First Person: Calculating My Middle Class Wage

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What is middle class, but more importantly, what is middle class for the single person? To me, middle class is the ability to pay all my bills, buy food, gas, groceries, medical insurance, and have enough left over to save between $200 and $400 a month. CNNMoney reported back in October, that the 2010 middle class income was $49,445. That number is per household. Unfortunately, the article doesn't state the average number of people per household.

The federal poverty line, however, does list income for the number of people in a residence. For a family of four, the poverty line is $22,350 a year. For a family of one, the line is $10,890 per year. If I assume that the average household has four members, middle class is roughly 2.21 times the poverty line. It also means that the single person middle class would be $24,066 per year. I'm betting I need more than $24,000 a year to be middle class.

Bills

My rent, electricity, cell phone, gym membership, car insurance, and internet cost me $822 a month or $9,864 per year. Out of that $822 a month, I pay $540 a month for a 600 square foot, one bedroom apartment. If I were middle class, I'd have a two bedroom apartment for $750 which would increase my monthly bills to $1,032 per month or $12,384 per year.

Food

I currently spend about $75 a week on food, soap and paper products. For the year, that amounts to $3,900. Of course, a lot of that is generic, and it includes very few fresh fruits and vegetables. I would love to have brand name facial tissues, and paper towels. I would also love to be able to buy apples, oranges, fresh green beans, broccoli, and corn. If I were middle class, I'd spend about $125 a week on groceries and paper products for a yearly total of $6,500.

Gas

Since I work from home, I spent about $20 a week on gas for trips to the store and the gym. That's another $1,040 a year. I doubt this would change much if I were middle class. Most of everything I do is within 10 miles of my apartment.

Medical Insurance

I don't currently have medical insurance, but if I did, it would cost me about $260 a month or $3,120 a year. If I were middle class, I would be able to afford health insurance.

Student Loans

I owe about $60,000 on my student loans. The monthly bill is $250 a month or $3,000 a year. Obviously, I would be paying these if I were middle class. They wouldn't be sitting in forbearance.

Savings

I like to save about $400 a month. That amount allows me to plan for emergencies, take care of car repairs as they happen, and if I have an exceptionally cheap year, I can take a vacation. That's another $4,800 a year.

For me to consider myself middle class, I would have to earn a minimum of $30,844 before taxes. I can expect to have to pay 23 percent of my wages in taxes which means I'd actually have to earn $37,938 per year to be middle class. That's almost four times the poverty rate and only $11,507 less than middle class for a household.

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