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You Must Earn This Much Money to Be Middle Class in America

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Middle class Americans make up about half of the U.S. population and are generally considered to occupy a pretty good position in life. While middle class people aren’t rich, they can usually afford the basics and some luxuries and don’t necessarily have a ton of serious financial worries. Or, at least that’s the goal of a middle-class lifestyle.

So what does it take to be in America’s middle class? Here’s what you need to know, according to Census data showing the earnings of people within different class groups.

If you earn this much money, you’re in America’s middle class

According to the U.S. Census, here’s how the breakdown of household income works out in the United States.

  • Households in the lowest quintile made $30,000 or less
  • Households in the second quintile earned between $30,001 and $58,020
  • Households in the third quintile earned $58,024 to $94,000
  • Households in the fourth quintile earned $94,001 to $153,000
  • Households in the fifth quintile earned $153,001 or more

That means the people in the middle — the middle class — earned an income between $58,024 and $94,000. If your household has that much money coming in, you’ll fall within this demographic group.

Now, many people move in and out of different class groups over the course of their lifetime. You might not earn much when you first get out of school, or you may have a few years where you’re unemployed and your income dips below the middle class level. Your class status is flexible and can change over time. But if your earnings right now are between $58,024 and $94,000, then you can rest assured you’re solidly in the middle right now.

Does it matter if you aren’t in the middle class?

In an ideal world, you’d want to earn as much money as possible. You might aspire to having a middle-class income or higher. And that makes good sense. The more money you earn, the more easily you can afford the basics and have some money left to put into your savings account.

But your income is just one factor that determines if you’ll end up wealthy. What you do with your money matters a lot. If you’re in the upper class and earn upward of $153,000 but you live beyond your means and end up with a lot of credit card debt, you might be in a worse position than someone who earns less money but who isn’t managing high-interest debt.

You absolutely should take steps to try to earn as much as you can. This could mean negotiating for salary raises during performance reviews or when you’re hired for a new position. Working overtime, entering management training programs, or taking other steps to learn new job skills could be helpful.

But you also want to ensure you’re keeping your spending to a reasonable level (about 80% of your income or less, including essentials and discretionary spending). You should be saving and investing the rest of your money. If you do that, even if you’re currently in the middle class in terms of earnings, you can end up among the rich when it comes to your total wealth.

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