6 Ways To Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Middle Class (2024)

6 Ways To Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Middle Class (1)

Historically, the middle class is unchained from the financial stresses that define day-to-day life for impoverished people. The upper-middle class is doing even better — but they’re not quite rich, either.

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The boundaries that define both classifications are loose, blurry and fairly arbitrary. But the degree to which you possess five defining characteristics can help you determine your rung on the ladder.

General Income Guidelines for the 5 Socioeconomic Classes

These widely accepted income guidelines outline the five socioeconomic classes in the United States.

It’s important to note that those dollar amounts are based on national averages. Area median income (AMI) is a much better indicator of which class you fall into, because it’s specific to where you live. The Fannie Mae AMI Lookup Tool can show which income percentile you belong to relative to your location.

It’s also important to note that there isn’t a universal standard of socioeconomic status. For example, some economists, sociologists and academics place the “working class” between the lower and middle classes.

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Income Is Only One Indicator of Class

Scott Allen is a licensed agent and co-founder of Seniors Life Insurance Finder. As a personal finance expert with more than a decade of experience in the insurance and financial services industries, assessing people’s financial station in life is one of his primary skill sets.

“The lower class is often defined as those who have limited financial resources and struggle to meet basic needs,” he said. “They may also lack access to quality education, healthcare and social capital.”

Then there’s the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

“The upper class is characterized by extreme wealth and privilege,” said Allen. “They have access to the best education, healthcare and social connections. Owning multiple properties and having a high level of social status are also hallmarks of this class.”

Everyone else falls in the middle — but the middle is so vast that it must be split in two.

“The middle class is typically characterized by having a stable income and some level of financial security. They tend to value education, homeownership and health insurance. The upper-middle class is distinguished by having a higher level of income and wealth compared to the middle class. They often have advanced degrees, larger homes and access to more resources and opportunities.”

Here are five indicators that you’re a member of either the middle or upper-middle class — and clues as to which category most accurately defines your status.

You’re Financially Stable

Not living check to check is the defining characteristic of those who escape the struggles of lower- and lower-middle-class life.

“Members of the middle class and upper-middle class tend to have a certain level of financial stability,” said Allen. “This means having a steady income that is sufficient to cover basic necessities, as well as some discretionary spending for non-essentials. They also tend to have savings or investments that they can rely on in case of emergencies.”

Which One Are You?

While the middle class is comfortable — typically several pay periods removed from financial disaster — the upper-middle class has more money to burn. They might be able to take a vacation every year, buy higher-end vehicles and retire early.

You’re College Educated

Postsecondary education is another key indicator of class. While there are many exceptions, a college degree is often the ticket to the high-paying white-collar jobs that are hallmarks of middle- and upper-middle-class life.

“Education is often seen as a key factor in determining social class,” said Allen. “Members of the middle class and upper-middle class typically have at least a college degree, which opens up more opportunities for higher-paying jobs and career advancement.”

Which One Are You?

Members of the upper-middle class are more likely to have graduate or other advanced degrees that provide access to more elite careers, which pay more and offer greater professional autonomy and job security. They’re also more likely than members of the middle class to be able to afford college for their kids with little or no student borrowing.

You Own Real Estate

Homeownership has been one of the hallmarks of financial security since the end of World War II and remains so today.

“Owning a home is often seen as a sign of being part of the middle or upper-middle class,” said Allen. “It not only provides stability and security, but it also allows individuals to build equity and potentially increase their wealth.”

Which One Are You?

People in the middle class are more likely to own a home than those lower down on the ladder, but members of the upper-middle class might own second homes or investment properties as well as primary residences.

You Have Access to Quality Health Care

Low-income households tend to suffer from diminished access to quality medical care and are more likely to suffer from negative health outcomes.

“Access to quality healthcare is another indicator of middle or upper-middle class status,” said Allen. “These individuals are more likely to have health insurance, which can cover the costs of medical care and prevent financial strain in case of illness or injury.”

Which One Are You?

While both classes are likely to be insured and have access to quality care, middle-class Americans are much more likely than upper-middle-class Americans to have medical debt. In fact, recent studies show that the middle class holds more medical debt than all other income classes.

You Have Social Capital

The rich and well-connected can make problems disappear just by picking up the phone, while the poor are often left to manage legal, financial and professional challenges alone.

Those in between don’t have the influence and clout of the monied class, but they’re much less likely to navigate life’s most trying obstacles on their own.

“Members of the middle class and upper-middle class often have a strong network of connections and relationships,” said Allen. “This can provide access to job opportunities, financial advice and other resources that can help maintain or improve their social standing.”

Which One Are You?

