The majority of people used to think that having a house, a white picket fence, two weeks of vacation time, two kids, and the means to send those kids to college was a sign of success.
According to many surveys and statistics on the class system, the middle class has proven to be a dying breed today.
Despite all the attention the topic has received, it is still difficult to define what constitutes the middle class because everyone aspires to it regardless of wealth. Instead of concentrating on money, let’s examine middle-class status’s six lifestyle criteria.
Do You Identify as Middle Class?
The middle class has been described using a wide range of numerical values. To this, you should also consider how Americans perceive the middle class in terms of income differently.
The 2018 Planning and Progress Study by Northwestern Mutual finds that 68% of Americans consider themselves middle-class.
The majority (78%) think that middle-class status is defined as having an annual income between $50,000 and $100,000, 52% think it is between $50,000 and $99,999, and 26% think it is less than $50,000.
Six Indicators You’re Middle Class
Although there is no official definition of the middle class, the Middle-Class Task Force, established during the Obama Administration, described this group of Americans in terms of six still-relevant financial ambitions.
We can think of them as standards. You are probably at least a part of the middle class if you can check off each of these six requirements:
Homeownership continues to be the American dream. The transition from renting to owning is a sign of success and prosperity.
The capacity to accomplish this goal varies greatly by geographic region due to the wide disparities in median home price ranges among American cities.
Owning a Car
Having a car allows you to have more mobility and the “luxury” of being able to travel whenever you want without using public transport like subways and buses. Once more, the price of cars, as well as the sort needed, vary greatly.
A second-hand Hyundai will work for one driver. For another, obtaining a brand-new BMW represents achieving this objective.
Children’s College Education
For middle-class families, helping kids succeed in life is a top priority. Children’s college tuition costs range from the low tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The price is greatly influenced by the college or university those kids attend.
Achieving retirement is a goal that almost everyone has. It serves as proof of accomplishment and a reward for years of toil.
Definitions are important once more. Depending on whether you see having a staff of 10 at your villa in the South of France or a townhouse in Peoria, Illinois, the number of funds needed to support your latter years would differ dramatically.
For families with middle-class salaries, having access to healthcare is a priority. Healthcare coverage is becoming increasingly necessary due to the high and rising costs of medical care and prescription medications.
Not having health insurance could have disastrous financial repercussions in the event of a catastrophic illness or injury.
The middle-class tradition of taking a family vacation. Vacations show that a family is financially secure and successful enough to take time off work to pursue leisure interests.
How to Get There
Even while achieving middle-class status is not without difficulties, some proactive measures can assist turn the ideal into a reality. One of the most evident is budgeting.
You can pinpoint the precise composition of the benchmarks you want to match by knowing where your money goes each month.
Another essential component is planning. Are the kids attending a private institution or a state university? Are scholarships an option? Some resourceful families can pay for college by taking part in initiatives that help families with the costs of sending a kid to college.
Another prerequisite is employment. Most people would need a second job until they’ve built their wealth. Another crucial factor is your investment strategies for all the money that you saved. For millennials, investing has aided a lot in accumulating wealth.
What Happened to the Dream?
In the United States, the middle class makes up around half (52%) of the population, according to a Pew Research Center study released in September 2018. Even that small majority indicates a longer-term decline in the middle class relative to earlier decades.
The growth of the middle class has started to be reversed by globalization and technological advancements. The United States manufacturing base altered as high-paying employment in factories and heavy industries was exported to lower-paying markets.
Labor unions lost most of their leverage in negotiating competitive pay and comprehensive benefits.
Later, white-collar jobs, including bookkeeping, data entry, deciphering medical pictures, and telephone customer service, were all outsourced. Computers and other technological breakthroughs that boosted productivity led to the elimination of many employees still in the United States.
Many households evolved into two-income families to attain or maintain a middle-class lifestyle. The elimination of defined-benefit plans by employers, rising college tuition, and rising healthcare costs made it harder for middle-class ambitions to be attained.
There is no recognized definition of a middle class in terms of money. For the majority, it’s more about maintaining a standard of living, which includes owning a home, being able to pay for your children’s college educations, and having enough extra money to go on a family vacation.
Even though the middle class is supposedly in decline, over half of American homes still belong to this group, at least for the time being.