• Little kitty got another ear infection—this time two bacteria and a fungus.  :(
  • FINALLY got DC1 hooked on Diana Wynne Jones.  I was getting worried that it was never going to happen, and even worse, that there was something actually wrong with the Chrestomanci series (like the suck fairy visiting), even though I have definitely reread it as an adult.  But apparently zie just needed to grow into it.  The lives of Christopher Chant hooked hir so hard that zie chose to finish reading it instead of playing video games (or sleeping)!  And that was after Charmed Life, which I consider to be one of her creepiest novels.  (Granted, after I read it the first time I flipped straight to the beginning and read it again!)
  • I often wonder how DC1 can be so smart and so thoughtful, and yet be seemingly completely incapable of:  hanging up hir wet towel, putting away hir empty fizzy water can, or putting on a shirt right side out and not backwards.
  • DC1 grew three inches in three months.  In theory zie no longer needs a booster seat, though since most of that height is leg, in practice zie still needs a booster seat.
  • Posts that say you “need 300K to be middle class” in any specific part of the US confuse being middle class with being able to have everything.  You do NOT need 300K/year to live in a 2-3br place in good school district, eat yummy food, save for retirement, and have some luxuries anywhere in the US that’s commutable for work.  Even Manhattan.  Yes, you need that or more to have a McMansion in those places/send kids to private school/have elaborate lengthy vacations and so on, but when you have all of those things someplace where it’s also amazing to live (and expensive because it’s so amazing), you’re no longer middle class.  Last time I did a calculation, which was before the Trump tax hike for people who live in coastal states, we’d need 230K/year to move out there with no negative lifestyle changes other than downsizing and renting.  But we are NOT MIDDLE CLASS.  That’s a life without any sacrifice except the one imposed by reality.  And we’d be getting more of so many other wonderful things (eating out a lot more!).  (Alas, DH does not have a job offer for 230K and I have no job prospects.)  There’s a big difference between comfortable and upper.
  • It takes a while to refill an emergency/slush fund that you’ve just taken 33K out of.
  • The plumbing company owner came out finally and figured out a way to get our water filter to fit in our hot water heater closet where the main water line enters the house.  But then sort of ghosted again instead of scheduling an appointment.  Not a high priority, but man… I do wonder if this is ever going to happen.
  • The women’s history month thing turned out to be a huge waste of time.  Two terrible talks (including one that went double or triple time) and two decent talks.  Followed by 12 minutes remaining for the poster session which ended at 5pm, which meant that almost everybody (including the fourth speaker whose talk was really interesting, but sadly abbreviated) had to leave to get their kids before 5pm instead of looking at posters.  I left with 6 min remaining since nobody had looked at my poster other than the group of 6 students whose poster was next to mine (“This looks really… complicated… how do you know so much statistics?”) and they were crowding in my space trying to stand in front of their own poster.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 34 Comments »

34 Responses to “RBOC”

  1. Leah Says:

    If you “need” $300k to be middle class, maybe some of those people in upper management could consider paying people more.

    I literally do not understand why we can give the CEO (or even middle management) of some company a multimillion dollar raise, but we can’t pay a janitor more than $10 an hour. Like, really? I’m all for higher compensation for a bigger job, but it still boggles my mind that someone can make more in a week than I will ever make in my entire career, and I’m educated. Never mind the folks at the bottom who didn’t have the support/resources/etc to get an education.

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    In Santa Cruz, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, it takes about $100–150k to be middle class (about what a tenured professor makes). If the housing market were more normal, then $70k–80k would suffice.

  3. Cloud Says:

    Both my kids still like to have their booster seat in our Prius. Even my almost 11 y.o. who is approaching the size of a small adult. She says she likes to sit up higher than she would without it.

    On the middle class thing… I think the problem is that we tend to compare ourselves to people with more and assume that since we don’t have that much, we aren’t rich. I also think we need better language to describe people like me: plenty of money, as long as I keep working and can keep myself employed in my high-paying field. Maybe the working rich? To differentiate from the people with so much money that they don’t have to work. Obviously, I’m saving a chunk of what I make, but I’m not likely to be able to cross over to the idle rich class anytime soon. (I’m not complaining! I feel very fortunate. I don’t call myself middle class, but a lot of my peers do, and I think part of why they do is the feeling that they have to work, so they can’t really be considered “rich” or “upper class.”)

    • yetanotherpfblog Says:

      I’ve used the terms “affluent” and “high income” to describe our situation. After asking coworkers with presumably similar pay, I’ve learned that a lot of well-paid people really don’t see a distinction between median income and making 300-400k, at least that they should both be considered “middle class.”

