Talk about your place in society, Part 1: Wealth

Wealthy people on a jet

How would you describe your place in society?

Your "place in society" includes a few different aspectes:

  • how much money you have
  • your level of education
  • the kind of job you have
  • your ethnic background

It can be tricky to talk about these issues politely, but it's something that people discuss from time to time.

An academic term for someone's wealth and income is "socioeconomic status".

Being poor

People who don't make enough money to get by easily are "poor". But the word "poor" has a negative sound, so there are other more polite phrases that you can use instead. You can describe someone as "struggling" which means that someone's life is difficult:

There are a lot of struggling families who need our help.

He lived his whole life as a struggling artist and didn't become famous until after his death. 

You can also say that someone is "disadvantaged", which means that they don't have as many advantages as other people:

This scholarship supports disadvantaged youth who can't afford to pay for their education.

People who are not poor but also don't have much money are sometimes called "working class". This means that they work at jobs that don't pay a lot of money.

I grew up in a working-class family in a small town.

Being middle class

Another level above "working class" is "middle class". If you're middle class, you're able to afford a "normal" lifestyle. Depending on where you live, that might include things like owning a home, owning a car, going out to eat at restaurants sometimes, etc.

We can also split up middle class into "lower middle class" and "upper middle class":

I was very lucky to have grown up in an upper middle class family and been given a good education.

When you're talking about someone who is upper middle class, you can say that they are "well-off":

Jenn and Jake are pretty well-off.

That might mean that they have a nicer house than usual, or get to take expensive vacations sometimes.

Being rich

There are a lot of ways to talk about rich people. A positive way to talk about someone is to say that they're "wealthy":

I heard that she has a wealthy uncle.

 These are some other, less polite, phrases:

I hear he's loaded.

They're filthy rich.

If you know how much money someone has, you can describe them as a "millionaire" (meaning that they have over a million dollars) or a "billionaire" (meaning that they have a billion dollars or more)

phrase that has just started to become popular in the last few years to tallk about wealthy people is "the one percent". This means the people who are in the top 1% of wealth:

It's easy to get by in society when you're part of the one percent.

You can call people who belong to this group "one percenters".

If you want to talk about someone who was rich since a young age, you can call them "privileged":

She had a privileged upbringing.

We also make a distinction between families who recently became wealthy and those who have been rich for several generations:

These new money millionaires have been coming in and building these huge mansions in the area.

She comes from an old money family.

Next post

In my next post, I'll talk about another aspect of one's place in society: your profession.

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