How Much Money Do You Need To Feel Wealthy?
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For a lot of people, the number one indicator of wealth is how much money they have in their bank account. And while there’s no magic number that guarantees financial security, it’s interesting to look at how different income levels correspond with different levels of happiness and satisfaction.
So, how much money do you need to feel wealthy? Let’s take a closer look.
What does being wealthy mean?
Thomas C. Corley is the author of the 2010 book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success of Wealthy Individuals and Rich Kids: How To Raise Our Kids To Be Happy And Successful In Life.
Corley is also the author of 2016’s Change Your Habits, Change Your Life: Strategies that Transformed 177 Average People into Self-Made Millionaires.
In the course of writing that book, Corley, a certified accountant and financial planner, interviewed 233 wealthy individuals – 177 of whom were self-made millionaires. According to a 2018 Insider essay by Corley, these individuals had at least $160,000 in annual gross income and $3.2 million in net assets.
Corley spoke candidly with these individuals about their personal finances and how they accumulated their net worth. In order to come to a definitive answer on the question at hand – how much money a person needs to feel wealthy – he first had to define what being wealthy means.
See, the term “wealthy” is subjective. It’s based on cost-of-living factors, like how far your dollar goes in a state like Florida vs. a state like California. It’s also based on your income and the value of your assets.
So what does being wealthy mean?
According to Corley, being wealthy is when “your non-work, passive income equals or exceeds your living expenses.”
Being financially wealthy means can live off the passive income generated from your assets alone without other streams of income.
In a nutshell, if you can live comfortably off your investments without working, you’re wealthy.
This could be in the form of stocks, real estate, or even a pension, according to Corley.
How much money do you need to be wealthy?
According to Corley’s definition in Insider, published in 2019, the magic number to be considered wealthy is $3.2 million.
Note, this number is based on his research from studying millionaires for five years.
Corley speculates that $3.2 million, when invested wisely, should generate between $150,000 to $160,000 a year in passive income. That’s plenty to live off of comfortable, even in high cost-of-living states like California and New York.
That said, wealth is a spectrum, with no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s based on varying circumstances for each individual.
For example – someone with a lower standard of living can be considered wealthy with less.
Corley notes in Insider that $1.2 million, “at the bottom level of wealth”, should generate between $50,000 and $60,000 a year in passive income – plenty to live on in, in some instances.
How much money do you need to feel wealthy?
Is that a hardline definition of what it means to be wealthy?
What about something more esoteric – How much money do you need to feel wealthy?
It turns out, however, there’s some flexibility with that number amongst the general U.S. population.
In 2020 and 2021, Charles Schwab Corp. Modern Wealth Survey asked that very question via an online survey, among a national sample of 1,000 Americans aged 21 to 75.
Interestingly enough, the number changed between 2020 and 2021. The bar for what many consider “wealthy” is now lower than the previous year thanks to evolving attitudes about what wealth actually is.
The number actually went down, believed to be because of pandemic-related attitudes towards money and priorities.
According to the Schwab Modern Wealth Survey in 2020:
- $2.6 million was needed to be considered wealthy.
- $1.7 million was needed for financial happiness
- $934,000 to be financially comfortable.
According to the Schwab Modern Wealth Survey in 2021:
- $1.9 million was needed to be wealthy
- $1.1 million for happiness
- $624,000 to be comfortable.
Other takeaways about wealth
Schwab Modern Wealth Survey also came up with some takeaways on healthy money habits: 54 percent of Americans who have a written financial plan feel “very confident” about reaching their financial goals, while only 18 percent of those without a plan feel the same level of certainty.
Respondents with a financial plan claim healthier money habits, especially when it comes to feeling financially stable, having an emergency fund, not carrying a credit card balance and making loan payments on time, and risk tolerance when it comes to investments.
The difference between feeling wealthy and feeling rich
Let’s throw another money accumulation concept into the mix: What about being rich?
What’s the difference between being wealthy and being rich?
Is there even a difference?
These are questions that many people ask, and there isn’t a definitive answer. However, there are some generalizations that can be made about the two terms.
In short, both are mindsets.
Attitudes about being wealthy generally mean having a high net worth, as outlined above, while being rich is more related to having a large income.
But these aren’t always mutually exclusive; someone can be both wealthy and rich.
According to a Wall Street Journal essay on the matter, being rich tends to be defined by how much money one earns. Being wealthy, meanwhile, usually references having the freedom to do what you want with your time. Being “rich”, as a social construct, means focusing on the flashy and material possessions while being “wealthy” means one can do what they want with their time since their passive income and assets keep them financially afloat.
Accumulating wealth is more focused on how money can give one peace of mind and security – and a tacit understanding that one’s possessions have no lasting value.
While being focused on being “rich” is more about chasing a hard number and building a life around chasing that number (IE: the so-called “disease of more“).
The keys to wealth accumulation are not complicated: Have financial goals, live within or below your means, avoid crippling debt, and save aggressively, invest within your comfort zone, with a focus on the future.
There are many paths to the mountaintop.
And just like climbing a mountain, building wealth takes discipline, prudence, and setting off on one’s own hike along those proven paths to get there.