Defining the new middle class

New Study Names San Francisco As Most Expensive To Buy A Home

Do you consider yourself middle class?

Heather Moore is an 11th grade history teacher and lives in Glendora, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, and is 31 weeks pregnant. Her husband, Michael, is a computer programmer and stay-at-home Dad to 4-year-old April.

They live on about $82,000 a year, just over the median income in Glendora.

Moore considers herself solidly middle class. Why? "I don't even know if I could put my finger on it. We have a very suburban life style. We are not struggling, but we are still concerned about money.

Moore wrote us online about how being in the middle is a balance of needs and wants: " My uncle has this great line that he said, 'As long as you have everything you need and a little of what you want, than that is essentially a good life.' And that's where I feel we are today," Moore says. "We can afford to paint our house, and save up a little for new carpet, but then also pay some out of the budget too."

And, they have no debt beyond their mortgage, too.

"Michael and I have a college education with no debt leftover. That was a tremendous gift that my family was able to give us. That's the gift I want to give my children. That's my priority when it comes to saving is to give them a college education that's debt-free. And if I put off retirement a few years, then so be it. I can't think of a better reason to do it... I also kind of see this generationally and see this as an age thing as well. My grandparents did a lot to help out my parents when me and my brothers were born. And my mom is essentially paying it forward. So she's promised the diaper service for this one when he's born. And the way I'm going to thank my mom is to do this for April. In fact, I wrote her a thank you note, and she said you don't need to do this, just do this for April. And that's how you're going to thank me."

Jason DiPinto, a Navy chaplain in San Diego, Calif., calls himself "borderline middle class."

"When I see that sort of thing, and I do, I travel a lot for my job, around to a lot of different communities. And when I see communities, even sometimes new ones, that look like the community I grew up in, but to me that's like watching a black-and-white television show."

Despite a steady job, benefits, and potential job growth, DiPinto is unsure where to place himself. "I think that when I talk to my friends, and I talk to my peers, I think we were very affected by the last four or five years. And I think what it means for us to be secure is very different than when we grew up."

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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