Are you considered middle class? Here's 1 factor beside salary that determines your status

There are certain benchmarks Americans consider when viewing themselves as middle class – owning a home, a car or being employed at a specific income level.

However, there is one factor that perhaps most clearly defines whether someone can be considered middle class: access to credit.

It is often pricey for Americans with subprime credit scores (usually lower than the 650 to 700 range) to borrow money when they need it. Therefore, when they do borrow money, assuming they are approved, the funds come with a hefty interest rate.

Access, experts say, is key.

"The new middle-class divider is access to credit," Jonathan Walker, the executive director of Elevate's Center for the New Middle Class, a research and advocacy group, recently told USA Today. "When unexpected expenses pop up, they can become a crisis if you don't have access to credit."

"Anyone who has to pay 400 percent annual interest (for a payday-type loan) probably isn't going to be able to pay it off quickly," Mike Sullivan, a personal finance consultant at Take Charge America, a Phoenix-based credit-counseling company, told the outlet. "Once you're dealing with payday loans, it's difficult to get out."

There are a series of common financial mistakes middle-income Americans make which can put them in the position of needing additional credit.

Among the most common issues: not making more than the minimum payment on credit cards, not having more than $50,000 in life insurance coverage and not having enough savings for at least three months of expenses.


“If you can set aside a fixed percentage or a fixed amount to start building that emergency fund, that’s a great way to begin,” Glenn Williams, the CEO of marketing and financial services company Primerica, previously told Fox Business. “You may take two steps forward and one step back. You may start building the emergency fund and then have an emergency, but at least you didn’t put it on your credit card.  Already you’ve made progress if you’ve started eliminating the use of credit cards and the building of that debt.”

And you’ll be on your way to the middle class.

Fox Business’ Linda Bell contributed to this report.