Upper-Middle vs. Upper-Class--Where to draw the line??

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Upper-Middle vs. Upper-Class--Where to draw the line??
By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:39 am: Edit

Off-topic, I know, but there's been so much talk lately of socioeconomic positions and the role they play in college. As we all know, schools like HYP tend to have very affluent student bodies (the median family income of Harvard students apparently hovers around $150,000). My question is, what separates the upper-middle from the upper-class? Coming from an affluent, Westchester County suburb, I've always considered my family and our neighbors as upper-middle. However, our street is crawling with BMW's and Benz's, I'm constantly regalled with stories of Swiss ski vacations and Hamptons summer homes (keep in mind, I've experienced neither) and it seems at times like we have an entire medium-sized Mexican city mowing our lawns and fixing up our homes. Can those who earn $400,000+/year, safely in the top 1% of earners nationwide really be considered a part of the middle class? Where does one draw the line?

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:52 am: Edit

I recently saw an article(can't remember where) that showed the radical difference even between the people making $400,000 and the ones making millions - it was absolutely phenomenal. If you had seen this chart, you actually WOULD put the $400,000 earners in the "upper middle class", because the gulf between them and the truly wealthy was enormous.

Part of the difference was that so many of those earning between $200,000-$400,000 were entrepreneurs and others who had no way to hide taxes. We are in the upper 5%, and our tax burden - when combined with property taxes, state income tax, social security (of which we pay the full 15.3%, not 7.5%) etc. is ENORMOUS.
Probably for every additional $1,000 we earn, $550-600 end up in taxes.

People also forget that the more you earn, the more your various exemptions etc. are phased out. Plus the Alternative Minimum Tax kicks in, and you can't escape higher taxes - this year the ATM added something like $5,000 to our tax bill, pushing us into 5 figures).

I am not complaining. We can put $40G a year into retirement; we don't apply for financial aid; etc. But we are definitely "upper middle class" and cannot TOUCH the wealthy upper classes. We have friends worth many millions who don't ever have to work, and their lives are as different from our hard-working lives as night is from day.We also do not do the Swiss vacations etc.

Everyone should note that it also depends on location. Westchester and Fairfield counties in the East, and others nationwide, are extremely expensive. It is unfair for people in Oklahoma or Kentucky to compare out lives with theirs - as someone in California recently said, house prices in the midwest are, comparatively, "free," when compared to California and the East. Plus in these counties it costs a small fortune to buy groceries, or anything else -the prices are so jacked up!

By Taxguy (Taxguy) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:57 am: Edit

If you are an entrepreneur, get the five star rated book, "Lower your Taxes:BIG TIME" on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. It will significantly reduce the taxes for a self- employed person.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:04 am: Edit

Don't let Calmom see this post! Certainly 400K to most people makes you wealthy. But as Voronwe points out, as the class of super wealthy Americans has taken off in the last 20 years or so, there is a large gap between the 400K guys and the truly rich. It also depends upon what you do with the 400K, because you can use it to create major wealth. In Wetchester, where I have lived, there are many, many people who make that kind of money so it certainly doesn't make you feel rich there and wouldn't in Silicon Valley, either. It would in most parts of the country, however. Don't overlook though that it is tremendously privileged and very few people achieve this and those who do live in small circles.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:44 am: Edit

Location, Location, Location.

Even in New England, many would think that $150,000-$200,000/ yr annual salary would be a lot of money. That is not necessarily true. There are two houses currently for sale in our neighborhood, a pretty modest "middle income" town about an hour north of Boston, for $420,000 and $540,000 respectively. (Property taxes are about $5,000-$7,500/yr on such.)

The public school system is not the best, so many people opt to send their kid(s) to private high schools. (with no financial aid at all) They then send kids to college, again with no financial aid.
People commute an hour or more to work because there are no jobs nearby, and even though they live in a state with no income tax, they are forced to pay income tax to a neighboring state where there are jobs.

I guess those are some of the benefits to being middle class in America in certain parts of the country. Not a lot of Swiss vacations are on the horizon, but no one seems to mind!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:55 am: Edit

Mom101 says: "It also depends upon what you do with the 400K, because you can use it to create major wealth."

To me that's the key. In my book, you are upper-middle class if you are still primarily living on earned income. You are wealthy when you have invested in such a way that you have financial security. The subjectivity comes in because people at different income levels can do the latter.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit

I think that what divides the upper middles from the uppers or the middles has far less to do with money than with, well, class. For o.p. New Yorker, the presence of shiny BMWs and Mercedes, boasting about flashy vacations, etc. actually confirms that the area is not upper class, is u.m., and is probably noveau riche u.m. wannabe. Upper class vehicles are older and less "loaded," or elderly but well maintained fine cars. Upper middle people live in fine, large, immaculately manicured homes, which may be admired from the street, but upper class people prefer to live at the end of long gravel driveways in houses that you can't see from the street.Class, one's social class, is communicated in thousands of ways, and I for one think it's harder to ascend in social class than people seem to think. Money alone won't do it, though source of funds means a great deal. The income from a highly succesful dental practice is in no way comparable to a private income from dividends, interest, and rents.

Having said that, and there is much more to say, the upper middle class is the one most Americans aspire to and esteem the most, including me.

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 11:13 am: Edit

Maybe what's being discussed here is not so much class as it is consumer level. I wonder, when I see a lot of conspicuous consumption, how much consumer debt lies behind it. Just like magnetic north going south (really strange news item today about the shifting of north to south) what if we measured economic class not by income but by debt - would the upper class still be upper class? Someone from Saturday Night Live (can't remember who) once said, "it's not the money - it's the things you can buy with it." What if it's not the money but how much you can borrow and spend that isn't yours because you're considered a good credit risk?

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

Many worry that the historically extremely low interest rates of the last three years have created a bubble in residential real estate, and that people are siphoning off increased home equity into consumer goods, thus driving debt burdens higher. This is pretty much the economic stategy pursued by the Fed and the Administration. As the effects of steadily increasing adjustable rate debt are felt, our economic recovery could falter. But what the heck, why should consumers slow down when we have a government fighting a costly war on credit.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

My own definitions:

Upper-middle class allows you to live comfortably. You can afford to get your kid a car, go on a few vacations or send the kid to camp, and send the kids to college with minimal financial assistance. This varies by each part of the country (I'm about 20 min north of Boston, and housing prices are close to what Sokkermom describes), as stated above.

Upper class, to me, is more than comfortable. You can let your money work for you (living off of investments) or work at a CEO of Fortune 500 company type job. While the upper middle class might save for a small boat, the upper class can do things like purchase Grand Banks yachts. Actually, I guess that is it - the upper class need not worry about saving for college, saving for a down payment, or saving for a used car for the kids - they can afford those things without a strain. The "middle class," even the upper version thereof, still needs to watch their spending and save for what they want. The UMC might be able to save for private colleges, while the true middle class saves to put their kids through State, but it's still the same theme.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

I, like some of the previous posts, believe that it's not just the salary, it's the quality of life that it buys you. Those of us in the middle of the country enjoy a life style others don't enjoy, and on less money. I think it's all relevant.

As someone who lives in the middle of the country, I do have some thoughts on recent economic turns, though. When the telecom industry was booming, when major corporations were relocating into our area, east and west coast folks were streaming in. They found they could buy a lot more house on their current incomes and equity, and because they were used to paying a lot more for housing, they did here also. Housing prices that had been fairly flat suddently began to rise. We natives were amazed at the number of homes that were sold for asking price and thought that way too much was paid for the homes. Those moving in didn't bargain because they thought they were already getting one. (Exceptions to that rule were the people who live in apartments until their families could joint them and used the time to research the market.) Outcome, our house has more than double in value in the last eleven years, and so have the taxes. Salaries have risen also, so it's not the same economic market it once was. So, I'm back to saying it's all relevant.

By Momof2inca (Momof2inca) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:19 pm: Edit

Just heard a radio ad the other day that supports Idler's comment:

"Hey, Honey, let's vacation this year in (names a bunch of ritzy foreign places)."

"We can't afford thaaa-at!"

"Sure we can, with a home equity loan!"

"Really? Oh, okaaa-aay!"

Two years ago the median house in our county was $300,000. Now it's $600,000. I would guess that most of the gain is attributable to the low interest rates, some to a slow-growth ordinance.

It's like play money for some people, and the advertising does not help people make good decisions... I worry about the folks around here who tap into their home equity like a credit card account that they think they will never have to pay. You should see all the new cars in our city. And some of these people have adjustable rate mortgages that will in all likelihood rise just as the housing bubble pops. It so reminds me of the tech sector in 1999.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:19 pm: Edit

Ariesathena, well put, and from someone so young!

By Dke (Dke) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:23 pm: Edit

I find my childrens' observations of their friends' consumer habits interesting...they're only 8 and 11 now...but they assume that someone's "rich" if they have a Beemer and a garage full of toys....I always tell them 1) it doesn't matter and 2) you don't know what's in the bank...I don't tell them that our family has more $$$ than the Beemer crowd..it just doesn't show because we choose not to spend that way ..We were also raised not to discuss it...considered gauche..although in today's times I think kids do need to be wiser about the cost of living, spending, etc...I tell them the story of my boarding school roommate who always had the finest clothes, electronics, homes and vacations..I always thought she was loaded...until her father dropped dead at 42 of a heart attack...turns out he'd been borrowing to afford that lifestyle and they were left with nothing...a very good lesson for me at 17 to learn

By Mahras (Mahras) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:53 pm: Edit

ariesathena's post, I believe, was exactly right. I live in a neighborhood where home prices start lowest at 500K and end at 1200K. most people are in between say 900K. The people in my neighborhood are by no means obsenely wealthy (although most are Russian mafias :)). The average income per household will be 150Kish. However, one must also take into account the cost of living. Here in NYC metro area, prices are sky high. I went to a grocery in the Georgia suburbs and was AMAZED at the cheap prices compared to the groeries I have in my area. That also coupled with gas prices, car insurance, homeowners insurance, property tax, property maintenance taxes really beat down your income pretty badly. Its really hard to save money around here.

Contrary to that picture, during the weekend I went to the home of my dad's partner. To say the home is elegant would not be enough. I was AWED. I have been to several ritzy places but the home was mindblowing. The bathrooms were gold plated for christ's sake! The guy had like 2 rolls royce 100th anniversary phantoms, a bentley (super hot :)), and a benz S500 he uses only for shopping. I was blown from my pants lol. It really shows the dramatic change of lifestyle from one income range to another.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 12:53 pm: Edit

I agree with Ariesathena and Aparent4 - you are still upper middle class if your income is primarily earned. Working hard for $400,000 is a lot different than living off investments that give you a $400,0000 return a year!

Idler and Dke are right about conspicuous consumption and class: the extremely wealthy old-money families I know never flaunt it, often drive old cars, do not brag about their possessions or indeed ever mention the cost of things.

A GREAT summer read is a book called "The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home" by George Howe Colt. It was a National Book Award finalist and is out in paperback. A wonderful view of old money --- a person (maybe the author, I've forgotten) thought as a child that the "scrungees" that they washed their dishes with were very expensive, since they had the same ones forever. He was surprised to discover they were 5 for a dollar! Anyway, a great insider's view of WASP life, old-money Boston and Cape Cod, etc. As fascinating as an anthropological study!

TAXGUY - I will look for that book.

By Garland (Garland) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 01:42 pm: Edit

This thread brought to you from the good folks in the department of "Who Says Irony is Dead?"

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 01:47 pm: Edit

I really don't look at it as a line but a large gray area interlocking the two income classes with much going back and forth. Even those who are immensely wealthy make forays into those areas at times.

Also the old money vs new money distinction does not always hold. There are many old money scions that spend and live like the stereo typical nouveau riche and there are many gracious families who have made their financial fortunes lately and live the way the "old money" are depicted. It is not a static picture but a dynamic scene, from what I see.

In the last several years we have accrued enough money to be comfortably "upper middle" class but we are very middle class and even lower middle class in the many ways we, as a family, live with our money. I also believe that there is an inexplicable category that kind of permeates the center of the interlocking venn diagrams that make a semi circle when I picture income categories.

Just my opinion.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:01 pm: Edit

While I agree with your drift Jamimom, I also think that there are many class indicators that have little to do, at least directly, with how money is spent. Such as a person's language: "no glass renders a man's likeness so true as his speech: speak, that I may see thee" (Ben Jonson).

