Are You Rich? Here's What Americans Think You Need To Be Considered Wealthy

In the United States, the concept of being rich is often a subject of discussion, curiosity and, sometimes, aspiration. Charles Schwab's 2023 Modern Wealth Survey provides insights into this topic, revealing that the average American equates being wealthy with a net worth of approximately $2.2 million. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 financial advisors that serve your area in minutes.

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Although the most recent data from the Federal Reserve reveals the average American household is a millionaire with a net worth of $1.06 million, looking at the median or midpoint value portrays a more accurate picture. Based on the October report from the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of U.S. households overall is $192,900. 

But how spot-on are Americans’ perceptions of wealth?

Top 2% wealth: The top 2% of Americans have a net worth of about $2.472 million, aligning closely with the surveyed perception of wealth.

Top 5% wealth: The next tier, the top 5%, has a net worth of around $1.03 million.

Top 10% wealth: The top 10% of the population has a net worth of approximately $854,900.

These figures illustrate a dramatic wealth gradient in the U.S., indicating a substantial increase in net worth needed to move from the top 10% to the top 2%.

Understanding Wealth Beyond Numbers

Wealth is not solely about the figures in your bank account or investment portfolio; it's also about how you perceive and use your resources. Here are some tips and perspectives to understand and potentially achieve wealth.

Savings and spending habits: Being able to save, that is, spending less than you earn, is a foundational aspect of accumulating wealth. Establishing robust financial habits like budgeting and goal-setting can pave the way to wealth, regardless of the specific dollar amount.

Living below your means: In a world where consumerism is rampant, living below your means is a key principle. This might involve cutting unnecessary expenses, like reducing monthly subscriptions or dining out less frequently. Such habits not only bolster savings but also prepare you for financial emergencies.

Affording desires: The ability to save and spend wisely often leads to the capacity to afford what you desire, whether it is a new vehicle or a vacation. Achieving financial goals is a strong indicator of wealth.

Life goals over money: Wealth is not just about accumulating money but also about fulfilling life aspirations. Whether it's running a business, becoming debt-free or saving for retirement, having a clear vision is crucial.

Preparing for retirement: A key aspect of being wealthy is having a solid retirement plan. This involves understanding how much to save and starting early to build a financial foundation for the golden years.

Retirement Planning Should be Customized To Your Lifestyle And Goals

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Money as a tool: Viewing money as a means to improve your life, rather than a source of stress, can shift your approach to wealth. Small steps like allocating extra funds toward high-interest debt can help in building a brighter financial future.

Flexibility and options: Wealth often equates to having choices — whether it's taking time off for family, investing in a business idea or learning a new skill. This flexibility is a significant indicator of wealth.

A Subjective Concept

While having a net worth of about $2.2 million is seen as the benchmark for being rich in America, it's essential to remember that wealth is a subjective concept. Healthy financial habits and personal perspectives on money are crucial in defining and achieving wealth. By focusing on smart financial planning and aligning money with personal values and goals, people can navigate their path toward what they consider to be wealthy.

Financial advisors can provide tailored advice and strategies to help achieve specific financial goals. Leveraging their expertise, people can effectively pursue their unique definition of wealth, encompassing asset growth, retirement security and other financial aspirations.


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*Jeannine Mancini has written about personal finance and investment for the past 13 years in a variety of publications, including Zacks, The Nest and eHow. She is not a licensed financial adviser and the content herein is for information purposes only and is not, and does not constitute or intend to constitute, investment advice or any investment service. While Mancini believes that the information contained herein is reliable and derived from reliable sources, there is no representation, warranty or undertaking, stated or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information.