Author Topic: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.  (Read 17707 times)

caleb

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$350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« on: September 12, 2019, 10:22:09 AM »
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-budget-shows-how-a-350000-salary-barely-qualifies-as-middle-class-2019-09-11

$350,000 of personal income,
Quote
while relatively huge, is barely enough, according to Dogen, for a family to lead a comfortable life in coastal counties — where almost half of the nation’s population calls home.

“You can certainly live a middle-class lifestyle earning less, but it won’t be easy if your goal is to raise a family, save for your children’s education, save for your own home and save for retirement (so you can actually retire by a reasonable age),” he wrote in a post published on CNBC on Wednesday.



To state the stunningly obvious, the budget they lay out - that includes a $1.8m home - isn't middle class in any city, anywhere.  It's not middle class in the Five Boroughs, and it's not middle class in the Bay Area.  The only way it's "middle class" is to restrict your unit of measure so tightly (i.e. put your blinders on so tight to the world around you) that you're really just measuring against a neighborhood.  Talking about being "middle class" on the Upper West Side or Nob Hill is just a stupid mashup of language that tries to use language for normal conditions to describe abnormal conditions.

There's some vague reference at the end of the article to how hard it is to FIRE when you spend $222k after taxes.  You don't say.

solon

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2019, 10:30:04 AM »
There is also something a little fishy about claiming the standard deduction. The budget shows $1900 a month in mortgage interest, which is $22,800 a year. Surely they are itemizing.

bacchi

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2019, 10:47:36 AM »
This article, and the FS blog article on which it's based, have been around for possibly years. Marketwatch must recycle articles when they run short.

Dollar Slice

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2019, 10:52:34 AM »
Yeah, all the middle class people I know are definitely saving $50,000 a year in tax-advantaged accounts with money left over. And I can't imagine how far they must stretch every dollar to feed two toddlers on that $70/day food budget.

Tuskalusa

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2019, 10:54:32 AM »
“If the goal is to amass wealth and hit the FIRE goal (financial independence, retire early), the couple needs to consider moving to a more affordable area, go to public school, limit vacations, eat at home more often and track it all so they get to understand their situation and their goals.”

Well, yeah.  If the goal is to reach FIRE, this isn’t the plan, for sure.

 In order to reach FIRE, a couple earning this much cash should be thoughtful and make a less wasteful plan. Sure, this may actually be typical of a high earning Silicon Valley couple. It’s also wasteful, lacks creativity, and is indicative of striving to keep up vs. being a true steward of one’s precious family resources.

I hate articles like this. They expose a line of privilege that makes all high earners look like jerks.

dandarc

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2019, 10:55:55 AM »
This article, and the FS blog article on which it's based, have been around for possibly years. Marketwatch must recycle articles when they run short.
Don't have to read too much of the FS blog to conclude that if it is written by Financial Samurai, it is probably a deeply flawed analysis.

Padonak

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2019, 10:57:59 AM »
This f'ing big baller troll should marry Suzie Orman. They'll make a good couple spewing their bullshit together.

Kazyan

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2019, 11:36:43 AM »
If your idea of a normal middle class lifestyle includes $6,190 per month on housing, start over.

YoungGranny

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2019, 11:40:46 AM »
Could you imagine if somebody posted that as a case study here?
-4,200 for baby items
-7,800 for three weeks of vacations a year
-6,000 for entertainment
-4,8000 on clothing
-25,500 on food

Daaaamn those 5 line items are ~48k which is around my total average annual spend. I must clearly be living in poverty if that's middle class spending.

BECABECA

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2019, 11:55:32 AM »
There is also something a little fishy about claiming the standard deduction. The budget shows $1900 a month in mortgage interest, which is $22,800 a year. Surely they are itemizing.

That changed recently. As of tax year 2018, you can only deduct mortgage interest on up to $750,000 borrowed for primary residence. The previous limit was $1,000,000 (although you might be able to still deduct mortgage interest on loans up to 1 million if you secured the mortgage before the tax change). Not sure how much their mortgage is for, but likely only half of the mortgage interest is tax deductible due to the limits, so taking the standard deduction is actually the best they can do.  Another reason it sucks to live in a HCOL area.

CCCA

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2019, 11:56:29 AM »
Living in the Bay Area, you definitely see this sort of lifestyle creep / raising of expectations when people around you spend money on all sorts of non-essential things or inflated amounts of money on normal things. 


