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A new Gallup poll finds that the threshold for "rich" for most Americans is a salary of around $150,000 per year:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans say they would need to earn a median of $150,000 a year to consider themselves rich. However, 30% say less than $100,000 would be enough, including 18% who would consider themselves rich if they made less than $60,000 a year. On the other hand, 15% say they would need to earn at least $1 million per year before thinking of themselves as rich.


I don't know, I guess I'm sort of a coastal elitist, but I would not consider 150K rich. I know plenty of people who make that and don't even own their own home. Once you start going over 200K, then yeah, you're starting to get there. But 150? Not so much around here at least.



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Comment Preferences

  •  100K + = 'comfortable (6+ / 0-)

    150K + = well-off

    200-250K  + wealthy

    300K = rich


  •  I misread this... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, fizziks

    I thought you meant that 150,000 people were considered to be "rich".

    I tend to agree, though, $150K as a combined income for a family of 4, say, seems middle-class to me...upper middle class, certainly, but middle-class.

    Admittedly, it does depend on where you live to some degree--$150K in rural Wyoming (or wherever) might be king of the hill, while $150K in downtown Manhattan or San Francisco could be scraping by.

  •  $150,000 Single Income Is 97th Percentile. (7+ / 0-)

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 05:41:36 PM PST

  •  Rich is about wealth, not income. (9+ / 0-)

    If you make $200k but are $175k in debt, your ass is not rich.

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 05:45:55 PM PST

    •  ? I've Never Owned a House That Cost Less (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geekesque, slinkerwink, 0wn

      than my annual income. They've typically cost about double, and that's been essentially our total debt, so I don't see why a $200k income that only owed 175k as its total debt couldn't invest 10% of income a year and have a million dollars of wealth not counting the value of that house within 10-20 years.

      Now if you're spending 175k EVERY YEAR yeah you're right, that doesn't build wealth. Maybe that's what you're meaning.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 05:54:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What happened to the 175 grand? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wsexson, Geekesque, BachFan, mamamedusa

      if its on booze and broads...well then yeah, you're not rich. If its on a house or a're still very well off.

      •  Well, if you own assets to counterbalance (0+ / 0-)

        that debt, sure.

        My point was not made very clearly--it's what you keep and own, not what you take in, that counts.  Income streams go away.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 06:54:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  If you make $200K and can't pay off that debt, (0+ / 0-)

      you're doing something wrong.

      95% of households in this country are getting by on a lot less. Spare me the "high cost of living" line; in every so-called expensive city, there are millions of poor people who have to buy groceries and keep a roof over their heads with those same high costs.

      To those of us who haven't lived our entire lives surrounded by six-figure incomes, y'all sound like a bunch of spoiled ingrates. Can't fund your retirement savings? Can't send your offspring to college on your own dime? Whoop de fucking do. 80% of the country would be moving up a notch if they (we) could take an injured kid to the emergency room without weighing whether this means we'll be homeless in a couple of months.

      •  Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

        My point (which had nothing to do with our personal finances) was that income does not tell the whole story.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 04:40:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It tells about 95% of the story. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dinazina, bluestatedem84

          I didn't assume that you were talking about your personal finances. If it's so hard to get by on $200K, though, how the fuck do you think the rest of us live?

          Look, if you want to have a conversation about how insane it is that a handful of people in the world are sitting on such a huge chunk of wealth, I'm right there with you. I'll readily acknowledge that members of the top two quintiles of U.S. households by income hold nothing like the influence of the world's billionaires.

          On the other hand, you apparently have no idea just how tight things are day-to-day for most Americans if you think $200K is anything other than cushy. Your expectations of how much money a person should have available to them for daily expenses is skewed. Since mobility in this country is mostly downward, people who are looking at $200K/year probably have a network of friends and relations with similar resources, which further insulates people from the fear of the bottom falling out from under them.

          I'm in the fourth quintile in a town with a very low cost of living. We could double our annual income and still not make $200K/year. We worry about not putting enough away for our kids' college funds. We worry about big repairs we know the house needs (roof, garage door), but that we can't afford right now. We just kinda laugh about retirement savings.

          My sister lives in the same town; she's a single mom of two kids with a part-time job. Her job is about as good as it gets these days. She's holding on, hoping she'll eventually have the opportunity to move to full-time with benefits. She's in the first quintile, true working poor. She worries about a parking ticket eating up her entire budget she's set aside for Christmas for the kids. She worries about the brakes going out again on her piece-of-shit van, leaving her to figure out how to safely transport herself to work and her kids home from their after-school programs, and the repairs eating through next month's rent.

          She will never in this lifetime see a six-figure income. It will always be an unattainable vision of a life of ease. It would look, to her and her kids, indistinguishable from winning the lottery.

  •  Every semester I ask students to name quintiles (14+ / 0-)

    of American households by income so we'll have an agreed-upon vocabulary for discussing socioeconomic status.

    First I ask students to make a note to themselves about their own annual household income-- for my traditional-age college students, generally their parents' household income. I put a line on the board and mark it off into five segments, asking the group for category labels they'd be comfortable using in classroom discussions. Some groups get silly and/or creative with labels, but most semesters I get a simple descriptive range of poor, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and rich/wealthy.

    After we've labeled the quintiles, I add census data for what the annual household income cut-offs are. I don't require the students to disclose anything they don't want to, but they always feel a lot wealthier after this exercise. I know for a fact that most of them are in the upper-middle-class and wealthy quintiles, but they think of themselves as coming from families of modest means.

    This country is full of people who are just scraping by, who have been just scraping by for generations. If you're not scraping by, you're better off than most of your fellow citizens. Own it.

    •  this would be a good use of clickers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Students could volunteer their income without anyone knowing who had chosen what amount.

