Affluence and the perception thereof
Dovetailing off the US Presidential Election thread, just giving us a place to discuss wealth (especially middle and middle-upper class) versus the perception of wealth.
I'll repost my own feelings from that thread:
I live alone, so looking at the personal income rates in the US, I'm in the top quintile (I make a bit above $50k annually gross income). I may not be able to spend lavishly, but I certainly can spend reasonably, and if I want to take a vacation I just need to save up for a while. Currently my car is paid off, which has freed up a nice chunk of my monthly budget, but I probably should start saving more towards another vehicle within the next few years (the A/C is blown on my car, and mechanically it's going to start hitting the point where regular repair needs will start cropping up more frequently, plus I would prefer to migrate to a hybrid or much more fuel-efficient vehicle in the near future).
Unfortunately I don't own a home, due to a number of f*cked-up factors in my life for the last several years. But I would like to move into home ownership within a couple years.
So no, I'm not swimming in cash, but I'm certainly comfortably within the middle class, because I live reasonably within my means. My biggest expenses are rent and medical bills, followed by student loans (I fell behind on those for a few years) and various utilities/insurance. I live in a nice neighborhood but certainly not nice enough to be considered "upscale" (safe to walk around in the daytime, moderately safe at night, and I don't fear for my car to be broken into aside from teenagers being dumbasses).
I am quite happy with my income and the buying power of my money. Now, in my case, I grew up poor. Food stamps for part of my childhood, shared a single bedroom with my sisters until we were in late elementary school, that kind of thing. So I spent my pre-adult life solidly in the lower class (by the end I'd say we were lower-middle).
My adult life once I hit the age of 25, I was very solidly in the middle class as a single adult. For several years I lived with my significant other, and my income perception dropped as we were then using only a little more than my single income to support the two of us and partially support her kids. Since I've been single again, I've felt reasonably well off.
The question from me is, why is there so much sentiment vocalized by households in the $100k+ range (i.e. in the top 15% of US households) that money is tight and/or they "don't really make that much" when the vast majority of the nation gets by with less (or even far less)?
Quite frankly, any household earning $200k+ annually gets absolutely no sympathy from me for money problems barring major medical issues, because at that income, you have the power to live well within your means and eliminate any money problems. So yeah, I'm a little judgemental there, but I feel it's within logical reason.