Here’s How Much Money You Need To Feel Wealthy In 12 Major U.S. Cities Right Now

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Navigating the landscape of wealth in America is no easy feat. Determining what constitutes being “wealthy” can be as nebulous as trying to catch a cloud.

Contemplating wealth leads to many questions: What truly defines wealth? Is it merely about the accumulation of money, or are there more profound, intangible aspects at play?

Year after year, Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth Survey seeks to shed some light on this ever-changing figure, and this year’s results reveal intriguing insights and paradoxes in our perceptions of wealth.

Earlier this week, Charles Schwab published the results of its seventh annual Modern Wealth Survey, which attempts to answer a tough personal finance question with many variables: How much money do you need to be wealthy?

Similar to the 2022 survey, the average American believes $2.2 million net worth is the current threshold in 2023 to be considered wealthy. This number is slightly down from 2020, when respondents said $2.6 million was the number needed to be considered wealthy.

In 2021, the number was $1.9 million.

There are other major revelations in Schwab’s annual survey. For example, there’s a great wealth paradox right now, with many people believing it takes $2.2 million to be “wealthy,” but those feeling wealthy already have an average net worth of just $560,000.

Also, despite these financial figures, survey respondents say that non-material assets like health and family outshine big bucks in defining true wealth.

How Much Money You Need To Feel Wealthy In 12 Major U.S. Cities?

The Schwab Modern Wealth Survey also uncovers a fascinating, geographical spin on wealth across the United States. The “wealth line” isn’t a one-size-fits-all – it’s as varied as the cities themselves. In the bustling, sky-high-priced lanes of New York City or San Francisco, the price tag on wealth is super-sized to match.

Take a trip to more cost-friendly cities like Houston or Atlanta, and you’ll find the wealth benchmark fits a much smaller shoe. The findings underscores just how location, living costs, and wealth perception are intertwined, further complicating the riddle of what it truly means to be wealthy in America.

Below, the net worth to feel wealthy in 12 major cities, according to the Schwab survey. For the sake of this data, consider all of Southern California a giant megalopolis.

San Francisco – $4.7 million

New York City – $3.3 million

Southern California (includes Los Angeles and San Diego) – $3.5 million

Seattle – $3.1 million

Washington, D.C. – $3 million

Chicago – $2.3 million

Houston – $2.1 million

Boston – $2.9 million

Dallas – $2.3 million

Atlanta – $2.3 million

Phoenix – $2.4 million

Denver – $2.5 million

The Schwab survey was conducted online by Logica Research from March 1 to March 13, 2023, which included a national sample of 1,000 Americans, aged 21 to 75. The survey also involved an additional 200 Generation Z respondents. The participant selection was balanced based on key demographic variables to ensure a representative national sample.

Schwab’s survey also unveiled the darker side of social media in shaping perceptions of wealth.

While strong family and friends connections are key in wealth perception, social media introduces a new layer of uncertainty, amplifying the human tendency to compare ourselves to others. Nearly half (47%) equate wealth to affording a lifestyle similar to their friends. Among social media users, over a third (37%) compare their lifestyles to what they see on family and friends’ social platforms.

Additionally, about one third base their purchasing decisions (34%) and financial (33%) and investment (33%) choices on what they glean from friends and influencers on social media. This points to the significant influence and potential distraction of social media on financial behavior.

At the end of the day, wealth isn’t just a number. It’s what you make of it. 

B. Carlisle

Contributing editor at Wealth Gang. An entrepreneur at heart, he's passionate about meaningful ways to leverage technology and social media for business opportunities and side hustles.