Pew defines the upper class as adults whose annual household income is more than double the national median. That’s after incomes have been adjusted for household size, since smaller households require less money to support the same lifestyle as larger ones.
About half of American households, 52%, were considered middle-class, while 29% were lower-class. The median income of middle-class households was $78,442 in 2016. For lower-income households, it was $25,624. These numbers are in 2016 dollars and scaled to reflect a three-person household.
Pew looked at various household sizes. Here’s the minimum amount you’d have to earn each year to be considered upper-class, depending on the size of your family:
Household of one: Minimum of $78,281 to be upper-class
Household of two: Minimum of $110,706 to be upper-class
Household of three: Minimum of $135,586 to be upper-class
Household of four: Minimum of $156,561 to be upper-class
Household of five: Minimum of $175,041 to be upper-class
According to a survey of 1,000 Americans aged 25-45, financial stress and worries are quite literally making people sick. Respondents listed health care as the main financial worry of their lives, and three in four admitted to having a “negative experience” due to financial stress. John Anderer writes on Study Finds:
Ironically, 39% said that financial stress has had a negative impact on their health; indicating a troubling cycle of financial stress brought on by health care costs, which in turn leads to more health problems.
Additionally, 35% of respondents said financial stress has harmed their relationship with a spouse or significant other, and 26% said financial worries had harmed close friendships. Another 26% said it had affected their performance at work, and 21% said it had hurt their attendance at work.
A running theme throughout the survey’s responses was that young Americans aren’t addressing their health needs due to the cost. Many respondents reported that this strategy only allows the illness to worsen, resulting in higher medical bills by the time they make it to the doctor’s office. In fact, three in four surveyed young adults reported taking “risky” actions to save money on medical expenses. More specifically, 33% delayed seeking medical help in the hope that their condition would just go away, 27% considered avoiding medical attention due to high deductibles, and 22% scheduled a medical appointment but never showed after considering the bill.
With only 23 percent of Americans reporting that they are “very confident” they will have enough money for retirement, the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on 2019’s Best & Worst Places to Retire as well as accompanying videos. Orlando is ranked as the best city to retire.
To help Americans plan for a comfortable retirement without breaking the bank, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 46 key measures of affordability, quality of life, health care and availability of recreational activities. The data set ranges from cost of living to retired taxpayer-friendliness to share of the population aged 65 and older.
|Best Cities to Retire||Worst Cities to Retire|
|1||Orlando, FL||173||Providence, RI|
|2||Tampa, FL||174||Baltimore, MD|
|3||Scottsdale, AZ||175||Rancho Cucamonga, CA|
|4||Charleston, SC||176||Fresno, CA|
|5||Miami, FL||177||Newark, NJ|
|6||Denver, CO||178||Bakersfield, CA|
|7||Fort Lauderdale, FL||179||San Bernardino, CA|
|8||Cape Coral, FL||180||Warwick, RI|
|9||Minneapolis, MN||181||Bridgeport, CT|
|10||Cheyenne, WY||182||Stockton, CA|
If you were going to lose your job, would you prefer to be replaced by a robot or another person? If you said robot, you’re in the majority. Most people would prefer a robot to take their job if they had to lose it, but they would prefer to see another human step in if a co-worker was going to lose theirs. NewScientist reports:
“Being replaced by modern technology versus being replaced by humans has different psychological consequences,” says Armin Granulo at Technical University of Munich in Germany. He and his colleagues set out to examine these differences.
They asked 300 people to judge whether they would prefer an existing member of staff to be replaced by a robot or a human. In that case, 62 per cent of people said they preferred to have a human step in. But when they were asked to shift their perspective and imagine losing their own job, 37 per cent preferred being replaced by a human rather than a robot…
The team found that people rated robots as less threatening to their self-identity than human replacements in a job setting. They asked questions about which type of replacement would make someone feel more devalued, raise more doubts about themselves, or make them question their own abilities.
That may be because people don’t feel they can or must compete with a robot or a piece of software in the same way as they might another person, says Granulo.
