What Does It Take To Be Wealthy in America?
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What Does It Take To Be Wealthy in America?

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What Does it Take to be Wealthy in America?

The goalposts of wealth are always shifting due to inflation and other factors.

For example, someone with a net worth of $1 million several decades ago would have been considered very wealthy. According to recent survey results, however, $1 million is only enough to feel “financially comfortable” today.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized several money milestones to give you a better idea of what it really takes to be wealthy in America.

Net Worth Milestones

This table lists the data used in the above infographic.

It covers data on what it takes to get into the top one percent for wealth in key states, along with broader survey results about what net worth thresholds must be crossed in order to be considered “comfortable financially” or even “wealthy”.

MilestoneSourceAs of DateNet Worth (USD)
What it takes to be in California’s top 1%Windfall2020$6.8M
What it takes to be in America’s top 1%Knight Frank2021$4.4M
What it takes to be in New York’s top 1%Windfall2020$4.2M
What it takes to be wealthy in AmericaCharles Schwab survey2022$2.2M
What it takes to be in the UK’s top 1%Knight Frank2021$1.8M
What it takes to be financially comfortable in AmericaCharles Schwab survey2022$774,000
What it takes to be in Mississippi’s top 1%Windfall2020$766,000
The average American’s net worth (median)Federal Reserve2019$122,000

According to Charles Schwab’s Modern Wealth Survey, a net worth of $774,000 is needed to feel “financially comfortable”, while $2.2 million is needed to be considered “wealthy”.

Both of these milestones are far greater than the average (median) American’s wealth, which according to the Federal Reserve, was $122,000 in 2019.

Joining the One Percent

Research by Knight Frank determined that in order to be a member of America’s one percent, one would need a net worth of $4.4 million. This is very high compared to other developed countries such as Japan ($1.5 million), the UK ($1.8 million), and Australia ($2.8 million).

The difference is partly due to America’s large population of ultra high net worth individuals, which includes the country’s 724 billionaires. See below for a list of the top five countries by number of billionaires.

CountryNumber of Billionaires
🇺🇸 U.S.724
🇨🇳 China (inc. Hong Kong & Macau)698
🇮🇳 India140
🇩🇪 Germany136
🇷🇺 Russia117

Source: World Population Review (As of 2021)

Focusing again on the U.S., we can also see large discrepancies at the individual state level. Entry into California’s one percent requires a net worth of $6.8 million, which is 62% higher than the national average.

California is famously home to many of the world’s richest people, including Google co-founder Larry Page, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Being a one percenter in Mississippi, on the other hand, requires $766,000. That’s 83% lower than the national average, and just a tad lower than the amount needed to be “financially comfortable” by the average American. This is partially due to Mississippi’s poverty rate of 19.6%, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is the highest in the country.

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Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire In

Which countries are the best equipped to support their aging population? This graphic show the best countries to retire in around the world.

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Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire in Around the World

Our global population is getting older. By 2050, the OECD predicts that 30% of people worldwide will be aged 65 or over.

While some countries are relatively prepared to handle this increase in the elderly demographic, others are already feeling the squeeze and struggling with the challenges that come with a rapidly aging population.

Which countries are the best equipped to support their senior citizens? This graphic uses data from the 2022 Natixis Global Retirement Index to show the best countries to retire in around the world, based on several different factors that we’ll dig into below.

What Makes a Country Retirement-Friendly?

When people consider what makes a place an ideal retirement location, it’s natural to think about white sand beaches, hot climates, and endless sunny days. And, in truth, the right net worth opens up a world of opportunity of where to enjoy one’s golden years.

The Global Retirement Index (GRI) examines retirement from different, more quantitative perspective. The annual report looks at 44 different countries and ranks them based on their retirement security. The index considers 18 factors, which are grouped into four overarching categories:

  • Health: Health spend per capita, life expectancy, and non-insured health spend.
  • Quality of Life: Happiness levels, water and sanitation, air quality, other environmental factors, and biodiversity/habitat.
  • Material Wellbeing: Income per capita, income equality, and employment levels.
  • Finances in Retirement: Government debt, old-age dependency, interest rates, inflation, governance, tax pressure, and bank non-performing loans.

Using these 18 metrics, a score from 0.01 to 1 is determined for each country, which is then converted to a percentage. For a more detailed explanation of the report’s methodology, explore Appendix A (page 72) of the report.

The Top 25 Best Countries to Retire in

With an overall score of 81%, Norway comes in at number one as the most retirement-friendly country on the list.

RankCountryScoreHealthQuality
of Life
Material
Wellbeing
Finances in
Retirement
1🇳🇴 Norway81%91%87%79%69%
2🇨🇭 Switzerland80%90%86%69%74%
3🇮🇸 Iceland79%88%86%77%68%
4🇮🇪 Ireland76%89%80%67%70%
5🇦🇺 Australia75%88%77%66%72%
6🇳🇿 New Zealand75%85%81%64%71%
7🇱🇺 Luxembourg75%91%81%72%59%
8🇳🇱 Netherlands75%89%80%78%56%
9🇩🇰 Denmark74%86%88%76%54%
10🇨🇿 Czech Republic73%76%68%84%64%
11🇩🇪 Germany72%87%80%71%55%
12🇫🇮 Finland71%84%89%63%55%
13🇸🇪 Sweden71%90%87%59%56%
14🇦🇹 Austria71%86%82%69%54%
15🇨🇦 Canada71%87%74%58%67%
16🇮🇱 Israel70%82%74%60%66%
17🇰🇷 South Korea70%80%59%68%73%
18🇺🇸 United States69%85%72%56%67%
19🇬🇧 United Kingdom69%83%82%61%55%
20🇧🇪 Belgium69%85%74%70%51%
21🇸🇮 Slovenia69%82%69%77%51%
22🇯🇵 Japan69%91%67%72%51%
23🇲🇹 Malta68%78%61%72%63%
24🇫🇷 France66%90%78%57%48%
25🇪🇪 Estonia66%68%68%60%68%

