable health insurance/health care: Screw health care and health insurance.  I tried to get health care but I had to bare my finances to the State Family services.  Aint gonna happen.  We eat right using the wisdom of traditional diets. I  work safe.  I exercise daily.   Im looking for catastrophic insurance but even that is a charlie foxtrot.
  3. Reasonable dental insurance/dental care for your family.  See above and add flossing daily, brushing twice daily and no sweets. 
  4. Paid off all student loans within 10 years of graduating college:  Yeah that and $80K in medical debt but within 5 years after college.  I also poached and dumpster dived for food.
  5. Savings for retirement:  Everyone one of us is going to work until we are dead.  Get over it.   My savings for retirement are the materials, skills and equipment to have a sustainable, low input greenhouse/garden/orchard that produces a years worth of food, a rainwater collection system, 4Kw off grid pv system, a shop tools up to maintain equipment, gather 10 cords of wood, harvest an elk each year, a deer a year, enough pm buried in the wild frontier to pay for my daughter's education and enough hens to keep me in eggs. 
  6. Savings for both short- and intermediate-term goals:  see above.
  7. Savings for long-term goals: See above
  8. Kids' stuff: We buy all clothes 2nd hand.  The kid has a tree house, chickens, a dog and garden to play with.
  9. A family vacation for a week, at least once every year or two; a family vacation for a week at least 2,000 miles away, at least once every 5 years:  2000 miles away, WTF?  We can drive an hour in any direction to the most beautiful mountains in the lower 48.  We often do to fish, hunt, gather mushrooms and berries.  Ive got a world class trout stream just 5 miles away.  Everyday is a vacation when you love what you do.
  10. Taking the family out to a decent restaurant (not Denny's) at least once per week:  Screw restaurants.  I have better food coming out of the garden, the greenhouse and the coop.  I get raw milk from a local dairy - it's illegal but it is better for us.  Last time I went to a restaurant - I vowed never to go back.  I take along nuts, dried fruit and jerky when I travel.   I would eat the dirt out of my raised beds before I eat restaurant food.  I dont even feed that crap to my chickens.
  11. Some new clothes and shoes each year - no need to second-hand clothes.  Second hand clothes are better.  Better quality for the price if you know what brands to look for.  Already shrunk.  Already soft and worn in.  Just clean them and they are like the ones in your closet.  When I do buy new like socks, shoes and underwear, I buy quality, natural fibers  that last.  I wash them on gentle cycle with gentle detergents.   I have boots that are 20 years old.  I buy quality and take care of them. 
  12. Debt-free except mortgage: Screw debt.  That is what enslaves you.  
I don't get the class thing.  Not at all.  When you label someone, you negate them.   You fit them into a neat little compartment that helps your small, closed mind understand them.   And, that goes for labeling your self, as well.

 

Mooselick

I understand what you’re saying, but keep in mind that CM.com has a broader viewpoint than survivalist forums.  The first E is the economy, and the slow destruction of the middle class we are experiencing validates what Chris has been saying for years.  This is the proof for people who need convincing.  This deterioration of living standards for the backbone of the USA has become a very personal thing, and it is relevant to our understanding of what is happening and how things may develop.

Travlin