The childcare + preschool expense is $53k, way high for what looks like 2 kids.  And food is pretty crazy too.

Davnasty

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2019, 01:06:26 PM »
Their "middle class" monthly spend on food is surprisingly close to APowers annual spend, also with 2 kids. $2,129/month vs $2,613/year

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/have-a-sub-$200month-grocery-budget/msg1795356/#msg1795356
« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 01:20:14 PM by Dabnasty »

RFAAOATB

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2019, 02:01:02 PM »
How do you draw the line between middle class and upper class when you can easily spend a half million dollars on not that much more value?

Should private schools be a rich family only deal?  For a million dollar house you’d think you would live in a good school district.

What about a house in the 2,000 square feet range?  That’s only a small step up from the starter home a working class family can aspire to.

Is it purely an income issue with little wiggle room for local cost of living? After all their income is about 3-4 times the median along with house prices and taxes, but other expenses shouldn’t rise as proportionally.

How much debt to income does a middle class high earning family have on a million dollar home compared to some rich person has on their baller mansion?  How much does a rich person have to spend to escape the credit and debt enabled reach of the middle class?

My opinion on what makes these people middle class is their dependence on high income jobs.  Until their investment returns cover their expenses they will always have that cloud of fear above them that they could lose everything.

fattest_foot

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2019, 02:12:30 PM »
I don't think you can call someone living in a $1.8M house "middle class" with a straight face.

If San Francisco is really that expensive, maybe it's not worth living in San Francisco no matter how great people tell you the jobs are?

ysette9

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2019, 02:56:06 PM »
Living in the Bay Area, you definitely see this sort of lifestyle creep / raising of expectations when people around you spend money on all sorts of non-essential things or inflated amounts of money on normal things. 


The childcare + preschool expense is $53k, way high for what looks like 2 kids.  And food is pretty crazy too.
Another chiming in from the Bay Area perspective. $1.8M is certainly not average/middle class, but there are many areas here where that will buy you a house that looks middle class. 4 bed, 2 bath with a yard and white picket fence yadda yadda. The thing is that living here with an amazing job market almost perfect weather and outdoor activities and cultural diversity means you have to sacrifice in other areas, and housing is the first item on the chopping block. So normal people here live in houses everyone else would think are too small. Or condos. Or townhomes. You just can’t move from Nowheresville and expect to duplicate that lifestyle here because normal people, even tech workers, just can’t buy 2000-3000ft^2 houses.

Childcare costs are temporary but seem pricey to me, and that is from my HCOL perpective. Food is out of control. I don’t understand $500/month 529 contributions, but maybe they are front loading for the max tax benefits?

ysette9

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2019, 02:58:29 PM »

Should private schools be a rich family only deal? For a million dollar house you’d think you would live in a good school district.

You would think that. There are pockets where that is not the case and we happen to live in one. I’m not complaining though because this place has a lot to offer, not least along them the salaries we can get here which make the housing attainable.

FireHiker

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2019, 03:15:05 PM »
Wow, even at our peak spendy-ness, we never came CLOSE to these numbers...I cannot even fathom. But, we are sitting just over 300k gross and I have had the conversation with my husband that, NO, we are not middle class. He seemed to think we were...and he's a pretty rational person most of the time. I think it's easy to live in a bubble and consider yourself "average" when compared against your immediate community. He also started the game on third base with a nice, upper middle childhood with stability and good schools,etc. I grew up in poverty and was homeless as a child; we have very different perspectives I think.

APowers

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2019, 03:38:32 PM »
Uh.....Hey, I have an idea! Why don't they just turn their paycheck over to me, and I will take care of everything. I will find a babysitter and preschool, run the household budget, give them $150 a month disposable income, and keep whatever scraps are left for myself. Ok? Great! I'll just make myself at home in the butler's wing of the mansion.

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2019, 04:43:22 PM »
...we are sitting just over 300k gross and I have had the conversation with my husband that, NO, we are not middle class.

I'm not sure I actually agree. The middle class grew out of feudal Europe where originally there was a noble class and everyone else (peasants). Eventually, a merchant class arose. Some of the merchant class were very wealthy and some had much more modest means but they were all separated from the noble class in that they worked for a living, where as the noble class lived off of tribute. At this point you had three classes: nobility, merchants, and everybody else (peasants).

