A household income ranging anywhere from $75,000 to $200,000 could fall under the upper-middle class. …
A six-figure income should bring long-term stability. But members of the upper-middle class find themselves prisoners of voluntary yet inescapable costs. A multi-generational phenomenon has unfolded, its roots traceable to the economic slowdown of the early 2000s and the subsequent Great Recession.
There is a feeling of anxiety among Baby Boomers who cannot retire, Gen. Xers saddled with expensive mortgages and child care costs, and Millennials paralyzed by insurmountable student debt. Data cannot measure emotion. The sense of unease is palpable despite the economy’s booming conditions.
Many upper-middle-class households are high earning but asset poor. In 2015, Quartz’s Allison Schrager illustrated how “America’s upper middle class have almost no emergency cushion and are woefully unprepared for retirement.” Reviewing Federal Reserve data, Schrager showed the precarious financial position of upper-middle-class individuals aged 40 to 55 with household incomes ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. The data indicated that this income bracket had fewer assets than ever (assets exclude a house, car, or business, but include retirement funds). As Schrager noted, even a high earner who worked for many years typically had only $70,000 in financial assets. Approximately 25 percent of upper-middle-class 40- to 55-year-olds, meanwhile, had less than $17,500 in financial assets.
Such findings suggest that seemingly high earners are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Overwhelming debt has become a vicious trap. In one Brookings Institution study, researchers reported that nearly one quarter of households earning $100,000 to $150,000 a year claim to be unable to pull together $2,000 in a month to pay bills. Sustained economic growth has not repaired this cycle of debt.
hat-tip Stephen Neil