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:08 pm: Edit

I am looking at class in terms of income level which makes things a little clearer in terms of the definition, as things such as speech, refinement, graciousness, and other indicator of class on a social basis are such hotbeds of debate. Even in income levels, it is not easy, as how one earns the income, invests the income, spends the income, needs the income all define one's income class and makes a huge difference in how one lives.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit


If I send my kid to a very prestigious prep school to be "refined", does he now move up in class? LOL

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

Sokkermom: yes, if it feels natural to him. It's an aspect of prep school education which is (naturally) less discussed on CC than will a top prep school get you into a better college, but arguably an equally important one.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:41 pm: Edit

Garland, we don't do irony here. It's either permapress or I make a weekly run to the cleaners.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:44 pm: Edit


By Demingy (Demingy) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:51 pm: Edit

All of my clothes are wrinkle proof....but I digress.

I would like to add to the point about the difference between those who work for $400K vs those who earn $400K from their various investments made with "old money". There is even a big difference (as Voronwe has pointed out) between someone who works hard for their employer and makes $400K and the entrepreneur who makes $400K. In most cases, wealth really can depend on perspective.

By Collegeat30 (Collegeat30) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:53 pm: Edit

I'm glad we're having this discussion. I've given a lot of consideration to social class over the past few months, as I've applied to colleges at varying levels of prestige.

I'm trying to decide where I fit as far as social class goes. I aspire to work at a job that I love, that allows me to express my creativity and has a lot of autonomy. I am firmly a capitalist and prefer entrepreneurship or a career with a high economic reward. I enjoy business, and don't intend to be a starving artist.

I do not like conspicuous consumption and status-chasing (BMWs, houses in the suburbs, etc.). I would prefer to live without a lot of objects and spend my money on experiences (travel, lessons, etc.). I'm fairly iconoclastic and make purchases based on personal criteria, rather than class-conscious ones.

I have many friends that are "retired", but have less than $1 million. They live frugally, work on projects they enjoy (mostly in computers or other scientific fields), and travel light. They drive old cars, sleep on friend's couches, and learn to cook. But they are economically free. They own homes and hold patents that produce passive income. They often have very high levels of education in difficult fields that provide a lot of earning capacity, or are minor celebrities in specialized fields.

None have children yet, so I'm not sure how this would affect their choices in the future. They are all mid 20s-early 30s.

I guess this is a Generation X phenomenon. They could be called "upper-class slackers", I suppose.

By Perry (Perry) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:54 pm: Edit

I believe only 20% of households earn more than $75,000 a year. It drops off preciptiously at the $100,000 mark.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 02:57 pm: Edit

Sokkermom, I'm actually sending my kid to a very prestigeous prep school to meet more of the middle class. At private days in welthy communitied there is a less broad spectrum!

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 03:29 pm: Edit

He just graduated from one of the "best" - and I'm not sure complete refinement took place (ha ha) ..... He received an excellent education and was exposed to a great bunch of diverse intelligent enthusiastic students from around the world. However, he still throws his dirty laundry on the floor, and drinks from the milk carton when no one is looking!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 03:31 pm: Edit

Well, at least it's when no one is looking! Must KNOW that it is taboo at least!

By Cangel (Cangel) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 03:33 pm: Edit

College at 30, I envy your friends their freedom, but it will be difficult to raise a family on the passive income $1 million will generate. But, their lifestyle choices and fiscal responsibility will hold them in good stead when they decide to become "middle class worker bees" instead of "upper class slackers"!

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

Sokkermom: also, throwing your dirty clothes on the floor is a class thing to do: the help will pick them up (or mom).

By Clipper (Clipper) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

This topic is interesting. Thanks for starting it. It is interesting to read others' perspectives about the middle class from around the country.
I know for my H and I - we are probably just middle class. I stayed home with my 4 kids (until my youngest went to school) while my H worked. We lived paycheck to paycheck (being in the Navy does not make one rich esp when you move around every 3 years unable to accrue any equity in a house). Once the kids went to school and I started working things became easier. We still did not take any family vacations (once again, our vacations were every 3 years moving to the new duty station LOL). We saved a little for college for the oldest but had to take out loans for him. We are old enough now and more financially secure that we can pay our oldest daughter's instate tuition w/o taking any loans (we are still paying on the older boys). The last one who is going to Georgetown will be taking loans out and again so will we. My H and I will be paying for college for many many many years. My dream is to take an Alaskan cruise - has been for a long time. Our 25th anniversary came and went - no cruise and now I figure once child #4 graduates and the loans are paid off we can go on our 50th. LOL
We are due to move again - this time to No. Virginia where houses are in the 500K range. There is no way we can afford that. My sister lives in one of those houses (she worked her whole life and her kids did not go to college) and she is amazed at the YOUNG kids who buy those houses. They are in their early/mid 20s and we wonder how they can afford those prices let alone the down payment. Well, anyway I figure we will be moving into a one bedroom shack up there. There is your middle class. My H was considering a move to Minn and we were shocked to find houses also in the 500K range. Wow. I guess it is happening all over.
Sorry to be so long winded but my life sure is a contrast to some of you guys.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 04:10 pm: Edit

Upper class if you don't have to show up at a job and you still can buy everything you want; upper-middle if you know how much you make in salary--and care when you get a raise.

Note that there are two ways to be rich (which is not necessarily a matter of class): have more money to buy more things---or want fewer things.

By Garland (Garland) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 04:12 pm: Edit

Thedad: Well, at least someone noticed the wrinkle I threw into this.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Garland - double groan!!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 04:42 pm: Edit

Clipper -- I, too, am amazed by the youngsters buying houses in our neighborhood (also DC burbs, but in MD)... we've had houses sell to people in their twenties, priced at over $1 million! ten years ago I would have assumed they were dot-com millionaires, but now I guess they're probably trust fund babies...

By Perry (Perry) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 05:45 pm: Edit

Look, here's what you do. The great American high plains are emptying out, from North and South Dakota to Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, along the Missouri river, Oklahoma, and further south. In some of these places you can live like a king or Queen on maybe 40 to 50K. A county in Kansas recently was offering free land -- the first time since the Homestead Act in the mid 19th century --to lure people to settle. There's been a great migration going on toward the east and west coasts, and to parts of the far interior west (Colorado, AZ, Nevada, etc). In vast tracts along the Missouri river, towns that once relied on the river's commercial traffic have died or are dying, leaving much of the land to return to the wild -- much as it was during the 19th century. So, pick up and move to the high plains or Iowa, begin an internet business or telecommute, and live high with few people around. No traffic, lots of corn, nature, (and probably meth labs). A new life awaits you.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:05 pm: Edit

Things have changed considerably in terms of when the money is made. In many fields inhabited by very smart people, money is made early--not just Silicon Valley. A survey I read from a Harvard B School 10 year reunion showed a majority were already millionaires. My husband and I were typical of our very highly educated peers in buying a major house before we were 30. And that's when we wanted it and enjoyed it most, now I have one in boarding school and a 17 yo and crave a small condo.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:10 pm: Edit

Mom101 -- I'm curious whether you had any help from parents in your down payment on your major house. Also, one person's definition of "major" isn't necessarily another's -- there are young folks in my neighborhood buying million-dollar homes before they are thirty. Not sure if that's what you mean by "major," or something less.

And if by "millionaire," you're including all assets, my H and I easily qualify, too. But we certainly don't have that much ready cash. Harvard b-school grads 10 years out of school wouldn't be in their twenties, either -- they'd be 34 at least, and many would be older since b-school is often something people do after a couple of years working.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:11 pm: Edit

"My husband and I were typical of our very highly educated peers in buying a major house before we were 30."

Mom101, there are a lot of Ph.D.s and other "highly educated" people who haven't bought a major house by that age, trust me. The professors who read your disseration, unless they had Silicon Valley businesses on the side, are perfect examples.

Garland, just to "press" your point, I keep telling my s that everyone must think we're wealthy because I drive an old Jeep and we are very tasteful people, the kind Idler writes about. ;-)

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:28 pm: Edit

The house was over $1M and it was money we made. And yes, I did not mean to imply all highly educated professionals, but to say that those in highly paid professions are often making large amounts before 30. In 1987, upon B school graduation, my husband was offered jobs guaranteeing $250k. He was 25. We could have gotten a $750K loan on that job alone. Though he didn't take that job, he would have been making over $1M/yr before 30 if he had been good at it. Average house in the town I live in is $3M and it is teaming with young families, and not trust fund babies.

By Nedad (Nedad) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:36 pm: Edit

When I was much younger I would drive by the houses in Fairfield County, CT - some of the most expensive in the nation at the time, in Greenwich, Redding, Westport, and I assumed the only way they were possible was either trust fund money or the parents helped.

It took me two other houses to get to the third, approx. one million house with the tennis court, the pool, the many acres of land. It was a matter of starting low and trading up each time, with more income to pay the higher mortgage, but with higher equity (selling each house for a good profit). It really changed my mind about the automatic assumption that I had ALWAYS had before - "the parents must have helped." I got no help whatsoever, not for the down payment, not for anything.

So it IS possible.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:49 pm: Edit

A pool, tennis court and many acres of land for $1M? Not around here or in Greenwich either! Lucky you!! The $3M average house in my town (5 plus before the bubble went bust) is on one acre and probably has a pool but we need another half acre for the court. And you wouldn't look at one and say it's a mance!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:50 pm: Edit

A pool, tennis court and many acres of land for $1M? Not around here or in Greenwich either! Lucky you!! The $3M average house in my town (5 plus before the bubble went bust) is on one acre and probably has a pool but we need another half acre for the court. And you wouldn't look at one and say it's a mance!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:53 pm: Edit

NEdad, I think the question was, is it possible for all that many people before the age of 30?

Btw, one million doesn't buy a manse on either coast at this point, to my knowledge. Here's a sample Greenwich listing, one million for 2600 square feet on a shy half-acre:

Although I do know that there are certain fields that are very lucrative, we are talking about a tiny minority of the population here. As a multimillionaire who retired at 40 told me recently, "In my field if you didn't get rich in the '80s, you had to have been stupid." This person recognized that the professions that provide this kind of remuneration are extremely few and far between. Mom101, your town may be "teeming with young families," but there are few like it in the United States. Just calling for a little reality-testing here...

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:32 pm: Edit

Aparent4, I have to say, I've lived in several parts of the country and have found towns with similar demographics more places than I expected to. I found a village with multi million dollar homes and young families living in them outside of Toledo OH. Westchester county, Fairfield county and many N.J. towns fit the bill. Grosse Point MI, Winetka (sp?) IL, Weston and Marblehead MA, Palm Beach, many towns in Socal. We have management consultants, corporate attorneys, entrepreneurs of every stripe, tech/biotech IPO guys, investment bankers, real estate developers.....it's not as isolated as one might think.

By Garland (Garland) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:47 pm: Edit

Let's all brag about our million dollar homes, tennis courts, pools, huge salaries. etc.

Then we can b**** about our taxes and complain about the high cost of college. And discuss how to hide our "affluence" (not "wealth") because our kids are SO discriminated against.

Then we can lecture the rest of the middle class (since we're not "rich") and all of the lower classes about how to "work smart" (as they're too stupid to figure it out).

I take it back: irony IS dead.

It's downright de-pressing.

By Nedad (Nedad) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:57 pm: Edit

Garland, I was not bragging. I was taking part in the conversation. I was being descriptive for an anonymous message board. I never say anything remotely like this "in the flesh." Everyone who comes to my house looks like they've been hit with a stun gun - we never flaunt anything we have so they don't know we have it.

I am not b****ing about my taxes - while I believe they are enornmously high, I am willing to pay them for the good of society.

I have never hidden my wealth - I pay full freight for my kids. They are not discriminated against.

As for "working smart" - I am not sure what you think is wrong with that. Part of my mentoring volunteer work is to open students' eyes to what can be done. Most of their parents never taught them these things. I don't lecture their parents, but I DO try to show the kids - I try to SHARE my knowledge, not keep it all to myself - how to do better.

Aparent - you're right, a mill won't get you much in Greenwich. Outside of Greenwich, still on the East Coast (parts of NY and CT) you can still get 5-10 *very* private secluded acres, 4,000 square feet, the inground pool and tennis court and horse barn, for that money.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:59 pm: Edit

Garland, perhaps you are depressed. The beauty of this is that it's for the kids. They want to know. Witness all of the threads popping up in which they ask how to become affluent. I wish these were around when I was growing up! Boasting is talking about this in your community, not anonymously on boards. We're letting these smart kids in on secrets they want to know and no one is going to tell them in the school parking lot.

By Garland (Garland) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 07:59 pm: Edit

NEdad, sorry, this was an amalgam of the entire tone this board had taken on, not addressed specifically to you.

By Nedad (Nedad) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:01 pm: Edit

OK Garland. I am sorry too. But I really feel an anonymous message board is one place you can talk about things with no holds barred.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:08 pm: Edit

Mom101, believe it or not, I don't live next to a still in West Virginia. (No flames from the WV folks, please.) I am more than well aware of the existence of such towns and spend more than a great deal of time in them. I am just making the point that the vast majority of Americans do not live in such towns. And I don't think we do a service to kids who read these boards to present them with a skewed version of American life.

And telling Garland she is depressed is outrageous. She is one of the most sensible, level-headed people on these boards. 'Nuff said.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:15 pm: Edit

Garland, when I lived in the NYC area, I did not live in one of those million dollar houses. Check out the NYC thread. There is much housing even in Westchester and Fairfield counties that are for folks not making lots of money. Take a drive around there and you will see.

By Tufts08 (Tufts08) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:20 pm: Edit

Instead of teaching us kids on the board "how to become affluent," how about you teach us to be less materialistic - to not judge our accomplishments by how much money we make. I'm not going to hit fifty years old one day and say "wow, my accomplishments consist of making lots of money." Is it any surprise that so many people hit a mid life crisis and every adult in this country is on anti-depressants?

There are a lot of intelligent, hard-working teenagers on these boards. It would be a shame if they all became investment bankers or members of another occupation that reward one with nothing but a fat paycheck. Hopefully they will put their talents to better use.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:38 pm: Edit

I didn;t mean to insult Garland. She said it was depressing! No one is encouraging anyone to choose our pathes, we are each giving insight into out lives, how people in our communities live, etc. I for one really enjoy the openess possible on these boards because I don't have these conversations with my neighbors for obvious reasons. I learn a lot here and I think the kids get to see that there are all kinds of people, opinions. lifestyles and outlooks. My life was a journey from having and knowing not much to having quite a bit, especially exposure. Those who mentored me and let me in on their lives early on changed my life. I love the op on the how to become affluent thread. A kid like me at that age, a lot of desire but no one to tell me. That's all.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:38 pm: Edit

Tufts08, we've been through this before. If you can do well (monetarily) by doing good (doing something good for society), why not? I am over 50, and DO NOT consider my accomplishment to be that I made a lot of money. Without giving too much detail (anonymous message boards are supposed to be just that), I have gotten all kinds of awards for my work, including Human Rights awards. Both my volunteer work and the work I get paid for are both IMMENSELY rewarding. The center of my life is spiritual. . I am not on anti-depressants. Never had a midlife crisis. If I get down, I open my 3-inch file of letters from people who say I changed their lives (prisoners, immigrant students, many others) and I cheer right up.

That said, I do not hate money. As the bible says, it is not money that is the root of evil, but the love of money. I don't worship money, but it helps in an amazing number of ways: in the ways I can help my friends, family, and strangers; the amount of money I give away (more than most Americans make in a year); in the taxes I am privileged to pay (in the six figures) to pay for the things that make this country run, including social security, medical care for the poor, etc. ad infinitum.

There are many, many ways to make an excellent living that have as a reward far more than "just a fat paycheck." I feel I can actually do MORE public service and MORE for others than when I was scrambling to make ends meet. Plus besides feeling immensely rewarded helping others, I admit I feel immensely rewarded and happy when I am doing things I could not afford to do before, like sailing. It doesn't make me a bad or materialistic person.

{Edit - ok, I am gonna brag for a minute. I have done more to help others than anyone I have ever *personally* met. There. I said it.]

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit

Each person should try to strike a balance economically and recreationally. And I use the word "recreationally" very loosely. I mean it more in terms of living your life with your friends and family. When H worked had a investment banking job in Manhattan, he brought home more money than ever, and we really needed the money at that time. But a few years of that life, and we came to the point of "enough". We wanted more of HIM. We rarely saw him when he was working and he was exhausted and stressed out when he was with us with a cell phone glued to his ear. Every second was business.

But we had lived the other extreme too. We loved the way we lived except for the money. When one of our children was diagnosed with a life threatening illness and our insurance denied the treatment as experimental for that diagnosis, we were literally given tin cans for fund raising. No kidding. Yeah, we fought it and won, but realizing where we could have been really put the freeze on us. Also, my H's brother and cousin lived such bohemian lives, that they could not care for their own children who would have been put with Child Services, had we not taken them in. Which put an additional financial burden on us. All of the things we wanted, education, medical care, safe place to live were out of our reach and it was really scary for us. So for us it has been a balancing act.

By Tufts08 (Tufts08) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:52 pm: Edit

Voronwe, I didn't see you posting here bragging about how much money you have, so I'm not accusing you of the attitude I spoke of. A couple of the people posting here DO seem to be on the verge of worshipping money - using the message board as an excuse to brag about their "accomplishments."

Second of all, yes, that's great if you can do good and make money at the same time. If that's your situation, congratulations. But to pretend that that is even close to the norm is unfair. I live in a pretty well to do area. I don't know of a single affluent adult that has made their money through doing good. I'm not saying that they did anything wrong or unethical -- just that the purpose of their job consists of nothing more than a paycheck.

By Mahras (Mahras) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 08:58 pm: Edit

There is no use denying it.....money is important and it affects A LOT of actions we take. And coupled that with the fact that anoynomous message boards really help opening up and talking about this we would never say to another person's face. This explains why there is so much talk about money, methods of acqiring money etc. Eventually people with the money will hopefully directly (make donations, volunteer etc) or indirectly (actually pay taxes) help the society. I am NOT saying that people in the peace corps or people in public interest jobs are inferior to those who have money, but one must understand that the money HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE. Let me give an example, the law firm I work at is public interest and people pay nothing to get services. Many of the directors are former partners of top firms (read Watchell, Sullivan, Davis etc) and at the end of their career they set out and give their services for free. One cannot say that these people were materialistic just becasue they didnt DEVOTE their lives to public interest. they are good people who needed money. Also the firm runs entirely on donations and guess who pays the donation.....people with money. Whatever anyone says money is needed but as Voronwe points out clearly there must be a balance between need/want for money and love of money.

By Mahras (Mahras) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:09 pm: Edit

And I know some people are going to hate me for saying this:

As a student, I have noticed that the people who usually flaunt cash are the one who are pretty much middle class. This is of course at my school. Some people at my school save 300 bucks to buy a burberry shirt!!!! Tell me is it really worth it. They are also the people talking about vacations Europe and stuff like that. Most of these people make fun of immigrants because they make minimum wage and would NEVER take a clerical job like I have taken. Once when a guy told a couple of kids that he had a job at a local grocery they laughed at his face and said that he was broke and how it was his turn to eat today and crap like that. However, he didnt say anything to them and eventually I found out that he lived in the ritziest (is that even a word?!) of midtown Manhattan where an apartment sells for in excess of 2 million. I have taken jobs that most kids at my school would never take due to image purposes. Its sad but true and there is nothing to do anout it.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:12 pm: Edit

OK Tufts08. We've all been talking about this stuff on various threads so maybe I was a little touchy :-) (Don't know if I should confess that I also have a pool, tennis court, etc!). I also happen to know from reading so many posts that some other posters on this very thread, even ones who look like they're bragging, actually "do well by doing good." But you are right, it is NOT the norm.

Mahras is right that the money that makes the world go 'round has to come from somewhere! We are all beneficiaries in some way from people (even some pretty greedy ones) who set up the railroads and airways, etc. etc. Many of them did it JUST for the money. Just a thought!

By Clipper (Clipper) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:21 pm: Edit

Once again interesting conversation!
I feel, even though my family is not financially upper middle class, that I have also contributed positively to society. I gave the world 4 beautiful kids who would be any parents dream. I am so proud of how they turned out.
My last one (the Georgetown girl) is the one who is the most driven. She went to a public magnet school where most of her peer group were upper middle class. She saw how the other half lived and wants to live like that. More power to her I say. She promises an Alaskan cruise for me someday!! BTW - she wants to be a lawyer and run for office one day (once she makes her million LOL). She's got the brains and the drive to do whatever she sets out to do!

By Demingy (Demingy) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

I actually appreciate how candid most people are on this board about their lifestyles. These are people that we are getting advice from (and sometimes giving advice to) and I like having the opportunity to know where they are coming from. There are so many things that influence our views and money/financial status is one of those.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

Why don't ya'll -as we say in Texas- pool your "giving" resources and sponsor a College Confidential essay award. It would kill two birds at once: additional publicity for the site as well as raise the abysmal level of the essays that show up on the board.

PS I realize that some of us would be more inclined to believe that CC posters reserve their best creative writing for the ... FAFSA. :)

By Insanity (Insanity) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:21 pm: Edit

The average house is $3M!!!?!?!?!?!?!! Wow. I live in Central PA. Okay, so maybe you've heard of State College, etc. Beyond that there isn't that much happening around here. I live a little bit south of State College (Penn State Main Campus). The average cost for a house here is probably in the 100k - 150k range, if that. Seriously, our cost of living must be extremely low compared to that of the people on these boards. We are mostly middle class here, but in this area a salary of 50k is considered to be doing really pretty well. Wow. That's all I can say.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 10:27 pm: Edit

One thing that no one has yet mentioned is inheritance. My parents were, by most standards, lower middle class for their entire lives. I financed my college education through loans, grants and work study. My father NEVER made more than $12,000 a year. The only vacations we ever took when I was a child were camping trips - couldn't afford more. Until I graduate from high school, my parents only had one car and my mother worked.

Yet, the value of their house, which they'd bought in the 50's for $5000, rose tremendously over the years. They also pinched pennies and invested wisely.

When they both died in their early 70's five years ago, my sister and I both inherited a comfortable nest egg - not millions of dollars, but enough that we've been able to afford some things like travel and fixing up our home. My husband's grandmother also left an educational trust for our children when they were infants that my husband has managed well over the years. Again, not millions or even hundreds of thousands to start off with, but it's grown enough that paying for college won't be a hardship for us.

Yet, I wouldn't call us anything but middle class. My husband works in a mid-management job for the federal government, (believe me, he makes less than $100,000!) and I am a freelance writer. We pay our bills but don't live excessively, drive fancy cars, or travel first class.

I think that as the baby boomer's parents begin to die, there will be more people like us who will inherit money from their parents, especially from real estate. This will complicate the issue of who is and isn't middle or upper middle class even more.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 11:24 pm: Edit

You are so right Carolyn, many of my friends are starting to inherit money from middle class parents that is paying for things like college, vacations or giving them an opportunity to make a career switch. In CA, anyone who has owned a house since their 20's has made considerable money--nothing like this happened in past generations. It is so interesting to me that so many see statements on an anonymous board as "bragging". I just don't get that at all. One would have to be pretty pathetic to get their jollies by posting on a board. For me it's delicious to say what I really think because I have so little opportunity to do it in real life. I don't even think I share a few of these thoughts with my best friend as she has financial struggles. Money is the world's most controversial subject, but I didn't realize how emotional it was. I grew up without it, and as one poster above said about her daughter, went to schools and camps and saw how the other half lived and wanted it. And there were a few adults kind enough to guide me as a college student and give me exposure to things my parents couldn't. The best thread I've seen on this board is the one about corporate lawyers lifestyle. I was telling my kids what an amazing gift I think it is that boards like this exist to help an 18 yo kid redirect away from a career most people hate. And the money related threads are the same. Clear ideas about what to do to get it, the possib;e impacts of it, how it has effected peoples lives. The good and the bad. That's why some of us are so open here--where else will people get the low down? Who knows how it might had changed my life if I had a forum like this as a teenager? I feel certain it would have.

By Garland (Garland) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 08:55 am: Edit

Thank you, Aparent4, for the kind words. They mean a lot coming from you!