      •  I like not even giving them ranges, though. (0+ / 0-)

        Asking an open-ended (but non-disclosed) question about household income makes them think a little more actively. If I've already presented them with ranges to choose from-- at least if I give them ranges that will be relevant to the discussions we need to have about health disparities-- that's going to shape their perceptions before they do any reflection.

        I think a lot of them go into this exercise assuming their self-perception of being from modest, hardworking middle-class families will be reinforced with data. They write the income number down from a place of honesty. When those numbers go up on the board-- when they realize that even as people who chose a college based largely on affordability, they're still wealthy compared to Americans as a whole-- it does shift their perceptions a bit.

        Especially when I point out that census data on household income doesn't capture people who don't live in households, which would be everyone who is homeless, in prison, in nursing homes, or in any kind of long-term institutional care. There's a whole no-income underclass beneath even the lowest quintile of household incomes.

  •  "Rich" doesn't come from income (7+ / 0-)

    Unless you're Albert Puhols. Rich comes from investment income. If you make 150k, and are laid off, how long is it before you're poor?

    Getting 150k in investment income is a whole other matter.

    •  Pretty much (0+ / 0-)

      any time you don't have to go to work, and never worry if the bills will get paid, or dinner will be missing, or you don't have to buy just 5 bucks of gas at a time, you're doing swell.

      Under those rules, 40-50k for a single person would be comfortable, especially since, unlike a job, you can move anywhere with investment income, and it doesn't go away, so you can find a place with the costs/benefits you can afford.

  •  If You Save 10%, $15k a Year, and Can Get 5% (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CS11, mamamedusa

    interest, you'll have $2,000,000 in 10 years which would be a reasonably secure retirement if I'm doing my excel worksheet right.

    If you can secure a retirement in 10 years or 30 years you're in very rare air in America. That's another way of saying $150,000 income for a single person is 97th percentile.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 05:50:09 PM PST

  •  rich is based on your net worth (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, Timaeus, BachFan

    and your level of income security.  If you are in debt and lose your job you will drop fast.

  •  I don't think 150K is rich. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Lorikeet, raincrow

    We're around 96K, and our net take home pay is about 5700K after taxes, but we do feel the pinch because of our student loan payments. We're comfortable, but are we rich? No, we're not.

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:06:21 PM PST

  •  Depends on where you live. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you can make 150K and choose wherever you want in the US to live, you are rich . . . if that income is secure for a number of years.

  •  $150K is rich. If it doesn't buy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a sybaritic lifestyle, that doesn't mean it's not still rich. I live in Manhattan. That is rich in Manhattan.

    Pareto Principle: 20% of the people do 80% of the work.

    by jeff in nyc on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 06:21:32 PM PST

    •  Of course it is. it's rich anywhere. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wsexson, mamamedusa

      If you take home $96 grand out of that $150k after taxes, you're roughing it on $8000 a month or $2000 a week. I know people who get by on 10% of that. In Brooklyn.

      You tell people around my way you're taking home $2000 a week after taxes and you're still broke and they'll think you must be brushing your teeth with champagne.

      •  If that's rich (0+ / 0-)

        then what do you call people who have $5 million invested and live comfortably on the income from it? Those people aren't even very rich these days.

        I know plenty of people who make $150k and none of them are rich. They live very comfortably, but comfortable is not rich. They fund their retirement accounts, have nice but by no means opulent places to live, send the kids to private school, and eat out a lot - and there goes most of it.

        And if they were to lose their jobs, things would change very quickly.

        We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

        by denise b on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 09:59:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  $150k is very comfy but not rich IMO (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, denise b, grover

    Rich is 1-2 vacation homes, world travel, a steady diet of top-shelf restaurants, a groundskeeper, a housekeeper, a personal assistant, and major outlays to charity.

    $150k is not rich.

  •  This diary touches upon an often ignored aspect (0+ / 0-)

    of the wealth issue -- mobility (both up and down) among the quintiles.

    Members of today's poor aren't necessarily tomorrow's. Same for the other groupings. Yet, the left and right attach trapped-in-amber traits to these constantly shifting groupings of diverse individuals. I've never understood why they think this helps politically.

    I believe most people want to move up the ladder and avoid moving down it. I also believe it's government's job to make sure the ladder is wide enough to accommodate people moving in both directions. Whenever it creates bottlenecks in either direction, everyone's ability to move is compromised.

  •  It's all relative. Compared to my college (0+ / 0-)

    friends, and many of my lawyer colleagues, I'm on the poor side.

    But compared to most of my family members (with some notable exceptions) I'm fabulously rich.

    I'm in poor health and don't have the assets to retire. So I guess I can continue being solvent until suddenly my family is wiped out.

    And we're writing about this as the U.S. economy seems stuck in an endless, jobless recession.

    "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." -- last words of Steve Jobs.

    by Timaeus on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 07:21:25 PM PST

  •  How you can tell if someone is rich (0+ / 0-)

    They don't fly commercial aircraft. They fly in planes they own, lease or rent, but they are not at the airport getting fondled by TSA, or waiting in lines, or worrying about being late, or about their luggage, or about their connecting flight. The rich fly non-stop, the plane leaves when they arrive, and all the little annoyances of air travel are eliminated. That's when you know if someone is actually rich.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Thu Dec 08, 2011 at 08:06:56 PM PST

  •  Most people I know (0+ / 0-)

    that earn $100-150k annually are not rich... they are mid to upper middle class with a lot of debt - mostly in mortgage and car payments. They are just broke at a higher level.

  •  Yeah, right (0+ / 0-)

    My wife and I make about $120k combined, and we're nowhere near able to afford a house, let alone start a family. Rich my ass.

    Proud supporter of nuclear power!

    by zegota on Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 06:21:36 AM PST

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