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What Income Is Considered Middle Class in 2024?

benedek / Getty Images/iStockphoto
benedek / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Not so very long ago, whether or not you were middle class wasn’t much of a debate.

Often the conversation was less about how much money you made on an annual basis and more about what you openly had: at least one nice car, a manageable mortgage and a stable job with room to move up. And maybe you could even afford a gardener and someone to clean your pool. Yes, maybe you had a pool.

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But all that has changed as costs of living across the U.S. have skyrocketed, making comfort and ease more difficult to achieve. What used to mean you were middle class often now indicates you are, in fact, upper middle class, and there’s now exhaustive debate over what the middle class really is — not just in essence, but in earnings.

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How much income is considered middle class in 2024? And, if you’re not in this tier yet, but want to be, what moves can you make to advance up the ladder?

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Middle Class Income in 2024

The national median salary plays a significant role in determining what income qualifies as middle class. The latest figure available from the Social Security Administration, for 2022, shows that the national average wage index is just over $63,795.

But data from the U.S. Census Bureau cites a different number as the average salary: just under $75,000. What does this all mean? By the Census data, it means that if you earn between $50,000 and $150,000 a year, you are considered middle class.

It’s a pretty straightforward answer, but it isn’t particularly helpful if you’re trying to climb up out of a lower income bracket into the middle class.

Find Out: How Much Money Do Americans Have in Their Bank Accounts in 2024?

Reaching Middle Class

Fortunately, on that note, there is no shortage of moves you can make to step up to middle class.

Financial Planning and Budgeting

It’s critical to recognize that financial planning and budgeting aren’t just tools to help you stay above water, they’re also tools to help you advance your earnings and generate wealth. But you’ve really got to commit to this and never falter.

“Developing a robust financial plan and adhering to a budget requires grit and determination,” said Matthew Halfacre, CEO at Halfacre Research Institute. “It’s often straightforward to identify areas of unnecessary spending. If a budget is tightly controlled and still falls short, consider creating an additional income stream, as also suggested in career advancement.”

Saving and Investing

You don’t need much extra cash on hand to begin investing it. Don’t take your time to put your savings to work.

“Once a surplus is established, begin saving regularly, targeting at least 10% of your household income,” Halfacre said. “Investing these savings wisely, with guidance from financial advisors and personal research, can significantly grow your wealth over time.”

Building Good Credit

You’ve heard it before and now you’re hearing it again: build and keep a good credit score, not only for your overall financial health, but to help vault you into the middle class, where things like home and car ownership are key.

“Maintain a strong credit score by consistently paying bills on time and managing debts responsibly,” Halfacre said. “A good credit score is crucial for securing loans for significant purchases, such as a home.”

Networking and Mentorship

If, like most, your earnings come primarily from your job, it’s important to build a strong professional network. This includes finding and building rapport with mentors.

“Seeking mentorship can open doors to new opportunities and provide valuable learning experiences,” Halfacre said. “These relationships can be instrumental in career progression and personal development.”

Increasing Your Income and/or Getting Promoted

A key move to make to go from lower class to middle class is to up your income stream.

“Making career moves can be hard, but so worth it,” said Erika Kullberg, an attorney, personal finance expert and the founder of Erika.com. “Spend some time researching how you can move up in your industry, what professional designations or certifications you can pursue to increase your income, or apply for new jobs. You can also ask your manager at work what steps you need to take this year to earn a raise or promotion.”

Spending Less

It’s so simple, yet so challenging! But spending less really can help you, if you can afford to cut back.

“It’s really easy to focus on income when trying to make it into the middle class, but how you spend plays a major role in whether you can afford to live a middle class lifestyle,” Kullberg said. “Take a look at your budget and see where you can cut back unnecessary spending. That way, you can pay off debt or meet your savings goals faster.”

Is Middle Class Income Even Enough?

A question that arises when considering what makes someone middle class: Are middle class earnings even enough for the life you want? It’s a definite concern.

“If you make between about $50,000 to $150,000, you are considered to be in the middle class as of 2024,” said Kullberg. “However, it may not always feel that way to those higher income earners if they live somewhere with a high cost of living, have a lot of debt or have many dependents.”

In all, so many people are feeling drained by soaring rents, shrinking home inventory, inflation and high interest rates that even being middle class may not mean much in the quest for financial security.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: What Income Is Considered Middle Class in 2024?