Social class and perception – 2 ideas that don’t usually go hand on hand, except when I’m talking.
I had always perceived my family to be lower middle class. We certainly weren’t any higher but we were doing abut as well as most people I knew and, in my mind, I equated average with middle class. I definitely was envious of those with more money but was a firsthand witness to the hard work necessary to put food on the table, especially in my early teen years when my single mother was trying to support the both of us after just having left her husband.
We saw some improvement after Mom married Tim. For once, there were 2 working adults compared to a single parent or how it had been with Mom’s ex-husband who worked when he wasn’t too lazy in a very unstable profession. I hesitate to call him an entrepreneur but he did “own his own company” in the very lightest sense of the term. Whether we had any money depended on whether he wanted to work that day which often wasn’t the case and was never a good idea in the field he was in.
But things looked up, not much but we always had a roof over our heads and food to eat plus little perks here or there. I reveled at having my own money when I was working part time in high school. I partook in shopping to an extent I’d never had to chance to explore, before; even though it really wasn’t much. I could choose what I wanted and when and, since it was my own money, my purchases were mine and mine alone.
i think that little taste of freedom led me to feel very restricted by the financial situation I’d known all my life. As I graduated, started working full time and moved out, and found myself with money to spend, I continued to do so, more than before but only what I could afford. And what I could afford, I realized, was more than what we could afford before even though I was only working as a cashier. It only occurred to me what the reality of the situation was after I’d been removed from it.
And it’s interesting that what had been average was much lower than I realized. What I had considered middle class, was in fact, working class. What I had considered to be well off was more along the lines of middle class because my perception had been skewed. All of this, of course, I only just found out recently as I had been browsing Wikipedia pages on American classes.
But I’m not the exception. I think that people tend to spend greater amounts of time with others of similar classes and thus their children will also spend time with people in similar situations and they tend to assume it’s the norm. Only when removed from the situation can people see that yes, that is indeed the norm or, no, it’s actually lower or higher than the norm.
And once you’re out on your own without support from your parents anymore, it doesn’t really matter. You start at the bottom and, hopefully, work yourself up to the standard that you are most comfortable with. But whether you’re effective at saving and budgeting can certainly revolve around the perceptions you develop about money from a young age.
I think it does us all good to have our perceptions challenged from time to time.