I could make an analogous argument that today we have something similar: capitalists class, middle class, and working class.

If you still have to work for a living, you might well be middle class IMHO.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 04:45:02 PM by PDXTabs »

Kyle Schuant

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2019, 06:59:55 PM »
https://dqydj.com/income-percentile-calculator/

In the US, an income of $300k puts you in the 99th percentile, that is to say, the top 1% of the country. Half that (assuming 2 people getting half of that each, which would have different tax results in most areas) is $150k which is 95th percentile, or top 5%.

I am not sure how "top 1-5%" becomes "middle." It's like calling a Lieutenant General a "middle-ranking" officer. As the article linked above says,

"Middle class is household income from $34,061 to $136,244 by the most common definition. This definition of middle class is half of median household income up to twice median household income."

Travis

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #20 on: September 12, 2019, 07:19:22 PM »
This article, and the FS blog article on which it's based, have been around for possibly years. Marketwatch must recycle articles when they run short.

Pretty sure this chart has been discussed on this thread within the last year.

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #21 on: September 12, 2019, 08:55:33 PM »
I am not sure how "top 1-5%" becomes "middle." It's like calling a Lieutenant General a "middle-ranking" officer. As the article linked above says,

It's the middle class, not the median class. If it were the median class you would have to have more than a high school diploma and less than an associates degree.

From Wikipedia:

The American upper middle class is defined similarly using income, education and occupation as the predominant indicators.[1] In the United States, the upper middle class is defined as consisting mostly of white-collar professionals who not only have above-average personal incomes and advanced educational degrees[1] but also a higher degree of autonomy in their work.
...
The American middle class (and its subdivisions) is not a strictly defined concept across disciplines, as economists and sociologists do not agree on defining the term.[4] In academic models, the term "upper middle class" applies to highly-educated, salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed. Many have postgraduate degrees, with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly exceed $100,000. [5] Typical professions for this class include lawyers, physicians, military officers, psychologists, certified public accountants, pharmacists, optometrists, financial planners, dentists, engineers, professors, architects, school principals, urban planners, civil service executives, and civilian contractors.

Dollar Slice

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #22 on: September 12, 2019, 09:21:36 PM »
If you still have to work for a living, you might well be middle class IMHO.

I don't think this is a good way to measure. If I'm making $30m a year and spending all of it, I still have to work - but I'm sure as hell not middle class as I fly in my luxury jet to my private island for the Beyonce concert I arranged for my kid's sweet 16. It would be absurd to the vast majority of people to call that person "middle class" and someone living in a van on a ramen diet "rich" because they're FIRE/ERE. It's great if you have different values and ideas about work than most people (we all do around here) but changing the definition of commonly understood words isn't really helpful if you want to communicate with others.

Paul der Krake

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2019, 09:37:20 PM »
If you still have to work for a living, you might well be middle class IMHO.

I don't think this is a good way to measure. If I'm making $30m a year and spending all of it, I still have to work - but I'm sure as hell not middle class as I fly in my luxury jet to my private island for the Beyonce concert I arranged for my kid's sweet 16. It would be absurd to the vast majority of people to call that person "middle class" and someone living in a van on a ramen diet "rich" because they're FIRE/ERE. It's great if you have different values and ideas about work than most people (we all do around here) but changing the definition of commonly understood words isn't really helpful if you want to communicate with others.
What kind of shit parent are you if your child has to wait 16 years to have Beyonce at their own concert?

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #24 on: September 12, 2019, 09:43:34 PM »
If you still have to work for a living, you might well be middle class IMHO.

I don't think this is a good way to measure. If I'm making $30m a year and spending all of it...

might - used to say that something is possible - Merriam-Webster

If you're making 30m a year and you aren't very quickly indoctrinated into the capitalist class you are a moron.

Dollar Slice

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2019, 09:59:11 PM »
If you still have to work for a living, you might well be middle class IMHO.

I don't think this is a good way to measure. If I'm making $30m a year and spending all of it...

might - used to say that something is possible - Merriam-Webster

So all you're trying to say is that people who work may or may not be middle class?

Michael in ABQ

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2019, 10:01:52 PM »
Living in the Bay Area, you definitely see this sort of lifestyle creep / raising of expectations when people around you spend money on all sorts of non-essential things or inflated amounts of money on normal things. 


The childcare + preschool expense is $53k, way high for what looks like 2 kids.  And food is pretty crazy too.

I have a friend living in the Bay Area and he's about to get married. They decided to do it in L.A. because it was "so much cheaper". They still planning on spending something like $30-40k for an event with maybe 40-50 people.

When my wife and I got married we spent about $500. $40,000 is about 9 months of living expenses for us and they're planning to spend that on part of a day. It blows my mind. But combined they make probably $250k+. Then again their one-bedroom apartment rent is three times what my five-bedroom house rent is.

norajean

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2019, 10:16:03 PM »
There is no class structure in the US. There are homeless jobless millionaires, billionaires who work 15 hours per day, Walmart greeters with British titles, and everything in between. If you use food stamps you are possibly lower class.if you golf with Trump you may be upper class. Anything else may be middle.

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2019, 10:38:15 PM »
So all you're trying to say is that people who work may or may not be middle class?

I wrote a lot more than that, maybe go back and read it carefully. Also maybe pick up some history books and read until you realize that historically society has had two classes, an upper class and some much worse off class (even Investopedia has an article on it). The middle class isn't the middle because you have a median income. It's the middle because it goes between what Marx would call the Bourgeois and the Working Class. But in order to be Bourgeois you need to own the means of production, so it is hard to say that you are Bourgeois if you don't have capital.

Dollar Slice

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2019, 11:05:32 PM »
I understood your point, I just disagree with you about what "middle class" and "rich" mean in 2019 America. Disagreeing with you doesn't mean I'm uneducated or didn't read your post, but if it makes you feel better to be condescending to strangers on the internet, knock yourself out.

jeff191

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #30 on: September 13, 2019, 07:11:39 AM »
Also could be impacted by the SALT cap. I itemized every year until this last filing where the increased standard deduction was better. With the $10K limit, I lost about $15K in deductions and that pushed us under the $24K standard deduction. My mortgage interest is ~$11K and not $22.8K though. With interest that high, even with SALT cap and lower deductibility limits, seems like they should still be able to get over $24K and itemize.



There is also something a little fishy about claiming the standard deduction. The budget shows $1900 a month in mortgage interest, which is $22,800 a year. Surely they are itemizing.

That changed recently. As of tax year 2018, you can only deduct mortgage interest on up to $750,000 borrowed for primary residence. The previous limit was $1,000,000 (although you might be able to still deduct mortgage interest on loans up to 1 million if you secured the mortgage before the tax change). Not sure how much their mortgage is for, but likely only half of the mortgage interest is tax deductible due to the limits, so taking the standard deduction is actually the best they can do.  Another reason it sucks to live in a HCOL area.

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #31 on: September 13, 2019, 08:21:51 AM »
I understood your point, I just disagree with you about what "middle class" and "rich" mean in 2019 America. Disagreeing with you doesn't mean I'm uneducated or didn't read your post, but if it makes you feel better to be condescending to strangers on the internet, knock yourself out.

Then I welcome you to articulate your disagreement with my ideas instead of repeatedly quoting one sentence I wrote out of context.

Kazyan

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #32 on: September 13, 2019, 08:58:50 AM »
Since this thread is still stuck in my head: it's weird how that lifestyle is described as "barely" middle class. If they had even more money...what would they do with it? As far as I can tell, that example doesn't have to make any choices about their standard of living; they do everything. The budget has every amenity a middle-class family could want, including some whining that you have a silly $30k clown car instead of a ridiculous $90k clown car. The example is "barely" middle class because if they had any more income, they'd be upper class.

EDIT: Regarding the discussion of American social classes, "income" and "relationship to capital" are both required to get a clear picture of America's class system. I don't understand it well enough to definitively categorize it, though, aside from the basics.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2019, 09:22:01 AM by Kazyan »

BlueHouse

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #33 on: September 13, 2019, 09:57:11 AM »

Should private schools be a rich family only deal? For a million dollar house you’d think you would live in a good school district.

You would think that. There are pockets where that is not the case and we happen to live in one. I’m not complaining though because this place has a lot to offer, not least along them the salaries we can get here which make the housing attainable.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  Should good school districts be available only to rich or upper middle class areas?  After many decades of ingrained capitalism, I'm really starting to wonder why some children don't get as good schooling as others.  Shouldn't all children be treated equally regardless of where they live?