Norway is at the top of this year’s ranking for several reasons. For starters, it achieved the highest score in the Health category, largely because of its high average life expectancy, which is 83 years old, or 9 years longer than the global average.

Norway also has the highest score of all the countries for Governance, a category gauged by assessing country corruption levels, political stability, and government effectiveness, and is in a three-way tie with Japan and Luxembourg in the Health category.

Second on the list is another European country, Switzerland, with an overall score of 80%. It’s the highest-ranked country for environmental factors, and it also has the highest overall score in the Finances in Retirement category.

A Regional Breakdown

While European countries dominate the top 10 in the ranking, how does Europe rank as a region as a whole? Before diving in, it’s important to note that the study actually breaks up Europe into two sections: Eastern Europe (grouped with Central Asia) and Western Europe.

RankRegionOverall Score
1North America69%
2Western Europe66%
3Eastern Europe and Central Asia49%
4Latin America37%
5Asia Pacific32%

And from a regional perspective, North America comes in first place despite the fact no countries in the region made it into the top 10. North America only has two countries included in the ranking: Canada (#15) and the U.S. (#18), which both rank relatively high.

In contrast, Western and Eastern Europe have more countries to account for, which ultimately lowers their regional average.

The Future of Retirement

As longevity rises and the retirement aged population continues to increase worldwide, many countries are opting to change their pension policies in an effort to encourage people to stay in the workforce longer.

For instance, in 2018, people in the UK could claim their State Pension once they turned 65. By 2028, this age requirement will be raised to 67.

However, government intervention may not be necessary, as many people around the world are already staying in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age (perhaps more out of necessity than choice).

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Personal Finance

How Do Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation?

This interactive graphic shows a breakdown of how average Americans spend their money, and how expenses vary across generations.

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Annual Expenditure in the U.S. by Generation

How Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation

In 2021, the average American spent just over $60,000 a year. But where does all their money go? Unsurprisingly, spending habits vary wildly depending on age.

This graphic by Preethi Lodha uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show how average Americans spend their money, and how annual expenses vary across generations.

A Generational Breakdown of Overall Spending

Overall in 2021, Gen X (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) spent the most money of any U.S. generation, with an average annual expenditure of $83,357.

GenerationBirth Year RangeAverage Annual Expenditure (2021)
Silent1945 or earlier$44,683
Boomers1946 to 1964$62,203
Generation X1965 to 1980$83,357
Millennials1981 to 1996$69,061
Generation Z1997 or later$41,636

Gen X has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation” because many members of this age group are financially supporting both their aging parents as well as children of their own.

The second biggest spenders are Millennials with an average annual expenditure of $69,061. Just like Gen X, this generation’s top three spending categories are housing, healthcare, and personal insurance.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Generation Z are the lowest spenders with an average of $41,636. per year. Their spending habits are expected to ramp up, especially considering that in 2022 the oldest Gen Zers are just 25 and still early in their careers.

Similarities Across Generations

While spending habits vary depending on the age group, there are some categories that remain fairly consistent across the board.

One of the most consistent spending categories is housing—it’s by the far the biggest expense for all age groups, accounting for more than 30% of total annual spending for every generation.

GenerationAverage Spend on Housing (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$16,65637.3%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$21,27334.2%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$26,38531.7%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$24,05234.8%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$15,44937.1%

Another spending category that’s surprisingly consistent across every generation is entertainment. All generations spent more than 4% of their total expenditures on entertainment, but none dedicated more than 5.6%.

GenerationAverage Spend on Entertainment (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$2,0274.5%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$3,4765.6%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$4,6945.6%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$3,4575.0%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$1,6934.1%

Gen Zers spent the least on entertainment, which could boil down to the types of entertainment this generation typically enjoys. For instance, a study found that 51% of respondents aged 13-19 watch videos on Instagram on a weekly basis, while only 15% watch cable TV.

Differences Across Generations

One category that varies the most between generations and relative needs is spending on healthcare.

As the table below shows, the Silent Generation spent an average of $7,053 on healthcare, or 15.8% of their total average spend. Comparatively, Gen Z only spent $1,354 on average, or 3.3% of their total average spend.

GenerationAverage Spend on Healthcare (2021)% of Total Spend
Silent (1945 or earlier)$7,05315.8%
Boomers (1946 to 1964)$6,59410.6%
Generation X (1965 to 1980)$5,5506.7%
Millennials (1981 to 1996)$4,0265.8%
Generation Z (1997 or later)$1,3543.3%

However, while the younger generations typically spend less on healthcare, they’re also less likely to be insured—so those who do get sick could be left with a hefty bill.

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