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How Much Does it Take to Be Wealthy in America?



How Much Does it Take to Be Wealthy in America?

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:

RankCityNet Worth to Be "Wealthy"
Net Worth to Be "Financially Comfortable"
1San Francisco, CA$4.7M$1.7M
2Los Angeles & San Diego, CA$3.5M$1.5M
3New York, NY$3.3M$1.2M
4Seattle, WA$3.1M$1.0M
5Washington, D.C.$3.0M$1.0M
6Boston, MA$2.9M$932,000
7Denver, CO$2.5M$710,000
8Phoenix, AZ$2.4M$653,000
9Atlanta, GA$2.3M$729,000
10Chicago, IL$2.3M$817,000
11Dallas, TX$2.3M$820,000
12Houston, TX$2.1M$606,000

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:

Percent of Americans Who Feel Wealthy

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.

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Personal Finance

Mapped: The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

Families in expensive states require over $270,000 annually to live comfortably.



A map showing the income that two working adults with two children need to live comfortably in each U.S. state.

The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Families in the top five most expensive U.S. states require an annual income exceeding $270,000 to live comfortably.

This visualization illustrates the income necessary for two working adults with two children to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in each state.

“Comfortable” is defined as the income needed to cover a 50/30/20 budget, with 50% allocated to necessities like housing and utilities, 30% to discretionary spending, and 20% to savings or investments.

The calculations for family income needed in each state were done by SmartAsset, using the cost of necessities sourced from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, last updated on Feb. 14, 2024.

Massachusetts Tops the List

Massachusetts is the most expensive state to live comfortably in, requiring a total family income of about $301,184. Hawaii ($294,611) comes in second, followed by Connecticut ($279,885).

Housing is one main reason Massachusetts is an expensive state to live in, particularly in the Boston area. In addition, the state also has a high cost of living, including expenses such as healthcare and utilities.

RankStateIncome for 2 working adults raising 2 children
4New York$278,970
9New Jersey$251,181
10Rhode Island$249,267
13New Hampshire$244,109
31North Carolina$209,331
35New Mexico$203,923
38North Dakota$202,176
40South Carolina$200,762
45South Dakota$192,608
48West Virginia$189,363

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the least expensive state for a family to live comfortably, requiring $177,798 per year. Arkansas ($180,794) comes in second, followed by West Virginia ($189,363). In common, all these states share low prices of housing.

Learn More About Cost of Living From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks the median down payment for a house by U.S. state.

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