Quantifying What Success Means, According to 2,000 Americans
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Quantifying What Success Means, According to 2,000 Americans

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The pursuit of success is a part of our cultural DNA.

Almost everyone wants to be successful – and many see it as the basis of the American Dream, which promises that every person can achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

However, despite a drive for obtaining success in our culture, the meaning of success isn’t fixed. It can be different things to different people, and there is no possible way of defining success in a way that is representative of every individual person.

Quantifying Success

Although there’s no objective definition of success, there are other ways to arrive at a more impartial meaning.

Today’s infographic from Thermosoft uses data from a survey of 2,000 Americans to show what “making it” means to them – and in the process, it gives us a baseline for what success means to the average person.

Quantifying Success: What It Means, According to 2,000 Americans

Survey respondents were asked what “making it” in America meant to them, and then that was compared to what they have.

A variety of individual factors were measured, and each fell within certain categories that could be important to one’s success, including career, family life, wealth, and travel.

Success, on Average

The survey data gives us a view of what success means, on average – and how close people are to “making it”.

Money
Respondents viewed $147,104 of income as “successful”, and this is the area people were furthest away from their ideal.

The average income of respondents was $57,426 – and 67% of respondents said that money was the major missing part of their equation for success.

Work
Respondents viewed 31 hours of work per week, a 10 minute commute, 5.3 weeks of time off, and working more from home as their ideal situation.

However, respondents were a little off on most of these measures, and far off for vacation time. The average person is working 34 hours per week, commuting 17 minutes, taking 2.8 weeks of time off, and working more from the office.

Notably, for 22% of people, a dream job was the missing part of their success equation.

Friends and Family
Respondents viewed marriage and kids, as well as four best friends, as ideal. On average, respondents fell slightly short here, though.

Property
How much would your home and vehicle be worth, if you “made it”? About $461,000 and $41,986 respectively.

Respondents fell short here, with $248,000 and $15,789 values for their home and vehicle.

What’s Missing?

Since success is subjective, the sense of what is “missing” varies considerably.

On average, income was the most important missing factor (67%) and a dream job was also a popular response (22%). Relationships and recognition were both 7%, respectively.

Answers also varied by group – for example, millennials were more likely to say their dream job was the missing factor.

While success may never be defined exactly for all people at all times, this is still an interesting amalgamation of the views that people have towards the subject.

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This Simple Chart Reveals the Distribution Of Global Wealth

Global wealth at the end of 2020 was about $418 trillion. Here’s a breakdown of the global wealth distribution among the adult population.

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The Global Wealth Distribution in One Chart

The pandemic resulted in global wealth taking a significant dip in the first part of 2020. By the end of March, global household wealth had already declined by around 4.4%.

Interestingly, after much monetary and fiscal stimulus from governments around the world, global household wealth was more than able to recover, finishing up the year at $418.3 trillion, a 7.4% gain from the previous year.

Using data from Credit Suisse, this graphic looks at how global wealth is distributed among the adult population.

How is Global Wealth Distributed?

While individuals worth more than $1 million constitute just 1.1% of the world’s population, they hold 45.8% of global wealth.

Wealth RangeWealthGlobal Share (%)Adult Population
Over $1M$191.6 trillion45.8%Held by 1.1%
$100k-$1M$163.9 trillion39.1%Held by 11.1%
$10k-$100k$57.3 trillion13.7%Held by 32.8%
Less than $10k$5.5 trillion1.3%Held by 55.0%
Total$418.3 trillion100.0%Held by 100.0%

On the other end of the spectrum, 55% of the population owns only 1.3% of global wealth.

And between these two extreme wealth distribution cases, the rest of the world’s population has a combined 52.8% of the wealth.

Global Wealth Distribution by Region

While wealth inequality is especially evident within the wealth ranges mentioned above, these differences can also be seen on a more regional basis between countries.

In 2020, total wealth rose by $12.4 trillion in North America and $9.2 trillion in Europe. These two regions accounted for the bulk of the wealth gains, with China adding another $4.2 trillion and the Asia-Pacific region (excluding China and India) another $4.7 trillion.

Here is a breakdown of global wealth distribution by region:

RegionTotal Wealth
(US$B)
Change in Total Wealth
(US$B)
Change %Wealth Per Adult
(US$B)
Change %
North America136,31612,37010.0486,9309.1
Europe103,2139,1799.8174,8369.8
Asia-Pacific75,2774,6946.760,7905.0
China74,8844,2466.067,7715.4
India12,833-594-4.414,252-6.1
Latin America10,872-1,215-10.124,301-11.4
Africa4,946360.77,371-2.1
World418,34228,7167.479,9526.0

India and Latin America both recorded losses in 2020.

