In Canada, Discussions, Money, Wealth

About going from middle-class to upper-class

Someone asked me to write about being in a new class, the upper-class and my first reaction was:

What iz she talking about? Upper class!?? No… I’m still in the ..

OMG NO.

I AM NOT.

Who is Upper Middle Class in Canada?

This is the million dollar question (PUN INTENDED), and I have been scouring sites to get a good idea of this, and am horrified that I have been thinking I am this Average Jane when in fact I am not any more.

For the purposes of all this “testing” of what class I am in, I’ll pretend I’m unattached because that is how I post my net worth.

LET’S LOOK AT INCOME FIRST

Money Sense:http://www.moneysense.ca/save/financial-planning/the-all-canadian-wealth-test-2015/Whoa. Okay.. so .. uhh.. that means even when I graduated from school, I was already in the highest 20% of income earners.

If I actually do work a whole year (not often), I make way more than this.

Then if we break it down and look at Quebec where I live, the richest 20% make $185,155 a year.

Phew. My average income is $80,000 or so over the past 10 years of freelancing, so I’m good in this regard. See? DO NOT FEEL RICH.

And in Montreal, you need to be over $200,000 to be upper middle class, which if I worked the whole year, I would be in, but am not..


I am more in the Middle 20% – Upper 20% range.

BUT NET WORTH IS THE REAL TEST…

However the real litmus test is net worth, not income because you can play with income as I have well demonstrated:

http://www.moneysense.ca/save/financial-planning/the-all-canadian-wealth-test-2015/

Yep. Okay. Fine. I’m upper middle class then with $600,000 by myself, if you want to compare it by net worth.

Obviously, with my partner’s net worth we are also in the highest 20% as well although if you read that Money Sense article (which I recommend you do) they note that the highest net worth is people who are in the age range of 55 – 64.

If we take AGE into account, I’m really.. not.. middle class any more.

I’m in my mid-30s with a net worth after 10 years of someone who is close to retirement, and I still have another 20 years to go.

So let’s assume I add another $600,000 to my net worth per decade, I will personally have about $1.8 million personally by the time I’m in my 60s and ready to retire (or not).

To make it even more evident that I am no longer middle class, in Québec, the richest 20% have at least a net worth of $699,000 because the other provinces skew it higher (like B.C.), but in Montreal, I am “only” in between upper middle-class and upper-class, but honestly, I am in that range, who am I fooling?

http://www.moneysense.ca/save/financial-planning/the-all-canadian-wealth-test-2015/

SO WHAT AM I? A HYBRID?

So yeah. I guess if you really want to not go on income and use net worth as real test, I’m not really middle class any more with my income but I would like to point out that I don’t work the whole time so my income on average has been about $60,000 – $80,000 a year which puts me right in the upper middle class range.

That said, point taken, I am “upper class” with my income but I suppose I don’t feel that way for a few reasons.

1. People around me have way more money

It keeps one humble.

I’m living in an area where people have MONEY. I don’t know how much but I dare say a good chunk have more than me by far.

I’m perhaps unfairly, comparing my situation to theirs.

They don’t have to work.

I still do.

They buy MULTIPLE luxury cars on a whim (they rotate out a fleet) and I only have one.

They live on the highest floors and I don’t.

Keep in mind, these people are also in their late 50s so I sometimes catch myself and think:

Wait.

I’m in my mid-30s comparing myself to people who have a good 20 years of wealth building on me.

I have time to be one of them yet!

Still though, it keeps one humble when you see someone buy a Mercedes AMG on a whim because he wanted one. I only know what that $250K car is because my partner ogled it when he spied it with hearts in his eyes and I was not impressed because it looked too low and squat to be a comfortable car to drive. LOL.

2. I feel like a faux millionaire inside

You know. The kind that has a ton of debt but looks rich? I still feel like that.

I don’t technically have any debt but I look “rich” when I don’t feel like I am yet.

I’ll be rich when I can stop working if I choose to and still live my lifestyle. I’m not rich by what I own, which I guess is a personal perspective.

