Social Question

bob_'s avatar

Where do you draw the line between being poor, middle class, rich, etc.?

Asked by bob_ (20854points) 2 months ago
21 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

At what point does one stop being poor to become middle class? What does a rich person does that someone from the middle class can’t? Etc.

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zenvelo's avatar

Poor – too much month left at the end of your paycheck. Food insecurity is part of your life.

Middle class – Able to pay rent or house payment, able to pay bills and take an occasional vacation. Able to save a little for retirement.

Rich/wealthy – Annual income is well above level to maintain standard of living at retirement.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Food insecurity was the least of my worries when I was poor, thanks to.$700 a month in food stamps.
I was trash bag and foil and toilet paper and soap and Tampex insecure.

ragingloli's avatar

– having to rely on government assistance
– having to work 2 or more jobs to make ends meet.
– having to rely on 1 or more room-mates to be able to affort rent.
– having to rely on the cheapest of the cheap, low quality food, to avoid cost overruns.
– buying replacement clothes is an expense you have to plan months in advance for.
– vacation consists of watching travel ads on TV. Maybe stand on the balcony once in a while.
– when at times you lay awake in your bed and ponder what organs would be best to sell on the black market.
– the neighbour’s kid looks really delicious right now.

middle class
– can afford a house
– 2 or more kids, why not
– pets, yes please
– second car for the spouse, and a third for the weekend, might take a few months to save up, but totally doable
– yearly vacation to the tropics or a holiday cabin in the mountains is a tradition that you see as mandatory.

– you can retire right now, never have to work a day in your life again, and you can fund a middle class life on your wealth’s interest rates alone.

nikipedia's avatar

What’s your answer, @bob_?

bob_'s avatar

@nikipedia What, are you saying that Bob sounds like a made up name used by someone trying to hide his identity? Nonsense.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Poor – requires financial aid to meet at least one of the basic necessities.

Middle class – no need for financial aid, can afford to put a savings aside for vacations, and have a retirement plan in place. Have one car for each parent. Up to, can afford to put two kids through college without aid or having to uncomfortably cut corners. Each person in the home old enough to drive has their own car, and kids didn’t have to get a job to get theirs. One additional vehicle such as boat, hobby car, etc. Can afford a housekeeper or a nanny. Has more than one investment in place.

Wealthy – has a house staff, gardener, and enough cars to color coordinate with your attire for the day. No idea how much you pay your chauffeur. Nanny reminds you your kids ages and/or names, shot record, etc. You know in the moment what price pork bellies are trading without looking it up (except you look it up anyway, just in case).
Your kids don’t apply to ivy league schools because their placement has been assured from birth.

Insanely wealthy – if you have to ask, either you are, or will never be.

jca2's avatar

To me, poor is working class, meaning they’re working two jobs, buying used cars mostly, not new (and not classic cars, when I say “used cars”), or on public assistance. Not taking fancy vacations – maybe simple vacations but nothing in a fancy resort every year or flying to Europe or anything like that. Middle class – they own one or two houses, maybe they’re working a second job but they’re comfortable as far as extra money goes, paying bills, going out, going on vacations, not living hand to mouth.

gorillapaws's avatar

I would just add there should be a 4th class added as @Patty_Melt correctly points out. The insanely wealthy class is several orders of magnitude more wealthy than the wealthy. They think it’s cute that a wealthy person may have a nice yacht, house in the Hamptons and a vacation home in the Bahamas. The insanely wealthy have more wealth than the GDP of entire nations, and work hard to make sure they stay that way (buying up media outlets and politicians) despite the costs to the planet, their country, and the people who live in it.

Demosthenes's avatar

I grew up in a “rich” area. What I observed:

Rich people around here own at least an acre of suburban land. They own at least one other house: a vacation home by the beach or in the mountains or maybe an apartment in the city. They own several cars, some of which are simply part of a collection. They have gardeners and housecleaners come regularly. Their kids attend expensive private middle and high schools that cost as much as a university. Their kids also are pretty much guaranteed to get into a top university due to legacy factors. They can go on regular vacations to Europe or other popular places. Rich means you don’t really ever to think about money. Anything you want to do, outside of particularly extreme extravagances, you can do. They can retire early.

The middle class does have to think about money and cannot afford regular expensive vacations, but they can save up for the occasional one and go on periodic more affordable vacations. They can buy a second car if they need it, they can renovate their house every now and then. Their kids may need to take out small loans to attend college, but they can contribute a decent amount. They have something of a financial cushion in case something dire does happen and they have a decent retirement fund. Not living paycheck to paycheck. They have private health insurance.

Poor means both parents work, potentially multiple jobs. College attendance for the kids isn’t possible without significant financial aid and scholarships. The poor family will be living paycheck to paycheck and/or spending the largest amount of their paycheck on rent. (They are much more likely to be renting). Food or other necessities could be scarce from time to time. They will likely be on some kind of federal assistance.

Obviously there are cases of “in between” but I think this at least illustrates the line (based on what I’ve observed here and the people I know).

bob_'s avatar

@gorillapaws Of course. The “etc.” part of the question is doing a lot of work here, there are certainly more than three categories!

Dutchess_III's avatar

As in compared to 3rd world country poor.

smudges's avatar

Insanely wealthy is having a ship on your yacht.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m in the US.