A new study from NORC at the University of Chicago, an independent social research institution, found that 51% of working adults in the United States would need to access savings to cover necessities if they missed more than one paycheck. MarketWatch reports:
Certain communities were more prone to economic hardship in the event of missing a paycheck. Roughly two-thirds of households earning less than $30,000 annually and Hispanic households would be unable to cover basic living expenses after missing more than one paycheck, the researchers found.
“Even short disruptions in pay can cause significant hardship, as most Americans appear to be living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Angela Fontes, director of the Behavioral and Economic Analysis and Decision-Making (BEAD) program at NORC at the University of Chicago, said in the report.
Whenever you will be away from home for an extended period of time, you should adjust the temperature to save money. During the winter months you want to minimize the heating cost while at the same time preventing water pipes from bursting and avoiding any damage to household appliances. Don’t worry! I will go over what you should do before you leave the house and what temperature you should set the house at while you are away.
1. What’s the Recommended Temperature for Vacant Home in Winter?
Each house is different and the optimal thermostat setting depends on the level of insulation in the house, pipe layout, exterior temperature, and location. You should set the temperature around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (℉).
Most of the time, dropping the thermostat to 50 °F to save some heating bill is fine. You don’t need to set your thermostat too high if your plumbing runs within the interior walls. You should have no issues by leaving the thermostat at 50 °F.
If you have pipes in exterior walls you want to set the thermostat higher, such as 55 ℉ or 60 ℉, to warm the house enough that the pipes in the wall are above freezing. Also, if you live in a humid climate, setting the thermostat at a higher temperature to avoid getting musty as the furnace heats the air and lowers the relative humidity. Also, If you live in expose area then set it on the high side around 55 ℉ or higher to keep pipes from freezing.
2. What’s the Lowest Temperature to Set the Thermostat in Winter?
You should not set it lower than 40 ℉ when you leave a vacant house. The temperatures for the whole house are not homogenous as some parts of the house will be even colder than the lowest temperature setting on the thermostat. The money saved on lowering the thermostat further would be minimal compared to the damage if something happens.
Even though the recommended temperature setting is around 50 ℉ to 60 ℉, you can go lower to 45 ℉ and everything should be fine if your property is winterized properly. The goal is to minimize the heating bills but at the same time you don’t want any burst pipes or a flooded house when you arrive home. Please keep in mind that at a lower temperature setting, you have a higher risk of pipe freezing and material shrinkage. There’s a big difference between homes that are left at 55 ℉ and those left at 45 ℉ after years of leaving the house vacant.
3. What Temperature Should You Set the Thermostat in Summer?
Working in reverse for hot weather, you should set your thermostat higher while you are on summer vacation to save money on electricity bill. According to the Department of Energy, for every degree you raise the set temperature of your central air, you’ll save about three percent on your utility bill.
The optimum setting for your air conditioner is 4 ℉ or 5 ℉ higher than what you normally set at. So, if you normally set your house at 72 ℉, crank it up to 77 ℉ or 78 ℉ before you leave the house. Also, don’t forget to check your air conditioner filter and close the blinds before leaving your house.
Setting the thermostat too high might not save you any extra money as the air conditioner works harder to cool the house’s temperature back down. Beware of leaving your house too warm if you decide to shut off the air conditioner completely. You could damage wall structure and household items if the inside is too hot and humid. Set your thermostat higher by 4 ℉ or 5 ℉ is better than full shutdown. For through-the-wall air conditioner, you can safely shut it down when you are away.
4. What To Do Before You Leave The House?
First, if you are leaving a house for a couple months in the winter you should turn off the water. Then open the faucets to drain every plumbing you can. Depending on how long you will be away, turning off the main water supply line where it comes into the house is highly recommended.
Pipes with water in them have a high risk of busting during a long cold spell. By draining all the water lines and turning off the water, if the pipes freeze while the furnace dies it’s not the end of the world. Any sections of pipe that happened to be drained won’t be damaged, and you won’t have to tear the walls containing them apart to fix the damage. Nobody wants to come home after a vacation to a foot of water in the basement as well as numerous ruptures in pipes within the walls.
