In a recent column, I was discussing our household’s budget and mentioned that I do not consider our family “wealthy.” Several readers wrote to correct me and encourage me to consider a different appreciation of that term.
I am not the type to write in response to articles, but your statement that you don’t consider yourself wealthy struck a chord with me. Although I understand that you might feel like you could always use more money, you, like me, are wealthy. I am sure that your family household income is in the top 5-20 percent of incomes for the U.S. That is wealthier than over 99 percent of the world.
Whether you feel it or not, you are wealthy.
Being “average” or “middle-class” in the United States is “wealthy” elsewhere in the world. We are not living in huts made from plants and washing our clothes in a stream. We aren’t hunting and gathering our meals. You, Jill, are wealthy.
And so am I.
A 2013 Forbes article compared quality of life and economic advantages in the United States to other countries using a variety of economic and quality-of-life studies. The study noted that being in the bottom 10 percent of the financially poor population in the United States meant that you had a standard of living comparable to the “normal” populations of Finland and Denmark. Taking it a step further, Americans living in the poorest 5 percent income bracket are still richer than 68 percent of people in the rest of the world.
The 2013 United States Census also noted that even for the poorest Americans, day-to-day life is pretty good. A family of four living on less than $23,550 would be considered to be living below the poverty line. That’s definitely a tight budget for any family.
However, more than 80 percent of households living below the poverty line have cell phones. More than 96 percent of them have a television and more than 58 percent have a home computer. More than 65 percent of these households own a washer and dryer.
We may not consider our home appliances to be “luxuries,” but again, compared to the living standards of the rest of the world, they certainly are. More than 96 percent of households below the poverty line in the U.S. have a refrigerator and a stove. More than 93 percent own a microwave. More than 83 percent have air conditioning.
The Heritage Foundation notes that if “living in poverty” meant lacking in food, adequate housing and clothing, “relatively few” Americans would be considered to be living at this level. A typical “poor” American has a larger living space in the home than most “normal” Europeans do. Their report also notes that the average person who is statistically poor lives in a three-bedroom residence with one-and-a-half bathrooms and a garage.
The Heritage Foundation’s study also explains that while poor families “certainly struggle to make ends meet,” in most cases they are struggling to pay home bills and buy groceries.
While this week’s column is not directly coupon-related, I hope that it has given you a renewed appreciation for the lifestyle that most of us enjoy. We have faucets in our homes that provide clean and safe drinking water whenever we need it. We are able to easily and quickly cook food at home. We’re able to store food and keep it fresh in our homes. We’re not washing all of our clothing by hand. We have the ability to keep our homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Each night at bedtime, my children share what they are thankful for that day. My youngest son always has a humorous element to his “thankfuls”: “Today I am thankful for dogs, snow, and ... spaghetti!” My oldest son is 10, and he’s such a thoughtful, reverent young man. Not a night goes by in which he does not say he is thankful for our home. As houses go, ours might be considered “average” or unremarkable. There are hundreds of one-level ranches like it in our town. To him, it is our castle.
I am grateful. And yes, I am wealthy.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.