How Do You Define “Well Off?”

More Money, Money Magazine’s personal finance blog, wants to hear from anyone who falls into the category “well off” and who is facing foreclosure.

The blog mentions a study by the Florida Association of Realtors that cross-referenced three years of foreclosure filings with demographic data. The study found that 20 percent of the filings went to households with more than $100,000 in annual income. Fifteen percent of homeowners had college degrees; another 8 percent went to graduate school.

But what is “well off” anyway? Fifty years ago, $1 had the same buying power as $7.35. Someone with a $100,000 annual income in those days was unquestionably rich. Today, that amount is still considered well-to-do, and yet, the analysis shows, it is not enough to shield families from foreclosure.

The study screened out those who were buying on speculation. These were responsible ordinary folks, well … well-to-do ordinary folks. Thirty-five percent of homeowners who received a foreclosure filing “had lived in their homes for more than 10 years. These were not people who’d bought too much house, but more likely people who lost their jobs and suddenly couldn’t afford the payments.”

These people’s finances, it seemed, died a death of thousand cuts. According to the blog, “it was very rare for just one financial setback to lead to the foreclosure. The group’s vice president of public policy, John Sebree, called this the ‘plus one’ effect: It wasn’t just a high-interest-rate, high-payment subprime loan that might have caused a foreclosure; it was a bad loan and then a job loss. Alternatively, it wasn’t a job loss that caused an affordable loan to go bad; it was a job loss and a health issue.”

And so it goes. Financial stability, it seems, is a three-legged chair, propped up by health, employment and sound financial decisions. How much control do any of us have over any of these factors?

Do you consider yourself wealthy (regardless of where your income falls on the “well-to-do” scale). What is (are) your greatest treasure(s)? How do you protect it (them)?

Chris Henry, South Kitsap/government reporter

3 thoughts on “How Do You Define “Well Off?”

  1. My military retirement and current income equal about 120k a year and yet I am anything but “wealthy”. If I had to play the lib game and pigeon hole myself into a class, I would say “middle class”.

    My wife works, we have a daughter going to OC, live in a 1700sqft house, have a dog, three cars and a boat. Definately not rich by any means. I like to think of my family as blessed.

    Not facing anything close to foreclosure. In fact, our plan from the begining was to have a house payment that would be covered by my military retirement. In case anything happened, we would always have a place to live.

    Always plan for the worse, hope for the best.

  2. Along with planning for the worst, hoping for the best. . . I was looking among some of our memorabilia, I discovered a poem entitled,
    ‘Life’s Happiness’. A Sonnet by Christoph Plantin.

    To have a spacious home fair deck’d and beautiful,
    A garden bowered with perfumed blossoms gay,
    Ripe fruits, old wine, few children, simple tastes,
    A wife the joy of each succeeding day.

    Free from debt, intrigue or legal quarrel,
    From family dispute and warring faction,
    Content with little, but that little good,
    With justice regulating every action.

    Life freely, wisely, with controlled ambition,
    Surrendering thine hours to work’s devotion,
    Thy passions harnessed, thus achieve fruition.

    Maintain the spirit free, the judgment strong,
    Let work they worship be the glad day long,
    Thus shalt thou calmly wait life’s evensong.

  3. As my grandmother used to say..”Lign in drerd un bakn beygl”…and “Mann tracht und Gott lacht”. We plan for great things, spend out whole life working for it, but in the end, we are the joke.
    ‘Well off’ is what you make of it. The couple with 8 kids, on a shoe string diet, might consider themselves to be ‘well off’ because to them, having the joy of so many children in the best exchange for any amount of money. The couple most might assume are ‘well off’ and have all the money in the world, no kids, all the freedom available, and no little ones to share it with might be the least ‘wel off’.

    And always remember that if you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to, and golden dreams make men wake hungry.

    Find ‘well off’ with what you have, create your own heaven and live your own destiny. Don’t let others define you, or what makes you happy. And one last saying from my dear Oma ‘Az in harsn iz biter, helft nit in moyl arayn tsuker’…no amount of sugar can make a bitter life sweeter.

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