I posted on a similar poll a while back. Here it is again:
In 1988 I made $4000, MORE than my mother that year (my senior year of HS/first year of college)
In 1993 I made about $7000
In 1996 I made around $21000
In 1998 DH and I made around $50000
Last year we made about $120000, but...
I lost my job this year, so it's less than that, but we're still very secure.
I too grew up poor and now find myself in the upper 10% income-wise. It's one HELL of a shock. I'm NOT a spender. I still get a huge thrill out of shopping at the Salvation Army and finding Gymboree outfits and Hanna Andersson clothes for $2. I shop loss leaders--but buy mostly organic. We own our cars, but they're older--a 2000 minivan and a 1996 Saturn. Our house is quite nice but not flashy--and the mortgage is half of that of our friends, because we choose to live in a cheaper area.
That said, we max out the 401K, save for our sons' college, help DH's parents, and carry no debt now other than the mortgage.
We make MORE than many families we know, who consider us "poorer" because we don't drive a new SUV or Lexus, don't live in a "better" Boston suburb, don't blow $8000 on Disney World every year, don't have cable tv, don't...well, there are lots of "don'ts" for us financially.
One thing we do, though, is give money to causes we believe in (like the Mothering boards, for instance
). We aren't perfect--we blow money on fru-fru things here and there, but we don't go nuts being consumers. We do invest in our kids' private school educations (Montessori) which is our real luxury.
I have a friend who is contemplating leaving her emotionally abusive husband. The lawyer she consulted told her she'd get around $50,000 in child support. He told her she couldn't "possibly" raise three small kids on that in this area (Boston suburbs). She told this to me as if it were gospel, and therefore she's going to stay with him for another four years until the little ones are in first grade.
Now THAT'S someone who is TRULY "poor".