By Enjoyingthis (Enjoyingthis) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 09:29 am: Edit

This thread is very interesting and I, personally, have no problem with people revealing anything they care to reveal about their own financial status. I think it IS useful to others.

On the subject of anonymity, however.... apparently some feel more anonymous than others here. While this isn't your neighborhood, or your church group or the people you work with, people who post here frequently are not truly anonymous to the other posters. You all acknowledge engaging with the personalities of various posters over time and we follow each other's stories. Therefore, I'm afraid I'm not surprised that some people take it as bragging when people list terrific financial assets. Whether it's a kid with great stats or lots of money, those details are attached to a certain personality here and that is not the same as reading the details as a statistic without knowing anything else about the poster. Many here are no longer truly anonymous and I'm afraid envy will always be present.

By Irishbird (Irishbird) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 09:30 am: Edit

An inheritance...wow that's something I never thought about! Maybe I'll be rolling in the dough & can afford college for my kids...ehh, not likely after it's split 7 ways bet. my brothers & sisters!
Guess I've got to keep the day job LOL!

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 09:53 am: Edit

Hmmm, I'm not aware of many towns where the average house costs you $3 million. According to the NY Times (as legitimate a source as I could find) the average house in Greenwich's more affluent zip sells for $1.6. Still absurdly high, but not quite $3 million! On the otherhand, Nedad, I can think of very few places within a 40 mile radius of NYC where you'll find a 4,000 sq. footer on several acres of land with a pool and tennis court. For one, very few of these properties exist in this densely populated area of the country. And if you would find such a house, it would almost certainly be in a swank suburb and cost you upwards of $3 or $4 million.

By Idler (Idler) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 10:06 am: Edit

To return to the o.p. momentarily, after reading this thread through: upper middles talk about how much money and stuff they have, where uppers talk about how much money others have, if they talk about it at all

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 10:08 am: Edit

Irishbird, my husband comes from a family of eight. The whole inheritance attitude in his family sounds like yours! My father-in-law just made repairs on the house and bought a car and made jokes that the inheritance was gone!

I agree with Carolyn, lines will get even more muddy with inheritances in the picture. However, I also feel in America that as the population lives longer and requires long term care, many seniors will have to use their estates to cover the cost of this care, and if the money runs out, it may affect quite comfortable families in the opposite way as they reduce their standard of living to cover their parents' needs. The same situation exists for many families with heavy medical expenses. If you look at salary alone, they could be classified one way, but if you look at their lifestyles after covering medical expenses, they could be classified differently. Either way, it's good to have the money to cover the bills, and quality of life becomes relevant.

By Nedad (Nedad) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 10:19 am: Edit

Newyorker, I prefer not to tell you where I live, but it is within commuting distance of New York City (though I couldn't stand the idea of that kind of commute myself). There are still some towns with a LOT of square miles that still have farms, a beautiful old-fashioned Main Street, 18th century houses, etc. etc.

The house I described was my own. I love it - it is not in a development and has a lot of character, plus is very secluded (can't even be seen from any road). It is not in a "swank" suburb but we have highly rated schools and a mixed income population - from retirees to people in multi-million dollar houses.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

I am also skeptical about a town where the average home price is $3 million. I don't think Palo Alto got that high during the dot com boom.

By Any1can (Any1can) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 11:09 am: Edit

If this thread is for kids then here is a little side note observation-You cannot always judge a book by it's cover. With the interest rates as low as they have been, a person has no way of knowing how much debt another person is carrying.Mortgage loans, business loans, etc. have been relatively easy to obtain the past couple of years (with good credit of course).

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit


You might be assuming too much by declaring that Palo Alto IS the town. Each town has separate enclaves and smaller entities that compose the entire metropolis. For instance in the middle of Dallas, you can find University Park and Highland Park. Those towns have much higher economic statistics than the rest of Dallas County.

I am quite sure that Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are similar.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 12:09 pm: Edit

You can have fun, if you know the zip code, with this link: http://www.melissadata.com/Lookups/HomeSales.asp

which gives average sale price for recent home sales, searchable by zip code.

94022 (Los Altos Hills, an exclusive suburb in Silicon Valley) had an average of $1.3M in June.

By Irishbird (Irishbird) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

Alongfortheride: Yes, your husband's attitude (& family) is similar to mine! None of us is counting on a big monetary inheritance...but any family mementos & pictures & an old tea table my Mom swore I could have(i better make her write that down!) will be more than enough!
It just so happens today I'm checking on my Mom's house while she's away and while she was thanking me for doing so, I just reminded her,"I move up in the will right?" ;-)

By Sugee (Sugee) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:22 pm: Edit

I am not denying that a little head-start with money helps a lot. For instance, an MBA from Harvard can become a millionaire by 30 whereas for one from Rutgers it might take 5 more years. But that is the only difference. Without extremely focussed hardwork a million dollors just cannot be earned. The focus, responsibility, accountability in such positions is enormous.

Even the trust money children can go through inheritence quickly, if they do not very carefully and diligently take care of the money - that alone can be a tough and full time job. What I am saying is the money never comes free, and when we know what we would have to give up to make that kind of money there will not be any depression.

For instance, as a Technical person I perhaps work more hours, and much harder, but I prefer it to a Project management position where the hours might be lesser, the quantity of work lesser, and most importantly more pay, but a lot more stress - balancing time and resources, politicking etc. I quit Project Management because even if I came home a couple of hours later and brought twenty percent lesser pay, I wanted no nagging head-aches that lasted long after I left work.

We could have made a lot of choices during the technology boom - we were one of the few who knew that the salary bubble would burst - which would have made us half millionaires at least, but we both chose not to. We would have liked to keep some solid money for the kind of medical emergency that Jamimom had, but for us it was like 'how much will be enough ? half a mill ? one mill ? or more ?' We finally decided that we will cross the bridge if we ever came to it.

If I had more money, I would feel more secure about our retirement and sons' college. As a next step would like a townhome (I feel afraid in big houses), a white mercedes, better furniture, and some travel - Tibet, Cambodia, Pacific South America. But I was always very particular about how our life should be when we had the kids with us, until they went away to college. I could not compromise that for any of these things.

Some others cannot compromise on their true calling like becoming a teacher, pastor or public defender. Money is therefore not accidental or incidental. One has to sacrifice some and risk some to get it. It is a choice that everyone makes - knowingly or unknowingly. Of course I am not saying everyone can make any amount of money, once they make a choice. There is talent involved. For instance, I said we could have made half-million, but not a billion.

Making money is an acheivement like any other acheivement, and I appreciate and applaud that acheivement. That said, I only hate it when people look down on me for not having money, in which case I find plenty to look down upon them in return :-)

By 1tcm (1tcm) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:26 pm: Edit

After taking a while to read this whole thread, I know why I don't feel as comfortable here at CC anymore as I used to. I don't qualify for inclusion in either of these classes. I guess I've been de-classified.

1tcm. Pressing (to keep up with the iron analogy)her face to the window looking up at the upper-middle class from down here in the basement.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:30 pm: Edit

Not long ago I read a study of the difference in material living standard between attorneys whose parents had paid for law school and those who got through on loans. The only difference was that the latter drove less expensive cars.

I think the big difference is going to show itself in the boomer generation in retirement. So many corporate folks have been screwed by their companies it's not funny. I am using that term, whether it's bleeped or not by cc, because I think it's disgraceful. Those who have accumulated wealth -- including the CEOs and shareholders who have done so on the backs of the people who are building their companies and whose pensions and health-care benefits have been cut drastically -- will be sitting pretty.

As a self-employed person, I will be working until the day they carry me out. ;-)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit

This is a listing of the sales in another tony exclusive area of Silicon Valley.

Dates, sales, and average prices:

07-2004 2 $2,365,000
06-2004 9 $2,616,000
05-2004 6 $1,451,000
04-2004 3 $718,000
03-2004 7 $1,621,000
02-2004 5 $1,819,000
01-2004 6 $2,201,000
12-2003 6 $1,401,000
11-2003 12 $1,345,000
10-2003 2 $992,000
09-2003 5 $1,142,000
08-2003 10 $1,547,000
07-2003 9 $1,386,000
06-2003 7 $2,463,000
05-2003 5 $1,563,000
04-2003 1 $1,370,000
03-2003 2 $2,075,000
02-2003 4 $1,317,000
01-2003 7 $1,836,000
12-2002 5 $1,173,000
11-2002 6 $1,378,000
10-2002 5 $1,480,000
09-2002 2 $2,035,000
08-2002 5 $1,408,000
07-2002 9 $2,352,000
06-2002 6 $1,091,000
05-2002 4 $1,956,000
04-2002 6 $1,288,000
03-2002 3 $2,225,000
02-2002 3 $612,000
01-2002 4 $1,704,000
12-2001 7 $1,176,000
11-2001 1 $3,250,000
10-2001 5 $1,229,000
09-2001 2 $1,442,000
08-2001 4 $1,259,000

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 01:45 pm: Edit

"Richest Town in America" according to one report, Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/05/national/main511142.shtml

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, July 14, 2004 - 02:15 pm: Edit

Rancho Santa Fe switches off with the town of Atherton to be CA's wealthiest depending what is going on in Silicon Valley. There are also the towns of Woodside, Portola Valley, Hillsborough and Los Altos Hills in the Valley where a relatively modest (not tons of bells and whistles) 4,000 sq. ft. house on 1 acre will run you the aforementioned $3M.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 12:59 am: Edit

And Xiggi, you are quite correct, Palo Alto, while it has some very nice areas, is balanced with modest ones and a lot of student housing. I want to add that CA is not that different from tony towns around NYC. Average numbers are extremely misleading. I have lived in Greenwich CT, and while the average may be 1.6M because there are more modest parts, the "mainstream" executive home in Greenwich is also close to $3M.

By Smhop (Smhop) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 01:26 am: Edit

Since when is " 4,000 sq. ft. house on 1 acre" considered "relatively modest (not tons of bells and whistles)"???????????

That's not a "modest" home by any means...

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 01:33 am: Edit

There are homes where my mother in law lives that are 4000 sq ft on an acre or more and very, very modest by any means. (like no plumbing, no heat, no hot water) They are also cheap by most standards.

I have needed large homes and some of the places where I have lived were quite ramshackle. I bought my house in Pittsburgh for about $30k and though it was decently large, close to 4000 sq ft, I don't think there would be too many takers for it as a family home, given the neighborhood and condition it was in when we bought it.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 01:37 am: Edit

By modest I measn that the $3M homes here would shock people from many parts of the country. Old kitchens and baths, no architectural character, leaking roofs.

By Strick (Strick) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 05:45 am: Edit

No offense, but this is the most astonishing thread I've ever read.

If only 2% of the country makes $200K and over, it's fair to estimate that, what only 0.2% of the country makes $400K and over? Even Republicans don't consider $400K "middle class" and a $3M fixer upper is still a $3M home.

This isn't relative. Being average compared to people living in a wealthy area doesn't mean you're average per se simply because it's expensive. It means you're wealthy. You have to be wealthy to live there.

By Garland (Garland) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 09:00 am: Edit

Good to hear from you, Strick. I was beginning to doubt my own sanity (as have others!)

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 09:18 am: Edit

Of course you have to be wealthy to live in those towns, no mystery there.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 09:58 am: Edit

I didn't get to read this whole thread yesterday and I'd like to comment on Tuftso8 contention that none of the affluent people he knows have "made their money through doing good." Tufts, have any of those people founded companies that employ many people? Have the affluent doctors saved any lives? Has anyone invented anything that has made life easier or better? What exactly is the definition of doing good, emulating Mother Theresa? Does the guy who finds the cure for cancer deserve to become rich?

By Nedad (Nedad) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:16 am: Edit

I'd have to agree with Mom101. I know several people who may not be saints, but they employ a lot of people, and because of them, all those people have jobs, can pay their mortgages,buy food for their family, get medical care, drive their kids to sports and volunteer activities, can tithe to their churches if they want, etc. Creating jobs for other people is nothing to be sneered at. And the companies I am thinking about do things like environmental cleanup, or other services societies need - they aren't making luxuries. Though even if they were, they'd STILL be doing all those beneficial things for hundreds of families.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:19 am: Edit

I'll throw in a third to Mom101. My father works quite long hours, mainly to keep his company afloat. By doing this, yes, he makes money, but he's also earning enough revenue so that the company can keep accountants, secretaries, receptionists, and the people on the loading dock employed. (He is in sales.) I'm sure they are pretty happy that he wants to do a good job and keep a steady income - because it provides them with one, too!