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        As someone who aspires to (family income of) 300K but has recently gotten in sight of it, there is definitely a difference! These folks need to spend more time making less money so they can make the comparisons! Like… it’s all sorts of different, even if you’re saving rather than spending the excess. (We have some more obnoxious posts coming up in the next few months.)

      • yetanotherpfblog Says:

        I totally agree. It was really jarring to hear my co-workers say that stuff, since I know a lot of them came from backgrounds that were a lot closer to median income in lower COL areas.

      • Leah Says:

        They can come live my definitely under $100k life and see how they feel. The only reason we do as well as we do on what we make is because our housing is paid for. I feel blessed in that sense.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      high income?

      If you wanted to, say, homestead in VT, you could probably be idle rich if you sold your current place.

      Your friends probably could not work if they were willing to not live in a specific vacation destination.

      • bethh Says:

        I came across this link today – you can enter your info and see when you can retire based on where you live. If only I was willing to leave the country I could be retired in lots of places! https://nomadlist.com/fire

      • Cloud Says:

        Yeah, high income probably captures it.

        I’m not sure how much equity we’d actually extract if we sold our house. I haven’t been following the ups and downs, because we don’t intend to move anytime soon, but we bought about a year after the pre-collapse peak. I know we’re no longer underwater, but not sure we’d have homesteading money. Also, ugh. I’d be a terrible homesteader. So far, I see no way to have a life I’d actually want without working, so I’ll keep working! Luckily, I like what I do. I’d rather sit around and read all day and maybe write more blog posts… but my day job isn’t bad.

        Having recently decided to stop being a contractor and go back to full time work in part to bump our family income back to the $300k neighborhood… yeah, there is a HUGE difference between that and even $200k (in a high cost area- maybe they’d feel closer in a lower cost area) and I find it laughable to consider my income level now in the same category as the family income on which I grew up. Which is why I never call us “middle class.”

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        They feel even less c;lose in a low COL area! (Not that we’re at 300K yet, but I now *understand* how things would change at 300K, which I didn’t a year ago.) I think that’s because you run out of obvious space to put things and reasonably priced things to buy. We have a whole series of obnoxious posts coming up about how now we have to think about how to change our investing behaviors given that (after we refill our emergency fund) there’s going to excess money. But we’re still at a point where we may finally remodel the kitchen (though I guess the frugal girl today says what we’re planning to do is “updating” not “remodeling” even though fancy countertops run several thousand dollars. I guess remodeling means you knock out a wall or something? I always thought “updating” meant changing wallpaper or painting the cabinets) or buy a replacement for my car instead of doing more fancy investment. So we haven’t run out of obvious things yet. We’re just at the “obvious things we’ve been putting off for a long time” point. Or will be after the emergency fund is replenished from DH’s car purchase.

        I’m rambling. I’m sure I had a point somewhere… I will say that going from comfortable middle class to high income has been all about wants and NOTHING about needs.

      • Cloud Says:

        Oh definitely- there was nothing I NEEDED I couldn’t have at our slightly lower income. But there were enough things I wanted that I decided it was worth giving up the flexibility and independence for more money. It was an interesting realization for me. Some of the things I want are things I want long term… we’re starting to talk about what we want our life to be like in 10 years and 20 years, and I realized I liked our options better if I made more money now. (I also am always aware that given my family history, it is most prudent for me to plan retirement assuming I live to 100, which is… daunting.) But I have to admit, the extra money makes some of the logistics of being a 2 career family a lot easier. I can buy my way out of more problems.

        I also have a pretty good friend who is the next income step above us- I’d guess her family income is closer to 500k, but that’s a total guess based on her job title and her husband’s job title. And I can see how some things that are logistical struggles for us are trivial for her. I wonder where the point above which there is no logistical benefit from the extra money, and it is all just more money to spend on fun? Or maybe there is no point, because if I’m honest, some of the logistical struggles I buy my way out of now are created by me having enough money to spend in the first place- e.g., on extracurriculars for the kids. So maybe that dynamic just continues.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        At some point you have to make sure you’ve hired good people to oversee the good people you’ve hired to be stewards of your money and your life.

        I suspect this is part of why the extremely wealthy bad guys want high income inequality– it’s much easier to hire good help when people don’t have other options. (I’m not getting nothing out of my extensive reading of regency romances!)

  4. chacha1 Says:

    Well heck, here’s an “ask the grumpies” for you: what does “middle class” even mean, anyway?

    I would consider myself + DH to be middle class. Our combined gross income averages $150K. We are fully employed and very employable, with very brief periods of unemployment (so far), mostly mine, mostly due to an industry-wide recession-prompted series of layoffs. We are well-educated and have two cars, high-speed internet, good health insurance, and retirement savings (which half of Americans don’t have). We eat whatever we want and we take vacations. We don’t own a home, but we are among 51% of LA county residents in that; and we now live in a single-family home providing (technically, though it’s not how we use the space) three bedrooms and two bathrooms. And median household income in LA county is $59K – at more than 2x that, it’s hard to argue we’re not at least middle class.