If you are away for a short period of time and don’t want to shut off the main water, then set the faucet for water to slightly drip out, especially with pipes on an exterior wall exposed to cold weather. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
In addition, keep the cabinet doors under the sinks open to prevent cold pockets from forming. Air circulates from the outside room temperature will keep the pipes below the sinks from freezing while you are away.
Don’t forget the water heater. You probably don’t want to drain the water heater, but it’s a good idea to turn it off if it’s electric or to shut off the gas supply. If a pipe bursts or water leaks out, an electric water heater could overheat and short out the heating elements, and a gas heater could do even worse. If you don’t want to turn off the water heater, make sure to turn it to low or vacation mode.
The Washington Post reports about phone scammer Keniel A. Thomas, who made the mistake of calling William H. Webster. Thomas told 90-year-old Webster that he had won $72 million and a new Mercedes Benz in the Mega Millions lottery, but that he needed to send $50,000 in taxes and fees to get his money. Instead of sending $50,000 to the random caller, Webster performed reverse phone sting for FBI.
Thomas also told Webster he’d done his research on the top winner. “You’re a great man,” the scammer cajoled. “You was a judge, you was an attorney, you was a basketball player, you were in the U.S. Navy, homeland security. I know everything about you. I even seen your photograph, and I seen your precious wife.”
Thomas’s research didn’t turn up everything. He didn’t learn that the man he was calling was the former director of the FBI and the CIA, the only person ever to hold both jobs. And he didn’t know that Webster would call him back the next day with the FBI listening in.Thomas was arrested in late 2017, after he landed in New York on a flight from Jamaica. He pleaded guilty in October and faced a prison term of 33 to 41 months under federal sentencing guidelines. But with Webster and his wife in the courtroom, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell on Friday added another 2 years to Thomas’s sentence, giving him nearly six years to serve. Howell said that the scam qualified as “organized criminal activity” and that Thomas posed “a threat to a family member of the victim.”
In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity Oxfam said 2018 had been a year in which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer. As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. The Guardian reports:
Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population …
Among the findings of the report were:
* In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.
* Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.
The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.
Jack Bogle, who founded Vanguard Group, an investing juggernaut now with more than $5.1 trillion in assets under management, and created the world’s first index mutual fund, has died. He was 89. CNBC reports:
Bogle passed away on Wednesday in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, according to a statement from Vanguard.
Bogle, who preached buy and hold investing, was considered one of the world’s greatest investors. His index mutual fund enabled investors to achieve high returns but at lower costs than for actively managed funds.
He founded Vanguard, the world’s largest mutual fund organization, in 1975, and later served as chairman and CEO until 1996. Vanguard now manages assets from more than 20 million investors in about 170 countries.
According to two new studies conducted by researchers with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, giving to others rather than to ourselves makes us happier. Study Finds explains:
Have you ever noticed that your enjoyment in a repeated activity or event decreases over time no matter how wonderful it is? When this happens, you are experiencing what researchers call hedonic adaptation. The joy of having our own desires met is always fleeting. Perhaps surprisingly, however, giving to others creates a more lasting happiness.
“If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we’re currently consuming and experience something new,” says study co-author Ed O’Brien, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a releasefrom the Association for Psychological Science. “Our research reveals that the kind of thing may matter more than assumed: Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more that we do it.”
While millions of Americans no doubt enjoyed some degree of schadenfreude watching the correction in FAANG stocks wipe out nearly $1 trillion of value from the largest US tech firms: Mark Zuckerberg alone has lost nearly $100 billion of his personal wealth since the beginning of 2018, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has lost as much as $13 billion or more in a single day. But that doesn’t change the fact that the world’s billionaires enjoyed their highest-earning year on record in 2017 as their wealth increased by a combined $9 trillion. ZeroHedge reports:
Helped by the asset-friendly policies of the world’s largest central banks, the wealthiest 1% of the world now owns nearly half the wealth. The 54 billionaires living in the 54 UK alone have an aggregate $160 billion in wealth, equivalent to over 6% of Britain’s GDP. Meanwhile, the average worker earns about $37,000 a year. Virgin CEO Richard Branson earns that amount in roughly 25 minutes.