Of course, I suppose the difference between my kind of “fake rich” and theirs is that some of the faux millionaires around here are the kind that buy secondhand luxury cars but pretend that they didn’t.

Some drive their cars like they’re kings and have a snob complex.

I know this because it wasn’t until I upgraded my car from the beast that it was to a beauty that people started treating me differently.

With my beast of a car, they felt superior. Some wouldn’t say Hello, they didn’t bother to talk to me to make small talk or even smile.

Now with this car, they are smiling, being polite etc. I don’t really give AF to be honest because it didn’t make a difference then and it doesn’t now but I find the attitude change amusing.

So yes I feel like I’m a faux millionaire in a way (I don’t have an actual million personally yet), but I also don’t feel the need to front like I’m filthy rich when I know I’m not.

What do we call that? Wealth aware? I dunno.

I drove a crappy car and now I drive a nice one. The difference is that I now drive a nice car and don’t have to wear a winter coat to stay warm inside or rub sticks together to start the engine (kidding!!)

I feel the same inside as a person and will act the same as I always have.

I don’t feel the need to brag about anything because I don’t feel like I have anything to brag about. Truly.

3. I haven’t made a mental adjustment to the income I earn

I mean I HAVE because I spend more now, but I also haven’t because I am not close to spending that amount in full.

…because I’m a freelancer, I haven’t actually made a mental shift to thinking:

I make 20K – 30K a month!

I don’t work the whole time. In my head, I’m making $5000 a month and when I even get close to that or go way WAY over, I freak out.

I have a major panicky guilt-ridden attack, and/or I bury my head in the sand for a month and ignore my poor sad little budget until I come to my senses and face the music.


I don’t feel like I make that kind of money.

I feel like it is money that happens to come into a bank account not related to my own income personally and I have to ration it and beg an allowance from it once all the bills have been paid.

Also, I have to still pay taxes on that income. Not exactly 20Gs after the taxes kick in.

4. I still have to ration my cash flow

I still have to pay bills. That means rationing my cash flow. When I feel like the money that is CASH in my personal account runs low, I freak.

I don’t feel “upper-middle class” because I can’t actually go out and buy whatever I want whenever I want. Within reason, I can, like $500 worth of clothing here and there but for me, upper middle class folks drop $5000 in one shop and don’t blink twice before doing the same in others while on a shopping spree.

5. I don’t have super rich friends

I mean no one I know whom I consider a close and dear friend is a millionaire who doesn’t need to work.

All my friends make good money over 6-figures but they’re like me — not (personal) millionaires.

As a result, I am not swayed into thinking that what I’m doing (wasting $30Gs a year on my self) is NORMAL and I’m constantly brought back down to reality.

What has changed from middle to upper class mentally for me

A. My lifestyle has INFLATED

Like a boil that has to be lanced, my 2017 spending was out of control. Reaching $60,000 in expenses with half of that as PERSONAL spending is bonkers.

Yes, that is within the “$5000/month” mindset I have above of what I can spend monthly but that is very disturbing when I know I can spend a quarter less and be just as happy if not more.

Just need to channel my energies into positive cash flow activities like selling unused stuff.

B. I don’t check tags in mainstream stores any more

I used to. But I know I’ve become so comfortable with my money being secure that I no longer ask how much something costs because I know that I can afford it.

I’m only careful in designer shops where a dress is $5000 and they didn’t make a mistake with an extra 0 at the end.

I’m also (as of late) sticking to secondhand and even farther than that, avoiding window shopping altogether.

I’m spending that time instead on my budget and money affairs and it will yield better results.

I also go into a restaurant or grocery store and I don’t check the tags sometimes. I do and I don’t, in the sense that if I am eating out, I will go all out and pay the $100 bill for a simple lunch. That, is definitely a departure from what I used to do in a restaurant which was scan the menu for the cheapest item and then fill up on bread.

And yet I feel guilty about not checking tags when I don’t feel like it, which is why my laser focus is back on my budget and hitting $1 million in my personal net worth.

