There's more to wealth than net worth.
In fact, when Charles Schwab asked Americans to define wealth for its 2018 Modern Wealth Index, two of the top three most popular answers they received had nothing to do with money:
When asked to focus just on numbers, however, respondents said it would take $2.4 million to be considered truly wealthy. That's about 30 times the average net worth of U.S. households: $80,039, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
It's a complex question, and, not surprisingly, people have varying opinions on how much you have to earn to be rich.
During the Occupy Wall Street protests and the discussions of income inequality that followed, "the 1 percent" became shorthand for wealth. To be among the top 1 percent in America overall, a household must bring in at least $389,436 annually. In affluent metropolitan areas, however, the threshold is much higher. In New York City, for example, you need an annual income of $672,795 to be in the 1 percent.
Keep in mind that annual income and net worth are very different. Your net worth is total assets minus total liabilities. In other words, it's what you have minus what you owe. That means you could be earning six figures but have a small or negative net worth if you're living beyond your means and spending more than you're making.
Regardless of your personal definition of what it takes to be rich, anyone can start building more wealth today.
Start with a written financial plan if you don't already have one. Schwab finds that those who have a plan are more likely to be regular savers, stay engaged with their investments, manage debt and have a better outlook on reaching their goals.
"When we look at the top 10 percentile of overall performers, there's a consistent theme that they're diligent planners — three in four say they have a written financial plan," Terri Kallsen, executive vice president and head of Schwab Investor Services, notes in the study. "Planning is critical to achieving any goal. It's like establishing an exercise regimen to get in shape — we need to take the same approach to keep our finances in good health and on track. "
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