Define middle class in Seattle

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Define middle class in Seattle

Postby sid » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:53 pm

Is a single 30 year old in Seattle with a 100K salary upper middle class? I definitely think so. Most folks at my work don't think so - consider this to be just middle class. What do folks here say?
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Alan » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:12 pm

Middle middle class if you are single.
Lower middle class if you are married with children.
Upper middle class earns around $300k.
If you earn more than $300k then you are upper class.
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby sid » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:29 pm

Alan wrote:Upper middle class earns around $300k


What percentage of people/households in seattle do you think are upper middle class (~$300K)?
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Alan » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:19 am

What percentage of people/households in seattle do you think are upper middle class (~$300K)?


Maybe 0.5%
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby biliruben » Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:49 am

Didn't you get the memo? We are a classless society!

At least the guys with the money want you to think so. They prefer to keep you sniping at eachother about race or your political views. Keep your mind off the fact that your salary has been declining for a decade.

Here's the income distributions
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Civil Servant » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:05 am

(I love this topic.) I went out with some lawyers last week and one of them remarked in passing that her pre-law school salary of $80K was "not a living wage" in Seattle. Keep in mind too that this was $80K three or four years ago. Bartender, I'll have another one, please.

It is remarkable to me though how many people I meet in Seattle who are at least this well off (the lawyer's husband probably makes about $80K - $90K) and insist that they are middle class at best, barely making it. Even when they've bought their houses years and years ago, even when said houses are fully paid off. This is the only city I've lived in as an adult. If you'll forgive my naivete, is it like this everywhere? I feel like such a rube -- way back when I was a freshly minted state-school liberal arts grad, I never dreamed I'd be making what I am today and have a job with even more upward potential. I'm sure my parents would be really proud of my success, based on that number. I live well if judiciously and save a bundle. So it's disconcerting when friends suggest that by the prevalent standard I am nearly impoverished.

My own answer to Sid's question is Hell yes. But I suspect that *among* single 30-year-olds making in the range of $100K, the consensus is no. Sid, do you work in law or software/IT?
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby rose-colored-coolaid » Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:08 am

Uh, no $100k is definitely upper middle class. It is well beyond what the typical family makes.

What's goofy in Seattle right now is that there is a significant difference in what that upper middle class income means depending on how old you are or how long you've been here. If you've been in Seattle since 1970, that salary means you've got a nice house in an older neighborhood, probably a boat, and so on. If you've been here since 2000, that salary means you've in an apartment, condo, or tiny decrepit house.

Either way, I tend to think in terms of personal freedom rather than class. If you live well within your means, $100k a year means you can take extended leaves of absence with no real negative impact. When we have a declining job market, like now, that freedom is one of the most valuable commodities.
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby WestSideBilly » Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:35 am

Most people define their status by their peers, not society as a whole. So for a single child-free lawyer in Seattle, $80k feels pretty low when compared to other lawyers who are making $100k (single) or $180k (DINKs).

Anyone who can't get by quite nicely on $80k, regardless of their student loan debt, is doing something wrong.
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby lamont » Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:06 am

WestSideBilly wrote:Most people define their status by their peers, not society as a whole. So for a single child-free lawyer in Seattle, $80k feels pretty low when compared to other lawyers who are making $100k (single) or $180k (DINKs).

Anyone who can't get by quite nicely on $80k, regardless of their student loan debt, is doing something wrong.


Yeah, $80k is insufficient to support a $60k new car and $750,000 place to live, so it is "not a living wage". =)

I get by fine on $98k, but i'm single and i rent (in the central district to keep that cost down) and i bought my car back in 2000 and i'm going to drive it into the ground. But as a result I can afford a ridiculously expensive technical diving habit that chews through about $15k/yr in after-tax.
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Alan » Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:10 am

If your family is earning $80k and are saving properly for retirement then you should be living a lower middle class lifestyle.

A lower middle class person can own a plasma television and a BMW if they are willing to turn their retirement savings into discretionary income.

But even if he is saving for retirement, he shouldn't be worrying about where the money for the next bill is coming from.

If you are worrying about how you are going to pay your bills then you are working class.

If you pay the salary of one more more working class people then you are upper class.
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby rose-colored-coolaid » Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:36 am

Alan wrote:If your family is earning $80k and are saving properly for retirement then you should be living a lower middle class lifestyle.

A lower middle class person can own a plasma television and a BMW if they are willing to turn their retirement savings into discretionary income.

But even if he is saving for retirement, he shouldn't be worrying about where the money for the next bill is coming from.

If you are worrying about how you are going to pay your bills then you are working class.

If you pay the salary of one more more working class people then you are upper class.


What kind of definition is this?

It seems like the confusion is really in how people define middle class. It's a newer term so it has little historical context. When it first became used, it would refer to a family that still had to budget for large purchases, but could afford many of the comforts of life. In the 1960s this meant a running car, one bedroom for every two residents, a cheap (usually driven and often camping) summer vacation, nutritious meals with some variety (meatloaf and potatoes not fillet mignon), and a television.

Today (family of 4), I think it would probably means a home with one bedroom for every 1.5 residents (that's 2-3 bedrooms for a family of 4), a two running cars, access to extracurricular activities (sports/band/clubs), ability to eat out at affordable restaurants once a week, and a slightly nicer vacation than enjoyed 40 years ago.

Anyone else want to weigh in on what middle class even means?
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Ubersalad » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:25 pm

IMO, class is representation of income and asset, with more weight on the asset.

100k income with 2 million asset (solid executive) comparing to 300k income with no asset (RE agent/Mortgage Broker). Who do you think is better representative of middle class?
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby david_mcmanus » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:33 pm

PAW = middle income, high net worth. entrepreneurs, small business owners, prodigious savers
UAW = high income, low net worth (RE agents, doctors, lawyers, tend to fall into this group). the faux rich, heavy spenders

See "The Millionaire Next Door".
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Dave0 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:49 pm

Lower Class = bottom 20% of income distribution
Lower MIddle Class = next 20% of income distribution above Lower Class
Middle Class = next 20% of income distribution above Lower Middle Class
Upper Middle Class = next 20% of income distribution above Middle Class
Upper Class = top 20% of income distribution

So using the data biliruben linked above, the classes are as follows:
Lower Class: <$25,000/year
Lower Middle Class: between $25,000 & $45,000 per year
Middle Class: between $45,000 & $70,000 per year
Upper Middle Class: between $70,000 & $120,000 per year
Upper Class: above $120,000/year
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Re: Define middle class in Seattle

Postby Dave0 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:00 pm

Ubersalad wrote:IMO, class is representation of income and asset, with more weight on the asset.

100k income with 2 million asset (solid executive) comparing to 300k income with no asset (RE agent/Mortgage Broker). Who do you think is better representative of middle class?


Assets are a consequence of income. Class is based on income, and the assets people associate with a certain class are what a financially responsible person should be able to buy with that class' income. A RE agent making $300,000 a year is upper class without a doubt, even if they blow it all on real estate and end up bankrupt.
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