Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Just where is the line between poor and rich?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26829points) June 1st, 2011

When does poorness start? A person who was dirt poor come into money around $50,000 to $78,000 they would believe they were doing quite well. Another person who lived very affluent had beach houses, sprawling mansions, $1,500 handbags, $120 sun shades, $750 dollar boots, $80,000 or or vehicles if they lost it all and only had $50,000 left they would think they were broke. Is there really a point or level where you can draw the line, this side you are poor, on this side you are rich? What of those who have hardly a cent to their name but they are happy and content just making it day to day without any of the extras? Isn’t being poor or rich more a state of being or in the mind than the bank account?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

32 Answers

AmWiser's avatar

It’s all in the mind. (IMHO)

Judi's avatar

I heard recently that money can buy happiness up to about $75,000 a year. Over that, people start getting miserable. I don’t remember where I heard about the study.
If this is true, I would say that $75000 could be a good dividing mark.

Blueroses's avatar

I’ve lived on the affluent side where the cost of my “necessities” now looks obscene. I’ve lived on the side where I decide whether to pay the electric bill or the phone bill this month. It’s all relative to the time, and I think to the social pressures of your peers. Whatever my income, high or low, I usually find that I spend it all on what I think is vital and I need a little more. It’s my perception of vital that changes.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Part of it is situational. Ever hear the phrase “You have to be rich to be poor?” People who grow up in the suburbs in a family that can give or lend them a car can shop around and stuff, and therefore get more value for their wages and eke out a higher standard of living. People making just as much born into a lower socio-economic status might be confined to cities and have to shop at more expensive stores that can’t buy and sell in bulk. It also makes it harder to follow better paying jobs. In my case, because my parents have let me use a car they own, I’ve been able to take a job quite far from my house that pays better than your basic wage slave job (though not much). These sorts of situational factors relegate people to “poorness”, or at least make it a lot harder to get out of.

@Judi 75,000!? I make about a sixth of that, and I keep thinking that if I got just twice as much as I do I’d be coasting easy.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I think a person just scraping by with money but happy is much more wealthy than someone who is rich but is unhappy. Money doesn’t create happiness.

Jaxk's avatar

As @Blueroses says, I’ve lived on both sides of the line however you want to define it. My first apartment cost me $15/month. And I had to let it go because I couldn’t afford it. Obama defines rich as $150K. I would define it as comfortable. I’m sure many would say it is more than they could ever want while others couldn’t live on it. I was 24 before I owned a car with roll-up windows (what’ll they think of next).

The only thing that seems to be constant is that how ever much you make, it’s not quite enough. The old line that money can’t buy happiness, is a rumor started by the rich so people wouldn’t think they had it made. What is that song lyric, ‘money can’t buy everything but what it can’t buy, I don’t want’.

WasCy's avatar

It starts somewhere north of where I am, I think.

Seelix's avatar

I read once (somewhere, I don’t remember where) that if 75% or more of your income goes toward basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), you’re officially poor.

I just found this which outlines in USD how much income you need before you’re not poor anymore.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Jaxk Well I just responded with that “old line” and I’m far from rich in anyone’s eyes. I’m a 21 year old struggling college student living on my own for the first time, but I still believe that to be true. I don’t think it’s a rumor started by rich people. Saying “how every much you make, it’s not quite enough” sounds incredibly greedy. Not everyone feels that way. And anyone that thinks money CAN buy happiness has no clue about what’s truly important in life. I think if you have enough money to pay your bills with a little extra here and there, you have nothing to bitch about. And people who make a lot of money have no place to judge where this “line” exists.

zenvelo's avatar

There isn’t a bright line between rich and poor; there is the vast middle that stretches from $10,890 per year for one person to $250,000 per year for a married couple as the beginning of the higher tax brackets.

What @incendiary_dan says about “I keep thinking that if I got just twice as much as I do I’d be coasting easy” is very very common. Almost everyone thinks if I had “just this much more” I’d be comfy. But spending continues to increase with income, which is why people who have windfalls often end up broke.

YoBob's avatar

Best I can figure it lies somewhere between mid-level management and departmental director.

