First Person: I’m Not Choosing a Middle-Class Lifestyle

Yahoo Contributor Network

I can understand the allure of the middle-class lifestyle. To me, it's always been about living in a safe neighborhood and having just enough income coming in to support my needs and a few of my wants. According to a recent article by MSN Money, there are at least 9 different ways I can tell if I'm in the middle class. After learning about some of the ways the middle class is defined, I'm not sure I would choose it as my lifestyle even though my income qualifies me for it.

Going on vacations

Evidently, the middle-class lifestyle includes weeklong vacations. An American Express survey found that the average American family of four like mine spends $4,000 on a weeklong vacation. I can't remember the last time I took a weeklong vacation. My family occasionally takes extended weekend vacations. Some years we do fly to visit relatives who live across the country, but I can't imagine budgeting $4,000 for trips.

Shopping at Target

According to the article, many middle-class people shop at Target. I've heard some of my friends put a French accent on their pronunciation of the store, which draws people with an average income of $61,069 per year. When I look around my house, I think back on where I purchased the different furniture and other items. Truth be told, I rarely shop at Target, Wal-Mart or Kmart. I rarely shop in general. My philosophy is to be a minimalist.

Owning a home

Thinking back on my history, at least in terms of where I've chosen to live, I tend to shoot lower on the ladder so I can live below my means. Researchers say only 45 percent of Americans think homeownership is a distinguishing characteristic of the middle class, compared to 70 percent in 1991. I still believe that owning a home is an important financial goal. However, I don't think anyone should have a mortgage by the time they retire. My goal is to have my mortgage for no more than about 15 years. Then I will resist the temptation to buy a step-up home every decade.

Investing for retirement

I've been putting money aside for retirement for almost a decade. Some experts would say I should have started at age 20 instead of age 30, but many middle-class people are even further behind. The article points out that half of middle-class people are more concerned with paying their monthly bills rather than saving for retirement. Moreover, 70 percent of middle-class respondents to a Wells Fargo survey said they lack confidence in the stock market when it comes to their retirement investments.

Making a middle-class income

A wide range of people live a middle-class lifestyle, although some may earn more or less than what it takes to actually be in the middle class, according experts who study socio-economic trends. According to the article, the median income for a middle-class family of four is about $ 68,000. Researchers with Pew Research Center say a typical family living in the South like me needs at least $70,000. When I lived in the Midwest, I only needed $60,000. Although experts say the middle-class income can range from $40,000 to $100,000, I think it takes the higher income range in order to be able to avoid debt and afford college with higher costs. Researchers say one-third of Americans consider themselves middle class even though they earn less than $30,000 a year. It seems to me they would have to go in debt in order to maintain a better lifestyle, which may very well be the middle-class way. I rather earn more money or reduce my spending than fall into debt.

I can't relate to many other requirements of the middle-class lifestyle either such as having a secure job. A Pew Research Center study showed 86 percent of adults said a person needed a secure job to be in the middle class. I don't think there are any secure jobs. However, it does seem smart to have education, training as well as skills that can transfer from one industry to another. Basic survival skills can't hurt either.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor:

What We Gave up to Buy Our Dream Home

Planning for the end of Social Security

Retiring in my 80s

View Comments