Income Levels and Their Various Implications

In my field of market research I often come across screening criteria that asks for income. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a research questionnaire over the phone, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is the questions that asks, “how much would you say is your total annual household income: between $20,000 and $29,999?” and so forth.

So yesterday I was reading over a screener that contained a question just like that when I began to wonder just what it might mean for people who make these various amounts of annual income. Please see my analysis below:

$0k – $19,999k

If you fall into this income range, you are either a bum or a grad student. Most people would consider this level poor. However, I like to think of it as free. Imagine, you probably couldn’t afford a car, a house, tuition, clothes, adaquate food, or be eligible for a credit card. Nothing is expected of you, and your demands are tiny if not insignificant.


Welcome to the American majority. This is where you’ll find everyone from your recent liberal arts grads to that guy in the hot dog stand down the street. You are expected to drive a car that’s no more than 10 years old, and carry a credit debt of no less than $7,500. In all likelihood you are still paying off hefty college loans from that state school where you, like, you totally don’t remember what happenend your senior year. It’s important that you wear your college sweatshirt around because that will remind everyone that you still have potential. Overall, not a bad bracket, but don’t expect to retire until you’re 97.


At this level you are finally able to drop change in those donation jars at 7/11 without sneaking a few quarters back in return. By most accounts, you have “made it.” You shouldn’t expect much hassle from the in-laws, either. The best thing is, if you’re married and both you and your spouse make $50,000 a piece, together you fall into that coveted six-figure range. If you play your cards right, you might retire at 60 in a condo on a golf range several miles inland in Florida.


Ah, now this is where the action can be found. At this income strata, you have officially become an object of jealousy. You are either a doctor, lawyer, successful business owner, or third place contestant on American Idol. Do be prepared to work a minimum of 60 hours a week, and be sure to have a rolodex of excuses for your family for why work forced you to cancel visiting the relatives on Christmas Eve. You’ll also need to have a vacation house down the shore or in the mountains for those infrequent panic attacks. Don’t worry though, your state-of-the-art digital alarm system will protect your main house while your away.


The magic number $100,000. This is the going price for a soul in today’s marketplace, so be sure to stock your office with various keepsakes and reminders of home because you’ll be sticking around for awhile. You are either a CEO, a union boss, or the child of somebody famous.


If you’ve made it to this level, it’s probably because some unique skill or talent for which you were relentlessly teased in high school got you here. At reunion parties, you can’t wait to answer the question, “so, how are you doing these days?” However, it’s easy to make tax mistakes with thus much mullah, so be extra careful. Don’t let that $8,756 persian rug you wrote off as an “office expense” land you in prison for five years.

$250k – $1 million

Congratulations, you are “the man” at this level. You have a five car garage filled with Porches and/or Land Rovers. At some point you’ll consider running for Congress or traveling the world. Just remember to keep your doors and windows locked at night because somebody somewhere is always plotting for your kidnap.

$1 million +

Basically, everything in the $250-$1 million level, except your closet has way more Hawaiin shirts.

That’s all for now.

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