How Much Do Americans Need To Live Comfortably?

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How much money do you need to live comfortably? That’s one of the questions a survey from investment firm Charles Schwab asked Americans to gauge their attitudes about employment and personal finances.

The Charles Schwab Modern Wealth Survey 2022, conducted in February 2022, is based on responses from 1,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 21 and 75.

One of the questions posed to study participants was: “At what level of personal net worth would you say a person in your area could be considered wealthy?”

What It Takes To Be Wealthy

Survey respondents said that they considered a net worth of $2.2 million to be the benchmark for wealth.

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

What It Takes To Be Financially Comfortable

Another question the survey asked: At what level of personal net worth would you say a person in your area could be considered financially comfortable?”

To live comfortably, the respondents said that $774,000 was the figure that they needed to hit.

This marks the third consecutive year that the survey has indicated people feel they don’t have to be millionaires to be financially comfortable. Here are the survey answers for the last five years:

  • 2018 – $1.4 million
  • 2019 – $1.1 million
  • 2020 – $934,000
  • 2021 – $624,000
  • 2022 – $774,000

How To Increase Your Net Worth

The numbers above may seem unattainable, but if you’re employed with a company that matches your 401(k) contributions, making the maximum contribution every year can be a powerful strategy for funding your retirement.

Read about three scenarios that illustrate how to become a millionaire through your 401(k) in just a little over two decades.

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But before you can begin to save money, you have to get your financial house in order.

Get Out of Debt

If you’re saddled with debt, your priority should be to pay off your bills so that you can attain financial freedom. The way to do that? Start with a budget.

“A lot of people look at being told to do a budget as if their life is being restricted,” money expert Clark Howard says. “But the whole idea of budgeting is freeing because you’re getting your life under control, creating more choices and reducing anxiety.”

Read our in-depth guide on how to create a budget.

Start Saving Money

Once you’ve paid off your credit card debt and other obligations, Clark wants you to try to live on less money than you make.

Start an emergency fund, which can cover unexpected expenses. Read our guide on how to start an emergency fund.

“It’s all about building habits, whether it’s with your health or your wallet, that you do it one step at a time,” Clark says. “And then, when you’re in that habit, you really can move toward the goals that are really going to change your financial future.”

Invest

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.

  • Bonds: Treasury bonds are attractive to many investors looking for a safe place with a fixed rate of interest. What to know about series I savings bonds.
  • Stock market: Investing in the stock market will take some tolerance of risk, but Clark’s advice is to hold your position through all the ups and downs.
  • Retirement accounts: There are several tax-friendly retirement accounts that can grow your money. In addition to a 401(k), there’s the Roth IRA and the SEP IRA offered at investment firms. You’ll want to read our resources on Charles Schwab, Vanguard and Fidelity to get started.

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.”

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

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