How Much Money Does It Take to Be Considered Wealthy in America?

A new survey suggests that number is $2.2 million — but people are defining wealth differently

A person displaying dollar bills. A new survey suggests Americans define wealth has having an average of $2.2 million
Gonna need a few more hundos
Alexander Mils on Unsplash

For Americans, the definition of wealthy is currently sitting at $2.2 million, according to Charles Schwab’s 2023 Modern Wealth Survey (per Bloomberg). Around 1,000 survey respondents, when asked to express how much money it takes to be considered “wealthy” in this country, said it’s an average of $2.2 million.

But other numbers in the survey suggest that Americans appreciate far more important things than money. When asked what wealth means to them, 70% of respondents picked “enjoying experiences” over “owning nice things.” As well, 48% of Americans surveyed who say they already feel wealthy today had an average net worth of “just” $560,000, or about one-quarter of the loftier target.

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“Americans today aren’t as worried about keeping up with the Joneses, and more importantly, they understand that they can be happier with fulfilling experiences and relationships, even if they have less money than them,” said Jonathan Craig, managing director and head of investor services at Charles Schwab.

A few other findings:

  • Only 35% of respondents say they’ve plotted their goals and documented a financial plan
  • For those who don’t have a plan, most say it’s because they don’t have enough money (44%), followed by “it’s too complicated” (21%) or they don’t have enough time (20%)
  • 47% of all surveyed people say being able to afford a lifestyle comparable to their friends makes them feel wealthy — that number is much higher for Gen Z (61%) but much lower for Boomers (31%)
  • Gen Z and Millenials were much more likely to say they compared lifestyles or made purchases, financial decisions or investment decisions based on what friends or influencers share on social media

Thankfully, overall numbers suggest that people much prefer to not stress over money versus having “more” money than friends or achieving a healthy work-life balance over maximizing earnings. Good health, healthy relationships and work flexibility also took precedence over success, amount of money or high salary, particularly among older generations.

The lesson here? Money may be less important to older generations — but they’re also the people who probably have more savings and, particularly among Boomers, had more affordable housing and less debt than younger generations.

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