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:32 am: Edit

I was thinking about the "doing well by doing good" idea this morning. I was trying to figure out if you could make a case for Bill Gates making money by "doing good"--here it is (keep in mind this is a debate, and I am ignoring the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which I think is fantastic, but is not a money source):

Bill Gates/Microsoft
*employs thousands of people in jobs that pay well (allowing those people to contribute their money where they choose)
*has saved millions of people worldwide time and frustration by creating a de facto standard for the operating system on their computers, and thereby
*helped to enable the functioning of the internet, which is arguably the biggest source for information ever created, which
*has helped to increase the trend to democracy worldwide

So Bill Gates (arguably) has gotten rich by "doing good".

I found it more straightforward to make a case for getting rich by doing good for
*the founders of Google
*the researchers at IDEC Pharmaceuticals who created Rituxan (a wonderful, non-cytotoxic drug for the treatment of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma)

as just a few more examples.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:57 am: Edit

And would the counter-argument for Gates be that by violating antitrust laws he has put other companies out of business, resulting in people losing jobs? no ax to grind here, just making a point :)

I do agree that it's too simplistic to say that all corporations are evil and the only do-gooders are those toiling away at NGOs for little pay.

By Enarang (Enarang) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

My definition of upper-class

If you can afford your own private Boeing 747 jet.
You can afford to buy a 150 foot yacht
If you have 5 homes
You drive a Rolls-Royce or Bentley or a car that costs upwards of 250K

For me that is considered upper-class

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 12:14 pm: Edit

To me the above is gross consumption, not at all what most upper class people spend their time or money on.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 12:24 pm: Edit

Rhonda--and the counter-argument on Bill Gates is exactly as you said (and then you could get into a debate on net jobs (pun intended)--but let's not, because I really was only trying to make a point that you could make a case for lots of rich people "doing good" as much as "doing well."

By Perry (Perry) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

Corporations by nature are not "evil" - as someone alluded above, but many of the CEO's and their compensation committees and executive boards filled with yes men certainly fit the definition of avaricious. You know there is something terribly awry when a corporation wrings its hands over the cost of benefits for its employees, cutting pensions, sticking people with higher health insurance premiums, force reducations, and so forth, while the fat man at the top is earning vast sums in the the tens or hundreds of millions in base salary, stock options, pension, free car and housing allowances, etc. Yes, some corporate chieftens do good in terms of philanthropy; most do not. At least Bill and Linda Gates, however, have established the world's largest philanthropic foundation, which appears to be doing much good in the world by funding projects in medicine and education. Why isn't Larry Ellison doing this?

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 01:47 pm: Edit

Why does it have to be black and white? Maybe some people are more motivated to act on greed than others; we all are certainly capable of greed. And those more actively greedy people can also do good for others. I don't think we need to decide that all wealthy people are wonderful or robber barons, any more than the rest of us are paragons or villains. Bill Gates is a perfect example of somebody known to be ruthless in his business, and yet generous lately in his philanthropy.

By Perry (Perry) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 02:45 pm: Edit

"Why does it have to be black and white?"

I don't think it is a case of black and white, although many cases are clear as to the corrupt actions of CEO's that have done great damage to thousands, in fact, millions of people. Enron's Ken Lay or World Com's Bernie Ebbards come to mind -- individuals who cooked the books, mislead investors and employess, destroyed lives, while they were cashing out and leaving their companies in utter ruin. These individuals will be remembered as symbols of extravagant greed in an extravagant era -- perhaps a just punishment in the long run given that egotistical individuals of this sort care deeply about how they will be recalled after they've left this world. "Behind every great fortune is a great crime." -- Balsac

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 04:00 pm: Edit

Dmd -- my point was simply that it's not as simple as saying "corporations are evil" or "corporations are good." Most corporations, like Microsoft, have positive aspects and effects like those you mention, but usually could be run in a way that minimizes their negative effects, too. So they're not "bad," but (like most of us!) could be improved.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

Rhonda---Oh good, then we're in agreement! I was also trying to get to that point.

By Enarang (Enarang) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 05:05 pm: Edit

what I stated is what I believe is the true definition of upper-class. If you have it flaunt it so that the whole world knows you mean business. Show it off like never before. That is what many many upper-class people do. Take their money and spend it so the whole world knows they are wealthy. In fact that is the perfect thing to do. Take your money and make sure other people know you have plenty of it.

By Strick (Strick) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 05:34 pm: Edit

"If you have it flaunt it so that the whole world knows you mean business. Show it off like never before."

But that ignores the distinction between old and new money. Some of the richest people in American history wore Brooks Brother suits and drove Buicks precisely because you don't stay rich by spending money. They worked hard at looking like everyone else while controlling vast fortunes and the lives of thousands people.

It's the new money who hasn't learned that that's all flash and often short lived.

An aside. One of my favorite stories is about a fellow who looked like any other farmer dressed in overalls the Texas Panhandle until he pulled out the wad of thousand bills he carried in his pocket. He was like any other farmer except his farm was in the middle of one of the richest natural gas fields in the world. He just never let the money bother him or take control of his life.

So which is it really, life style or wealth that separates these classes in class-less America?

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 05:42 pm: Edit

There's rich, nouveau riche, and people who have hats but don't buy hats (Boston brahmins).

I remember a definition of "yuppies" as people who bragged about spending more than they needed to (that was when Mike Dukakis ran on a platform of bying his suits at Filene's basement and going to work on the subway).

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 06:50 pm: Edit

"Some of the richest people in American history wore Brooks Brother suits"

You mean Brooks Brothers isn't still the height of upper-class fashion?

I just gave my son his father's old Brooks Bros. camel hair coat--which is probably why Brooks Bros. doesn't make as much money as some snazzier places: the coat still looks pretty much brand new at 25+ years old. (For that matter, the BB shirt my husband wore the day we got married is still looking pretty good.)

I'm with the people who say that upper class means subtlety, not flash and cash.

By Perry (Perry) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 07:39 pm: Edit

It's often the case that the wealthiest among us are also the cheapest; ask any waitress, waiter, or doorman. Conversely, you will often find that the most modest among us are also the most generous. While many of the wealthy may lavish great hordes of money on themselves in a gauche display of self-reverence, they pinch pennies when it comes to others, except, of course, when they see a tax benefit.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 09:30 pm: Edit

Perry, everyone's mileage varies....I have some very wealthy "old money" friends that are deeply, deeply generous - beyond anything you can even imagine. The very wealthiest summer where I do, drive the most beat-up car, wear the same good but saw-it-last-summer-and-every-summer-for-the-last-decade clothes, etc. No flaunting....

And I have some "modest" friends that are so cheap it's embarrassing! I mean, the kind of cheap that makes people around them cringe with embarrassment, not the kind that is simply frugal or displays common sense. I mean *cheap.*

Like every single other topic on this board,
there is no black and white, no easy pigeon-holing (not that you were doing it - I'm just making a point).

By Strick (Strick) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:01 pm: Edit

"You mean Brooks Brothers isn't still the height of upper-class fashion?"

Oh, no, they're very middle class. I knew a fellow who wouldn't even be seen in something as common as Armani. lol

By Momstheword (Momstheword) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:03 pm: Edit

I knew a great man who was considered cheap by many of his peers, as well as waitresses and waiters, etc. He didn't tip in small bits and pieces during his lifetime. He let the monetary fruits of his labor accumulate to the point where it made a lasting difference upon his death. He quietly left his considerable fortune to a fine university where it has made a big impact in terms of scholarships, etc. I've actually known a couple of people like this. I wonder how many students out there are the recipients of educational gifts left by so-called cheap people.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:18 pm: Edit

I know of a person who was being wined and dined by an institution eager to secure a large donation from her. She showed up at a ritzy lunch with her dessert in a paper bag--didn't see the sense in paying good money for a fruit, even if she wasn't the one paying for the lunch. She did leave millions to the institution.

Another old money acquaintance of mine insists on doing everything himself--and he is very handy. It drives his wife round the bend. Not only did she grow up with servants, but she also has a very demanding job. But he expects that, between the two of them, they can clean the house, do the yard, saw the trees, etc... It's the epitome of Yankee frugality. They also contribute heavily to charity.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:23 pm: Edit

I don't care how big anyone's plans are about leaving money to any cause, regardless of how wonderful it is. They should still be tipping the waiters and waitresses if they are eating out.

By Momstheword (Momstheword) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit

These weren't people's "plans." These were done deals. It seems right to me to tip waiters and waitresses. But the people I mentioned in my earlier post saw things differently, I guess. I still think they did a lot of good in this world. Could be that I'm looking at it all wrong, of course.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

No, you are not. They did do a lot of good in this world in a particular area. But at the expense of some "little guys". I think it was presumptuous of them to think that they should short others in order to further their pet cause. Better he ate at home and saved even more money to give to his cause. It would off of his hide, then, not that of servers who depend on tips for a living.

By Marite (Marite) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 10:55 pm: Edit


Robbing Peter to pay Paul (OT: now, that's a Biblical allusion for Xiggi, but he's not allowed to use the internet):

Waiters and waitresses make well below minimum wage, the idea being that they can rely on tips to make up the rest. For someone to be cheap about tipping is to cheat them of their livelihood. I don't care whether they were planning to leave their millions to some university. Students in general don't starve, university administrators don't starve, faculty don't starve, but people who make less than minimum wage do starve. I spent one summer as a waitress. As a student, I'd rather not know that my scholarship money was earned at the expense of waiters and waitressed whose livelihood depended on tips.

By Garland (Garland) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:26 pm: Edit

Agree completely. In this person's case, apparently it was the waiters/waitresses involuntarily donating to the cause; hard to see any virtue in engineering that. (Most of my family have waited tables at some time or another; I think cheap tipping is a mortal sin.)

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:27 pm: Edit


By Jessc (Jessc) on Thursday, July 15, 2004 - 11:33 pm: Edit

It helps to be at the other end of the spectrum too. My dad is an artist and his taxable income is less than $30,000. Because of this I went to prep school on a full scholarship and got into Harvard (free tuition) and Yale (less than $5000). I feel very rich!!! If we were middle class on paper I would be going to a state school and never had the fine prep school education I had. Best of all I didnt grow up in a bubble or spoiled like so many of my friends and so I value all I have and will certainly make the most of it.

By Momstheword (Momstheword) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 09:42 am: Edit

Again, I believe it's right to tip waitresses, waiters (I also believe it's right to tip a doorman and would do so if I lived in such as a situation as to require a doorman). I'm glad that the cheap tippers didn't stay home all the time while I was a waitress, that they decided to eat at a restaurant from time to time and paid for their food so that at least the restaurant I worked for stayed in business and I had a paycheck.
I wasn't saying that I thought it was cool to rob Peter to pay Paul. I didn't mean to imply that I fully endorsed the cheap people who later donated so others could have help attending college, just that I appreciated the helpful things they did with their money.

By Voronwe (Voronwe) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 09:55 am: Edit

I have family members who have waited tables, and I agree with you all. But I think it is a real crime that the restaurants get to skirt the minimum wage law to begin with. The NY Times had an article on Las Vegas that spoke of the very strong restaurant union, and very high hourly wages to waitstaff (I believe $10 and up). The businesses *liked* it because it meant far less turnover. The argument that waitstaff have to be paid below minimum wage (WAY below - sometimes only $2 an hour!) or else food prices would rise is just bogus. They probably would, but we should be paying what it's worth to begin with.

A decent, guaranteed salary would also do away with the problem of being stiffed (like serving a large party who uses a table for 3 hours, spends $500, then leaves a $5 tip!). People can still tip the waiters if the service is especially good.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:02 am: Edit

I agree with you, Voronwe. In Europe, there is an automatic service charge. No haggling, no whipping out of the calculator, no hurt feelings among staff if some get to wait on tables with generous tippers and others aren't that lucky.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:04 am: Edit

I believe that minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.63/hour. If the employee does not make up the rest of normal min. wage in tips, the employer makes up the difference - but obviously, depending on how they do this (at the end of the day or week), the waitstaff can have a rough time.

At least tips are not built into the bill (which they do in Europe) - I am a big fan of tipping well, but have had (once or twice) waiters so terrible that, IMO, no tip should have been earned.

