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”.
|Milestone||Source||As of Date||Net Worth (USD)|
|What it takes to be in California’s top 1%||Windfall||2020||$6.8M|
|What it takes to be in America’s top 1%||Knight Frank||2021||$4.4M|
|What it takes to be in New York’s top 1%||Windfall||2020||$4.2M|
|What it takes to be wealthy in America||Charles Schwab survey||2022||$2.2M|
|What it takes to be in the UK’s top 1%||Knight Frank||2021||$1.8M|
|What it takes to be financially comfortable in America||Charles Schwab survey||2022||$774,000|
|What it takes to be in Mississippi’s top 1%||Windfall||2020||$766,000|
|The average American’s net worth (median)||Federal Reserve||2019||$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.
|Country||Number of Billionaires|
|🇨🇳 China (inc. Hong Kong & Macau)||698|
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.
Visualizing $156 Trillion in U.S. Assets, by Generation
We’ve visualized data from the Federal Reserve to provide a comprehensive break down of U.S. assets by generation.
Visualizing U.S. Wealth by Generation
The distribution of wealth is an important measure of the economic power of each generation.
In the U.S., for example, baby boomers own half of the nation’s $156 trillion in assets despite making up 21% of the country’s population.
To learn more about U.S. wealth by generation, we’ve created two visualizations using Q4 2022 data from the Federal Reserve that break down both the assets and liabilities held by each American generation.
Assets by Generation
Assets by generation are listed in the table below. All figures are as of Q4 2022 and in USD trillions.
Baby boomers’ biggest category of assets is Equities & Mutual Funds, where they own 56% of the national total. Millennials, on the other hand, represent just 2%.
Where millennials do have more wealth is Real Estate, with 12% of the national total. This suggests that millennials have, for the most part, foregone investing in financial assets in order to purchase a home.
Liabilities by Generation
The following charts show a breakdown of liabilities by generation. Not surprisingly, Mortgages make up the largest component of liabilities for all generations.
Something to highlight is that millennials are carrying the largest amount of Consumer Credit, at $2 trillion (representing about 43% of total consumer credit). As of 2022, millennials accounted for 22% of the U.S. population.
U.S. Wealth by Generation
Finally, we subtract liabilities from assets to arrive at total wealth by generation in the United States. Figures again are USD and in trillions.
|Generation||Assets||Liabilities||Wealth||Share of Wealth|
As a final note, it’s worth highlighting that Gen Z is still too young to be included as a separate demographic in datasets like these. Born between 1997 and 2012, these individuals are currently between 11 and 26 years old. Interestingly, the Federal Reserve currently considers all U.S. adults born after 1981 as millennials.
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