Total wealth fell in India by $594 billion, or 4.4%. Meanwhile, Latin America appears to have been the worst-performing region, with total wealth dropping by 11.4% or $1.2 trillion.

Post-COVID Global Outlook 2020-2025

Despite the burden of COVID-19 on the global economy, the world can expect robust GDP growth in the coming years, especially in 2021. The latest estimates by the International Monetary Fund in April 2021 suggest that global GDP in 2021 will total $100.1 trillion in nominal terms, up by 4.1% compared to last year.

The link in normal times between GDP growth and household wealth growth, combined with the expected rapid return of economic activity to its pre-pandemic levels, suggests that global wealth could grow again at a fast pace. According to Credit Suisse estimates, global wealth may rise by 39% over the next five years.

Low and middle-income countries will also play an essential role in the coming year. They are responsible for 42% of the growth, even though they account for just 33% of current wealth.

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Mapped: GDP per Capita Worldwide

GDP per capita is one of the best measures of a country’s standard of living. This map showcases the GDP per capita in every country globally.

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gdp per capita

Mapped: Visualizing GDP per Capita Worldwide

View the high-resolution of the infographic by clicking here.

GDP per capita has steadily risen globally over time, and in tandem, the standard of living worldwide has increased immensely.

This map using data from the IMF shows the GDP per capita (nominal) of nearly every country and territory in the world.

GDP per capita is one of the best measures of a country’s wealth as it provides an understanding of how each country’s citizens live on average, showing a representation of the quantity of goods and services created per person.

The Standard of Living Over Time

Looking at history, our standard of living has increased drastically. According to Our World in Data, from 1820 to 2018, the average global GDP per capita increased by almost 15x.

Literacy rates, access to vaccines, and basic education have also improved our quality of life, while things like child mortality rates and poverty have all decreased.

For example, in 1990, 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty, which was 36% of the world’s population at the time. Over the last 30 years, the number has been steadily decreasing — by 2030, an estimated 479 million people will be living in extreme poverty, which according to UN population estimates, will represent only 6% of the population.

That said, economic inequality between different regions is still prevalent. In fact, the richest country today (in terms of nominal GDP per capita), Luxembourg, is over 471x more wealthy than the poorest, Burundi.

Here’s a look at the 10 countries with the highest GDP per capita in 2021:

gdp per capita top 10 countries

However, not all citizens in Luxembourg are extremely wealthy. In fact:

  • 29% of people spend over 40% of their income on housing costs
  • 31% would be at risk of falling into poverty if they had to forgo 3 months of income

The cost of living is expensive in Luxembourg — but the standard of living in terms of goods and services produced is the highest in the world. Additionally, only 4% of the population reports low life satisfaction.

Emerging Economies and Developing Countries

Although we have never lived in a more prosperous period, and poverty rates have been declining overall, this year global extreme poverty rose for the first time in over two decades.

About 120 million additional people are living in poverty as a result of the pandemic, with the total expected to rise to about 150 million by the end of 2021.

Many of the poorest countries in the world are also considered Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by the UN. In these countries, more than 75% of the population live below the poverty line.

Here’s a look at the 10 countries with the lowest GDP per capita:

gdp per capita bottom 10 countries

Life in these countries offers a stark contrast compared to the top 10. Here’s a glance at the quality of life in the poorest country, Burundi:

  • 80% of the population works in agriculture
  • 1 in 3 Burundians are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance
  • Average households spend up to two-thirds of their income on food

However, many of the world’s poorest countries can also be classified as emerging markets with immense economic potential in the future.

In fact, China has seen the opportunity in emerging economies. Their confidence in these regions is best exemplified in the Belt and Road initiative which has funneled massive investments into infrastructure projects across multiple African countries.

Continually Raising the Bar

Prosperity is a very recent reality only characterizing the last couple hundred years. In pre-modern societies, the average person was living in conditions that would be considered extreme poverty by today’s standards.

Overall, the standard of living for everyone today is immensely improved compared to even recent history, and some countries will be experiencing rapid economic growth in the future.