Just Joe

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #34 on: September 13, 2019, 11:01:19 AM »
Wow, even at our peak spendy-ness, we never came CLOSE to these numbers...I cannot even fathom. But, we are sitting just over 300k gross and I have had the conversation with my husband that, NO, we are not middle class. He seemed to think we were...and he's a pretty rational person most of the time. I think it's easy to live in a bubble and consider yourself "average" when compared against your immediate community. He also started the game on third base with a nice, upper middle childhood with stability and good schools,etc. I grew up in poverty and was homeless as a child; we have very different perspectives I think.

Here in flyover country those numbers are laughable. I'm pretty sure an income like that would make a person among the richest dozen in our county. We have a few properties here in that price range. Mostly purchased by people fleeing HCOL areas on the coasts for retirement. Not easy to unload later when they realize they don't want to manage a huge house in their 70s and 80s.

FireHiker

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #35 on: September 13, 2019, 11:45:09 AM »
I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  Should good school districts be available only to rich or upper middle class areas?  After many decades of ingrained capitalism, I'm really starting to wonder why some children don't get as good schooling as others.  Shouldn't all children be treated equally regardless of where they live?

I personally think all children should have similar school available to them, but since we can afford to live in a "top" school district, we do...it doesn't hurt that it's a one mile commute. I honestly have mixed feelings and worry our kids will grow up in too affluent of a bubble though. A few years ago there was low-income (section 8) housing built directly across from our very highly ranked high school, which I thought was fantastic. OMFG the outcry from all the rich "nimby"s in the community was appalling. I have never been more disgusted by my "peers".

RFAAOATB

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #36 on: September 13, 2019, 11:55:03 AM »

Should private schools be a rich family only deal? For a million dollar house you’d think you would live in a good school district.

You would think that. There are pockets where that is not the case and we happen to live in one. I’m not complaining though because this place has a lot to offer, not least along them the salaries we can get here which make the housing attainable.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  Should good school districts be available only to rich or upper middle class areas?  After many decades of ingrained capitalism, I'm really starting to wonder why some children don't get as good schooling as others.  Shouldn't all children be treated equally regardless of where they live?

Yeah but that’s not going to happen.  As long as schools are funded by property taxes and neighborhoods are economically segregated, it’s a zero sum game that has little attraction for choosing to go to a school less economically and academically matching your lifestyle.

This is something I am considering for my next move.  Do I save a ton of money buying a small affordable house in a less than ideal district or spend way more than I should buying my way into a million dollar neighborhood good school district?

While studies say parental influence is a better indicator of academic success than school ratings, they don’t measure social success.  Kids can get good grades anywhere, but do you want your kids surrounded by people where living frugal isn’t a choice and there are way to many peers with adverse childhood experiences?

mm1970

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #37 on: September 13, 2019, 01:23:07 PM »

Should private schools be a rich family only deal? For a million dollar house you’d think you would live in a good school district.

You would think that. There are pockets where that is not the case and we happen to live in one. I’m not complaining though because this place has a lot to offer, not least along them the salaries we can get here which make the housing attainable.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  Should good school districts be available only to rich or upper middle class areas?  After many decades of ingrained capitalism, I'm really starting to wonder why some children don't get as good schooling as others.  Shouldn't all children be treated equally regardless of where they live?

Yeah but that’s not going to happen.  As long as schools are funded by property taxes and neighborhoods are economically segregated, it’s a zero sum game that has little attraction for choosing to go to a school less economically and academically matching your lifestyle.

This is something I am considering for my next move.  Do I save a ton of money buying a small affordable house in a less than ideal district or spend way more than I should buying my way into a million dollar neighborhood good school district?

While studies say parental influence is a better indicator of academic success than school ratings, they don’t measure social success.  Kids can get good grades anywhere, but do you want your kids surrounded by people where living frugal isn’t a choice and there are way to many peers with adverse childhood experiences?
I mean, it depends.  It depends on how many.  My kids are at schools like that.  Where there are multiple families to a house, where the kids do not have furniture, where the mother was murdered by her boyfriend, where parents were arrested for dealing meth.

