Are You Rich? The Amount Americans Need To Live Comfortably

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With inflation and other economic pressures affecting Americans, what it means to be rich can seem like a fluid concept today.

In findings from the latest Charles Schwab Modern Wealth Survey, which looks at how Americans value money and what U.S. workers think about their employment and investing options, study participants expand on their meaning of wealth.

The survey, conducted from March 1-13, 2023, by Logica Research on behalf of Charles Schwab, polled 1,000 U.S. adults ages 21 to 75.

How Much Do Americans Say They Need To Be Wealthy?

In a repeat of last year’s results, Americans say they need $2.2 million in 2023 to be considered wealthy, according to the survey, which asked participants: “At what level of personal net worth would you say a person in your area could be considered wealthy?”

Here’s how that answer has changed in the past five years of the survey:

  • 2018 – $2.4 million
  • 2019 – $2.3 million
  • 2020 – $2.6 million (pre-COVID-19 pandemic)
  • 2021 – $1.9 million
  • 2022 – $2.2 million
  • 2023 – $2.2. million

Interestingly, the findings show that among those who “feel” wealthy — 48% of study participants across all adult generations — their average net worth is much lower in reality: $560,000. This discrepancy is explained by the fact that survey participants don’t merely base their personal definition of wealth on the amount in their bank accounts. Instead, the study explains, most Americans chose non-financial assets to determine their personal definition of wealth. These include:

  • Well-being
  • Having a fulfilling personal life
  • Having more time vs. having more money
  • Enjoying experiences
  • A healthy work/life balance

Most Americans Don’t Have a Financial Plan

The survey also indicates that 65% of Americans don’t have a financial plan and among those:

  • 40% have thought a little about formulating financial goals but haven’t been moved to put them on paper.
  • 26% don’t have a financial plan whatsoever.

How To Increase Your Net Worth

Regardless of how you define “wealth,” it is important to have a financial plan so that you can have security.

Money expert Clark Howard says if you’re still in your 20s and 30s, your financial plan should focus on investing in your future through a target date fund, your employer’s 401(k) plan or a Roth IRA.

To get started, read our resources on Charles Schwab, Vanguard and Fidelity.


No matter your age, Clark says the worst thing you can do is think it’s too late for you to start saving money.

“When you get right down to it, you are the only one who can provide for your retirement, particularly if you’re under 40,” Clark says. “So, you can either start saving money now or face the fact that you may not get to retire.”

As you get older, you may employ a financial advisor who is tasked with protecting your assets and ensuring income sustainability, but Clark says that a financial advisor is not for everyone.

“The main purpose of using a financial advisor is when you’re trying to see if you’re doing things right to meet your long-term financial goals,” Clark says. “They’re talking to you about whether you have your will up to date. Is your planning done well from a tax standpoint? What are you doing in case you are in the 70% that ends up needing assisted living?”

Read up on how to find a financial advisor.

Final Thought

Planning for your financial future may not be fun, but it’s a necessity. Clark says one of the best ways to grow your money is to put it in places that offer steady returns over an extended period of time.

Read our guide on how to save and invest the Clark Howard way.

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