You can feel rich on almost any income. You may feel rich in relationships if you have very strong ties, or rich in experiences if you spend a lot of time traveling and trying new things.
But if you had to identify the salary it would take to feel rich, though, it’s probably significantly more than you currently make.
Americans say they would need to earn $483,000, on average, to feel rich or achieve financial freedom, according to a recent Bankrate survey. That’s over eight times the national median income of about $57,200, according to Labor Department data.
It’s also a cool $250,000 more than the salary folks say would make them feel financially secure, according to the same survey.
Gen X needs the biggest salary to feel rich
The fact is, you might not know how expensive life can get — and thus how much money you’ll need to navigate it comfortably, much less luxuriously — until you’re a bit older.
That may help explain why the youngest adult generation, Gen Z, names the smallest salary that would make them feel rich. Those currently aged 18 to 25 said, on average, a $382,000 salary would make them feel like they’ve achieved financial freedom.
The other generations say these salaries qualify as rich:
- Millennials: $444,000
- Gen X: $575,000
- Boomers: $521,000
Members of Gen X would need the biggest salary to feel rich, Bankrate found. Although Gen Xers are currently among the highest-earning workers, the 43- to 58-year-olds are saddled with more credit card and other personal debt than any other adult generation.
Plus, many are part of the “sandwich generation,” which means they’re balancing raising their own children with supporting their parents or other older relatives while trying to achieve financial goals like saving enough for retirement.
A ‘rich’ salary may be a moving target
Though a higher salary may help you accomplish your financial goals and avoid stressing about routine expenses, it still may not make you feel wealthy. Folks who reported higher incomes named bigger salaries they would need to achieve financial freedom, Bankrate found.
A $500,000 salary would make those who currently earn less than $100,000 a year feel rich. Those who currently make six figures say they’d need at least $600,000 a year.
Location may play a role, too, which makes sense considering the cost of living can vary widely from place to place. People from the Western and Northeastern regions of the U.S. were slightly more likely than those from the South and Midwest to say they would need to earn $1 million or more to be considered rich.
That shouldn’t be too surprising considering a $250,000 salary is relatively worth the most in the South and the least in the West and Northeast, according to recent research from SmartAsset.
Feeling rich is about more than ‘how much we have in the bank’
How you define being rich for yourself might mean hitting a certain net worth, or just having the ability to do things you love like traveling or spending time with your family.
“I’ve spoken to people who have $10 million in net worth, and they still worry if they’re going to have enough,” self-made millionaire and author Ramit Sethi told CNBC Make It last year.
He wrote a book (and stars in a Netflix show) on how to be rich, but he says it’s “uncorrelated to how much we have in the bank.”
Sethi frequently gives his audience tips and tricks to increase their income and take control of their finances. But he insists that feeling truly well-off is more about the ability to do activities and buy things that are important to you.
“Money creates meaning, and that is really a core part of a rich life,” Sethi says.
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