 

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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14 Comments

  1. Sense

    I definitely think of you as upper class in terms of your finances, but with a frugal, middle-class attitude in your life. Your attitude keeps you super-relatable, even though you can afford far more and have far more than I do!

    Treating NZD as CAN, my income is definitely in the lower-middle class (OMG PhD salaries!!), but my NW is upper middle. 🙂 I’ll take it!!

    As far as price tags, I don’t look at them in the grocery store. It is my one major luxury to eat/make what I feel like eating for the week. As long as I stay within my budget (and I do most months!), I’m fine.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I did not really think I was upper class until I did the numbers. I still don’t think I’m rich, but that is relative because everyone ELSE around me is buying million dollar places and homes like it is nothing, and I am having heart palpitations just looking at the tag.

      I only look at tags in a store to determine if that $5 “treat” as a drink is worth it 😉

      Reply
  2. The Luxe Strategist

    As someone who lives in NYC, I can totally relate to this. Our incomes say we’re UMC, but comparing our lives to our neighbors? It seems like we have so much less. Our neighbors own million dollar townhomes, have second houses upstate, own cards, multiple nannies/babysitters, etc. Meanwhile, we hired someone to clean our house once last month, and that was a “splurge.” Anyway, perspective is always needed, because we are super fortunate to have what we do. Gotta get out of the city bubble every now and then.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Exactly. I take myself out of my bubble and go to other neighbourhoods to realize what I have is really NOT NORMAL.

      Reply
  3. Tim

    Oh yes, I know this one very well. I always thought of myself as middle class growing up and then realized I likely spent my entire childhood in the top 20%. Finding out otherwise was a bit of shock. Or now that I left my job my income is in the bottom 20% now but my net worth is almost cracking the top 20%. I like to think we break molds as we don’t fit in the standard spread of data. Be yourself and screw labels.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I like that attitude. I still don’t consider myself “rich” though, so this is good.

      Reply
  4. raluca

    I’m with you on not checking prices. I recently realized that if I go in stores I know well, I often don’t check any price and only see the price at checkout. Whether it’s food or clothes or even gifts sometimes, if a store has been categorized as affordable in my brain, I’m not checking prices and buy what I want. I think this is a time vs money proposition for my brain. No need to spend 1 to 2 minutes per item comparing prices which would end up to maybe 10 to 20 minutes more in the store, if the differences are not big enough to begin with. It doesn’t mean I buy the most expensive things either, it just means that I buy I want, without money being an issue. That’s a big change from 10 years ago when I would price compare anything.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      My partner does that with stuff he buys regularly (so he can stock up), but I generally don’t check anything unless it is something I think might be a bit too expensive…

      Reply
  5. Financial Orchid

    Sounds like a neighbourhood with lots of subliminal/subtle pressure to keep up with the Jones’. Millionaire Next Door recommends an average neighbourhood generally has a lot less pressure to keep up with cars, school, extra curricular activites, etc. Stealth wealth is awesome.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I’d agree with that, except I can’t live in average neighbourhoods as their location is either (A) crap, or (B) not what we both want in terms of quality of life, etc…

      The only thing I can do, is nod, and smile when people send their kids to private school and I search for the public one.

      Reply
  6. Leigh

    It’s less weird to me because my parents are very upper middle class. To my husband, however, it is very very absurd. The pro side of that is that we are living on a fraction of his income right now because he thinks his income is so absurd. We met with a financial planner recently to check on a couple of things and they thought we were in our mid forties, not early thirties. To my in-laws, the only bizarre thing about our lifestyle is that I’m not working because both spouses working is just normal to them, but otherwise I doubt they know about our level of wealth simply because we don’t spend much of our income.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Stealth Wealth indeed!

      Reply
  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I am surprised that you’re surprised about being UMC, we both crossed that threshold a few years ago. Maybe even many years ago, depending on which statistic you’re looking at. 🙂 I’m curious what I would be individually but there’s no way for me to separate that out now.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I … was very surprised. I have never though of myself as UMC. EVER. Even now I’m in shock.

      Reply

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