In the past, most people associated with other people in roughly the same income bracket. So they felt financially, “normal.” Things are different nowadays. Juliet Schor is a sociologist who studies modern consumerism and society. She wrote:
In our culture we are not longer divided as much by classes, instead we are divided into reference groups. For example, young poet waiters making $18,000 a year, English teachers making $40,000 a year, editors and publishers earning six figure incomes, and author celebrities making millions of dollars are all part of one urban literary referent group.
This referent group exerts pressure to drink the same brands of bottled water and wine, to wear the same urban literary clothing and fashions, to fill their apartments with the same urban literary furnishings. And yet, even those only making $100,000 a year could easily find themselves in an untenable position.
More than ever before, we are exposed to money differences, and it makes us more money-sick.