So far, it appears to have taught my kids (we help, of course) compassion.  And appreciation for what they have.

bostonjim

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #38 on: September 14, 2019, 06:48:07 PM »
"MIddlle income" is a statistic.  "Middle Class" is a certain way of life.  They overlap in some places, depending on the COL in the area (In other words, in some places a middle income is enough to afford the things that go along with being "middle class").  But in some places (particularly on the Coasts), there are only a small fraction, considerably above the median or the average, that can legitimately be considered "middle class".  Where I live the Boston area, a household income of $100,000 is just barely enough to get you there (and then only in the less-fashionable towns - think "M" towns, not "W", for those in the know about Boston).

This is not new - I forget who it was, but there was a College professor in the early 20th century who wrote an artlicle about how academics were being squeezed out of the middle class because  on his salary he could barely afford 2 live in servants...

Kyle Schuant

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #39 on: September 14, 2019, 06:56:07 PM »
"MIddlle income" is a statistic.  "Middle Class" is a certain way of life. 
Top 5%.

The only people who make such a distinction are those in the top 5%. To everyone else, that's upper class. They might be upper class and managing their money badly, but even billionaires can do that - they're still upper class.

TomTX

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #40 on: September 14, 2019, 07:15:08 PM »
https://dqydj.com/income-percentile-calculator/

In the US, an income of $300k puts you in the 99th percentile, that is to say, the top 1% of the country. Half that (assuming 2 people getting half of that each, which would have different tax results in most areas) is $150k which is 95th percentile, or top 5%.

Note that your link was to the individual income calculator. The household income calculator is here:

https://dqydj.com/household-income-percentile-calculator/

$300k would be at 97% instead of 99% - it doesn't really change the point. Top 5%. They ain't middle class.

PDXTabs

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #41 on: September 14, 2019, 10:48:45 PM »
"MIddlle income" is a statistic.  "Middle Class" is a certain way of life.

It's the class between the people that have almost all of the power and the people that have almost none of the power. It's the class in the middle of the working class and the capitalist class. It is also anomalous historically. Humans don't typically have a middle class, which is why Peter Temin (Professor of Economics Emeritus at MIT) can write The Vanishing Middle Class. If the middle class were the people with a middle/median income they could never vanish.

It's a good book BTW, I highly recommend it.

The_Big_H

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #42 on: September 16, 2019, 06:23:56 AM »
I want to know what they are eating on $70 a DAY for 2.5 people (2 adults and two 1/4 adults)?
I bet each spend $6 a day on coffee and $15 each on lunch yet everyday “it’s our one treat”

With that gas bill they must be driving 24,000 miles a year total. Wowzers 

Oh and $400 a MONTH on baby stuff?  Well I can see that I’ve been through “bye bye money” (buy buy baby)
$1200 strollers that fold themselves
$2000 baby room furniture “collections”
$500 monitors
Ripping off newborn parents is a sport it seems

mm1970

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #43 on: September 16, 2019, 11:43:27 AM »
I want to know what they are eating on $70 a DAY for 2.5 people (2 adults and two 1/4 adults)?
I bet each spend $6 a day on coffee and $15 each on lunch yet everyday “it’s our one treat”

With that gas bill they must be driving 24,000 miles a year total. Wowzers 

Oh and $400 a MONTH on baby stuff?  Well I can see that I’ve been through “bye bye money” (buy buy baby)
$1200 strollers that fold themselves
$2000 baby room furniture “collections”
$500 monitors
Ripping off newborn parents is a sport it seems
In a HCOL if you are buying organic, grass fed, etc., that total for a family of 4 is a no-brainer.

My source: friends.

Nick_Miller

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #44 on: September 16, 2019, 11:57:45 AM »

cloudsail

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #45 on: September 16, 2019, 03:30:54 PM »
I want to know what they are eating on $70 a DAY for 2.5 people (2 adults and two 1/4 adults)?
I bet each spend $6 a day on coffee and $15 each on lunch yet everyday “it’s our one treat”

With that gas bill they must be driving 24,000 miles a year total. Wowzers 

Oh and $400 a MONTH on baby stuff?  Well I can see that I’ve been through “bye bye money” (buy buy baby)
$1200 strollers that fold themselves
$2000 baby room furniture “collections”
$500 monitors
Ripping off newborn parents is a sport it seems

Yeah, I was super curious about what they were eating and buying too. I consider ourselves to be pretty spendy people, but even at our spendiest we didn't spend nearly that much.

Maybe lots of Michelin stars for their date nights??

