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.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry in 2023
Services-producing industries account for the majority of U.S. GDP in 2023, followed by other private industries and the government.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry
The U.S. economy is like a giant machine driven by many different industries, each one akin to an essential cog that moves the whole.
Understanding the breakdown of national gross domestic product (GDP) by industry shows where commercial activity is bustling and how diverse the economy truly is.
The above infographic uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to visualize a breakdown of U.S. GDP by industry in 2023. To show this, we use value added by industry, which reflects the difference between gross output and the cost of intermediate inputs.
The Top 10 U.S. Industries by GDP
As of Q1 2023, the annualized GDP of the U.S. sits at $26.5 trillion.
Of this, 88% or $23.5 trillion comes from private industries. The remaining $3 trillion is government spending at the federal, state, and local levels.
Here’s a look at the largest private industries by economic contribution in the United States:
|Industry||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|Professional and business services||$3.5T||13%|
|Real estate, rental, and leasing||$3.3T||12%|
|Educational services, health care, and social assistance||$2.3T||9%|
|Finance and insurance||$2.0T||8%|
|Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services||$1.2T||4%|
|Other private industries||$2.6T||10%|
Like most other developed nations, the U.S. economy is largely based on services.
Service-based industries, including professional and business services, real estate, finance, and health care, make up the bulk (70%) of U.S. GDP. In comparison, goods-producing industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction play a smaller role.
Professional and business services is the largest industry with $3.5 trillion in value added. It comprises establishments providing legal, consulting, design, administration, and other services. This is followed by real estate at $3.3 trillion, which has consistently been an integral part of the economy.
Due to outsourcing and other factors, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP has been declining for decades, but it still remains a significant part of the economy. Manufacturing of durable goods (metals, machines, computers) accounts for $1.6 trillion in value added, alongside nondurable goods (food, petroleum, chemicals) at $1.3 trillion.
The Government’s Contribution to GDP
Just like private industries, the government’s value added to GDP consists of compensation of employees, taxes collected (less subsidies), and gross operating surplus.
|Government||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|State and Local||$2.1T||8%|
Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.
State and local government spending, largely focused on the education and public welfare sectors, accounts for the bulk of value added. The Federal contribution to GDP amounts to roughly $948 billion, with 52% of it attributed to national defense.
The Fastest Growing Industries (2022–2032P)
In the next 10 years, services-producing industries are projected to see the fastest growth in output.
The table below shows the five fastest-growing industries in the U.S. from 2022–2032 in terms of total output, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Industry||Sector||Compound Annual Rate of Output Growth (2022–2032P)|
|Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, and related services||Information||3.9%|
|Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite)||Information||3.6%|
|Home health care services||Health care and social assistance||3.6%|
|Oil and gas extraction||Mining||3.5%|
Three of the fastest-growing industries are in the information sector, underscoring the growing role of technology and digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, the projected growth of the oil and gas extraction industry highlights the enduring demand for traditional energy sources, despite the energy transition.
Overall, the development of these industries suggests that the U.S. will continue its shift toward a services-oriented economy. But today, it’s also worth noticing how services- and goods-producing industries are increasingly tied together. For example, it’s now common for tech companies to produce devices, and for manufacturers to use software in their operations.
Therefore, the oncoming tide of growth in service-based industries could potentially lift other interconnected sectors of the diverse U.S. economy.
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