After years — maybe decades — of building a stable financial life, you might be asking yourself: When can I finally start considering myself comfortably middle-class?
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In the ever-changing world of American economics and variable inflation rates, it’s hard to put a price tag on what constitutes a middle-class income.
However, income aside, there are a few key signs you’ve achieved middle-class status starting with the 15 key indicators we list below.
You own your own home
Owning a home is a major financial milestone that can have a huge impact on your quality of life.
It’s also a harder-than-ever dream to attain thanks to the especially high rates that have plagued the market since the second year of COVID-19.
So if you’ve managed to secure your own property, please give yourself a hearty pat on the back. You worked hard to get here.
You take vacations once or twice a year
Having any discretionary income at all is a solid sign of financial stability. Having a big enough chunk of money set aside to take the entire family on vacation once (or more) per year is an even bigger deal.
If you can afford to take the time off while paying for travel, room, and board, you’ve successfully cemented your middle-class status.
You own a reliable car
To consider yourself a member of the middle class, you don’t have to own a brand-new car from a luxury name brand. In fact, if staying financially stable is your goal, you probably shouldn’t invest in a new car.
They start depreciating as soon as you drive them off the lot.
But owning a reliable used car rather than relying on either public transportation or lemons — as well as having enough cash on hand to deal with routine maintenance and the occasional big repair — is a good sign of your middle-class membership.
If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources
Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.
How to become a member today:
- Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
- Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
- Start enjoying your discounts and perks!
Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (Do not skip this step!) Doing so will allow you to take up 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.
You don’t rely on payday loans
Plenty of Americans, including many who are considered middle class, live paycheck to paycheck.
Ideally, though, you’re able to steer clear of payday loans from predatory companies that give you a paycheck advance and charge exorbitant interest rates.
If you’ve broken the dreaded paycheck-to-check cycle, there’s a good chance you’re among the middle class.
You don’t have to work more than one job to break even
If you want to build your savings account or save up for a big purchase, it can be a good idea to pick up some gig work on the side.
But choosing to pick up a second job rather than being forced into one makes all the difference in the world when it comes to quality of life and a sense of freedom.
You can afford to eat out a few times a month instead of once in a blue moon
Eating out is an expensive habit. If your budget can easily accommodate eating out for at least one meal a week, it’s safe to say you’ve hit a new level of financial stability.
You’ve been able to invest in your financial future
In the past, you might have had enough money to meet your basic needs without much left over to plan for the future.
But if you can pay your bills while consistently contributing to any sort of savings fund, that’s a good sign you’ve hit the middle class.
Ideally, you’ll have more than one savings fund, including a long-term retirement fund and a short-term emergency fund. For now, though, you should definitely consider having one savings fund a big accomplishment.
You can set aside money for your dependents’ financial futures
Can you comfortably save not just for your own future but for your children’s futures? You should consider yourself middle class.
Whether you’re contributing to a 529 college fund or building your assets to leave behind a good inheritance for your kids, being able to plan for your family’s future is a big deal.
You have health care
Medical debt can ruin your budget and devastate your financial future. Having some form of health insurance doesn’t necessarily guarantee you won’t be saddled with medical debt, but it can help you keep costs in check.
Being able to afford a premium or having a job that offers solid coverage is a good sign that you’re in the middle class.
Hopefully, it also means that no matter what medical emergencies eventually come your way, your finances will be able to weather the storm.
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Either you or your kids can plan on attending college
Per the Education Data Initiative, the average American student spends $36,436 a year on tuition, books, and housing. Put another way, college remains too expensive for hundreds of thousands of Americans.
If you now have enough money to attend college yourself or to start building college funds for your kids — or to do both simultaneously — good news: You’re almost certainly part of the American middle class.
You aren’t constantly stressed about retirement
It’s only natural to worry about what your life will be like once you leave the workforce.
But if you spend more time worrying about how you’ll spend your work-free days and less time worrying about how you’ll make ends meet without a salary, you’ve achieved a new level of financial stability you deserve to be proud of.
You still have money left over after bills and savings
Being able to pay your bills, cover necessary expenses, and set money aside for savings is crucial.
But one good indicator that you’ve reached middle-class status is that you can take care of those three tasks and still have cash left over to spend on things you want, not just things you need.
You have a good mix of assets
Ready cash is an essential asset, but members of the middle class have money tied up in property, stock, bonds, and other investments.
Having a diverse blend of assets bodes well for your financial future (not to mention that of your dependents).
A surprise bill wouldn’t devastate your budget
When you’re barely scraping by, one surprise bill is all it takes to throw off your budget for the rest of the year.
Now that you’re part of the middle class, you likely have enough of a budgetary cushion to handle an unexpected bill or another bump in the road.
It might not be comfortable — but you have enough cash to manage the bill and scrape by without too much trouble.
You spend much less time worrying about money in general
What’s one good way to know you’re in a good place financially? You don’t spend more time than absolutely necessary worrying about money.
This doesn’t mean you’ve given up on budgeting — just that you aren’t constantly fretting about how you’re going to afford groceries this week or trying to decide which bill you’ll have to default on paying this month.
Figuring out if you’ve made it to the middle class can be frustratingly vague. We hope reading this list helps put your mind at ease.
If you see yourself anywhere in these 15 signs, consider yourself safely middle class. If not, keep working toward improving your finances and boosting your bank account.