It's good that restaurants include the tip for large parties. I remember a friend's birthday dinner with six people, unfortunately no tip included, and everyone looked at the bill and kind of thought "oh, $7 for a tip is fine." Total! People have a rough time with the percentages, and if someone (that time, me) doesn't come through and elucidate how much needs to be left, it's easy for someone to be stiffed inadvertenly. (Sorry for the sp).

End rant...

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:14 am: Edit


I have to disagree with you. I've had plenty of lousy service from all sorts of employees; but they have not depended on my tips for a living. They all have had guaranteed minimum wage or higher. Why should restaurant staff be any different? Sometimes, anyway, it's not the fault of the staff if the food is undercooked, burnt to cinders, etc...

By Idler (Idler) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

Brooks Brothers was the locus classicus of upper middle class taste in men's clothes for many years, but that was back in the day when the upper middles behaved like the uppers, only with a job. An old Brooks Brothers flannel suit or camel hair coat still radiates class. (Older, beautifully tailored clothes are always classier than brand new, no matter how expensive). But the company has been sold several times, is now to be found in shopping malls, and their clothing no longer has the superb, immediately recognizable look it once did.

(sorry,just having fun, could go on like this about almost any object, as could others).

By Strick (Strick) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 10:45 am: Edit

It used to be the custom for the first company I worked for to take college hires to the Brooks Brothers in our downtown office building and show them which hat and umbrella a well dressed gentlemen should wear. At that point, ladies need not apply. Fortunately I missed that era by about 10 years. Lots of jokes about it survived until my time though.

BTW, last I heard, that entire industry is now something like 65% female at the professional level. No CEOs yet, but representation at the VP, SVP and EVP is getting better.

By Idler (Idler) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

When my brother's roomate, in NYC, started working on Wall Street, in the 60s, he bought 3 Brooks Bros suits and spent that evening jumping up and down on them in their apartment, to give them a broken in look. He went on to found a family of mutual funds, now quite well known (and untarnished) which bear his name.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:17 am: Edit

Ah yes. The "broken-in look" is exactly why I sent my son to Keizer's (Harvard Square) when he said he wanted to buy a tuxedo. (One familiar definition of the true upper class: they don't buy their tuxedos--they inherit them.)

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit

DMD77... I beat you on the class scale. When my son was born we were two "upper middle class" Ph.D. students and raised him wearing pink stretchies on loan from friends who had girls.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Well, my Ss will not inherit their Dad's suits, much less his non-existent tux. The last time he had to wear a suit was at our wedding. Wearing khakis to work, he is among the best-dressed in his company. His colleagues favor jeans.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:50 am: Edit

But: notice I had to send my son to BUY his tux. Clearly we're not upper class! (My husband has never worn a tux. Never. Much less owned one.) (My son wore his sister's hand-me-downs. Which I bought used at consignment shops. Because I'm too cheap to pay retail for stuff you can buy used. And yes, I'm still wearing the same clothes I bought years ago. As in my friends now say "I've always liked that dress" instead of "You look good today" or whatever.)

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit

Marite: I've worked in restaurants and know that it's no picnic. I'm not exactly sure what the best method of dealing with the tipping issue is... perhaps paying employees a real wage and then asking customers to (as the French system) include anything else if the service is particularly good might work.

I was not referring to food burnt to cinders... I once was at a restaurant with some friends, sitting at a table, when other friends walked in. They asked to be seated in the booth immediately behind ours. The waitress walked over to them about five minutes later and asked if they knew what they wanted to order. When they said that they didn't, she immediately kicked them out - but, thing is, no one ever gave them menus. They attempted to explain and ask for menus, but she yelled at them, said that they couldn't just sit there, and kicked them out. She then treated us pretty poorly as well. None of us were being rude - in fact, we tried to be nice about the situation, just politely asking for them to be seated near us and requesting menus. The restaurant was nearly empty, so moving tables wasn't an issue. When the bill came, we left nearly nothing - I will not pay someone who is that rude to me.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit

I hate the whole system of tipping. It seems like a way the employers can increase the price without having to advertise. Why do we tip waiter, hairdressers and cab drivers and not teachers, senators and bank tellers? They provide services too! Everyone should get the wages they deserve without having to depend on the goodwill of crabby customers.

Of course sometimes one does tip bank loan officers, politicians and policemen but that is called bribe!

Having said that, until the system changes, lets all tip generously.

By Strick (Strick) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:16 pm: Edit

We don't tip Senators?

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:16 pm: Edit

Aries -- that does sound like poor treatment. I would have left assuming my food hadn't arrived yet, alternatively I would have left a token 10%.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:20 pm: Edit

Strick... my bad. Shows my middle class mentality, I forgot all about the $1000 per plate fundraisers.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 12:23 pm: Edit


I see your point, but I would have complained to the manager. I cannot recall off-hand being treated that badly, but I do know that when we have had poor service, it was usually not in restaurants. I really don't see the point of reducing a person's earnings from $5.75 to $2.63 as a sign of displeasure.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 02:34 pm: Edit

"Why do we tip waiter, hairdressers and cab drivers and not teachers, senators and bank tellers? They provide services too!"

When I worked in a private school (one year), I was stunned at the cost of the Christmas and end-year presents some parents gave me! (In fact, I cashed in the gift certicates and bought a microscope for the classroom.) I can only assume they WERE tipping me.

On the tipping thing: in WA state, wait staff ARE paid the minimum wage per hour. Before any tips. I still tip heavily (usually around 20%), because I go to the same restaurants over and over, and I find the service just gets better and better that way.

My mother, OTOH, was fond of being astonishingly rude to waitresses (she was okay with waiters). My sister and I used to sneak back in and give the waitress an extra tip for putting up with her. (She wasn't saving the money for anything; I inherited just over $500 when she died, and that was only because she had a small insurance policy!)

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

DMD, I never looked at gifts as tipping. In many schools, it is just customary to give teachers gifts. Sometimes, the class moms will just take a collection and buy a gift certificate or a class gift, but none of this is something a teacher can depend upon for a living. For waiters and waitresses and some other service staff that is not the case. There are places where they PAY for the privilige of working there. In order to stay within labor laws, many such places do have a min wage provision, but anyone who is not bringing in the money at the rate the restaraunt wants is let go. When you eat out at a restaraunt, it is a known fact that most waiters make a living on those tips.

As for terrible service, I have decreased tip level, and would probably give no tip at all to a waiter who was terrible. Yeah, I know the cook gets paid and the owner gets his piece regardless of whether they do their jobs well, but I also feel that taking a job as a waiter entails performance levels that deserve a tip with 15% being adequate and more or less depending on how pleased your customer is. That way better service is rewarded. I rarely pay under 15%, and usually tip more, and always have even when eating out was a luxery. If we could not afford that extra to tip, then we went to fast food or ate at home.

I have a friend like Dmd's mother. After several incidents of abuse of the waiters, I now refuse to eat out with her. And I have told her why. She does, however, tip the waiters adequately. Her problem, which I have seen with many diners is that she blames the waiter for things that are not in his control, like how the food is prepared, how the restaraunt is run, the quality of the food, etc.

By Clipper (Clipper) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:16 pm: Edit

In my public high school, teachers very rarely get gifts - you find that more in elementary school. High schoolers have 6 or 7 teachers and their parents can't afford to buy gifts.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:35 pm: Edit

DMD77, I think affluent parents in private schools whose kids have great teachers really want them to have some of the nice things they see daily but can not afford. It's very uncomfortable. How do teachers think this should be handled? I was asking a prep school teacher just yesterday how parents thanked her for the extrordinary things she does on her off time for her advisees--driving them to outside lessons weekly, taking them shopping, just being there. Most do nothing. At my local public school giving the teacher things for the classroom that are not in the budget has always been my way. But in privates most parents are just not sure, I do think they see it at all as tipping, but how do you thank the people who are key role modles for your kids?

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Mom101 -- I don't understand why it's uncomfortable. If you want to give a gift for any reason, you should do so. The way you describe it does sound like payment for services rendered (driving, shopping, etc).

Personally, I have never given gifts to my kid's teachers. However, my sister routinely gives gifts at Christmas to her kids' teachers, because she feels they are important to her kids' lives and because she wants to. I don't think either of us felt uncomfortable about what we decided to do (or not do, in my case).

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

I think many of us feel uncomfortable because we want to show that we are appreciative of having these people in our children's lives without appearing to be tipping or bribing (they do give out the grades). At private schools we often know the teacher's situation because their kids often go to the school. We see that many of the teachers and their families live vastly differently than the majority of the school population. And we have seen that there are parents who are quite willing to try to bribe. Sso showing appropriate appreciation becomes a challenge.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 03:46 pm: Edit

I am with Rhonda. I have given the little kids' teachers homemade bread and cookies if I make a lot, and if I feel like it, and it does not have to be yearend or Christmas. I gave no gifts this yearend for any teachers. If I see something that catches my eye that suits a person, and that person could be a teacher, I might pick it up depending on cost, appropriateness (did not pick up a riding crop that S2 wanted for his math teacher). When we got a deluge of fruit, I basketed some of them and gave to some of the teachers. If a class mom is collecting for whatever reason, I just give, I don't even ask anymore what it is for, just too old and tired to care, I guess. One year I came across some great books on a topic a class was studying and picked them up at a yardsale, and that teacher did not even have a child of mine that year. If S2 graduates next year, I will feel that there are a few people at his school that deserve something! Gave a bottle of wine to one administrator of an all male school one year with the note, not to drink from the bottle!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 04:05 pm: Edit

Janimom -- you reminded me that I did contribute to a "class gift" for teachers. This is a tradition at my D's private school, where the parents of a particular grade would chip in (usually 5-10 bucks) for a nice event for the teachers, usually a nice meal (once with a make-your-own omelet bar) or something like getting a masseuse to come in and give them the works (well, the G-rated works). But I don't think the teachers had any way of knowing who chipped in and who didn't, so I just did it because I wanted to.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 04:11 pm: Edit

Gifts weren't common at my schools either (most of the students' families were poor to low-middle class), but my mother and I would bake cookies every Christmas season and I would always make extras for the teachers that I really liked that year (and a couple from previous years that had just made a big difference). It wasn't much, but they always appreciated it.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 04:21 pm: Edit

I have found personal gifts like homemade jams, breads are so much more appropriate in many occaisions. My son this year went on college visits by himself and in many cases, got a ride with other families heading the same way, stayed with kids he knew at the colleges. In one case, he ran into a family at an info session that insisted he stay with them at their hotel rooms, and fed him a nice steak dinner, and took him to a show! Now what kind of gift to send these people? Or those who give me the Hefty bags filled with wonderful outgrown clothes and uniforms for my kids so I buy so few clothes? Many of them have everything they need, and yet an acknowledgement is in order. I have a great fudge recipe that I have used, and I collect those pretty tin boxes that I see at the dollar shop and use them for a variety of things. I also make instant cocoa/coffee mixes that I give, and for friends who like some unusual teas that I drink, I give them out when I stockpile for myself. I have a friend who goes to England regularly, and she always picks up a box of a favorite British tea of mine for me as a Christmas gift--just a supermarket tea there, but I cannot easily get it here and won't take the trouble, but it is a treat while it lasts when she gives it to me. I have another friend whose homemade canned brandied peaches are absolutely the best and much coveted, and another that makes the most fantastic Picklelily.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 04:23 pm: Edit

I'm not exactly sure what the best method of dealing with the tipping issue is... perhaps paying employees a real wage and then asking customers to (as the French system) include anything else if the service is particularly good might work.

I am not 100% sure but I think that while the service charges and taxes are automatically added to your bill and menu prices are grossed up, the waiters still derive their income from the "tips". I do not think they are hourly wage earners.

FWIW, my dad told me that such a system was put in place by the government to collect yet another hidden and cynical tax. You pay your food bill, pay the VAT tax on the food, pay the service charges of 15-16%, and also pay a VAT tax of 1% on the added service charges. If the tips were added by the customers at the end, the government would not be able to collect that tax. The devil is in the details. Taxation in Europe is more an art than a science. Colbert ought to be proud of his heritage.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 05:02 pm: Edit

When I was talking about Christmas gifts as tipping, I wasn't talking about small food gifts; I was talking about LARGE gift certificates to expensive department stores (more than $100). I loved getting the small and thoughtful presents--books, a nice note, cookies... one of my favorite presents for all time was a tiny volume on shells that the student had found for $1 at a used book store and thought I'd like because it was from the 1800s!

