Some Silicon Valley residents with incomes up to $400,000 consider themselves "middle class"


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/02/21/some-silicon-valley-residents.html


#2

I dunno, in Silicon Valley maybe 400k is middle class.


#3

Silicon Valley housing is crazy expensive. A tract house you would not look at twice in a decent area could easily be a million bucks. Even if you live in the 'hood you are not going to find anything really cheap. So that alone certainly does inflate what it costs to have a middle-class lifestyle there. Still, you don’t need $400k: if you are at that income level you are doing well even in that area.


#4

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#5

Just looked up the median and average price of a house in SV. 1.175 million and 1.409 million, respectively.

Forgot to add the sauce.


#6

The same thing is happening in Boston. There are new conodo’s going up where there was a dirty parking lot 15 years ago. They go for ~$1,700 a square/ft


#7

On the one hand, I do feel like this is legit, and national surveys involving salary and housing costs often fail to consider this. The salary that would let you live like a king in a small town or rural area away from a major city is only enough for a tiny place in certain suburbs or and some cities. Now pack that same salary up to the Bay Area, Boston, NYC, DC, etc. and you’re either living 2+ hours away, in a group house with a slumlord and critters, or a box because you can’t even afford to own a car due to parking costs.

On the other hand… I’ve been in tech for a long time, never in the Bay Area, and…


#8

“How do you define your social class?”

That question is a different one from “how do you define your economic class?”, which is much more easily quantified.

That said, $400k obviously doesn’t go nearly as far in Silicon Valley as it does in less desirable and more economically depressed regions.


#9

I dunno, I’m above 300k, but would never call myself Upper Class. I have to work 8-10 hours a day for an organization I don’t own, in an expensive area (northern VA)…

Robin Leach once described “rich” as income over $1M or assets over $10M. I don’t know where I’d have to be to call myself Upper Class… some of that is attitude, some is individual circumstances. I think that as a family we’ve reached the point where we don’t worry about buying furniture when we want to, but only buy practical cars!


#10

Yeah I was going to say, by comparison with their cost of living… I know two people now working for a California company remotely. Their salaries are healthy for the KC area, but one of them actually moved back from CA because she couldn’t afford to live there.

Can I ask what you do?


#11

Money is on robot vacuums…


#12

My brother is a fire lieutenant, and his wife is a nurse anesthetist. Their combined income is over $300K or very close to it.

They work pretty hard, and own neither a vacation home nor a private jet.

And as members of the upper middle class, they are the most completely fucked over by our tax system.


#13

Quoting the article, “Pew Research Center defines the middle class as those who earn between two-thirds of and double the median household income for a given area, after adjusting for household size … In Palo Alto, the range was between $91,362 and $274,086 for 2016”

So, even for PA, $400K is above the range for middle class. But not so far above that it’s out of the question depending on family circumstances.


#14

Could you elaborate on this, given that the US uses a progressive tax system? I hear that complaint a lot, but you never lose money by making more income. The money up to each point is taxed as if it were in that bracket, so your first $…k is 10$, then the next $… is 25 or whatever, etc. It’s not like you make an extra thousand and now your amount of money after taxes has gone down.

Also, my obligatory:
The middle class is an illusion which is used to comfort the working class by assuring them that they’re better off than other members of the working class. Either you have to work to live or you don’t.


#16

I’m far less inclined to be charitable to these people than most of the commenters here.

Yes, houses in Palo Alto are expensive: $1 million for your average modest 1000 square foot house. So let’s break out the mortgage calculator. At 7% fixed rate, with 10% down, an average 1 million dollar home will cost you about 6,000 a month: 72,000 a year for your mortgage. You’re supposed to spend no more than 1/3 of your income on the mortgage. Lots of banks won’t give you a loan if you’re spending “too much” of your paycheck on mortgage payments. Therefore, owning a modest home in Palo Alto requires an income of about 216,000 a year.

Which means that these poor, impoverished silicon valley residents have $12,000 a month ($6,000-ish after income tax) for food and clothes and living expenses after they pay for the mortgage, poor babies.

As someone who has to support two people on a fixed after mortgage & tax income of $2,000 (in Canadian funny money) per month, I can totally relate and completely empathize with how these fucking spoiled high income crybabies must feel so financially insecure. Yeah, they’re totally “lower middle class.”

In a pig’s eye. Bring on the tumbrils!

eta: fixed math, thanks @Jerry_Vandesic.
Eta2: added guesstimate for income taxes, pre-Trump cuts.


#17

This might open up a can of worms, but my perception is that here in the UK, social class and income are not linearly related. Upper class essentially means ‘landed gentry’ or aristocracy; so the only choice you have if not born upper class is working, middle or upper middle. You can earn what you like, it doesn’t make you upper class. What matters is where you got it from.

Billy Connolly (a very working class Glaswegian) made a wonderful point way back, when he said that working and upper class have much in common, in that they are not obsessed with proving that they are anything other than what they are; it’s the middle class that are constantly showing off over the value of their properties, taking on airs and graces, and being embarrassed about what they clearly are.


#18

Robin Leach is not the best authority, although at the time he likely made that statement $10-million in cash amounted to “f*ck you money”: the kind of money where you could tell your boss to take a hike and collect approx. $500k a year in gross income for doing nothing except investing.

In the early 1990s that much money a year in Silicon Valley meant a large house owned free-and-clear, a couple of luxury cars, private school and college funds for the kids, vacations, etc. without sweating it like the people interviewed here.

The standards used in the financial services industry today in regard to economic class are roughly as follows:

  • “Affluent”: $100k to $1-million in liquid financial assets*

  • “High Net Worth Individual” (“HNWI”): $1-million to $5-million in liquid financial assets

  • “Very High Net Worth Individual” (“VHNWI”): $5-million to $30-million in liquid financial assets

  • “Ultra High Net Worth Individual” (“UHNWI”): $30-million+ in liquid financial assets

[* mainly cash in investments that can be easily re-allocated with a call to a broker or money manager, as opposed to fixed assets like a primary residence or savings like a bank passbook account]

Given the 2018 costs of all those goodies I mentioned above and inflation, it’s going to be a push for a SV household making $400k a year to amass enough to reach HNWI level before the kids are finished with college.


#20

“Some Silicon Valley residents with incomes up to $400,000 consider themselves “middle class””

Well, isn’t that precious. Do they realize that most people will never see a salary / income of almost half a million bucks in their lifetime?

Middle class my ass. They’re living large and don’t even realize it.


#21

The US has a different conception of class which is more tied to income than to upbringing. It doesn’t mean that class in the older sense doesn’t exist here (it does, if you try to get into certain clubs anywhere in the US and not be from the right family then good luck not getting the cops called on you) but it seems it’s not as deeply entrenched and not all equally all over being that we’re a very young country and the further west you go generally the cities are much younger.


#22

So you’re saying my 6k in savings is someone’s weekend fun money? Good to know. :rofl::skull: