In the last year, individuals belonging to the Middle Class Money have undergone notable transformations in their financial strategies. These shifts reflect a growing trend towards securing financial stability through various means. One prevalent change involves an increased emphasis on taking up side gigs and creating passive income streams. This proactive approach aims to fortify their economic standing and provide a safety net for the future.
Additionally, another significant trend observed among the middle class is their inclination towards making informed investment decisions. Many have opted for low-risk, sustainable, and alternative investments, diversifying their portfolios in a bid to enhance their wealth. This diversification strategy not only spreads financial risk but also opens doors to new opportunities, reflecting a forward-thinking mindset among the middle-class population.
Whether you find yourself within the middle-class bracket, seeking insights into your peers’ financial choices, or are striving towards achieving that status, it’s crucial to understand the prevailing money-related transformations of 2023. These trends, as highlighted by financial experts, provide valuable guidance for anyone aiming to optimize their financial decisions and build a secure future.
1. Taking on Side Gigs:
The side gig economy has experienced significant growth, particularly in recent years. This trend has not bypassed the middle class, as many individuals have embraced side hustles to augment their primary income sources.
Jeff Rose, a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of Good Financial Cents, noted this shift towards gig and side jobs to supplement income. He emphasized the impact of platforms such as Uber, Etsy, and various freelance job websites. These platforms have empowered middle-class individuals to explore innovative avenues for earning additional income outside their traditional 9-to-5 jobs. This adaptation to the gig economy reflects the resourcefulness of the middle class, showcasing their ability to harness new opportunities in the evolving landscape of work and finance.
2. Building More Passive Income:
The middle class, along with many others, has increasingly turned to building passive income streams as a means of supplementing their regular earnings. This proactive approach involves various strategies, such as investing in dividend-yielding assets, venturing into rental properties, and creating online content with the potential to generate income over time, all without requiring active daily involvement.
Jeff Rose highlighted this trend, emphasizing how individuals are exploring avenues like dividend stocks, real estate investments, and online content creation. These ventures allow people to earn money passively, meaning they continue to generate income without the need for constant, active effort. This shift in focus toward passive income reflects a strategic financial mindset among the middle class, demonstrating their willingness to invest time and resources in ventures that offer long-term financial stability and security.
3. Hoarding Money:
A notable trend among middle-class individuals in recent times has been the inclination to hoard their money. While not an entirely new phenomenon, this behavior appears to have gained prominence, possibly influenced by the economic unpredictability experienced in recent years. The tendency to hoard money could also be attributed to the prevalent “work hard” mentality prevalent among the middle class.
Greg Vojtanek, a Certified Financial Planner and the owner of Fade In Financial, shared insights into this trend based on his experiences with middle-class clients. According to him, there has been a noticeable increase in the inclination to hoard money. Although not extreme to the extent of stuffing cash under the mattress, many individuals have opted for conservative approaches to safeguard their hard-earned money. This cautious attitude is reflected in their investment choices, with a significant portion of their portfolios allocated to secure options such as Certificates of Deposit (CDs), High Yield Savings accounts, and Treasury Bills.
The fear of potential loss in the value of their money has driven them to seek the safety of these low-risk investment vehicles, highlighting the importance of financial security and stability for the middle class in the face of economic uncertainty.
4. Eliminating Unnecessary Expenses:
In response to economic instability and rising interest rates, a growing number of middle-class individuals have been actively eliminating unnecessary expenses from their budgets. This trend reflects a conscious effort to reduce financial strain and allocate funds for other priorities.
Jeff Rose emphasized this shift, highlighting how the increasing cost of living has prompted many individuals to reevaluate their spending habits. To adapt, middle-class households have been making practical changes, such as dining out less frequently, canceling cable subscriptions, and opting for more budget-friendly brands and stores. These deliberate choices to trim unnecessary expenses showcase the middle class’s resilience and adaptability in the face of economic challenges. By cutting back on non-essential costs, individuals aim to create financial breathing room, allowing them to navigate the uncertain economic landscape with greater financial security.
5. Focusing on Emergency Funds:
The middle class has placed an unprecedented emphasis on building emergency funds, recognizing the crucial role these financial safety nets play in times of uncertainty.
According to Nikita, founder and CEO of Aiscreen, a significant shift has been observed among middle-class clients. Nearly 70% of them have proactively worked to strengthen their emergency savings. The goal for many is to accumulate a reserve equivalent to at least 6-9 months’ worth of living expenses. This heightened focus on financial security directly correlates with the economic uncertainties stemming from the pandemic. Middle-class individuals have become acutely aware of the importance of having a financial cushion to rely on during unforeseen circumstances, prompting them to prioritize building robust emergency funds. This strategic approach not only provides a sense of stability but also offers a practical solution for mitigating the impact of unexpected financial challenges.
6. Focusing on Sustainable Investments:
In recent times, a notable trend has emerged where individuals are increasingly turning to sustainable investments, often referred to as ethical or social investments. This shift represents an investment strategy that emphasizes the impact on the environment alongside financial returns.
Casey Jones, founder and head of finance at CJ&CO, highlighted this growing phenomenon. Many investors are now aligning their investment choices with their values, actively seeking opportunities that offer not only financial returns but also contribute positively to society and the environment.
This conscious approach to investing reflects a broader societal awareness and responsibility, with individuals recognizing the importance of supporting businesses and initiatives that align with their ethical beliefs. By focusing on sustainable investments, people are not only aiming for financial growth but also actively participating in the promotion of positive environmental and social change.
7. Investing in Fractional Real Estate:
Investing in fractional real estate has become a popular trend, enabling individuals to invest in high-value properties alongside others to spread risk and generate financial returns.
According to John Browning, founder of Guardian Rock Wealth, some middle-class individuals are embracing fractional ownership of real estate through platforms like RealT or Slice. This approach allows them to invest in valuable properties without the burden of a full mortgage, providing an opportunity to diversify their investment portfolio. Fractional real estate investment offers a unique way for the middle class to enter the real estate market, which was traditionally less accessible to them.
This trend is driven by a desire for real estate investment and provides a level of diversification that was previously reserved for the wealthy. By participating in fractional ownership, middle-class investors can access real estate opportunities and enjoy the benefits of this asset class, enhancing their overall investment strategy.
8. Using Online Financial Management Tools:
The use of online financial management tools, despite being available for a while, continues to gain popularity, especially among middle-class individuals who are increasingly favoring these digital solutions over traditional money management methods.
Jeff Rose pointed out this significant shift, highlighting the growing adoption of online financial management tools. Platforms like Robinhood and Acorns have played a pivotal role, enabling middle-class individuals to invest small amounts regularly. Additionally, budgeting apps, online investment platforms, and digital banks are becoming the preferred choice over traditional banking and financial services. This trend reflects a broader movement towards digital convenience and accessibility in managing finances. The ease of use, real-time tracking, and accessibility offered by these online tools make them attractive options for the middle class, empowering them to take control of their financial activities efficiently and conveniently.
9. Switching to Alternative Healthcare Financing:
The increasing costs of healthcare have had a significant impact on the financial habits of middle-class individuals. Unable to access the same financial resources as the wealthy, many in the middle class have turned to alternative healthcare financing solutions to manage these expenses effectively.
John Browning, founder of Guardian Rock Wealth, highlighted this trend, emphasizing how middle-class families are exploring alternatives such as healthcare cost-sharing ministries like Medi-Share or Samaritan Ministries. These programs involve members pooling their money to cover medical expenses, offering a community-based approach to healthcare financing. What makes these alternatives particularly attractive is their lower monthly costs compared to traditional health insurance plans. By opting for these innovative solutions, middle-class individuals can navigate the challenges posed by rising healthcare costs while ensuring they have access to necessary medical services.
10. Increasing Charitable Giving:
Certainly, it’s not just about saving money or managing risks; some middle-class individuals have also adapted their financial habits to include charitable giving in a strategic and tax-efficient manner. One way they are achieving this is through the use of tax-efficient donor-advised funds (DAFs).
According to John Browning, founder of Guardian Rock Wealth, these funds enable donors to contribute appreciated assets, such as stocks, and receive tax benefits while retaining the flexibility to decide when and where to distribute the funds to their chosen charitable causes. Middle-class individuals are becoming more intentional and strategic in their charitable giving, aiming to maximize the impact of their resources both for philanthropic purposes and tax efficiency. This approach allows them to support charitable causes effectively while optimizing their contributions to make a positive difference in their communities.
11. Diversifying With Alternative Investments:
Indeed, alternative investments, such as cryptocurrency, have gained traction among the middle class, primarily due to their potential to serve as a hedge against rising inflation rates.
John Browning, founder of Guardian Rock Wealth, highlighted the growing interest among middle-class investors in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin as a means to counter inflation. Many view digital assets as a store of value capable of safeguarding their wealth from erosion caused by increasing consumer prices. This trend is propelled by concerns about the devaluation of fiat currencies and a desire to explore alternative assets that have shown resilience in the face of economic uncertainties. Middle-class individuals are increasingly diversifying their investment portfolios to include cryptocurrencies, recognizing the potential benefits these assets offer in preserving their wealth and hedging against the impact of inflation on their financial stability.
12. Purchasing Secondhand or Used Goods:
To reduce costs and save money, a growing number of middle-class individuals have shifted their spending habits towards purchasing secondhand or used goods instead of new ones.
Nikita, founder and CEO of Aiscreen, noted this change, indicating that approximately 30-40% of her clients have adjusted their shopping preferences. They are now opting for secondhand or sustainable products, especially in areas such as fashion and electronics. This shift aligns with their commitment to reducing environmental impact, reflecting a dual focus on both economical and ecological considerations. By choosing secondhand items, middle-class consumers not only cut expenses but also actively contribute to sustainable practices, embodying a conscientious approach to both their finances and the environment.