GDP per Capita in 2021: Full Dataset

CountryGDP per Capita (Nominal, 2021, USD)
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$125,923
🇮🇪 Ireland$90,478
🇨🇭 Switzerland$90,358
🇳🇴 Norway$76,408
🇺🇸 United States$66,144
🇩🇰 Denmark$63,645
🇸🇬 Singapore$62,113
🇮🇸 Iceland$58,371
🇳🇱 Netherlands$58,029
🇸🇪 Sweden$57,660
Australia$57,211
Qatar$55,417
Austria$54,820
Finland$54,817
Germany$51,967
Belgium$50,051
Macao SAR$48,207
Hong Kong SAR$47,990
Canada$45,871
France$44,770
San Marino$44,676
Israel$43,439
United Kingdom$42,236
New Zealand$41,793
Japan$40,733
Italy$35,062
United Arab Emirates$32,686
South Korea$32,305
Malta$32,099
The Bahamas$31,532
Puerto Rico$31,207
Spain$31,178
Europe$31,022
Cyprus$29,686
Taiwan $28,890
Slovenia$28,734
Estonia$26,378
Brunei $26,274
Czech Republic$25,991
Portugal$25,097
Bahrain$23,710
Kuwait$23,138
Lithuania$22,752
Aruba$22,710
Slovakia$21,606
Saudi Arabia$20,742
Greece$20,521
Latvia$19,934
Hungary$17,645
Barbados$17,472
Poland$16,740
Trinidad and Tobago$16,622
Saint Kitts and Nevis$16,491
Croatia$16,402
Uruguay$16,297
Romania$14,916
Antigua and Barbuda$14,748
Oman$14,675
Panama$14,390
Chile$14,209
Maldives$14,194
Palau$13,180
Seychelles$12,648
Costa Rica$11,805
China$11,713
Malaysia$11,378
Bulgaria$11,349
Russia$10,793
Saint Lucia$10,636
Grenada$10,211
Guyana$9,913
Nauru$9,865
Mauritius$9,630
Kazakhstan$9,454
Montenegro$9,152
Argentina$9,095
Turkmenistan$8,874
Serbia$8,444
Mexico$8,403
Dominica$8,111
Equatorial Guinea$8,000
Gabon$7,785
Dominican Republic$7,740
Thailand$7,675
Iran$7,668
Turkey$7,659
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines$7,401
Botswana$7,036
North Macedonia $6,933
Brazil$6,728
Bosnia and Herzegovina$6,536
Belarus$6,513
Peru$6,229
Jamaica$5,643
Ecuador$5,589
Colombia$5,457
South Africa$5,236
Paraguay$5,207
Albania$5,161
Tonga$4,949
Suriname$4,921
Fiji$4,822
Iraq$4,767
Kosovo$4,753
Libya$4,733
Georgia$4,714
Moldova$4,527
Armenia$4,427
Namibia$4,412
Azerbaijan$4,404
Guatemala$4,385
Jordan$4,347
Tuvalu$4,296
Indonesia$4,287
Mongolia$4,139
Marshall Islands$4,092
Samoa$4,053
El Salvador$4,023
Micronesia$3,995
Belize$3,968
Sri Lanka$3,928
Vietnam$3,759
Eswatini$3,697
Cabo Verde$3,675
Bolivia$3,618
Ukraine$3,615
Egypt$3,606
Philippines$3,602
North Africa$3,560
Algeria$3,449
Bhutan$3,447
Morocco$3,409
Tunisia$3,380
Djibouti$3,275
West Bank and Gaza$3,060
Vanuatu$2,967
Laos$2,614
Papua New Guinea$2,596
Honduras$2,593
Côte d'Ivoire$2,571
Solomon Islands$2,501
Ghana$2,300
Republic of Congo$2,271
Nigeria$2,209
São Tomé and Príncipe$2,133
Angola$2,130
Kenya$2,122
India$2,031
Bangladesh$1,990
Uzbekistan$1,836
Nicaragua$1,828
Kiribati$1,817
Mauritania$1,782
Cambodia$1,680
Cameroon$1,657
Senegal$1,629
Venezuela$1,586
Myanmar$1,441
Comoros$1,431
Benin$1,400
Timor-Leste$1,273
Kyrgyzstan$1,270
Nepal$1,166
Tanzania$1,132
Guinea$1,067
Lesotho$1,018
Zambia$1,006
Mali$992
Uganda$971
Ethiopia$918
Tajikistan$851
Burkina Faso$851
Guinea-Bissau$844
Rwanda$820
The Gambia$809
Togo$759
Sudan$714
Chad$710
Haiti$698
Liberia$646
Eritrea$632
Yemen$573
Niger$567
Madagascar$554
Central African Republic$522
Zimbabwe$516
Afghanistan$506
Democratic Republic of the Congo$478
Sierra Leone$471
Mozambique$431
Malawi$397
South Sudan$323
Burundi$267

Editor’s note: Readers have rightly pointed out that Monaco is one of the world’s richest countries in GDP per capita (nominal) terms. This is true, but the IMF dataset excludes Monaco and lists it as “No data” each year. As a result, it is excluded from the visualization(s) above.

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