How Much Does it Take to Be Wealthy in America?
Is it possible to pin down an exact number on what it takes to be wealthy, or is wealth far more complex and nuanced than that?
The above graphic looks at data from the 2023 Modern Wealth Survey by Charles Schwab, which asks respondents what net worth is required to be considered wealthy in America.
Later, we look at data that partially contradicts those findings, showing that wealth is more than just a number for many of those same respondents.
Wealthy in America: A Closer Look
Overall, the net worth that Americans say that is needed to be “wealthy” in the United States is $2.2 million in 2023.
Here are the average wealth numbers indicated by respondents across 12 major U.S. cities, based on a survey of 1,000 people between 21 and 75:
|Rank||City||Net Worth to Be "Wealthy"||
Net Worth to Be "Financially Comfortable"
|1||San Francisco, CA||$4.7M||$1.7M|
|2||Los Angeles & San Diego, CA||$3.5M||$1.5M|
|3||New York, NY||$3.3M||$1.2M|
In San Francisco, respondents said they needed $4.7 million in net worth to be wealthy, the highest across all cities surveyed, and more than double the national average.
This figure dropped from last year, when it stood at $5.4 million. The vast majority of people in San Francisco say that inflation has had an impact on their finances, and over half say that living in the city impedes their ability to reach their financial goals, citing steep costs of living.
In Los Angeles and San Diego, it takes $3.5 million to be wealthy, the second-highest across cities surveyed. In New York, it takes $3.3 million in net worth to reach this target. It is home to over 345,000 millionaires, the highest worldwide.
Houston, where the cost of living is less than half of San Francisco, respondents said a net worth of $2.1 million is needed to be wealthy. The average salary is $67,000 in Houston, while in San Francisco it falls at $81,000.
The Wealth Paradox
Separately, the survey asked whether respondents “feel wealthy” themselves.
Overall, 48% of all respondents said they feel wealthy, and those people had an average net worth of $560,000. This is a considerable divergence from the $2.2 million benchmark they said was needed to be wealthy.
Here’s the breakdown for major cities, illustrating the paradox:
Millennials were most likely to feel wealthy, at 57% of respondents, while 40% of boomers felt wealthy, the lowest across generations surveyed.
Explaining the Divergence
When digging deeper, it becomes clear that wealth is not simply a number.
In fact, the survey indicates that many Americans place greater importance on non-monetary assets over monetary assets when they think of wealth.
For instance, 72% said having a fulfilling personal life was a better descriptor of wealth than working on a career, which was only chosen by 28% of respondents. Meanwhile, enjoying experiences (70%) was a better reflection of wealth compared to owning many nice things (30%).
Interestingly, there was a narrower margin in choosing between the importance of time (61%) over money (39%).
Beyond monetary figures, these findings illustrate the layers that influence what it means to feel financially healthy today, and how this affects an individual’s overall quality of life.
Ranked: Top Countries for Foreign Direct Investment Flows
Take a look at changes in foreign direct investment flows over a decade, analyzing the top destinations and biggest investors.
One of the most significant phenomena in 21st-century globalization, driven by the ascent of multinational corporations and the removal of investing barriers, is the vast cross-border flow of foreign capital.
To analyze recent trends, Samidha Nayak utilized World Bank data spanning 2012–2022, charting the top 10 destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) and the leading investing countries annually.
Countries With the Most FDI Inflows (2012–2022)
In 2012, the United States had the highest FDI inflow, attracting about $250 billion in investment from the rest of the world.
At second place, China’s FDI inflows stood about $9 billion lower at $241 billion.
The middle ranks have representatives from Europe (Netherlands, Cyprus), from Asia (Hong Kong) and from South America (Brazil).
Towards the bottom, three OECD countries—Germany, Ireland, and Australia—all attracted an average of $60 billion in foreign investment.
Unexpectedly, the British Virgin Islands came in 8th. Their lack of corporate tax makes it a popular place for companies to headquarter, in turn attracting FDI inflows.
|1||🇺🇸 U.S.||$250.35||1||🇺🇸 U.S.||$388.08|
|2||🇨🇳 China||$241.21||2||🇨🇳 China||$180.17|
|3||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$239.67||3||🇸🇬 Singapore||$140.84|
|4||🇧🇷 Brazil||$92.57||4||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$120.95|
|5||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$74.89||5||🇫🇷 France||$105.42|
|6||🇨🇾 Cyprus||$69.97||6||🇧🇷 Brazil||$91.50|
|7||🇩🇪 Germany||$65.44||7||🇦🇺 Australia||$67.12|
|8||🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands||$61.12||8||🇨🇦 Canada||$53.71|
|9||🇮🇪 Ireland||$58.09||9||🇸🇪 Sweden||$50.05|
|10||🇦🇺 Australia||$57.55||10||🇮🇳 India||$49.94|
Ten years later however, the top 10 saw a shuffle. The U.S. and China retained their top spots, but the difference grew much larger—with the U.S. attracting nearly 50% more foreign investment ($388 billion) than China ($180 billion).
Singapore, which first appeared in the rankings in 2014, took third place with $141 billion.
Meanwhile the bottom half changed almost entirely with France, Canada, Sweden, and India replacing Cyprus, Germany, the British Virgin Islands, and Ireland.
Countries With the Most FDI Outflows (2012–2022)
Unlike the ranks of net inflows, the top 10 countries with the highest FDI outflows have stayed essentially the same.
The U.S. topped the list in both ends of the decade, despite briefly falling out of the top 10 entirely in 2018. There were only three new entrants (France, Australia, and the UK) in 2022 compared to 10 years prior, with Cyprus, Switzerland, and the British Virgin Islands dropping out of top spots.
|1||🇺🇸 U.S.||$377.24||1||🇺🇸 U.S.||$426.25|
|2||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$237.94||2||🇩🇪 Germany||$178.87|
|3||🇯🇵 Japan||$117.63||3||🇯🇵 Japan||$175.40|
|4||🇩🇪 Germany||$99.08||4||🇬🇧 UK||$158.93|
|5||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$88.12||5||🇨🇳 China||$149.69|
|6||🇨🇾 Cyprus||$75.25||6||🇳🇱 Netherlands||$125.89|
|7||🇨🇳 China||$64.96||7||🇦🇺 Australia||$123.36|
|8||🇨🇦 Canada||$62.25||8||🇫🇷 France||$118.76|
|9||🇨🇭Switzerland||$54.30||9||🇭🇰 Hong Kong||$106.86|
|10||🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands||$53.94||10||🇨🇦 Canada||$83.11|
Many of the countries who are in the top ranks for inflows (U.S., China, Canada, Australia) are also in the top ranks for outflows both in 2012 and 2022.
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