I’m assuming you don’t mean the actual monetary amounts that sociologists use to divide up the classes. Actually, socio-economic levels more specifically include education levels and psychographics like how you spend your money, types of activities and travel.

Poor is having almost no savings, needs some sort of public assistance to live on their own.

Middle class is a huge category and should be divided into lower-middle, middle-middle, and upper-middle.

The lower middle can afford some nice things, and live in middle class neighborhoods, but usually it’s precarious and they live check to check or just slightly better, and have very little savings.

Middle-middle can afford nice vacations, live in a nice neighborhood, can save for the future if they don’t spend all of their money. They might own a luxury car or might not.

Upper-middle have a lot of discretionary income. They can afford expensive homes, might have two homes, might have luxury cars, which they can pay for in full if they choose to. Can retire by 65 and sustain their lifestyle without working.

Part of the upper class is new money and part is old money.

New money tends to be more showy, buying things with their wealth to show their accomplishments.

The old money is kind of in a class all to themselves. They don’t have to work to be rich, they are wealthy in every way. Their assets and their income are so high that they have plenty of money and don’t have to worry for generations unless something catastrophic happened in the country. They know who is in their club.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I can’t honestly answer this question, because I honestly don’t know what “poor” is. I’m damn sure not wealthy, but not sure I qualify as middle class either. I’ve always worked, put in OT when nessesary, and did /.do the best I can for my family..wife worked as well, but she’s in bad health now, nothing drastic but not well enough to work.. But with her Social Security supplementing mine we do ok I suppose. I will say I feel I have been downwardly mobile during my life. I came from a, I suppose well off family. Dad was a military guy, somewhat higher up on the food chain, as military things go..and had a good pension after retirement..on the contrary I was always a slacker and fuck up, until I got married. Nothing like a wife and baby girl to give you a reality check..kind of like that Jerry Jeff Walker song, Getting by on Getting by. Could be the theme of my life lol. “Income tax is overdue, think she is too, and I can see Mike Mason a pacin’ the floor. Oh Mike don’ cha worry, somethin’s bound to fall out, and I’ve been down this road once or twice before. Lol yup that was me to a T. But it all came out in the wash. But – if I ever hit that lottery, it’s me and the wife time..Come fly with me we’ll fly away, if you’re into exotic booze I know a bar in Old Bombay…someday maybe.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I used to decide by the tax bracket. Now it’s subjective. Most poor in America and Europe are rich when compared to rich in pooer countries.

JLeslie's avatar

I realized I wrote a lot about what each class can afford, but realize that a lot of millionaires, probably most millionaires, live very modestly.

I would guess a lot of the people I know are worth a million dollars (home equity, savings, and other investments) and almost all of them barely spend any money. They live in homes much less expensive than they can afford, keep their cars 5 years or more, and still clip coupons.

One example, I have a friend who has over $2 million between savings and retirement fund. Her house is worth $300k and her car is 8 years old, it’s a Toyota. Her yearly expenses are $35,000. That’s with no mortgage and no extensive travel. Some years they do a big trip that costs about $5,000.

There are people who live just like my friend in the same community, but they are check to check, and also they can’t do the vacation at whim.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I have my own opinion about the dividing line between middle-class and upper-middle-class: paying for services.

Visit any middle-class neighborhood during a summer, weekend day, and you’ll see people mowing lawns, weeding flower beds, and trimming shrubs and hedges. Go to a more affluent area, and things are different; the yardwork is done by professional landscapers, who arrive with a truck filled with equipment and a crew of laborers, during the business week, and make everything look perfectly manicured.

It’s the same thing for property cleaning and R&M. If a house needs painting, an upper-middle-class owner calls and pays for someone to do the work. If the rugs and upholstery have to be cleaned, don’t rent a machine; there are companies for that. Why drag out a bucket and squeegee, when professional window washers are available?

Possessions indicate nothing, because so many pricey vehicles and houses are heavily financed, and designer clothing and pocketbooks can be acquired with credit card debt. But, paying for services is something different.

Inspired_2write's avatar

I saw this the other day, which gives food for thought.

“Privilege isn’t the presence of perks and benefits.
It’s the absence of obstacles and barriers.
That’s a lot harder to notice.
If you have a hard time recognizing your privilege’s,
focus on what you don’t have to go through,
let that fuel your Empathy and action.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

My Dad’s wife has a cleaning crew come in once a month. Since she was incapacitated, in the hospital, I paid them when they came in for their monthly service. It was only $110. I was floored that it was so cheap! Granted they didn’t buy a giant house for just the two of them, but it is a very nice, elegant home.

jca2's avatar

A lot of people where I live (solidly middle class area) use cleaning people. I used to use one myself. I do have a landscaper come to do stuff that is too much for me to do, and i have a lawn guy.

To me, wealth means not having to run out to be at work by a certain time, under the threat of discipline. Wealthy either have their own money (inherited) or they’re entrepreneurs where they are not punching a clock or have to arrive by 9 and work till 5. They’re the boss, where they can arrive when they want and leave when they want. Even though they might say they work longer than an 8 hour day, and they might take meetings on the golf course or be on the phone or computer late at night, it’s not mandatory, it’s optional.

Good point by @Inspired_2write about the absence of obstacles and barriers.

JLoon's avatar

Rich : You can’t afford me.
Middle class: You can afford me, but I want cash.
Poor : I can’t afford you.

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