I made the mistake recently of looking at the executive compensation for the company I work for. Suffice it to say that our CEO made more in total compensation during the year 2010 than I have made during the entire 20 years I have worked as a professional software engineer. What is even more disheartening is that my entire profession is rapidly being outsourced to places like India and China because economic conditions over there are such that software engineers located in those parts of the world are willing to do a similar job for what would not even be a livable wage for we domestic SEs. (and we wonder why college students are shying away from science and engineering…)

On the one hand, I am quite in favor of free enterprise and the opportunity to profit from building a better mouse trap. Heck, I think that is what has elevated the world to an unprecedented level of prosperity during the last century. OTOH, the thought that somebody is pulling down more in a year than I am likely to make in my entire career doing what I am currently doing (and keep in mind I have what is considered to be a fairly well paying professional job!) I find to be more than a little bit repugnant, especially when those with the extra couple of zeros on their pay check count outsourcing American jobs (read MY job) as something like “Reduce operational expenditures while promoting our goals of globalization by transitioning development functions to distributed low cost centers” on their personal goals sheet.

Jaxk's avatar


You may be one of those rare individuals that need no more than what they have. Most of us would like to be able to send our kids to Harvard rather than the community college. We rather have a car that starts when the key is turned rather than carry a toolbox and jumper cables. I’ve had cars in both categories and the first one is better (IMHO).

When you say “people who make a lot of money have no place to judge where this “line” exists”, isn’t this what the question is asking? How much is a lot of money?

Blueroses's avatar

I hear you @YoBob. I worked mid-level in advertising for a department that had motivators to perform better This was different from the other depts.; we all got an equal percentage of per month and per quarter increases in revenue and as a team, we shone.

Higher management brought in a new department head who destroyed our team cooperation and morale. Turned out to be an even higher order to make the entire enterprise look like a loss write-off. Our strong performance didn’t fit the model. Cue a good reason to question whether money buys satisfaction.

I’d rather live below my previous means than work for a soul-killing machine like that ever again.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Enough money to buy everything you need to survive, plus 50% more to spend on fun. Any less, and you are poor.

6 digits a year or more, and you are rich.

Anything other than those two, and you are the line.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@zenvelo Well, I’m just talking about paying off my debt soon, but I guess what I’d really like is to make the same money (13–15k a year) and work less often. My grocery bill is negatively correlated to the amount of time I work, because spare time often becomes foraging/gardening/hunting/trapping/fishing time. But my guess is that you’ve got a pretty good observation about income relating to spending, at least in a fair amount of cases. Personally, when I have disposable income, I tend to spend it on things that help reduce spending later, but I’m not exactly your average work-a-day American.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

My thought of poor – Poor is when you have income and such but not enough to provide you with everything you need. If you can’t afford something that is a necessity.

On the other hand being rich is where you have more money that you need, more of everything that you need. You could help others in need with a part of all that you have instead of keeping it to yourself.

I guess I don’t consider it being a line…

Blueroses's avatar

@nailpolishfanatic When I was in college and delivering pizza for an income, the poor college students and the people in lower income neighborhoods tipped much better than the wealthy. The people with less are much more likely to share what they have, on a daily basis, than the people with more. The wealthy make dramatic donations for their own status gratification.
Again, I’ve lived on both ends and seen how the dynamics work.

WasCy's avatar

Dickens knew not where the line “was”, but how to recognize which side of it you’re on:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.
– Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1849
– English novelist (1812 – 1870)

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

@Blueroses Well guess maybe it also depends on the neighbourhood that one lives in. Though I kind of doubt that the people with less are more likely to share…I speak from personal experience in my country. I know some people who had less and they only think for their healthy and shelter.

Bellatrix's avatar

It is all a matter of perception as you said yourself in your question. Someone who has little money but has a wonderful family life and their health, might consider themselves very rich. Similarly, someone who has plenty of money may consider themselves to be very poor because they don’t enjoy their work and never feel satisfied. I oon’t think ‘poorness’ or ‘richness’ can be judged purely on a person’s financial situation.

