I was born poor but didn't know it because every one around me was poor and there was no TV then to show me how the other class lived. By ten we achieved being middle class because my mother went to work. I have been considered rich twice because of who I married. I was a single mother as an RN for ten years between marriages.
I worked as a private duty nurse starting at 26 for the really really wealthy in San Francisco. From them I learned their coded symbols and particular paranoia's. I was literally passed from rich family to rich family because of my skills which was not just nursing but the ability to step up and do what needed doing when it needed doing no matter what. I learned that being poor.
The first guy I married was third generation upper middle class. He never worked a real day in his life until 32--a lot like W. His father was a general as was his grandfather--a lot like McCain. His uncle was in Nixon's cabinet. And of course he was a republican as was the family. Both his father and grandfather went to Texas A & M and both were excellent scholars and athletes. Both like Ike worked very hard to become very competent. The father was one of FDR's aids at Yalta. He also was an occupational commander.
His son, my husband, was raised on the local economy of an Asian country in Penthouse accommodations with a huge compliment of maids etc. This was totally paid for by the US government and his father's salary was completely divided between IBM and Shell Oil. When the father retired at 65, those stocks made him rich.
My husband was paid by the family to go to school. They considered it an investment more important than having a job. My husband had no skills and could neither use a hammer or a screwdriver. Like Phil Gramm he did not want to go to Viet Nam so he got a wife with child.
While he went to school, he like W, had terrible grades and no ambition. He did want things like a mink bed spread. Finally, he decided he wanted to be doctor but having no grades etc. he had to have his father find a way. Turns out one of his father's college roommates was a medical college president who not only admitted him but granted him a 4 year scholarship 1966-70 when medicare was being implemented. As a sophomore in medical school he spent that summer in Texas studying practice management which was essentially how to make millions off medicare.
When we finally got a divorce, he wanted to sell our child in a private adoption and split the proceeds. Since she was a girl, she had no value. Another big republican trait. Most of our arguments were about you promised to obey. That is the nutshell of that marriage.
My second husband was first generation American who was raised upper middle class because his Jewish father from Romania invented and patented as an uneducated window washer the levers and pullies and platforms for outside window washing of skyscrapers. His mother worked in her father's dry good store. Neither had substantial education. When they married, it was arranged. The father was 35 and the mother 16 because that is how long it took to get a house and car that was paid for then.
My husband was valvictorian of his high school and a lot of other extra curricular scholar programs. His education was also an investment but being the best was a given because of the quota system for Jews in the major universities. He was a CPA/Tax attorney at 25 making major money. He formed an investment groups of Jewish veterans in LA and they build over 100 major apartment complexes in LA through the 60s and 70s which made each in every one of them rich.
My husband had three children -- all highly educated hippies who lived very interesting lives. None of them worked at all until over 30. All of the education was paid for and each had extensive world summer travel experience. They all speak well. None of them can do anything in the way of actual skills. They were raised with live in maids etc. Two became lawyers and one a psychologist. None of them have been able to live like their father and none of them can do for their children what was done for them.
Traveling in these crowds unless you have a really serious trust fund and you are making a salary, you are working class rather you think so or not. Almost everyone in this crowd including lawyers and doctors making 350,000 and technically in the 1%. One financial mistake of significance, your fault or not, one major health break down in anyone and the odds of your surviving is not good. And the system will not help you much and friends have been taught how to be social assets not lifetime commitments.
People in this upper middle class are struggling to give their kids the education they know is necessary and keep them in this class. We paid 8500 for preschool in 1985 and 20,000 for middle school in 1995 that is annually tuition only no other expenses which are considerable. If you have elder parents in assisted living etc., and most have, that is another major expense. In this group, although it looks cool, it feels like a squirrel wheel and you are just running and running to stay in place. In the 80's every one bought into the free market every thing. Most of these people took huge blows in the stock market crash of 1987. Those that climb the ladder know how bad the down the ladder is but do not have the time nor the ability to even think about saving any one but themselves. The appeal of objectivism justifies this--if everyone takes care of themselves no one has to take care of any one else. Only those who start really poor know this is a crock which is why major Hollywood stars who started really poor and working like carpenters like Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks stay democrats.
Now one of the things common to self made men in LA, is that they do not require their kids to learn any skills and these kids were raised on Big and don't think it is FICTION. They think if they know some one to give them a position--it will just happen and all work out. Think horse show attorney as head of FEMA.
These are the first middle class kids to grow up essentially with no chores, no duties, no responsibilities, and no consequences. They are why we are falling apart as a country because a great look even on a rap sheet will get you job offers modeling for major companies of corporate propaganda that anyone can do it with the right clothes and accoutrements. So if you need a credit care to do it--it is a great investment. You like your country is so exceptional there is no way you can fail.
If you are born poor, you have learned to make do. To cannibalize clothes, food, and furniture to make things work. You have learned to endure and get over gossip, slander, and discrimination. You are always looking for opportunities. You live in communities where every one knows one false step will get you. After all the cops patrol your streets to give tickets not to solve crimes. If you are my generation you read a lot because it was cheap and it was effective. If your generation no longer reads well, your thinking is both narrow and stressed because you no longer have time to think. That is the major difference between then and now. It is why I am not desperately poor and why my grandchildren may be.