Nearly half of Americans say they feel “wealthy” but don’t measure it in dollars and cents.
There’s a wealth paradox in America driven by the contrast between how people define wealth for themselves compared to how they define it for others, according to Charles Schwab’s seventh annual Modern Wealth Survey, an examination of how Americans think about saving, spending, investing and wealth.
When asked to express how much money it takes to be considered “wealthy” in America, 1,000 survey respondents across the country say it’s an average of $2.2 million.
But among the 48% of Americans who say they already feel wealthy today, the average net worth is $560,000—about a quarter of that loftier target. What’s more, non-financial assets like health and family resonate far more when defining wealth than having large sums of money, according to the survey.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) say being able to enjoy healthy relationships with their loved ones better describes wealth than having a lot of money and seven in 10 say wealth is more about not having to stress over money than having more of it.
In fact, when asked to characterize what it means to be wealthy in their own words, Americans mention their well-being (40%) more often than money (32%) and assets (26%).
These leanings are even stronger among older generations, with eight in 10 boomers saying wealth is more about enjoying experiences (79%) and not having financial stress (83%) than having nice things or accumulating more dollars.
Many young people said they delayed financial planning because of time constraints, the survey found. Gen Z-ers' and millennials' attitudes often contrasted with those of boomers.
According to Schwab’s survey, only about one-third (35%) of Americans have plotted their goals and documented a financial plan. Among those who do, seven in 10 say it makes them feel more in control of their finances, and nine in 10 say they feel confident that they will reach their financial goals.
And while people feel wealthy, they don’t think their wealth merits a plan: among those who don’t have a plan, most say it’s because they don’t have enough money (44%), it’s too complicated (21%) or they don’t have enough time (20%).
The survey also shows that social media can create new uncertainty and doubts for Americans.
Nearly half (47%) say being able to afford a lifestyle comparable to their friends makes them feel wealthy, and among those who use social media, more than one-third (37%) say they compare their lifestyles to what family and friends share on social media. About one-third also say they make purchases (34%) based on what they see on social media from friends and influencers, as well as financial decisions (33%) and investment decisions (33%).
The online survey was conducted by Logica Research from March 1 to 13 among a national sample of 1,000 Americans aged 21 to 75. An additional 200 Generation Z Americans completed the study. Quotas were set to balance the national sample on key demographic variables.