I'm not sure why the cash made me uncomfortable and the small presents didn't; I would have been fine if they'd donated the cash to the science program for me to spend for the classroom, but because it was given to me personally, it made me wonder if it was in exchange for good grades for their kid!

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 05:08 pm: Edit


I don't think that French waiters derive most of their incomes from tips. A situation often encountered here is when French tourists get up after a meal,leaving loose change on the table because they are under the illusion that the tip is already included in the bill.

By Lamom (Lamom) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 06:30 pm: Edit

I think that in CA the waiter pays tax on 9% of the bill. Waiting on tables put me through college, back then we had to self-report tips.

I also have a great fudge recipe.(very easy microwave). Every year my son's first grade teacher gets a batch. I hope to contine to give to this teacher as long as I can. She is in her 70's and son will be in college this year.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 06:57 pm: Edit

French waiters do make a lot of tips in tourist restaurants because most tourists don't understand the French system!

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 01:38 am: Edit


I was quite unclear in my earlier statement. Setting aside France for a second, this is what I meant, as it applies to Belgium:

Restaurants and cafés will only hire as many servers as the business need. The waiters earn only the service charges that are established at 16% of the bill. The waiters do not earn a fixed salary or hourly wages and are not considered employees. When I said that their income is derived from tips, I tried to draw a parallel with the US where the service charge is called "tips". If a restaurant has a particular slow day, the waiters would earn very little because their income is directly proportional to the sales. On the other hand, waiters earnings are well above the average salaries to compensate for long work hours as the establishments do not have mandatory closing times.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 01:40 am: Edit


Most waiters in Europe have mastered a key sentence to reply to inquiries about the bills:

"Yes, the service is included but the tips are not!"

By T2opine (T2opine) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 01:50 am: Edit

I've heard from people who have worked as waiters and waitresses that the way to show your displeasure is to leave a really low tip instead of none at all. If you leave no tip the waiter/waitress may think that you just forgot.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 04:23 pm: Edit

A few times when I've been unhappy with service, I've left a pointedly low amount just so the waiter doesn't think I'm a non-tipper...there are *those*, you know. Twice I was accosted by the waiter on the way out, disputing that the service had been bad.

To the original question, while I think the difference between earned and unearned income is one valid way of looking so things, so is the level where expenses hurt.

A. $1
B. $10
C. $50
D. $100
E. $500
F. $1,000
G. $5,000
H. $10,000
I. $50,000

Q1. What level of bill or expense do you pay without even thinking about it?

Q2. What level of bill makes you grunt when you write the check?

Q3. What level of unexpected expense makes you have to reconfigure your budget for other things?

I can remember having been at A/B/C in my life.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 05:15 pm: Edit

I was telling a friend over lunch that even if I had endless money I would grunt writing the check for designer clothes and overpriced CA real estate, however even with relatively little money paying the private school tuition never caused a peep. Values, not money will always rule the check book. That said, point well taken.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 06:43 pm: Edit

Re Tipping, if you can't afford a tip of 20% for good service and 10-15% for really bad service, you can't afford the meal.

We still have times where we are literally counting change to get gas or a gallon of milk if too many unforeseen expenses come up at the same time.
( recently we have added several extra expenses, tutoring for our daughter and a new(to us) car, on top of taking home less $, it can be difficult.
However education as well as some vacation is a top priority over the past 20 years. Even when my husband has been laid off or on strike ( even when we were seperated) we took our annual 5 day vacation together in the North Cascades.
We also managed to send my oldest to private school and pay for her college. Her sister has been in public since 3rd grade, and even though she had been set on public school, it is not getting her what she needs. I had really been starting to worry about her, her interests mainly lie with boys, fashion, sports, her friends, and boys. I knew that the public school she is starting in the fall is great for kids who are already excelling, they have the most AP classes of any school in the state and as many national merit scholars as the top private in the state, but my youngest needs more personal attention, even though she doesnt generally want it.However, education is a priority and we enrolled her in a summer camp sponsored by a local prep school in hopes it would get her interested.
To my shock it apparently worked!
She not only loves the camp, but asked to go longer next year, and said if it doesn't work out at her public school she wants to apply!
The teenage years may not be as bad as I thought

By Saturdayoracle (Saturdayoracle) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:28 am: Edit

My family lives in an extremely affluent area - right in the thick of one of the most notoriously wealthy areas, already mentioned in this thread. In a place where enourmous mansions stand empty for most of the year, the difference between upper-middle and upper class is clear. We have (small) population of year-round resident locals, living off the business our wealthy visitors generate. The cost of living is ridiculous. The value of our home has soared - my parents purchased it for a fraction of what it's valued at now. Which, and I'll complain for a second, makes the practice of considering home equity in financial aid partiuclarly unfortunate for us. Right, sorry. But even though we are hardly a lower middle class village, everyone I know looks on the frivolous spending we see so much of (and, to be honest, benefit from) as the habits of a distinctly different economic group. My family might fall into the lower bracket of upper middle class, if there is such a thing, by being economically stable, but even my friend with waterfront property easily recocnizes the gap between her professional parents and true upper class.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Sunday, July 18, 2004 - 12:57 am: Edit

It seems there is general agreement that "upper class" is an income level. Personally, I've always thought of "upper class" as a style and a set of priorities that can occur at almost any income level.

So what is that style: education and books as a priority; history and contribution to the community (and including some level of philanthropy--so Larry Ellison isn't upper class, but Andrew Carnegie was); "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" ("that's how the rich stay rich"); buying quality and not junk (which is why Mercedes used to have those ads about how keeping the Mercedes for 20 years was such a great idea)---and all done without overspending the income available, whether it's miniscule or large.

By Momrath (Momrath) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 06:37 am: Edit

Living in a country where reaching the middle class is an impossible dream for about 200 million people, I would define middle class as being able to provide for yourself and your family food, clothing, shelter, transportation, medical care, retirement savings and some sort of secondary education.

I would define upper middle class as all of the above plus the ability to spend discretionary income on one or two luxuries, for example, travel, private school/college, a second home, a Lexus. You still have to set priorities and you don't get everything on your list.

There is no way to quantify upper middle class by income. They key is how much is left over after you pay the rent (or mortgage) and other necessaries. This varies widely from place to place.

Now "class" is something else all together and has no relationship whatsoever to income.

Dmd77 who said, "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"? I always thought it was Eleanor Roosevelt.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 09:12 am: Edit

"Re Tipping, if you can't afford a tip of 20% for good service and 10-15% for really bad service, you can't afford the meal."

Emeraldkity4, hear hear!

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit

Bartlett's (thirteenth edition, 1955) says "Use it up" is an anonymous "New England saying".

(How appalling: sometime in the last month (or so) since I last used my Bartlett's, I've become unable to read it without my magnifiers! The indignities of aging!)

By Idler (Idler) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 10:40 am: Edit

Saturdayoracle: I've always enjoyed the "lower upper middle class" category, whose hallmark is a certain out-at-elbow shabbiness and superb manners.

On the subject of some of this thread, I've semi-recalled a remark by Cary Grant: "I just pretended to be the person I wanted to be until I became that person. Now I see them pretending to be me."

By Smhop (Smhop) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 12:14 pm: Edit

Here's something interesting: According to a program I was waching recently, Americans considered Frasier (the Tv character) to be "upper class". Well, he certainly was comfortably well-off, but its not as if he had his own jet! And, of course, most divorced professional dads have LOTS of discretionary income anyway, so its hard to compare him to a family-man...

But, I wonder where Americans defining him as "upper class" due to his education and love of opera et al.... or was it merely that his lifestyle was still lavish beyond most? Puts an interesting spin on this conversation.

By Idler (Idler) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 01:09 pm: Edit

His language: accent, diction, absence of cliches drawn from pop culture, and general disdain for middlebrow tastes. His (imagined)income has little to do with it, but his way of earning it pretty much disqualifies him as an upper.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 02:13 pm: Edit

You want appalling DMD-- I was en route a few weeks ago when I realized I could read neither my Mapquest printout nor the road atlas without my reading glasses. No choice but to pull over.

By Garland (Garland) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 02:26 pm: Edit

Isn't pulling over while you're reading generally a good idea?

By Strick (Strick) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 06:52 pm: Edit

I was curious if there was a good definition of upper class available anywhere. As it turns out after much searching I found one at the American Marketing Association that, combined with a couple more socially oriented definitions might make some sense. The AMA (this other AMA) says that:

"one classification divides our society into upper-class Americans (14 percent of the population), middle-class (32 percent of the population), working class (38 percent of the population) and lower-class (16 percent of the population)."

Based on 2002 census estimates, I estimate that "upper class" starts somewhere between $130K and $140K. Most social definitions would include levels of educational attainment that have been mentioned plus some sense of political or business influence.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:13 pm: Edit

I think there is a confusion here between upper income and upper class.

In England, the upper classes can be living in genteel poverty, which they pass off as shabby chic. But you won't confuse Elton John with a member of the upper classes, even though his income would probably buy out a lot of them.
The Donald is an example of someone with high income and low class.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:18 pm: Edit

Marite, you're deadly.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:42 pm: Edit


Thanks, I think.

By Smhop (Smhop) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:50 pm: Edit

I would agree with strick's definations... though many here seem to think "upper class" means > 400k. In addition to the categories strick found, I would add an "elite" class: The rock stars and celebs, the royals, and the heirs. Frankly, they should be taken out of the equation, bc their lifestyle is surreal.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:52 pm: Edit

Garland- Touche.
(I can never remember how to make that accent ague.)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 07:56 pm: Edit

For an accent aigu, push alt, keep it down and type the number 130. Release and you have an "é".

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 08:19 pm: Edit

Umm... this may be strictly academic but following Marx many people define upper class as those who own means of production, i.e. have substantial unearned income in interest and dividends.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Monday, July 19, 2004 - 08:27 pm: Edit

No alt key (mac), but son explained. Voilá! And thank you. (Oh, yes, the malady, but I think I am also OK?)

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 02:37 am: Edit

Xiggi, ALT-130 doesn't work on my machine.

On the Mac, it's a quick two-stroke sequence and it always works.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 09:51 am: Edit

Let's go with Marx.

By Songman (Songman) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:08 am: Edit

"Money isn't everything, but a lack of it is"

By Wasprep (Wasprep) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:16 am: Edit

A thought; If you have even a question or a doubt about your position along socio-economic class lines, you are probobly not a member of the "upper class." I suppose you might relate it to Morgan's quote, "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." If you have to ask, you're simply not.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:34 am: Edit

Marx's definition works only if we define class in purely economic terms, and do not mix in issues of status and taste. For example, it may cost as much to attend a rock concert than a concert of classical music, but the two types of consumption lead to different assumptions regarding "class." Museum-going in some countries in Europe is free but it attracts a very different type of public than the people who go to soccer matches for which admission tickets can be quite expensive. The football louts who spend a fortune traveling to support their teams and sometimes trash stadiums are very different from the genteel crowds at cricket matches. Then of course, Marx did not encounter brahmins and untouchables. Some of the former can be very poor, and some of the latter can be very affluent.

By Idler (Idler) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

Well, Marx knew what he was doing, and thought all that decadent stuff should be swept away. It has been fun watching this discussion veer between obsevations on social class and levels of income, with one group not responding to the other's class values: is it about owning a private jet or being able to speak some French? Speaking strictly on the money side of the issue, I'll stick with the Marxian definition though: source, not amount of funds.

By Smhop (Smhop) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 12:27 pm: Edit

Excellent points, Marite, but I don't know about " genteel crowds at cricket matches"... cricket attacts the same basic sports-louts that American Basball attracts... Maybe Polo is a better example... or tennis? or even golf? =)

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

you must have gone to different cricket matches than I did, and did not have to exit the Arsenal tube station whose corridor is divided by a mesh fence to separate the football fans from ordinary passengers. Our first day in London, nearly 30 years ago, the Scottish team, having won, was happily trashing Leicester Square.

By Justanothermom (Justanothermom) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:20 pm: Edit

This is such an interesting discussion that I couldn’t resist weighing in.

