I’ve been on a slow burn for a few weeks over something my husband said. First, a little backstory. We helped found a small non-profit about ten years ago. For several years, we had to provide loans to the org to get it through some shortfalls. We’re actually still owed about $300. So, the other day my husband was speaking to one of the other board members about a current shortfall and said, “They expect Aryn and I to cover it, because we’re rich.”
Folks, I hit the roof. We are NOT rich. In comparison to the other board members, we’re certainly well-off, but we’re not rich by any stretch. The mere suggestion that we’re rich, or that he was telling someone we’re rich was infuriating. If we lived in Kansas with our income, we’d be rich. In LA? Not so much.The very idea that we’re rich makes me stabby.
What Is Rich?
In my mind, rich people earn more than $500,000 a year. According to Obama, it’s families earning more than $250,000. I know people in both camps, and neither would say they’re rich. Again, it’s partly location. In Kansas, that would be rich. In California or New York? Most definitely not.
Stretching the Middle Class
According to Wikipedia, the middle class starts at $65,000 for a family, and maxes out around $166,000. Of course, these are squishy numbers. The upper middle class is defined as a family earning more than $100,000. In my view, that upper threshold is low – in coastal states you can be well beyond $166,000 and still be upper middle class.
Why I Consider Us Upper Middle Class
I grew up upper middle class, so that’s a comfortable spot for me. I feel like we’re there. My husband was more staunchly middle class, so being upper middle class feels rich to him. We earn a comfortable income with two higher degrees between us. We also budget carefully, because we have many of the expenses associated with upper middle class families, like a large mortgage and student loan bills. We hope to start a family, so day care would also join that list eventually.
And that’s where the “we’re rich” argument breaks down. Day care, a pending increase in student loan expenses, and a car loan would eliminate our current monthly excess income. We still haven’t managed to boost our retirement savings, and we desperately need to. We’re frugal and budget carefully to afford our life. I’d be much more comfortable if we earned 20% more, but even then we still wouldn’t be rich. We’d just be able to save more.
Let’s Get Rid of the Term Rich
Why even bother calling people rich? Most people don’t define themselves as rich, even if other people think they are. So, let’s just dispense with the term, especially when discussing which portion of the population is rich enough to pay more taxes. At the very least, reserve the term for people for whom work is merely a hobby, not a requirement for living. People like Athina Onassis.