Americans Say It Takes This Much Money to Be Wealthy

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A wealthy couple
Jacob Lund /

How much money do you need to be considered wealthy? Americans have nailed it down to an exact number: $1.9 million.

Respondents in the Charles Schwab 2021 Modern Wealth Survey came to that figure as the minimum net worth a person needs to reach the status of the well-to-do.

On the one hand, that might sound like a lot of green — and it is. Schwab points out that $1.9 million is far beyond the actual average net worth of U.S. households — $748,800 as of 2019, the latest year for which federal data is available. It’s even farther beyond the median (midpoint) net worth of households — $121,700.

However, the $1.9 million amount is $700,000 less than the $2.6 million that respondents to last year’s survey said was the minimum needed to be considered wealthy. Schwab says the 2020 survey was taken before the pandemic.

Being wealthy is different from being financially happy, or even just feeling comfortable. According to the survey of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 21 and 75, here is how much net worth a person needs to reach three key milestones:

  • To be wealthy: $1.9 million
  • To achieve financial happiness: $1.1 million
  • To be financially comfortable: $624,000

In addition to saying it takes less money to be considered wealthy in 2021 than in 2020, respondents said it takes less money to achieve financial happiness (down from $1.75 million in 2020) and to be financially comfortable (down from $934,000 in 2020).

Schwab speculates that Americans may be lowering the bar on what it takes to achieve financial success because their priorities have changed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the survey, 68% of respondents said their lifestyle priorities have changed because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

While 69% said mental health is more of a priority now than before the start of the pandemic, just 54% said the same thing about financial health. That is true despite the fact that a majority — 53% — said the pandemic negatively impacted their finances.

How to join the ranks of the ‘wealthy’

Sure, $1.9 million sounds like a lot of money. But it’s far from impossible to reach that goal during your lifetime, even if your income is relatively modest.

The key is to save and invest well over very long periods of time. Tiny seeds of wealth can grow into mighty money trees if you give them enough time.

If you want to build wealth starting today, sign up for Money Talks News’ course Money Made Simple.

Money Made Simple is an online course — no waiting for books in the mail! — with lessons on 13 key financial topics featuring short videos as well as jargon-free articles and worksheets. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson created the course. The chapters cover everything you need to know about:

  • Setting and achieving goals
  • Organizing your finances
  • Budgeting
  • Living more while spending less
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