The upper-middle class is more likely than the middle class to have access to pay-to-play human networks, like those attained through pricey and exclusive social club memberships.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 6 Ways To Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Middle Class

6 Ways To Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Middle Class (2024)


6 Ways To Tell If You’re Middle Class or Upper Middle Class? ›

“The middle class is typically characterized by having a stable income and some level of financial security. They tend to value education, homeownership and health insurance. The upper-middle class is distinguished by having a higher level of income and wealth compared to the middle class.

How do you know if you are middle class or upper middle class? ›

“The middle class is typically characterized by having a stable income and some level of financial security. They tend to value education, homeownership and health insurance. The upper-middle class is distinguished by having a higher level of income and wealth compared to the middle class.

How do you determine upper middle class? ›

There is considerable debate as to how the upper middle class might be defined. According to sociologist Max Weber, the upper middle class consists of well-educated professionals with postgraduate degrees and comfortable incomes. Higher education is one of the most distinguishing features of the upper middle class.

How do you differentiate the upper class middle class and lower class? ›

Today, concepts of social class often assume three general economic categories: a very wealthy and powerful upper class that owns and controls the means of production; a middle class of professional workers, small business owners and low-level managers; and a lower class, who rely on low-paying jobs for their ...

What are the characteristics of upper middle class? ›

Many have graduate degrees with educational attainment serving as the main distinguishing feature of this class. Household incomes commonly exceed $100,000, with some smaller one-income earners household having incomes in the high 5-figure range.

How can you tell if someone is middle class? ›

The Bottom Line. There is no official financial standard for what constitutes middle class. For most it's more about a standard of living—including owning a home, being able to afford to pay for a college education for your kids, and having enough disposable income to take a family vacation.

What salary is upper class? ›

Upper middle class: Anyone with earnings in the 60th to 80th percentile would be considered upper middle class. Those in the upper middle class have incomes between $89,745 and $149,131. Upper class: Finally, the upper class is the top 20% of earners and they have incomes of $149,132 or higher.

What determines upper class? ›

The American upper class is distinguished from the rest of the population due to the fact that its primary source of income consists of assets, investments, and capital gains rather than wages and salaries. The American upper class is estimated to include 1–2% of the population.

What does lower middle class look like? ›

Semi-professionals and craftsmen with some work autonomy; household incomes commonly range from $35,000 to $75,000. Typically, some college education. Clerical and most blue-collar workers whose work is highly routinized. Standard of living varies depending on number of income earners, but is commonly just adequate.

What defines upper middle class? ›

The upper middle class is often defined as the top 15% to 20% of earners. According to the Social Security Administration's 2022 wage data, the average upper-middle-class income was roughly between $80,000 and $100,000.

What is an example of the middle class? ›

Meaning of middle class in English. a social group that consists of well-educated people, such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers, who have good jobs and are not poor, but are not very rich: The upper middle class tend to go into business or the professions, becoming, for example, lawyers, doctors, or accountants.

What makes someone middle class? ›

The middle class is a socio-economic strata that falls in between the working class and the upper class. Those in the middle class have enough disposable income to afford minor luxuries like vacations or restaurants but also rely on borrowing for big-ticket items like homes and cars.

What is a poor class income? ›

“Lower-income” adults have household incomes less than $52,000 and “upper-income” adults have household incomes greater than $156,000. The income it takes to be middle income varies by household size, with smaller households requiring less to support the same lifestyle as larger households.

What is considered upper middle class 2024? ›

What Defines the Upper Middle Class? If going by households in the 60th to 80th percentile of household income, that would mean the upper middle class includes households with incomes between $89,745 and $149,131.

What is a good household income? ›

Generally, an income that comfortably covers living expenses, allows for savings, and provides for leisure activities is considered good. In the United States, median household income is around $68,700 according to recent data. However, in cities with higher costs of living, a good salary might be considerably higher.

What is considered middle class and upper class? ›

In 2018, the national middle-income range was about $48,500 to $145,500 annually for a household of three. Lower-income households had incomes less than $48,500 and upper-income households had incomes greater than $145,500 (incomes in 2018 dollars).

Is 500k a year upper middle class? ›

With a $500,000+ income, you are considered rich, wherever you live! According to the IRS, any household who makes over $500,000 a year in 2023 is considered a top 1% income earner. Of course, some parts of the country require a higher income level to be in the top 1% income, e.g. Connecticut at $580,000.

What is the rich class income? ›

Based on that figure, an annual income of $500,000 or more would make you rich. The Economic Policy Institute uses a different baseline to determine who constitutes the top 1% and the top 5%. For 2021, you're in the top 1% if you earn $819,324 or more each year. The top 5% of income earners make $335,891 per year.

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