The vast majority of Americans consider themselves middle class. But exactly what that means varies from person to person. I generally consider myself to be upper-middle class. In that with my income and my net worth, I can buy anything I need and almost anything I could possibly want without consequence. And maybe because I grew up in a lower-middle class family, I consider upper-middle class “rich”. But what puts me in the upper-middle class is more nuanced than just the fact that my household makes six figures a year. It has more to do with what such an income allows. I can buy a used car without taking a loan with just a few weeks of savings. I can easily max out my 401k without worrying about making ends meet. I never have to worry about bouncing a check. All my bills and credit cards are paid in full each month automatically, I literally do not have to even consider whether or not I have the money to pay them. I have a large, secure income stream such that I always just do have enough. I never knew anyone who had money like this growing up, but if I did, I would have considered them rich.
But if you knew me in person, you wouldn’t necessarily know that I am rich. Between Rich Cute Aunt and I, we have a household income of over $150,000 – easily enough to put us in the “wealthy” category according to this Pew Research poll – but we only spent under $30,000 this year excluding our mortgage and tuition from ECA’s MBA that she finished this year. With the surplus, we maxed out our 401ks and are well on our way to paying off our mortgage in under four years total. We have no aspirations on becoming truly affluent though. We don’t intend to gather huge amounts of wealth, to buy super-fancy material possessions. Even though I may be rich today, what I really want is to have enough so that I’m not beholden to work for the rest of my life. There’s so much more out there than money and there’s so little that you actually gain from having lots of it.
Being rich is something that many people aspire for, but the rich lifestyle is not really for me. I have no intention on buying a mansion or a yacht. I still have horrible pangs of terror when I see something that is wasted that someone could have used because I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I or my peers are. I don’t think it matters how much money is in my bank account, I still know what the value of a dollar is. I still remember how hard I used to work for $5.25 an hour.
So, am I rich? I think so, but more accurately, I’m eccentrically rich. And if you’re struggling financially, I wish you luck. There’s a lot more to life than money, but unfortunately, money is needed to live in the system we have.