I think that “upper class” can be viewed in terms of wealth or, as Marite mentioned, in terms of upbringing. The crux, however, might be that “class” does not need to be qualified while financial position requires some sort of qualification such as “upper,” “middle,” or “low.” “Class” without a qualifier becomes a more elusive term. I know people who are just “classy” and they are neither wealthy nor have had exclusive upbringing. Conversely, I know people who could be considered “upper” that have very little “class.”

That being said, drawing the line between “upper” and “middle” in economic terms is also pretty hard to do. I grew up middle class and consider myself middle class still today. However, my economic position today is a heck of lot better than it was as I was growing up. I often joke that I have my father’s frugal mentality, but this might miss the point. It could be that the belonging to a certain “class,” more than anything, is a state of mind.

By Strick (Strick) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 01:22 pm: Edit

I guess we'll have to leave the "quantity versus snobbery" question (even source of funds issue is a matter of taste and opinion) to be decided for ourselves.

Those with the proper breeding will know class when they see it. ;)

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - 10:25 pm: Edit

I don't think Marx maps well to contemporary American reality. In fact, if Marx were alive, I think he would have to seriously re-work Marxism.

There are enough blurred lines and counter-examples that I think he would pop a couple of very capitalist Excedrin.

By Songman (Songman) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 01:42 pm: Edit

Just heard on Air America radio (Al Franken-Don't get excited all you libs I also listen to Laura Ingraham- I am one of those swing voters you hear about) that congress or the Bush Admin wanted to tax the wealthy to pay for the Iraq war with a special tax on incomes of over $200,000. I guess this amendment was voted down. So I guess congress feels that a $200,000 a year income is wealthy? Also Taxguy could weigh in on the fact(if he hasn't already) that many deductions/credits are phased out with the IRS at the $125,000-$200,000 level. So is upper income considered over 125,000+ a year.

Justanothermomsaid: I know people who are just “classy” and they are neither wealthy nor have had exclusive upbringing. Conversely, I know people who could be considered “upper” that have very little “class.” ..I agree.

"I have been rich and have been poor,rich is better" -Sophie Tucker

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - 02:08 pm: Edit

Simple. Anyone who wouldn't even care to post in this thread would be upper-class. Anyone who would deign to speculate, or care about the difference would be middle-class.

By Morningafter1 (Morningafter1) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 12:05 am: Edit

First of all, I resent the fact that some people have made some comments that the midwest is incredibly cheap compared to the east and west coasts. Generally, this is true, however that rule of thumb is not applicable to the Chicagoland area. I live in one of Chicago's famed North Shore suburbs. Here, the distinction between upper middle class and upper class and the distinction between new and old money is quite distinct.

Upper middle class vs. Upper class

The UM tend to live in homes that range from 650k to 2 million. They typically have a lake house in wisconsin or michigan that is about 300k, and maybe a condo in colorado for 150k.

The upper class tend to live in home from 3 million to 24 million(which is what one sold for a few months ago). They are the ones with the lakehouses that are actually on the lake, and they range from 1 million to 4 million.

New money

These are the people that tend to live in "new" homes. They are often stunning homes with indoor pools and movie theaters. Many of them are ornate and lack taste.

Old money

Most of these people live in older "stately" homes that may not be all that massive. They are also the ones that belong to certain country clubs. Some country clubs are for new money while others are for old money.

well thats my insight

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 01:23 am: Edit


How the rich cool off in the summer.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 01:34 am: Edit

Morningstar, the people where I live in CA would be very happy to be considered upper class with a main home worth $3m and a second home worth $1M. That would also hold true for people around NYC. While there are expensive areas in the mid west certainly, they really don't touch the expense of the 2 coasts.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 01:45 am: Edit

I guess that is why CA has the rep of being unaffordable for anyone but the extremely well to do
( and how far do their help have to drive?)

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:00 am: Edit

I don't think many feel wealthy here. Frankly, I'm leaving when my last child completes school! And really, people stretch so much to buy houses most have no help and many have no furniture. Seriously, it is common to have a $2M home and no furniture or vacations. This is hard for people to believe as it is hard for Native Californians to believe there are places you can have nice homes and help on $100K

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:19 am: Edit

And really, people stretch so much to buy houses most have no help and many have no furniture or vacations

Ok I am trying to understand, a family that owns a house in the $2 million has no money to buy any furniture?

Why are they living that way? We get our furniture from yard sales, I bet a community with two million starter homes have some doozies of yard sales.
Re Vacations don't these people have any imagination?
They live in California, can't they go camping?
Thats what we do for our vacations even though it seems to rain half the time ( I am so happy if at least we can get the tarp up)

My brother bought a 5 bedroom house in a gated community next to a gold course in Indiana an hour or so from Chicago ( he works in indiana) for about $150,000, not $150,000,000.

Our area is certainly very expensive, not as expensive as some parts but our house payment is very managable .

While I know many people who could afford "help" it is usually limited to consultant work, a landscape architect for instance instead of a gardener, or someone that helps them reorganize and purge their posessions rather than a housekeeper. Read "Nickel and Dimed" and you will look at "help" in a whole new light.

What kind of priorities makes someone live in a neighborhood where they can afford the house but not the furniture?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 02:30 am: Edit

How to explain CA? It's hard because it basically makes no sense that people live this way. Many of the people who can afford $2M homes can afford them because they have owned homes in the area for a long time or were left money by parents who made money owning homes. It was the norm for homes to go up 20%/yr for a long time. The $2M home is not at all what most people would picture. In a good school district (good for here is pathetic on the e coast or in the mid-w) your $2M will get you maybe 2500 square feet of unimpressive house on a quarter or third acre. Why do people live like this? For 2 reasons mostly. They grew up here and became insular. They would have no idea where to go. The second reason is because of the unique job opportunities in technology when tech is healthy. Why would a teacher, nurse, doctor, etc. live here? Pure insanity.

By Smhop (Smhop) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 03:35 am: Edit

I used to live in Orange County-- and the one thing I can say about southern Cal is.... boy, do you get spoiled living there. Spoiled by the sushiny days, the casual relaxed west coast style, the plush shopping, the beautiful happy glorious... O hell! Its California!

And you know what? I didn't want to leave!! You get so spoiled and so content, it somehow seems worth all your money to stay on.

We paid about 2k a month rent there while continuing to pay the mortgage on our SC house... (good thing bc we did end up going back to SC.) But, we were tempted to keep on there forever--- (and now I think, "my God! what a waste of money"... but at the time I thought... "oh, its California. I love it here!")

Also, you get used to it. You just get used to exhorbitant prices and you think little of it. You become acclimated and apathetic... its how it is. And, somehow, you feel it is worth it just to be there. In many ways, it is. Its a lovely place to live. =)

On the other hand, I am glad we left to pursue other opportunities... bc we can have a better lifestyle/standard of living elsewhere.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:13 am: Edit

I have a friend currently renting a house for $2400/mo in a decidedly unglamorous Silicon Valley town. The three bedroom, 2 ba. home of aprox. 1500 sq.ft. is on less than an eight of an acre with a bowling alley for a back yard and has kitchen and baths that have not been touched since the 50's. It will only be put out of it's misery by a bulldozer. So where do people think the best places to live are when considering value, weather and community?

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 09:35 am: Edit

Ahhh real estate, my great obsession. I think there are four areas of the country that are completely distinct from the rest of America: the NYC area (Manhattan, Westchester, LI, Fairfield County and the tonier parts of NJ), SF / Marin County, the North Shore of Chicago and LA and environs. These being major metro areas, a lot of people live here. But the prices people pay for relatively small, old houses on VERY small lots would shock people living in some gated McMansion community in Ohio or Atlanta.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:17 am: Edit

I sure wouldn't live in a mcmansion, I was just making the point that this is a big country and different strokes....
Our 1000sqft house would go on the market for at least double what my brother paid for his 4500sqft suburban behemoth, and I wouldn't live in Indiana. I need salt water and mountains and mountains are only hills if they don't have snow year round at the peak.
But I hope we are clear with our selves about our priorities. I like living in the city and having the range of opportunities available. Sure Chicago is an hour or so away fromm him, but how often does he go into the city unless he has to?

I imagine it is a case of a slippery slope or uphill I guess would be more accurate. You start living the lifestyles of the rich and famous and don't really realize that life is not like that most places. We barely have a tv let alone cable, but we have laptops for three members of our family, I just bought an armload of Banana Republic clothing ( albeit from the consignment store) and Bill Gates goes to the same water theme park that my teen loves, so I must be living the good life I think!

By Hubbellgardner (Hubbellgardner) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:18 am: Edit

San Antonio, Texas; where $300K buys you a 4,000 square foot home with pool and 3 car garage, where cost of living is below national average, is a cosmopolitan city of 1.1 million with a huge service sector(it is a very large retirement community), world-class golf courses and destination-resort Hotels, the downtown's famous riverwalk etc..plus plenty of inexpensive labor for maintaining yards and pools etc..; it does get a little warm in the summer...

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit

San Antonio may be lovely, but it's not cosmopolitan. I did a quick Citysearch and found that the Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill and Carraba's (all nationwide chains) were voted among the top 5 Italian restaurants in the city. I needn't look any further: I'm wholly unimprssed.

In short, though it may be a boomtown, it has not been around long enough to have developed any old-line, old-money neighborhoods as other, bigger cities have.

By Hubbellgardner (Hubbellgardner) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 10:36 am: Edit

well, you are a little misinformed; the restaurants you mention are merely the result of the annual 'people's favorite' choices, which are always the everyday fare; the same poll also lists the 'critics choices' which include the hundreds of 'upscale' restaurants"; the highest rated restaurant in the State of Texas, Le Reve, is in the downtown area, San Antonio has many old money neighborhhods(Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills etc..) as well as mega wealthy devlopments- The Dominion-home to many Spurs players and many of San Antonio's 5 Billionaires); however, you are right, it is not New York, Thank God.

By Smhop (Smhop) on Thursday, July 22, 2004 - 01:57 pm: Edit

I have a friend currently renting a house for $2400/mo ...will only be put out of it's misery by a bulldozer.

I hear that Mom101... our 2k bought us a townhouse style apartment, and this was 3 years ago! We looked at houses for 350 thou that were exactly what you described. That same house sells for 80thou in SC. Not a typo--

The 150k avg middle class home in SC is 650 in CA. The 300k executive home in SC is 2m in Cali.

Why do ppl do it? Well, as I said, it just feels nice to live there... and you et acclimated to the expense. Some are born there, with family friends et al... moving away is just plain scary to most folks.

So in order to have a marginally acceptable family home in CA, people have to keep moving further from the coast-- have longer commutes-- etc. Its got its drawbacks for sure.

By Reg (Reg) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 09:25 am: Edit

As many of you have astutely surmised, class entails much more than just income and education. Wealth is probably one of the most corollary factors, but there is also class consciousness, neighborhood, etc. For those interested in a methodical method of analyzing class, download the class model from www.socialclass.org, http://socialclass.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Downloads&file=index&req=MostPopular
Pay very close attention to the factors that the model uses to calculate class (socioeconomic status).
Then browse the site, it has a wealth information on class, conflict, stratification and mobility.

By Strick (Strick) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Facinating. So I'd be upper class if I lived a more ostentatious lifestyle and took a more active leadership role in my community. Oh, and the inherited wealth thing. No worries there. :D

By Reg (Reg) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:43 pm: Edit

The border of upper class is often breached when:
1.) your capital works for you instead of you working for your capital (earned wealth as the primary source of income instead of actually working)
2.) you have significant political and social influence over others (membership on regional, national and international boards, etc.)
3.) your environment is substantially more than is necesary for standard utilitarian purposes AND offers substantial barriers to those who are in lower classes, ex. 6,000+ foot house IN a gold coast environment such as the Hamptons in LI, the upper east side Manhattan, Beverley Hills, etc. This excludes mcmansions, for at least in metro NY, most of these properties are landmarked and very old, with practically no new construction over nearly the last 100 years except for new condo buildouts that have occurred by demolishing or converting (relatively) very old buildings.

Notice that what you consume has nothing to do with the model. The model meaures life chances, that is the probability of one being able to affect the chances of a positive outcome in their lives. The higher your class, the more likely you will go to a prestigous school or the less likely you will be incarcerated, die from a common disease, etc. etc.

Continued in Part Two


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