While doing a little weekend reading I ran across an interesting, interactive post from The New York Times. The tool uses four “components of class” including occupation, education, income, and wealth. Apparently, your classification in each of the four categories will determine your overall class (bottom fifth, lower middle, middle, upper middle, or top fifth). The definitions provided for each class seem to be relatively in line with what one would expect, but in this economy things seem to be “ebbing and flowing” day to day. I would expect someone who earns $60,000 a year in a stable career feels more secure than someone who earns $100,000 in a volatile one, so income may be more heavily weighted than it ought to be.
My work is far from prestigious, but is also a step up from some of the jobs I’ve held over the years (being on the business end of a walk-behind Ditch Witch laying sprinkler pipe during a Georgia summer was some of the toughest work I’ve ever done). My current job would be best described in the “Computer and Information Systems” area, barely landing us in the upper middle class category.
Though it took a number of years, three schools and the accumulation of some debt, I did finally return to school and complete my bachelor’s degree. This accomplishment landed me in the top fifth category, but I wonder if a basic bachelor’s degree will one day soon be the equivalent of a high school diploma with the push for more government subsidized post-secondary education. That’s for another post.
The combination of my full time job’s income, and my work here at Frugal Dad (and other freelance gigs), lands me in the top fifth class. This is a good lesson. I should be living the high life, or at least a taller life, but thanks to debt we are living on far less than we earn. The gazelle intensity is worth the sacrifice though as we are hammering down those debt balances.
By far the most disappointing results of the group. Between our remaining school debt, and the fact that my retirement accounts have been obliterated in the last year, this drove our net worth into the lower middle class territory. I am not overly despondent about it, but it is a great reminder that I have work to do.
My wife and I “treaded water,” financially, for most of our 20’s. Well, that’s not entirely true because we did accumulate some debt. We got married young, decided to have kids young, and decided she would stay home with the kids rather than pursue a career. It was a personal decision that worked best for our little family, but it was one that did not come without sacrifices.
Until I finished my degree, and broadened my experience in my current career field, my earnings were in the lower middle class income range. We survived, but had little disposable income to save and invest. In our late twenties things finally began to look up as my income increased, and we began to adopt a more frugal lifestyle.
Now that we are in our thirties we have some ground to make up on those who saved more diligently in their twenties. It’s a bitter pill, but one I wouldn’t trade for my beautiful children and the life we are blessed with now. However, our primary mission is to make up lost ground on our retirement savings, clear the rest of our debt, and sock something away for our kids’ college education. Easier said than done.
Which class do you belong, according to the survey/tool? Do you agree?