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #46 on: September 16, 2019, 05:02:51 PM »
I want to know what they are eating on $70 a DAY for 2.5 people (2 adults and two 1/4 adults)?
I bet each spend $6 a day on coffee and $15 each on lunch yet everyday “it’s our one treat”

With that gas bill they must be driving 24,000 miles a year total. Wowzers 

Oh and $400 a MONTH on baby stuff?  Well I can see that I’ve been through “bye bye money” (buy buy baby)
$1200 strollers that fold themselves
$2000 baby room furniture “collections”
$500 monitors
Ripping off newborn parents is a sport it seems

Yeah, I was super curious about what they were eating and buying too. I consider ourselves to be pretty spendy people, but even at our spendiest we didn't spend nearly that much.

Maybe lots of Michelin stars for their date nights??

Either that, or consistent use of take-out because they're both "too tired" to cook after a long day of work. It's consistent with the habit of using restaurants for breakfast and lunch because they don't have the skill or the inclination to plan meals, cook on the weekends, prepare a bagged lunch, or even prepare a bagel or something to eat on the way to work.

Bloop Bloop

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #47 on: September 16, 2019, 10:20:27 PM »
Without trying to defend the majority of their spending (I spend $45k a year and can't imagine spending 6 figures a year), I know plenty of professional couples, including my partner and me, who rarely cook on weeknights, because we are tired and we like the simplicity of a ready-made meal. If you're both making a professional wage it's hardly extravagant, especially if there is a mechanism (like in my case where I'm self-employed, or in the circumstance of someone who's paid overtime) where you can earn a lot more staying back half an hour than it would cost to buy a few meals.

The_Big_H

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #48 on: September 16, 2019, 11:05:32 PM »
Without trying to defend the majority of their spending (I spend $45k a year and can't imagine spending 6 figures a year), I know plenty of professional couples, including my partner and me, who rarely cook on weeknights, because we are tired and we like the simplicity of a ready-made meal. If you're both making a professional wage it's hardly extravagant, especially if there is a mechanism (like in my case where I'm self-employed, or in the circumstance of someone who's paid overtime) where you can earn a lot more staying back half an hour than it would cost to buy a few meals.

For me, its just as much a health thing than it is a money vs time thing.  I'm slowly crawling my way back to regular obese (was morbidly obese) and hopefully to just "overweight" in the future.  Part of that has been largely ceasing going out all the time and avoiding pre-packaged meals.

Might I recommend a crock pot?  By far my favorite way to cook, wife makes breakfast while I make dinner pre-kid awakening.  Usually takes 15 minutes to throw everything in.  Set on low for 8-10 hours (use a timer one if you need it to cook less and go to "warm" till you get home).  Come home and voila meat and veggies are all done and the house smells of deliciousness (ive done vegan meals too in crockpot).

Aside from that, use of a broiler is extremely easy to cook a couple pieces of fish or steak or chicken or pork loins.  Two minutes to lay non-stick AL foil down and season two pieces of meat, while broiling for 15-20 minutes on low (turn once), toss some rice, water and large portion of vegetables into a rice+steam cooker.  Next to no cleanup (toss the AL foil).

One can also whip up a rather nice salad by just throwing 3-5 ingredients and a dressing into a giant bowl and stir away.  Total time = 5 minutes, take out some work aggression on that stirring action :)

Desert = fruits, the original convenience food of our cave-man ancestors.

I think this is why our dear leader has pointed out many times how commuting long distances is really terrible.  I can see why now because a 45 minute commute = 90 minutes total.  MORE than enough time to cook, clean, unwind, all eaten up in a car.  I wonder how much of people being tired from work is the fact that it takes 10-11 hours out of your day (rat race commutes plus hour lunches) versus the 8 hours actually worked.  Our goal is door-to-door 8.75 hours, 15 minutes commute and 15 minute lunch (usually sandwich or salad or leftover).
« Last Edit: September 16, 2019, 11:09:32 PM by The_Big_H »

Bloop Bloop

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Re: $350k = "Middle class." The endless ratcheting of expectations.
« Reply #49 on: September 16, 2019, 11:12:00 PM »
Thanks for those suggestions, Big H! As you say, the decision to try to eat in more often is driven more by health concerns than cost/benefit analysis about spending. Processed/take-away food is rarely healthy, and the alternative of buying salads and other vaguely healthy stuff from the supermarket is a bit of a chore, so it's better in the long run for us to try to figure out an uncomplicated way of cooking. I will check out the crock pot suggestion!