Life Changes

74% of people do not think they will ever achieve high net worth status, survey finds

Key Points
  • Definitions for how much it takes to be "high net worth" vary from $400,000 to $1 million.
  • Yet most people do not ever see themselves fitting into that category, a survey finds.
  • Still, calculating your personal net worth can be a helpful exercise for identifying and achieving your financial goals, one expert says.
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People have wide-ranging views of what it means to be "high net worth," according to a survey from digital wealth manager Personal Capital.

Yet most people — 74% — don't see themselves ever fitting into that category.

When 2,209 adults were asked what they would consider high net worth, the median average among all responses was $400,000.

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Meanwhile, 32% of respondents agree with the broadly accepted definition of individual high net worth as having $1 million or more in investable assets.

Only 23% of survey respondents believe they will ever achieve high net worth status.

Just 35% of people are confident they know what net worth means, though 91% say they have heard of it.

There’s no time like the present to sit down and say, ‘Where am I at?’
Michelle Brownstein
Vice president of the Private Client Group at Personal Capital

Knowing your net worth is the first step to getting a good financial plan in place that will help you achieve your financial goals, said Michelle Brownstein, a certified financial planner and vice president of the Private Client Group at Personal Capital in San Francisco.

"Having a good bird's-eye view of your financial situation is such an important exercise," Brownstein said.

"There's no time like the present to sit down and say, 'Where am I at?'" she added.

How to calculate your net worth

To determine your personal net worth, start by adding all your assets — checking and savings accounts, 401(k) and other retirement savings, other investments, and your home's value.

Then, subtract all your debts, including credit card balances, student loans and mortgages.

The result is your personal net worth.

If your net worth is negative, that means you have more debts than assets. In that case, you should prioritize paying off high-interest balances first, Brownstein said.

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If your net worth is positive, but lower than where you want it to be, you may identify goals that can help you improve it, such as by building an emergency fund or saving for retirement or to buy a house.

Even small tweaks, like cutting down on daily expenses by eating in instead of dining out, can add up to big savings over time, Brownstein said.

What's more, by prioritizing your goals, you may be able to put yourself on track to achieve them faster, such as retiring earlier than you had anticipated, she said.

Retirement accounts represent 55% of the wealth of high net worth individuals, according to Personal Capital data.

The survey was conducted in March by Morning Consult on behalf of Personal Capital.

Correction: Michelle Brownstein is vice president of the Private Client Group at Personal Capital in San Francisco. An earlier version misstated her title.