For most Americans, having $1 million isn't nearly enough to be considered "wealthy." It would take a net worth of $2.27 million, according to Charles Schwab's 2019 Modern Wealth Survey.
Millionaire status isn't even enough to be considered "financially comfortable." Survey respondents say you need slightly more: a net worth of $1.1 million. Net worth means assets minus liabilities, so this is a picture of your total savings, including the value of your home, 401(k) and any other assets you may have, minus any debt.
How many Americans are actually worth over $1 million and, therefore, "comfortable"?
According to Spectrem Group, as of the end of 2018, there were 11.8 million U.S. households with a net worth of at least $1 million. That's more millionaires nationwide than ever before, but it still represents just a sliver of the population — less than 10%.
That means, by the Charles Schwab survey's standards, less than 10% of American households qualify as "comfortable."
The responses varied by city. In areas where there are higher concentrations of the super rich, respondents tend to think you need even more to be financially comfortable. In New York City, the No. 1 city in the world by billionaire population, locals say it takes a net worth of at least $1.8 million.
Here's what residents of other major U.S. cities think it takes to be financially comfortable. All data comes from Schwab.
New York City: $1.8 million
San Francisco: $1.8 million
Atlanta: $1.46 million
Washington, D.C.: $1.45 million
Los Angeles: $1.4 million
Boston: $1.3 million
Philadelphia: $1.2 million
Seattle: $1.2 million
Chicago: $1.2 million
Houston: $1.19 million
Regardless of your definition of what it takes to be financially comfortable or rich, anyone can start building their net worth 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.
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