First Person: The Myth of the ‘New Rich’ Should Offend Gen-X’ers

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A Gen-X'er, I was a child in the '80s when the term Yuppies was used to describe the young urban professionals in the upper middle and upper classes notorious for being self-centered and materialistic. Fast-forward 30 years later and Yuppies are now the baby boomers who are plowing through their children's could-have-been inheritances. Today, experts are calling workers with a household income of more than $100,000 and a respectable amount of money saved for retirement as part of the "new rich." A recent article by USA Today went so far as to say the new rich or mass affluent may be the biggest barrier to "income equality." I find that laughable since I am not materialistic and I'm not rich even though I fall into the "demographic bubble of rich Americans." Members of Generation X with six-figure household incomes are more likely middle class like me. I am not a barrier to income equality. If anything, people in my demographic are contributing more to the economy and paying more in taxes than the average person. I can think of several reasons I'm not even close to being rich.

Accepting suburban flight

According to a Census report, the median sales price of a home in the United States in 2005 when I bought my $183,000 home was $240,900. In 2010, the median sales price was $221,800. In 2010, my home was valued at about $120,000. I purchased a home in a solid middle-class subdivision in Florida. After the housing bubble burst, my neighborhood transformed into a lower middle-class subdivision, but I didn't become part of the suburban flight. If I was rich, I could afford to move to an upscale home in a gated community. I can't afford to move. Moreover, I don't even want to move to a more affluent neighborhood.

Going broke over community college

If I'm rich, I should be able to afford to send my children to Ivy League colleges or, at least, private universities. We could only afford community college for our children. According to a National Center or Educational Statistics report, tuition, room and board was $3,499 in current dollars at 4-year institutions in 1980 compared to $22,092 in 2010. People who earned higher incomes in the 1980s didn't have to take out a second mortgage on their homes to send their children to college. Since we were underwater on our mortgage, we couldn't tap our home equity even if we wanted to.

Paying a premium for health care

I am spending a ton of money on health care while lower-income people get assistance. My health care insurance payments will go up by more than $300 a month in 2014. I don't get any break on any of the health care bills that I'm obligated to pay. I may be bitter about health care costs, but I don't think poor people should do without. The USA Today article claims the new rich is less likely to support food stamps or programs to help the disadvantaged. I think food stamps should be expanded to include all senior citizens.

Most members of Generation X are at the stage in their lives where they have children headed to college as well as parents in retirement who need financial assistance. A greater proportion of working-age adults are considered affluent compared to 1979, according to experts. But being affluent today isn't what it used to be. I think the new rich aren't really rich as much as they are just solidly middle class. The mass affluent is helping the economy since they account for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. consumer spending. Some of us don't have any money leftover after paying for college, helping out the retired parents and paying medical bills. If the goal if income equality, it's been accomplished. Today being rich doesn't mean driving flashy cars or living in an upscale condo. It may mean being able to afford to own a home in a lower-middle class neighborhood without tons of debt.

More from this contributor:

Treading Water in the Middle Class

I Blame Baby Boomers for Destroying Social Security

$500,000 Isn't the Magic Retirement Number

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