YARNLADY's avatar

When some Russians were visiting Sacramento for a city planning expo, they asked to be taken on a tour of our poorest district. The tour bus drove through the very worst, poorest area Sacramento has to offer. One reporter who understands their language overheard one man say “They don’t want to show the worst, they’re probably ashamed.”

ratboy's avatar

Happiness doesn’t generate wealth. On the other hand, if I had just $20.00 more, I could buy ten minutes of happiness.

bea2345's avatar

Poverty is when you have to go without something essential, like decent food. When I was an undergraduate, I had the experience of not having any allowance for nearly two months. I can assure you, bread is a most overrated comestible: when that is all you have. I even stopped smoking for two weeks (pity I didn’t keep that up).

wundayatta's avatar

Poverty is one standard deviation below median income. Well off is one standard deviation above median income. Ridiculous wealth is three standard deviations above median.

Coloma's avatar

As long as the basics are met, the rest is a state of mind.

roundsquare's avatar

Nah, no line. Its all a big Sorites Paradox

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Jaxk I’ve had cars in both categories and the first one is better (IMHO). Some people do not even have a car of any variety and don’t want one. They don’t even see the need to drive do they or should they feel “poor”?

@poisonedantidote Enough money to buy everything you need to survive, plus 50% more to spend on fun. Any less, and you are poor. To those who feel they need 40% less than that and can still have fun or enjoy themselves should they feel poor about missing what the money would have bought if they could give a darn about what it could buy? What if a person has all they need covered but feel if they don’t have 70% more to indulge would they feel poor?

@nailpolishfanatic My thought of poor – Poor is when you have income and such but not enough to provide you with everything you need. People keep saying ”everything you need”, what is this need, what is the absolute minimum? Is a TV and cell phone included? What about a microwave or a real bed not a futon? I guess if the absolute minimum service, effects, etc and be determined then the line between poor and not will be much clearer.

@YARNLADY One reporter who understands their language overheard one man say “They don’t want to show the worst, they’re probably ashamed.” We do not know how good we have it in the US. Years ago I watched a Nighline with Ted Koppel about the poor and we was chatting with a man who was living below the government poverty index and when Ted asked the man if he had TV, the man said yes. When ted asked the man if he had a fridge, hot and

Jaxk's avatar


“do they or should they feel “poor”?”

I would. When I lost my first apartment I still had my car (thank God). Of course it was the second category. Of course the car thing may be a generational difference.

poisonedantidote's avatar


What I was doing, was trying to avoid giving a number. By my deffinition what I’m talking about when I say everything you need to survive, is: a place to live, running water, electricity, food, soap, toilet paper, tooth paste.

Here in Spain, the average wage is 1200 Euros a month. To survive, you would need about 650 a month for a minimal existence. So, by my deffinition, anyone in Spain earning less than say about 1000 a month is poor.

Yes, Bill Gates could lose 90% of his money and still have over a billion left, and still consider him self poor. But thats subjective, Im trying to give a more objective definition of poor.

In other words, how you feel about it, if you accept it or not is irrelevant. To me, it comes down to a number.

Spain: less than 1000 Euros x month
UK: less than 1200 GBP x month

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Jaxk If you don’t have a car that properly runs, then you most likely don’t have “enough money.” Even I agree with that. As I said, if you can afford all of your bills with a little extra, that’s enough. If you can’t afford a car repair, then you don’t fall into that category. And, honestly, how many kids today are cut out for Harvard? And if they are, they probably have a large scholarship with them. Like I said, I’m not rich by any means but I still go to a state university (aka not a community college) because I worked my butt off in high school to get scholarships and I continue to work my butt off to qualify for grants and other financial aid. Harvard isn’t necessary to be successful.

That’s a major problem with human beings: they think they’re entitled to more than they’ve earned. It’s pure bullshit. If you don’t do $100K worth of work in a year, you don’t deserve to make that much. So, if you’re happy with what you have, because it’s what you’ve earned, then there wouldn’t be an issue. If you aren’t happy, do something about it. All the excuses about the bad economy or whatever else is just that…an excuse. Bitching about not having enough money solves nothing.

bea2345's avatar

Speaking for myself, as long as there is enough to pay for weather-tight shelter, food, utilities, and for fairly modest entertainment – the occasional film, reading, listening to music – then I cannot call myself poor.

Jaxk's avatar


Strangely I didn’t consider myself poor at the time. Hell I had a job making $.75 an hour, who could ask for more? I guess my values have changed.

I agree with the point about wages. One of the most destructive things we can do is to look at what other people make. I never wanted to know what my boss earned. It could only make me sad and didn’t serve any purpose.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther