Can the requirements for riches be quantified, or do they vary greatly depending on context?
The above infographic analyzes responses to Charles Schwab’s 2023 Modern Wealth Survey, in which respondents are asked what level of wealth is deemed “wealthy” in the United States.
The statistics that somewhat contradicts these conclusions are discussed later on, and they suggest that wealth is more than just a number for many of the same respondents.
The American Affluent: A Look Inside
In 2023, Americans estimate that a net worth of $2.2 million is required to be “wealthy” in the United States.
Based on a survey of 1,000 people between the ages of 21 and 75 in 12 main U.S. cities, the following are the average wealth figures that respondents reported:
To be considered affluent in San Francisco, respondents estimated a net worth of $4,7 million, the highest of all cities surveyed and more than double the national average. This number decreased from the previous year, when it was $5.4 million.
The vast majority of San Francisco residents say that inflation has affected their finances, and more than half say that the city’s high cost of living hinders their ability to attain their financial goals. Los Angeles and San Diego have the second-highest wealth thresholds among the cities surveyed, at $3.5 million. It takes $3.3 million in New York to attain this level of net worth.
It is home to more than 345,000 millionaires, the greatest number in the world. Respondents in Houston, where the cost of living is less than half that of San Francisco, estimated that a net worth of $2.1 million is required to be considered affluent. In Houston, the average salary is $67,000, while in San Francisco it is $81,000.
The Wealth Dilemma
Separately, respondents were asked if they “feel wealthy” themselves.
In total, 48% of respondents reported feeling affluent, and their average net worth was $560,000. This is a significant deviation from the $2.2 million benchmark they stated was required to be considered affluent.
The following breakdown of significant cities exemplifies the paradox:
57% of respondents from the millennial generation felt affluent, while only 40% of boomers felt wealthy, the lowest percentage of all generations surveyed.
The Cause of the Difference
When one digs deeper, it becomes evident that wealth is more than just a number.
In fact, the study results show that when it comes to wealth, many Americans prioritize non-monetary assets over monetary assets.
For example, 72% of respondents indicated having a good personal life was a better description of wealth than working on a job, which was chosen by only 28%. Meanwhile, loving experiences (70%) was a greater indicator of wealth than possessing a lot of lovely things (30%).
Surprisingly, there was a lower margin of preference for time (61%) over money (39%).
These findings go beyond monetary figures to show the layers that influence what it means to be financially healthy today and how this affects an individual’s overall quality of life.