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Is boating for the middle class?

By Brianna Liestman

Ever since the Department of Labor announced its final rule on overtime pay, I have been reading articles for different groups to gauge reactions. One from National Public Radio particularly caught my eye.

The article from NPR covering the impact of the final rule is part of a series called “Hangin’ On,” covering the economic pressures of American life. In the intro portion of the transcript, men and women talk about the middle class, what it is and what it isn’t. These two statements were the most glaring to me, for obvious reasons:

“UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We have a car, but we live in an apartment. That's middle class.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: If you add a boat, then you're not middle class anymore. That's what changes it right there.”

That’s a bit depressing. What was once considered a standard middle-class recreational activity this population now sees as unattainable. And when you look at the rate at which wages have not risen over the years, it’s easy to understand that this is not an isolated opinion of one man.

This begs a question I think is important for our industry to answer: Do we double-down on this perception and accept that, with stagnant wages and mounting student loan debt, boating will continue to evolve into an activity only for the more affluent, or do we work harder to change the perception? Do we embrace cost-effective entry points like peer-to-peer rentals and boat clubs to keep people believing boating is attainable? Do we work harder to drive down the costs of new boats with simpler design?

These are the pressing questions that we have as an industry today. We need to be sure we are always working to answer them, because the perception is already moving without us.

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