    If our combined gross income was $300K or up, we would be rich. Straight-up rich. And that’s in Los Angeles.

    So I call bullshit. Anybody out there who thinks you have to have $300K/yr to be “middle class” must have a very 1960s vision of what “middle class” actually is (i.e. suburban home with picket fence, yard, and stay-at-home spouse with 2.5 kids and the latest gas-guzzler in the driveway).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Even in that 1960s vision, you’re not actually living someplace with the amenities that LA/SF/NYC has today. Just healthcare alone! (Don’t forget to include a housekeeper! Either live-in like Alice on Brady Bunch, or more likely, a woman who comes in and cooks and cleans a few days every week.)

      • chacha1 Says:

        Exactly. Where are people getting this idea that “middle class” in 2018 includes household help, private schools, black-tie affairs, luxury travel, and whatever else they are considering “necessities”? That kind of stuff was NEVER really middle-class – it was always country-club-class.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        To be fair, before washing machines, middle class did include someone to help with the laundry. But today nobody has to rub their knuckles raw on washing boards.

  5. Linda Says:

    I was at a conference once where there was an evening session with posters. I’m thinking that must be an academic thing. I’ve never been to any corporate conferences or networking sessions where there were posters. I recall thinking that a lot of work must have gone into the posters, so I’m sure you’re disappointed that your work wasn’t appreciated.

    I’ve been haphazardly following this “$300k means middle class” thing since so many blogs and people I follow on Twitter are bringing it up. I also accidentally stumbled across the blog post that I think outlined the argument of why it was necessary to earn at least $300k to have a middle class lifestyle in the Bay Area. (I was looking for info on how much it costs to maintain a backyard hot tub/spa. I have a dream that someday I could enjoy such a luxury and this blog had a post about that topic. I guess just by finding that post, I sort of revealed how much privilege this person has since he shared how much he spent on the spa. Wow.)

    My thoughts on this topic are all over the place. Yes, it is expensive to live in the Bay Area. According to the Bankrate cost of living calculator, the cost of living is 26% more in San Francisco than it is in Los Angeles. https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/moving-cost-of-living-calculator.aspx I think the crux of the arguments is the question chacha asked: what does “middle class” mean? Does it include owning a late model car? More than one car? Having a living space that is big enough that each child has a separate bedroom? Does the living space have more than one bathroom? Does it include private school fees? Does it include fully funding each child’s college education? What about private lessons or tutors for the children? Does it include a family vacation every year that doesn’t involve staying with extended family?

    I’d argue that those things are luxuries and not necessary to be “middle class,” but I think a lot of people do. I think many of us get our notions of “middle class” from TV families, and those are not realistic representations. In my little Bay Area city that is considered a world-class tourist destination, too, the vast majority of people don’t live this lifestyle. They may have more than one car in the family, but they certainly aren’t that new and are used to get to/from jobs.

    I had to check out that nomadlist website and satisfy my curiosity. If I was willing to move to Ecuador I could retire now. Nice. I understand more about why one of my friends moved down there. But I think I’m more interested in moving to Malaga, which was also supposedly something I could afford to move to now, too. :-)

    • chacha1 Says:

      A family on TV that I would consider traditionally “middle class” is The Simpsons. One income, house, three kids, two cars, no real money worries but a modest standard of living, to which the “no money worries” directly correlates. But I don’t watch much episodic TV, so I don’t know what’s out there in the culture. The only new drama we watch is Star, which definitely does not show a rich lifestyle masquerading as middle class.

      Who was it who said (something like) income 10 pounds, expenses 9 pounds 10 shillings = happiness; income 10 pounds, expenses 10 pounds 1 shilling = misery.

      DH & I could make approximately the same money in SF as we do in LA, but we’d have to live in a one-bedroom apartment and give up at least one car.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The Simpsons are weird because Homer is blue collar and Marge is cultured. I don’t understand why she’s a SAHP (I vaguely recall an absolutely terrible episode in which she gets a job that was similar to all the terrible 1950s and early 60s sitcoms in which the SAHM gets a job). It must be really cheap to live in Springfield or Homer gets paid a big premium to deal with his inevitable death of cancer or radiation poisoning.

        One of Charles Dickens’ characters said that, I believe.

      • gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

        Dicken’s character Mr. Micawber: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

  6. becca Says:

    As an aside “a 2-3br place in good school district, eat yummy food, save for retirement, and have some luxuries anywhere in the US that’s commutable for work” sounds about like my goals. I mean, I’d like to cover in-state college tuition x 2, but that feels more insurmountable.
    I feel like it costs a lot closer to 100k than 50k to do those things, which might be why I am so stressed? I would have to agree it doesn’t cost $300k, baring really extreme circumstances (caretaking for multiple disabled individuals in a HCOL area?)
    Some things that are generally “luxuries” are near necessities for some subset of people dealt a tough hand. I’ve seen real people who scrimp a lot for private school tuition once their kid got death threats for being non-conforming at the local public school. If you look into forming a family via fostering or adoption, you learn the importance of having a bedroom for each child. Also, what constitutes a “safe enough” neighborhood is a really hard question. More than one bathroom looks different for someone with IBS, and “yummy food” is harder with Celiac. I think the basic premise of a clear delineation between “luxury” and “necessity” is probably wrong, but I’ve yet to see even a single example of someone with a *financially purposeful mindset* who couldn’t figure out a satisfying lifestyle on a lot less than $300k for their family.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Middle class I think means you can have the things you need and some of what you want. But there’s no real definition.

    • Linda Says:

      I can see your point about the “luxuries” I highlighted, and thanks for prompting more thought on it. One person’s luxury is another person’s necessity, I guess.

    • chacha1 Says:

      “Middle class” is a cultural definition, though, not a micro/personal one. If people are going to use the term to talk about fair compensation, and especially in the context of what employers and society could/should provide to float all boats, they need to talk about macro data.

      The outliers – the one family out of fifty who chooses private school because of [X] very personal concerns vs religion or college-prep considerations – don’t help the analysis. That doesn’t mean their experience isn’t valid. I think what we’re talking about here is the cultural expectation that everyone should be able to afford what previous generations considered luxuries, either entirely unachievable, achievable only through inherited wealth, or achievable only through a mythical level of personal success e.g. Horatio Alger stories and pyramid schemes. And cultural expectations are colored not only by media but by ignorance concerning socioeconomic history. How many people even know what a Victory Garden was?

      Meanwhile we still have a majority of the population thinking that the stock market is the same thing as “the economy,” and that forever having a car payment is reasonable, and that every new iThing is a necessity. Le sigh. We are acquisitive, imitative primates and expecting us to be rational is generally disappointing.

  7. SP Says:

    The first time I read things like “250k is middle class” I was surprised and debated it. Now it just seems like click bait, although I do realize the sentiment exists in a lot of people. Everyone wants to consider themselves middle class. I really don’t want to argue with these people, but I wish they’d get a clue.

    We live a middle class lifestyle, but we aren’t middle class. And “middle class lifestyle” is somewhat debatable – we did spend about 100k the past two years as DINKS. We’re in a quite high cost area, but other areas of the Bay are much more $$.

  8. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I re-read most of DWJ’s books this year and… some of them are REALLY STRANGE. But I loved them all as a kid!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      Yeah, some of them have odd … anti-feminist? messages? Like Aunt Maria. (I still don’t really know what to make of that one.) Or her last one is great until the end when you completely unnecessarily find out that a sympathetic character must have statutorily raped a troubled girl in his care. Just as a throwaway thing to make two characters who did not need to be related related. Why add that level of sketch? (In another one of her books that is a complete mind-flip book, there’s something that at first seems like an improper age relationship but it turns out not to be because of the plot twist. And there’s the fratricide in another book….) Yeah. Strange in many ways. Some ways make them more amazing and some ways make some of them a bit questionable.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        And, like, all of Tale of Time City? or even Deep Secret, WTF, was she high? I don’t even know.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        More spoilers:

        What’s wrong with tale of time city? I love that one to pieces (literally– I had to get a new copy for DC1, who has failed to show similar appreciation). 21st century buttecream pie! I like the multiple universe thing–it also shows up a lot in the Chrestomanci series… science fiction ideas set in YA fantasy. I’ve seen those ideas again in adult science fiction, but I got them first from DWJ and omg, serious mindflips.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Oh- I think I got the title wrong! Not that one. The one where some kid gets sent out to wander eternally – Homeward Bounders. THAT one is weird. (Time City I also liked!)

  9. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    “Posts that say you “need 300K to be middle class” in any specific part of the US confuse being middle class with being able to have everything.”

    Totally. Also lots of people class having something show-worthy as being part of middle class rather than older, used, or somewhat rundown stuff – like our cars and homes. We do not have new shiny cars and a fancy house. We have an old house that cost a ton to fix up to nicer living standard which is meant to last us for 20+ years because we will spend money on keeping things working and not on the aesthetics, and two older cars that run well because we maintain them. We make upper MC money between the two of us and I STILL hustle for money on the side. We can live just fine on our incomes because fine means nothing more generous than: does the intended job without breaking down constantly.

    That’s still pretty dang nice – we wouldn’t even get to live this level of lifestyle if our incomes were halved.

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