Most people I run into are quite happy to have the "what you like to do with your time" response to the question. I think especially with the rough economy, that forcing someone into a situation where they have to say "I was laid off and nobody will hire me" is quite poor manners. So far I haven't run into someone who is like that. But I can certainly also imagine that some people ARE like that. Even more than that, maybe in certain circles those people then attract other like-minded people.
So it absolutely could be that the groups I hang out with don't ask questions like this - and that in other groups it is all they talk about.
For example if I went to my yoga class and we asked each other what we do, we would talk about gardening and birding and such. It would be a question about the person as a human being and their interests.
But maybe, just to stereotype for a minute, if I went to a banking convention, they would all be talking about their job and promotion path and so on.
So then that's a great question. What if you get cornered by someone who is income-earning-path obsessed? What if that is what they want to know and they are tenacious-like-bulldog?
For me, I would see this as an entertaining personal challenge, because my way of viewing the world is so different than theirs. I would take it on as a fun mission to see if I could tweak their view of the world, even slightly. So I would become even more creative in ways to show them that their ranking system was inapplicable to me, and that they'd have to put me into an "other" category.
My hope would be that if they ran into this a few times they might start to realize that the "other" category was one that people *could* belong to.
Just like Ian said - if they started to press me about money, I'd go off on a tangent about how a life without a focus on money is blissful and serene