AND THE LIVING IS EASY
Never before in human history have so large a number of people been able to live lives as remarkably convenient, luxurious and pleasure-filled as have the American upper middle classes over the last several decades. This is a strange time, given the fallout from the Great Recession to be making such a claim. But though some insecurity has clouded the picture, most members of this group still have been able to live as well, if not better, than ever. Not as opulently, perhaps, as the rich, but bear in mind the extravagantly wealthy are but a handful compared to the sizable numbers of your upper middle classes. Under consideration here, depending where in the U.S. they live, are people earning anywhere from $250,000 to $750,000 annually and whose wealth in the form of real estate, securities, automobiles and collectibles ranges into the millions.
Not all live lavishly, but nearly all live exceptionally well. So, let’s consider the kind of material and social existence they’ve constructed for themselves. Their homes are large- three, four, five thousand square feet and up, and richly appointed (thanks to the assistance of designers and interior decorators). An up-to-the-minute kitchen employing state-of-the-art technologies is a must, as are mounted oversized flat screen TVs deployed throughout the house, as well as dramatic lighting arrangements. Bedrooms and bathrooms (including the obligatory hot tubs and whirl-pool baths) abound, as do skylights wherever possible. Walk-in closets are plentiful, many containing designer clothes and high-end footwear. Zone heating and cooling keep occupants comfortable in all seasons. Tasteful and obviously high-value artwork adorn the walls and prominent surfaces, while exquisite tiles and heirloom rugs spread across the floors. Separate rooms are set aside, one well equipped for physical exercise, another for visual entertainment. In addition, massage therapists and personal trainers are scheduled for regular visits.
Outside, the trees are stately and the shrubbery artfully designed. The large expanse of lawn, flawless and fresh, spreads out in all directions, maintained by an elaborate sprinkler system. In the garage and on the driveway stand two or three vehicles, perhaps a vintage model, together with a BMW and Lexus SUV. When required, household help is always available, whether it is live-ins, drop-ins, day workers, gardeners, cleaning brigades, as well as cooks and servers for dinner parties and periodic celebrations.
Breakfast is taken at home, but lunches and often dinner are eaten out at favorite local eateries and, on weekends, at more formal dining spots. Drinks, fine wines, and fancy desserts often accompany the main dishes. Tabs of close to one hundred dollars per person occasion little notice. These folks also attend numerous charitable fund raisers where they are expected to make substantial contributions.
The principal residence is not always occupied; time is often spent at a second home, whether located in a warm climate, say Palm Beach or Scottsdale or along the shores of a quiet and very private Caribbean island cove or alongside a well-known Colorado ski slope or wooded retreat on Martha’s Vineyard. Second homes are for relaxing, getaways, entertaining and regular family gatherings.
Vacations and travel are a regular feature of the upper middle class regimen. The world is open to them. They tend to be mildly adventurous, heading off to the standard European destinations, including spas and renting villas here and there – as well as touring around Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and selected destinations in Africa and South America.
The upper middle classes have direct access to whatever forms of entertainment please them. It could be a season’s subscription to the opera or symphony orchestra or to expensive seats at every home game of the professional team in town. Absent season tickets, they’re prepared to pay almost any price to attend specific games, concerts or other highly anticipated presentations.
Our upper strata enjoy exceptional personal care and attention. They’ll pay lofty sums for haircuts and stylings, together with beauty treatments of all sorts. Cosmetic surgery for women and increasingly for men as well is widely accepted along with repeat procedures to maintain that which has been transformed. Almost all have family doctors, together with a constellation of specialists, including nutritionists and chiropractors who attend to their needs. All benefit from gilt-edged health insurance policies. Should hospitalization prove necessary, they enter world-class facilities and choose to recover in private rooms, care supplemented by private nurses.
This is not to imply that these people are all happy and fulfilled or are strangers to disappointment and depression. It is rather to observe that at this point in history, substantial numbers of our fellow citizens are able to provide themselves with a truly enviable standard of living. Readily available to them is a range of creature comforts, personal services and entertainment and recreation options that are unmatched, even when compared to the richest and most powerful people who’ve ever walked the earth.