Even more galling, Facebook CEO earns the same sum every 60 seconds. Bezos earns the same sum every 28 seconds.
Millennials, long presumed to have less interest in the nonstop consumption of goods that underpins the American economy, might not be that different after all, a new study from the Federal Reserve says. Bloomberg reports:
“Their spending habits are a lot like the generations that came before them, they just have less money at this point in their lives, the Fed study found. The group born between 1981 and 1997 has fallen behind because many of them came of age during the financial crisis. ‘We find little evidence that millennial households have tastes and preference for consumption that are lower than those of earlier generations, once the effects of age, income, and a wide range of demographic characteristics are taken into account,’ wrote authors Christopher Kurz, Geng Li and Daniel J. Vine.”
“Their findings [PDF] are grounded in an analysis of spending, income, debt, net worth, and demographic factors among different generations. The conclusion that millennials aren’t all that different also holds for the researchers’ more granular examination of expenditures on cars, food, and housing. ‘It primarily is the differences in average age and then differences in average income that explain a large and important portion of the consumption wedge between millennials and other cohorts,’ they conclude. So much for the young folks favoring ‘experiences’ over tangible goods.”
More than one-quarter of U.S. renters in a survey are not confident they could cover a $400 emergency. Financial stress visits renters more than homeowners. That’s the main takeaway from a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. CNBC reports:
“Rental costs are rising much faster than renters’ salaries. Between 1960 and 2016, the median income for a renter grew by just 5 percent. During the same period, the median rent ballooned by more than 60 percent, according to The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University… Half of renters in the survey reported a material hardship in the past year, compared with one-third of homeowners. Around 18 percent of homeowners reported low emergency savings.”
Despite an unemployment rate that has reached a 50-year low of 3.7 percent, most jobs across the U.S. don’t support a middle-class or better lifestyle, leaving many Americans struggling, according to a new study. USA Today reports:
Sixty-two percent of jobs fall short of that middle-class standard when factoring in both wages and the cost of living in the metro area where the job is located, according to the study by Third Way, a think tank that advocates center-left ideas.
“There’s an opportunity crisis in the country,” says Jim Kessler, vice president of policy for Third Way and editor of the report. “It explains some of the economic uneasiness and, frankly, the political uneasiness” even amid the most robust U.S. economy and labor market since before the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.
A slight majority of Americans, 52 percent, do live in middle-class households, according to recent annual reports by Pew Research Center. And another 20 percent or so live in upper income households. But that’s because they’re juggling multiple jobs, for example, or relying on investments, an inheritance or other household members who may have higher-paying jobs.
Something of enormous global significance is happening almost without notice. For the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty. The Brookings Institution reports:
By our calculations, as of this month, just over 50 percent of the world’s population, or some 3.8 billion people, live in households with enough discretionary expenditure to be considered “middle class” or “rich.” About the same number of people are living in households that are poor or vulnerable to poverty. So September 2018 marks a global tipping point. After this, for the first time ever, the poor and vulnerable will no longer be a majority in the world. Barring some unfortunate global economic setback, this marks the start of a new era of a middle-class majority.
In most countries, there is a clear relationship between the fate of the middle class and the happiness of the population. According to the Gallup World Poll, new entrants into the middle class are noticeably happier than those stuck in poverty or in vulnerable households. Conversely, individuals in countries where the middle class is shrinking report greater degrees of personal stress. The middle class also puts pressure on governments to perform better. They look to their governments to provide affordable housing, education, and universal health care. They rely on public safety nets to help them in sickness, unemployment or old age. But they resist efforts of governments to impose taxes to pay the bills. This complicates the politics of middle-class societies, so they range from autocratic to liberal democracies. Many advanced and middle-income countries today are struggling to find a set of politics that can satisfy a broad middle-class majority. The tipping point in the world today offers opportunities for business but complications for policymakers.